Thann – Switzerland


It’s 15:45 hrs. and I’m sat in a bus stop at Vieux-Thann 35 miles away from Basel, Switzerland, I set off this morning at 11:35 hrs. and managed to follow the Eurovelo 5 route all the way. The wind had dropped but it was overcast and cool, actually the weather was quite good for cycling. I came across a Lidl and went in to buy some supplies, there was a huge queue at the till and I lost the plot. There were six checkout desks and only one open, another employee came out and put her float in one of the other checkout desks so I moved over to form a new queue, she then proceeded to shout at me, I could only assume I’d broken some Lidl rule, so dumped my shopping on the conveyor belt and walked out. Lidl maybe cheap but the service is awful. When will retail staff realise that the customer supplies the money that pays their salary, when I was in retail we would drop everything to take a payment. You can have the best products, nicest displays best prices but if no one is willing to take your money it’s useless. Rant over!

I seem to be fixated on the budget as I’ve no income, only what’s left in the bank, I need to wild camp more but from past experience it’s not comfy and I don’t sleep well as I always think I’ll get disturbed. I passed a campsite heading to Vieux Thann and then cycle on for two hours in a big circle only to end up back at the same campsite only this time I was at the entrance, so checked in, only €7. I cycle around the site which was big but empty, I was told I could pitch anywhere so found a quite flat area away from any roads or trains. I had a comfy night snuggled up in my sleeping bag, I slept well only waking a couple of times but put it down to the two cocodamol I had taken for the pain in my ribs.

Packing the tent and gear away after camping is still taking too long, my next tent will be one that’s easy to set up and pack away but for now I’ll just have to get up earlier also I’m not cycling far enough every day, if I could extend my mileage it would save money as I’d camp less. I’ve already done 100 km 62 miles in a day so surely I can repeat it, I would be happy at a consistent 70 km a day. I have no maps left and haven’t spotted a tourist information office to pick up a free map so I’ll have to use the navigation App, I’m sure it’s the way I’ve set it up that’s caused me all the problems but I can’t even find any instructions online.  Today though I ended up on the best part of the route so far, almost flat, straight, smooth paths through an amazing forest for 10 km leading to Basel, Switzerland.


It was a proud moment when I reached the Swiss border, I managed to reach Switzerland exactly one month after leaving the UK, not bad for an unfit 50-year-old. I wanted to get the mileage in and rode through Basel over the magnificent bridge over the Rhine river. One thing that really stands out here is the cycling infrastructure, cyclist have their own lanes on all the major roads, sometimes riding with the trams and motorists even stop for you. As you can probably imagine there is cyclist everywhere, thousands of them. I managed another 15 km and spotted a campsite sign, what a lovely place right on the banks of the Rhine in Augst. (long 7.4302532 lat 47.3239548). I had to go under the railway and follow a lane past goats to get to the entrance, there was a log cabin, which also served as the bar, cafe and reception. I was greeted by a guy who spoke great English, told to set up on the river bank and pay later. I took my time choosing my spot and set the tent up, all was going well, the sun was out,  I was happy that I had cycle this far but when I went to pay for the site I had a slight glitch, a sinking feeling and was a little embarrassed. They only took Swiss francs, I didn’t even realise that they didn’t use the euro, however the owners of this campsite were brilliant, they said no problem, I could leave my credit card and pay on leaving if I wished or there was a cash dispenser 10 minutes away at a big supermarket called the coop. I needed some provisions and francs for the rest of Switzerland so decided to visit the coop.


I grabbed my bike and cycled out of the campsite, with no luggage it was like riding fresh air. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, my next adventure will be with no luggage as it’s so easy, listen to me, next adventure I haven’t even completed one sixth of this one yet. I had a look around the area before coming across coop, which is the major brands over here, the whole retail park was coop, there was coop hardware, like B&Q, coop food, like M&S simply food, coop coffee shop, coop news, coop bank there was also a coop ironing service. I used the coop banks cash dispenser and took out 100 Swiss francs even though I didn’t know what the exchange rate was. I enjoyed cycling from the campsite but in all the fuss I had left my bike lock so didn’t buy provisions, just in case someone pinched my lightweight bike, I did come up with an invention though. All bicycle parking could come with locks fitted, so you lock your bike up, insert coin to release the key and in my world when you unlocked the bike you’d get the money back.


When I returned to the log cabin on the banks of the Rhine river I left a 50 franc deposit and was given a key to the gate and an NFC tag to operate the hot water, clever the Swiss, so efficient. I bought a 500 ml of sprite which cost me 3.50 ouch! Switzerland is expensive. Just outside the log cabin was tables and chairs, there were quite a few people eating and drinking. Waiting to be served at the bar were the American ladies who were interested to hear my stories, offered to buy me a beer and took my blog details and email address.

I returned to my little spot next to the Rhine, sat in front of my tent and watched the world go by, there were swans and other birds which I couldn’t name, day boats and speed boats, even large barges using the river. The view was spectacular and the sunset even better, I cooked rice for my tea, update my journal and fell asleep only to be woken by a couple of ducks attempting to get into my tent. I waited until they waddled off and crawled in myself for the night.


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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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