1000 Stone Steps


The views are always spectacular but getting from A to B can sometimes be a little difficult. I was 1472m above sea level and about to descend to 436m via an awful lot of steps. It was a killer going down, the path started off well, the steps were large and the bike fitted on each step. After about 20 minutes of going down, the steps got narrower and steeper. I had to be on the brakes all the time to prevent the bike from running away. I hasten to add I wasn’t sat on the bike more like hanging on to the side of it, gripping the handlebars until my knuckles bled. There were some big steps, wide steps, curved steps, places with no steps just pieces of wood, luckily though there were places to sit and rest every few hundred yards. I think I stopped at every bench and every place I stopped I was cursing myself for being so stupid but I kept going down as there was no chance of going back up with all the gear I had.

Punishing Steps

Somewhere nearer to the bottom than the top I heard a spoke sound, just like when kids used to put a clothes peg on the frame with a playing card touching the spoke so when the wheel went round it made an awful noise. Turned out my front rack had snapped and was clanging on the spokes, I noticed the noise just as I got to another bench so luckily I stopped before any major damage had occurred. I inspected the damage and discovered one side of the rack had snapped at the weld, I took the pannier off and whilst I was removing the broken frame two people carrying their bikes up the steps stopped for a chat. They told me I had descended 1000 metres and had 200 to go before getting into Bauen. I took everything out of the pannier and redistributed it across the three remaining ones and then struggled down to the village.


The village of Bauen was very Swiss looking, it had a jetty where the ferry to Fluelen stopped a dozen times a day. On the jetty just where you would expect a ticket office there was a fish and chip shop, I bought a cornetto from the kiosk and sat on a bench for a while absorbing the views and recovering from my mountain descent. I couldn’t figure out how the owner had come up with the prices for the fish and chips. Fish 9 francs, Fish and Chips 9.50 francs, Chips 6 francs, so I’d recommend you sort out your order before asking. The Swiss know how to fleece you though, as nothing is cheap. I propped the bike against a stone wall in between a bin and the bus shelter, there was a fast stream behind the wall running into the lake. The side of the lake was grass and there were a dozen or so people lounging in the sun having picnics or reading, another ideal place to wild camp but it wasn’t late enough and it was too busy. I took everything out of the remaining panniers and laid it out on the wall. I removed the rest of the front rack, sorted through my stuff and filled the bin. I managed to get everything that was left into the back panniers.


I setoff with extremely light steering along the water’s edge, instead of cycling through the road tunnels I took the path next to the water and into what seemed like grottos. There were some potential sleeping spots so I didn’t go too far just in case I wanted to double back and sleep in one of them. I came across a grass patch and a wall below the road, then a log shelter by the lake, above me was a car park and about 100m away a boat yard. Ideal place to sleep but my only concern was a guy sat on an orange chair on the pebble beach next to the lake. He was sat next to a stack of orange chairs, he was just sat on his own by the water’s edge, no fishing rod just his mobile phone. I decided to cycle on and could come back later if need be.


It didn’t seem long before I was cycling into Altdorf and arriving at the railway station. There was a Pronto shop outside so I bought a sandwich, I picked the cheapest but it was still 4.95 and a coke zero which I’ve had a craving for recently. It was getting dark so I went and sat on the platform and ate my tea. I looked at the train times and the next train south was in two hours, so I put my visi jacket on, switched my lights on and kept going. I had found route three easy enough when leaving the station and it was next to the road rather than on it so I continued in the dark. My front light is really bad so if I’m going to start riding at night I need to buy some KC Daylighters. Just over an hour later I was surrounded by fields, the main road was in the distance off to my right. The street lights had gone and as my lights were useless I had to find somewhere to sleep and quickly. I came across a bench on the side of the cycle path so decided just to sleep on it.

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It was a full moon and when I rode into Altdorf it was behind a mountain peak it was now in full view. I arranged the bike so it was propped up at the front of the bench, I couldn’t put it behind as there was three posts, white with writing on and an electric fence. I lay my sleeping mat down, used my tent as a pillow. I had put all my waterproof clothes on to keep warm and lay staring at the full moon in an almost clear sky. It was the first time in my life I could clearly see the man on the moon. I lay there for what seemed like an eternity and a car drove past. I was on a single track road and the bench was set back only a few feet, so they would have seen me. I was on edge for a while then must have nodded off, I woke and noticed the moon had moved across the sky quite a bit, I made a mental note to look up how this works, Earth 24 hrs, Moon 28 days?

N.B I have just looked up the details on how far the moon moves and it moves it’s own diameter approximately every hour, so if that is the case I had slept for around five hours.

I was cold so got into my sleeping bag and put the ground sheet over the bike and back of the bench, making a little den which would keep the rain off. Another car went past, I decided just to get some sleep. When I woke up the moon had moved from my left to my right so I thought it would soon be light and I must have slept for a long time. I could hear a dog barking, cow bells, so the cows were up, in the distance I could hear a train pass, traffic on the main road was getting busier so it must be nearly daylight. I heard a thud but couldn’t see anything, it turned out to be apples falling from a tree opposite me. I dozed off only to be woken by another car going passed, I noticed the lights come on in the house I was near and someone opened a window. I thought it was a farm-house and they were getting up for the day, I dozed off again and the next time I woke up it was daylight. It was now overcast, another two cars went passed so I got up, a cyclist went passed as I started to pack up and said hello. It then started to rain so I got under my groundsheet to keep dry. I sat on the bench under my groundsheet for a couple of minutes before deciding to move on. The cycle path was excellent and within a few minutes I came across an area I could have easily pitched my tent, so I slept on a bench almost next to a free camping pitch.

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About John Holt

John Holt has worked in the travel industry for over 14 years and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor for his practical and candid talks on travel destinations. Spending 18 months as a "Local Interest Specialist" for a leading tour operator John has become known as having more practical information than Google.

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