Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 5 (Switzerland): Igis - Samedan

today’s distance: 110km
total distance: 511 km
riding time: +/- 7h

climbing: lots - 2186m altitude (700 more than I had planned)

After leaving the wonderful place of Helen and Peter with gorgeous weather beckoning, the road continued for a while along the Rhine valley. From Chur on I was tracing some of the way I had taken on my first bike tour in the Alps with the Badminton club when I was 15. From Chur the road followed the Rhine until the first climb in the middle of which I met Lena and her family who were on the way back. Lena was keen to tell me that she had broken her collarbone, not a small feat for a five year old. She had asked me where I was going and when I said China she asked her father: “Is he stupid?”. It was childlike honesty at its best.

More uphill to Tiefencastel where all stores were closed and I had to wait until the next uphill section was over to replenish. The Julier to me was always somewhat mysterious. I went the other way on the tour years before and didn’t recall much apart from it being fun to go down. And steep it was … for about 36km. There are flat sections inbetween, but the general direction is up. And much more steeply than I remembered.

Some time during the climb I felt that it was not a good idea to try to do it in one go. I felt my strength dwindling, I had to stop more and more often. Figured that if I would find a place in Bivio - the last town before the top - I would consider taking it. There were none, things were booked because it was Saturday and I was already late in the day.

So, against better reason I continued up the hill, realizing it would be a close call to make it to the top of the pass. Hard to describe all the stuff that went through my mind on my way up. Doubts for sure, having to stop every so often, thinking that the tour is too big for me and that this first major hurdle was already putting me back into place. Frustration was another and if you imagine someone standing at the side of the road with a loaded bike screaming a couple of times, that would have been me.


Just when I was ready to get into the next car (not that any would have stopped), I saw a house on the top. Still a number of switchbacks to go through, it seemed like the place to go. A car that I flagged down confirmed as much. Rounding the corner I saw that the road continued further on and became indifferent (I should have looked up the description on The sun had disappeared almost behind a mountain in my back and it became freezingly cold. The road continued up a bit further and just as I was coming to the top, I was back in the last sun for the day. The feeling at the top was one of elation, sheer joy of having made it. The Julier had almost done me in, I was about to give up, but was happy to be on the top in the end.

As the sun had gone down temperatures dropped considerably and I put on several layers of clothing. A lone snowshoe climber snapped a few pictures, a guy in a car showed me a finger because he thought my bike was in the way - yet there was no other place to put it as there was a meter of snow left and right of the street. And I wasn’t going to leave without the picture.

The downhill was fun, but cold. At about 7 or 8 km it’s not very long, but it was cold. The views were amazing though.

A few words of thanks to the French car cheering me on, the bus driver doing the same, the snowshoe climber and the couple telling me that the top was at the hotel - it did help. No thanks are due to the bunch of Cologne guys thinking they are funny when they asked whether they should take me along in a full car and the guy flipping me off.

Pedaling on I headed east and passed through Silvaplana and mundane, but ugly St. Moritz, a place not much to my liking. Too much money being thrown around, helicopters swarming (alright, there were two). I made my way to Samedan tired and exhausted with even tiny climbs feeling difficult. However you think about pronouncing that name, you are right if you don’t pronounce it the way you see it. Samaden seems to be the most agreeable version. In Samedan, cold and worn out I met my host for the night - Katja. I had written to her not realizing that she would generally not host men, but the website and the YFU affiliation must have convinced her. Upon arrival I was given 10 minutes to take a shower and we were off to meet friends for dinner. It took of course longer and I am thankful to Katja for putting me up for the night and for letting an already great day end even better. After lugging my stuff up to her place and trying to look more respectable we were off to meet friend for dinner and drinks afterwards.

We went to one of the few affordable bars in St. Moritz, a fun place with Joe Vox playing ( If you can see him ever, he’s a good singer and a fun guy hailing from Moenchengladbach.

1 comment

1 Katja { 04.06.08 at 4:59 pm }

I’m sorry for putting pressure on you after your long ride :). The food at the restaurant “Central” was certainly better though as my cooking so you should be glad ;).
Have a good trip!!!

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