Chateaux de Chillon
Thereafter we have overcome the world of the Haute Volaute and curve around in the mothdelta of the Rhone. At a small wood I hear the golden oriole (Pirol) or some of them. Then the path leads along a dead straight canal, but this is not the Rhone. Meanwhile I got lost because I never see the signs of the bike path. I ask a woman and her dog in the fields. The woman at first must replace her earplugs of the mp3-player or so until she is a fully-fledged member of the real world.
But I get the proper information to find back to the path and that happens at Monthey. At St. Maurice the valley gets narrow and the railway and the autobahn say farewell into a tunnel. We stay to the Rhone until Martigny. As nearly every river of the Alps the Rhone is canalised to prevent catastrophic flood waters. Sometimes a presentation board gives some informations about these activities.
You know that the valley changes the direction by 90 deg. towards the Lower and Upper Wallis near Martigny. So it is uncertain at first, what the wind will do, which had blown me up the valley. But what shall he do, he must stay to the valley. After some time I know: he will blow me up further on. And now the landscape gets more and more beautiful. The southern slopes are covered by endless vine-yards. In between here and there a nice village. At the bottom of the valley there are fields for fruits and vegetables. At a greenhouse I must stop, climb down the dam of the river and take a photo of the gorgeous flower-fields. At another place they just harvest the strawberries. What's about a little probe? At a remote field I bend down for some fruits but when I come up again I see a horde of pickers not far away. So I better continue on my way.
Obstanbau im Tal
Beobachtungsstation am Biotop
Then there is an observation station of a water biotope. There are slits in the wall of a hut to observe the birds and do not disturb them. I see a little duck 50 m away and zoom it in my camera. But it is difficult to get a sharp photo without tripod and other facilities. We pass the towns SionSierre and then have a hard section ahead. There is only the main road available, it leads uphill and now we have the wind from ahead. But we should not be angry with the wind after he has helped the rest of the day.
Diese Hütte grinst irgendwie...
We finally come to Susten near Leuk. I can find no open hotel but
see a sign "Zimmer frei". I follow the arrows and end in a garden. I
ask the people there "Are you responsible to the rental of the room?"
"Yes we are" and so this day finds it's happy end.
I get my dinner at the Restaurant Taverne. At the menu I find a "Fohlensteak" (foal) and I ask if this is really from a horse. They say yes and I decide to give it a try. It tastes well like a rumpsteak. But I cannot get the idea out of my mind why they slaughter young horses and then provide them for consumption. OK, next time I will have a horse-sausage at the Chrismas-Market in my hometown. The sun shines outside and there would be a fine view to the mountains. But the windows of the restaurant are brown-coloured and covered by a pattern and all is blurred. May be the world looks like this after some more beers.
The view out of my room is better: coloured clouds at the evening-sky.
12. Day, Mo 14.6. Susten - Zermatt, 25+20 km
At breakfast the landlady (Agnes Metry, Kantonsstrasse 36) gets interested in Veloland Schweiz and its accommodation list. She writes some addresses out of the guide and so I hope to have done something for the Suisse velo-activities (as this report shall do as well...). I have argued about a surprise-adventure for me. As we are in this area just now: could we do a side step up to Zermatt by train? And when I remember the breathtaking stories of the conquest of the Matterhorn, films and books since my childhood the final decision is unisonous without discussion: Zermatt.
To realise this affair one has to go to the railwaystation of Visp, 25 km from Susten. The trains leave once every hour. So I am somewhat in a hurry to avoid that a train has left just before. But moments later this matter gets another face: at the ascend to a bridge I hear a bang at the rear-wheel and the rim immediately rubs at the brakes. I know this: usually a broken axle. But be relieved: there are only three broken spokes on the "good" side (opposite of the gear-cassette). And I just have three spare spokes with me. But can anyone tell me, why three spokes break in unison? The spokes are replaced after a short time but it is no fine feeling to fear further accidents. So I continue very careful and avoid kerbstones, potholes and other bumpy obstacles.
Once I even use the runway of a deserted (as I think) airfield and am careful not to lift off. Then there is a second airfield and an airoplane is just landing. So once again I must be in doubt about my daringness. We better arrive at Visp now and purchase a ticket to Zermatt, one way. This is rather expensive: 15 CHF for the bike and 32 CHF for one person, together 30 €. This is the fire red Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn and will leave in 15 minutes.
Up the Matter-valley over airy bridges and ravines and through tunnels. At steep sections a gear-drive is hooked up. I have an eye on the road which I will run down tomorrow. The last village before Zermatt is Tasch. There are wide parking-places because Zermatt is traffic-free. May be I counted 20 busses, but the most areas of the place are free.
