Amsteg and the Alps

Route Blocked - Amsteg and the Alps

I arrived in Amsteg at 07:39 it was cold and dull, school children were waiting for buses and people were heading to work. The village was 510 m above sea level but was in a valley which didn’t seem like it would get much sun, the mountains were steep on each side with snow on top. I came across a tea room which was open so stopped for breakfast. I had only been cycling about an hour since I got up and had not eaten or drank anything. I ordered coffee and a pastry and sat outside, I knew it was 07:39 by the time printed on the receipt. There were lots of people coming and going and most of them had orange boiler suites on, which I later discovered was the work wear of the local hydroelectric power plant.

Gurtnellen

The road from Amsteg to Goschenen was upwards, it was steep at first but then became easier. The scenery was amazing, pine trees, fast flowing rivers with huge white boulders in them, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. There were times when I was cold and had to put a fleece on and times sweat was pouring off me. Although I stopped hundreds of times I managed to cycle all the way, not once did I get off and push. I went through village after village, always in the lowest gear and always up. In Wassen I bought some milk to drink and a croissant as they were the cheapest things in the shop.

Route-Blocked

On reaching Goschenen I discovered the cycling route was closed due to snow and a train was the only option. I decided I had done enough cycling for the day and would get the train all the way to Bellinzona which is 79 km away a good day and a half of cycling. I bought my ticket from the machines next to the Matterhorn train which goes further up the Alps to Andermatt, then noticed the stairs to the subway, I really couldn’t be bothered going down loads of stairs just to go back up. So I found a railway employee and asked if I could cross the track, he was very helpful. I had to wait for the train which was already in the station to leave and then I could cross the track. That was incredibly easy, I wish I could have done that at previous stations.

Mattahorn_Train

On arrival at Bellinzona the announcements were in Italian so I must be close to the border. I pushed the bike outside the station and sat in the sun for a while. Bellinzona was lovely a thriving town with people going about their business. I checked the navigation app for a campsite, I was in luck, there was one about half a mile away on the other side of the station. I managed to find a small tunnel under the railway tracks and find the sign for camping, only problem was when I got to the place the campsite was supposed to be it had turned into a recycling centre, someone had just left the signs up for the campsite. I headed for Cadenazzo where there should be another campsite. I followed route 311 which took me through Bellinzona, I stopped in a park to eat my tuna sandwich and have a rest. The mountains which were behind me had vanished into a black cloud and I could hear thunder so I pushed on to stay ahead of the storm. I found a campsite called Yogi and Boo Boos, I cycled round it and it was awful. I was approach by a woman who looked a mess and told it was 25 francs a night, I wouldn’t have stayed if it was 5 francs a night it was disgusting . I carried on until I came across another campsite in the middle of a cornfield, it was 20 francs but had a nice restaurant, a bar, a pool and free WiFi. So I booked in for 2 nights, to rest and clean up. Fabio the guy in charge was great and let me choose my own spot in the wooded area so I could set up my hammock and get a comfy nights sleep. I decided to have some food before setting up camp and went to the restaurant.

SwissCampo

The restaurant looked closed, there were five people sat at the back chatting but no one was at the bar, I took a menu and sat down. It wasn’t long before Francesco the head chef appeared, I told him I was hungry but wasn’t sure what to have, he suggested a beer and a pizza, that sounded good to me so I agreed. It turns out Francesco was Italian, he told me the owner of the campsite was Italian too. The weather was odd it was sunny over the campsite but really dark clouds covering the mountains, I just hope it would stay dry until I set up my hammock. As I started to eat my pizza it rained, although I could still see sunshine the rain was clearly visible hitting the pool. It was still raining when I set the hammock up, for some reason I couldn’t get the setup right, too high, too low, too tight and when I did get in my hammock I couldn’t get comfy, after 10 mins I had to get out and readjust it. I ended up closer to the ground and facing the opposite direction but finely was comfy. There was a thunder-storm early in the night and I wondered what would happen if lighting struck one of the trees I was attached to.

BackToMaggiori

I slept until 11:00 am the longest I’ve slept in a while, last night I had a nice hot shower before bed but my clothes needed washing. I didn’t have any francs for the machine so decided to hand wash my cragg hoppers and a T-shirt, so at least I’d have something clean to wear. I hung them on my ridge line to dry but when it started raining again, I moved them under the tarp, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be cycling on from here in damp clothes. I’m a bit at a loss today, not sure what to do as I’ve no cash and in a valley of corn, so no cash machine, I’ve no food, incredibly thirsty and my tablet is flat. I can’t check my bank balance but have to pay for everything on my debit card. I’m all fingers and thumbs today and have to do everything twice, I’m also a bit lonely.

I’m guessing that the campsite is fairly high up as it’s chilly and now misty, I’m waiting, for what I’m not sure. Maybe it’s for my clothes to dry or my muscles to stop aching, a coffee would be nice but I’ve no gas canister. All the shops only sell push on gas canisters and mine is a screw fitting. I can’t build a fire as the wood is damp and it would take ages, in other words I can’t be bothered. I manage to check my bank balance and decided to have a big lunch in the restaurant to cheer myself up. I had a laugh in the restaurant Francesco was on form and made me a fantastic ravioli, I ordered ravioli with ricotta and spinach but they didn’t have any, so Francesco offered me a bigger portion of ravioli carne instead, I agreed. Francesco’s ravioli was excellent and more than enough but I still managed tiramisu and a coffee. I chatted with the staff the owner is from Puerto in Portugal and everyone else is from Italy, everyone kept recommending places to visit on my journey. So a good few hours spent in the restaurant, so now time for a siesta.


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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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