Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Black Forest 2012: Day 5 - Ostwald, France - Basel, Switzerland & The Black Forest

Happy New Year! It is the second day of 2013 and after some geeky New Year's shenanigans I am back to continue the story of the Black Forest trip!

Now, as you are all probably aware the pictures in each blog entry are limited to only a few. If I can setup some kind of album gallery within this blog I will do. There are quite a lot of pictures for Day 5 of this trip and so it would be nice to have an area to contain the ones that don't quite make it onto the post.

Day 5: Ostwald, France - Basel, Switzerland & The Black Forest - 30/08/2012
Miles: 89 appx. (France - Switzerland)

Today was the main day and also the longest day - a total of 407 miles. First on the agenda was heading down to the YMCA hostel in Basel as quickly as we could using the A5. This was a relatively quick journey (being only 89 miles) and was our first experience of the German Autobahn. I don't really know what I was expecting but it was no different in my opinion to our own motorways (other than being on the other side of the road). We had a run in with a stupid Audi driver who first tried to push up against Emma in her lane whilst proceeding to overtake and undertake other car drivers, making use of not only every lane, but in-between lanes and the hard shoulder! Obviously we didn't get in the way and backed off to allow ourselves some room.

Entering Switzerland was not quite as I expected. Basel seemed very industrial and rather grey looking despite its location on the River Rhine. I am sure that had we had time to look around Basel and the river it would have been different, but we were using it as a base in which to embark on our Black Forest adventure.

We arrived at the hostel by late afternoon. It was too early to check into our room so after taking out the fuel stove and some food for lunch we stored the remaining luggage behind the reception desk and set off for the Black Forest.

Miles: 318 appx. (Black Forest) 

First thing to note is that the original route planned for the Black Forest would have been 318 miles but as we cut our route short part way through this may have been extended or shortened. Once we got out of Switzerland and started entering the Black Forest region the first thing I noticed was the cloud in the distance looking like steam rising from the mountains. Little did I know at the time that this was a clue as to the kind of conditions we would be facing. Today was a wet day and was in fact the first day that rained on the trip thus far. However, these conditions would twist and change as we continued our route, much like the conditions of the road. It has to be said that the German roads are superbly built, even throughout the majority of the Black Forest, with the occasional road needing a bit of TLC.

When I initially looked at the best biking roads website I noticed a part of the Black Forest that appeared to be a dead end and out of curiosity added this to my own route. This was one of the first parts of the route that we encountered. It was in fact one of the highest points of the mountains, if not the highest.

We pressed on up the mountain, tackling incredibly tight bends at low speed in complete white fog conditions. At the top it was complete white and there appeared to be the shape of a restaurant nearby. Heading back down we passed a cyclist also making his way up the mountain. We thought we were crazy but that guy was either an inspiration or a mad fool.

The rest of the route was a bit clearer and at one point even dry. It largely consisted of lots of bendy roads, beautiful scenery and quaint villages. Getting to about lunch time we stopped in a small area and setup the stove to boil some water to have with our mug shots. As the temperature had dropped today it was nice to have something warm to keep us going and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the forest. The area was on a tight up-hill bend and as we ate, another cyclist made his way up the mountain, shouting something at us in German and looking exhausted. We shouted back that we thought he was nuts but he carried on relentlessly! Shortly afterwards a single floor double length bus also went round the bend. I guess that they are used to it over there!

After packing up we continued our ride and made a stop at a small supermarket in one of the villages. Here we bought some Jaegermeister for myself and Julian as they have 1 litre bottles of it over in Germany and it is cheaper there as it is  German liquor. Emma picked up a bottle for Charly and tried to pay on her card but was having some trouble. Unfortunately we do not know any German and the checkout lady didn't know any English but after a bit of guess work we managed to pay and leave the store. At this point we were pretty soaked and the rain wouldn't stop but that wasn't going to stop us from making the most of being in the Black Forest.

As we carried on we eventually ended up on slightly bigger B roads (the best biking roads in this area are the L roads) and carried on towards Nagold. As we got to Nagold my sat nav had a few issues directing us along the correct route (to be fair my maps are 4 years old). All of the important roads had been covered by this point so I decided that it was probably time to head back. We pulled over so I could enter the address of the Hostel back in Basel and take the direct route. Emma's indicator decided that it was no longer going to stay on her bike so out came the electric tape to hold it back into position. I think at this point Nagold was trying to hold us hostage as her bike didn't want to start up again either. After the deja-vu of jumping her bike we continued back towards the hostel.

Riding back we were pleasantly surprised by the roads that the sat nav was taking us as we re-entered the Black Forest region. As it started getting dark and we were still in the Black Forest I became suspicious. Pulling over to check the sat nav I noticed I had entered "shortest route" instead of "fastest route" so I corrected this. The side roads and signs in the Black Forest are difficult to see once it starts getting very dark and we had a fair bit of trouble getting out. We didn't get back to the hostel until around 11pm and hadn't eaten anything since lunch time. After checking in and retrieving our luggage we had something small to eat and seeing as we were completely exhausted, collapsed into our beds.

Overall map of Black Forest route:

[Next Up: Day 6: Basel, Switzerland - Mosel Valley, Germany]

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