At the railwaystation of Zermatt it is rather busy. And now I may tell you where our Japanese friends like to travel: it is just up here with their European Mount Fuji. I enter the tourist information, get a panorama- and city-map and a hotel-list. As usual I choose one of the cheapest hotels, this is just around the corner and named Garni Testa Grigia. As I arrive there, the lady of the reception has just gone out for a shopping at Migros. But a man stands around as I do. He is from Zermatt himself as he says. If I wanted to know something? "Yes, who was the first who climbed the Matterhorn" I say. As he takes a deep breath I hurry to declare that this was a joke. Meanwhile our reception lady has reappeared. She and the man must discuss any telephone matter first, and thereafter I get my room. As usual I deposit my luggage and then open the window. Guess what I see? Yes, yes, yes: the "Mount Fuji" in it's full beauty above the roofs.And there are no additional costs for this. Of course I took various photos of this matter and later showed them to the reception-lady on the display. "Oh fine!" she says. "Where did you take these photos?" "At room 208" I say.
Die Holzhütten stehen
Now I am highly motivated to undertake something. I catch my unloaded bike and strive up the mountains: bikes not allowed - but I walk anyway. Of course I go straight towards this main attraction of the valley. It is a very nice path and we slowly climb uphill. There is the wooden village Zmutt, 1936 m, with a restaurant. Soon we come to a water reservoir and there is a bridge over the deep gorge. So you can reach the other side where a tarmack road leads down which we can use with the bike.
A rough path
leads up and I continue to climb for a while. Can I run down this way
without spoke-desasters? Some mountainbiker don't care, they twist
uphill in the lowest gear or come down with powerslide. May be they
have no own but rented bikes...
After Biel and Stafel, 2199m, I reach about 2300 m. This is the tree-line and the valley gets wide up to the Zmutt-Glacier. This is the foot-area of the Matterhorn, especially it's north face - one of the most difficult walls of the Alps. It was not climbeded earlier than 1931 by the brothers Schmidt. I do this in my imagination only, my challenge are the way back, the bumpy path and the spokes. But it works, thoroughly braking down I reach the water reservoir. The final tarmack road is no problem and I fly down passing hikers with footache. At last I have made 20 km within the early afternoon and this would not have been possible per pedes. The spokes are all OK.
At the church we now see the famous mountain climber's graveyard. The
gravestones note the name and origin of the victims, moreover the place
and causation of their accident like falls, rockfall, avalanches,
freeze, exhaustion. It is cruel. I remember the graveyard near the
Hartmannswiller Kopf at the Vosges with it's thousands of victims.
Those were mowed for a higher order (and not for their fatherland),
these mountaineers were killed by the challenge to themselves and the
forces of nature. Think about it yourself.
Another idea at this place: On a cycle-tour you often see disabled and deseased people on a balcony or in a wheelchair. And they desperately look behind you, as you head along with strength to destinations which these people will never reach by their own. Think about it - you know what I mean!
Breithorn u. Kl. Matterhorn (rechts)
Mehr Alpenglühen ist heut nicht
Back to the late afternoon - I try to get new spare spokes. No chance,
the corresponding bike shops have only spokes for mountain- or
race-bikes, not for a trekking bike. Curious! I then go shopping - not
at Migros (they have no beer) - at the Coop-supermarket. So I have a
fine dinner in my room 208 with the fine view: Crawfish Jumbo, a soft cheese and a
Baguette Rustique which is
still warm. Thereafter the reception-lady recommends to make a walk up
the slope near the church. May be the mountains (38 peaks above 4000 m)
start to glow in the evening past 8 pm? I reach a canyon near something
named "Edelweiß" (restaurant) and sit on the grass. The peaks
won't glow tonight but then I see a chamois (Gemse). I even zoom it
into my camera but it looks too blurred. I then jump down again.
At last you see me at my window, looking out with the legs on the bed, waiting until the big mountain says farewell in the dark.
13. Day, Tu 15.6. Zermatt - Oberwald (Wallis), 95 km
With the first dawn I am on my place. At 5.30 am the first beams of the sun touch th upper tip of the horn. It looks like a burning torch as I saw it on postcards. Some time later the rockwalls glow and then you can lie on your ear once again. At 7 am we have breakfast and then must part from this beautiful place. May be we come back one day. There are many places to which we would like to return meanwhile, but there are much more that we have not seen yet. The great thing this morning is the 35 km/1000 m downhill. But we need gloves - it is cold. So we have some rests at sunny places. Down in the valley we can remove the gloves, it will be another warm and sunny day.
Letzter Blick zum Breithorn
At Brig I now success: get
the desired spare-spokes and find a bookshop where they have all veloland guides. I buy
the Rhone- and the Rhine-guide. I have nearly completed the Rhone-tour,
but so I can read what I missed to see and to visit. A side-note: I
once was in this part of the valley on my Alp-tour 1989. If someone
would have told me then, that I will be here in full strength 15 years
later, I would have cried hurrah! But what do I say, I should cry today.
Now I head up the valley but soon another diversion waits. At the village Mörel I see a cable train and the sign "Aletsch-view". Another discussion and decision: this is a must. So soon I see the woods, meadows and small villages which are part of the Jungfrau - Aletsch - Bietschhorn UNESCO World Natural Heritage from above. The cable train ends at the Rieder Alp, 1925 m, and there is no Aletsch-view at all. We must use another cable train and this leads to the Moosfluh, 2335 m.
But now there it is: down on the other side of the ridge there is the big grey frozen stream - the biggest glacier of the Alps. Don't ask me how it looked 100 years ago. The big stream and the silence - it is very impressive. In the other direction you see the panorama of the Helvetic Central Alps reaching from Monte Rosa to the Weißhorn. But the Matterhorn is much less majestetic from far away.
The first section ends at Gletsch, 1757 m. That is a big hotel-complex. The Grimsel-Pass, 2165 m starts here and winds its hairpins up the slope. It leads to the Aare area, the third big stream of the Switzerland. They all have their sources around here.
Belvedere am Furkapass
As I continue another heavy-loaded cyclist comes along. This is Bernard
from Canada, 5 months in Europe. He stems 40 kilo extra weight up the
mountains. Moreover he has three filled bottles fixed to the frame of
his bike. You can buy drinks at every shop here and we do not cross the
desert - so I do not understand this matter. Bernard will reach 130 km
today. He gets my Email address and then pedals ahead until he is out
of sight. I cannot follow his speed, may be because I must take some
photos. I find the yellow
Alpenanemone (pulsatilla alpina)
which is not
to be seen so often. And if you scramble on a steep slope it is a
pleasant change for the muscles and locomotor system. But this does
not help, it starts to rain when we come up to the Belvedere, 2272 m.
This is another Hotel, a souvernir shop, restaurant and an ice-cave is
also available. The Rhone glacier has lost main parts of his volume
during the last 150 years like every glacier worldwide. There is a
web-page documenting this fact impressively:
Now a bus arrives and the passengers stream to the souvernir shop. The chief of them monotonically informs: "Toilettes 60 Rappen, Ice-Cave 5 Francs". The poor biker meanwhile shivers under a roof. Another cyclist comes from above. This is a French fellow and he must regenerate from the wetness. "Soleil?" he asks and points downwards. "May be" I say. We have to master the last few curves of the pass and then have a rest at 2436 m. This is one of the highest passes of the Alps and I did not know this before, may be this was better. At a wall there is ian interesting text by a certain J.W.G.:
Ich bemerke, dass ich in meinem Schreiben der Menschen wenig erwähne,
sie sind auch unter diesen großen Gegenständen der Natur,
besonders im Vorbeigehen, minder merkwürdig.
Don't ask me to translate this because I will not spoil a J.W.G. citation. It is from 1779 (Briefe aus der Schweiz). But I will tell you the sense of the citation in short:
I don't write much about the people
because among the big things of nature they may be - seen from aside -
A poet is always able to express a simple idea in an complicated matter - and this sounds much better. And at the time this poet was here the glacier of the Rhone must have been gorgeous.
Now let us come to an end of those thoughts. Warm clothes and gloves and then down ahead. The road is not so smooth that we can risk a higher speed. Soon there is no feeling in the fingers. The landscape turns to be green again. At last there is a long straight stretch to Andermatt. Here I meet lots of our Japanese fellows again. Then I attack a bankomat before the hairpins of the Oberalppass get our concentration. After some time the good old Bernard comes up, he has taken a meal at Andermatt, "new fuel" as he says. Again he makes his pace and after he has disappeared I never saw him again and cannot tell how far he has gone today.
Aside our road there is a busy railway with those fire-red trains. If you are lucky you can read "Glacier Express" at the front waggon. This time I can copy a citation from the Internet:
Travel on the famous Swiss mountain railways from St.Moritz to Zermatt and vice versa or from Piz Bernina to the Matterhorn. A 7 1/2 hour railway journey across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass at 2033 metres in altitude. A panoramic trip through the Alps in the heart of Switzerland.
In the panorama-waggons there are older ladies solving crossword-puzzles. May be. The train just has gone as a sharp whistle is in the air. But the train is gone, it must have another origin, a bird or groundhog? I suppose the latter: a groundhog playing the signalman.
OK, after this laughter we meanwhile have reached the summit. A frozen lake, some photographing motor-bikers, proud of their efforts, a tandem couple. I run into the downhill, braking in the narrow hairpins until we reach the valley of the Vorderrhein. A Hinterrhein exists as well, we will meet him near Chur.