5549.3 miles. That is the total number of miles we drove from Glasgow and back to Glasgow. Phew. I must say sorry here to poor Julie who had to drive the final 4 days as I chattered gobbledegook from the passenger seat, but more on that at the end.
The day after my last post was my birthday so I spent the day lounging and enjoying doing nothing and it was bliss. A day spent relaxing on the lakeside beach, eating too much food and drinking the fizz we had been gifted by my family for the trip, a fitting location to pop that cork!
The following day we ventured sloooowly up a very steep mountain, I was actually worried on the tight switchbacks, but the van handled it all, just! Up and up and up, stupidly steep in places and slow as a big old van up a mountain but we made it to our goal of Alpyland for the alpine rollercoaster, yet another test for my fear of heights, yay. Although it is called an alpine rollercoaster it is kind of a hybrid of rollercoaster and go-kart, you control your own little vehicle, using the lever on the sides to speed up and slow down as your plastic car careers along the rails. It looks a bit like it is more for kids but don’t be fooled, it is wicked fun, fast and swoopy with amazing views and the ability to go as fast as your dare, well worth the drive.
From Italy our next destination was France for the Alpine mountain biking I was so looking forward to, but with a 60 Euro charge we were keen to avoid the route through the Mont Blanc Tunnel so our route took us north through Switzerland instead. Driving upwards into the mountains we were rewarded with stunning views yet again, I just love getting out into the remote areas and enjoying the scenery, up we drove and through the Simplon pass with breathtaking views and cold, crisp air. Onwards through Switzerland we drove by a crazy American-Midwest style diner, it was a massive complex and a nice bit of fun but pricey for mediocre food. Whilst waiting for our meal our trip took a sudden detour, I used the free wifi to check the weather forecast and saw that today was the last good day for the foreseeable future, this put a spanner in our plan to return the following week to visit the Matterhorn, instead we doubled back on ourselves to fit in our visit that afternoon. Can’t beat a touch of optimism.
Getting to the Matterhorn is an adventure itself, after driving back to the junction we took the road to Täsch which is the last stop for the van as the town we were aiming for is Zermatt and is a traffic free zone so after parking we hopped onto a train. Arriving in Zermatt we dashed straight to the Tourist Information office to find out our best options for seeing the great Toblerone Mountain. As it transpires we had one option and it was the train departing in three minutes from the other station, so off we dashed, hopping about as we were stuck behind confused people buying tickets but we managed to get tickets and made the train moments before it left the platform. Our second cog-wheel train of the trip, this one climbed steeply up the mountain with incredible views all around us, moving up through increasingly deeper snow and we even spotted some Marmots scurrying about the hills. As the train pulled us ever upwards the concern began to rise with the fog, were we going to see the mountain after this 200 Euro adventure or would it be a whiteout? Unfortunately the fog won and although it was a brilliant trip and the scenery was amazing we were not lucky enough to view the Matterhorn itself. The trip up on the train is still very worthwhile with 360 degree views of snow capped mountains, crisp clean air, the occasional marmot and we even spent some time watching a mountain goat licking a post.
Once back at the van we had to make tracks towards France as the plan was to get to Les Gets for mountain biking on Saturday and Sunday, so no time to waste. Arriving amongst the chalets in the dark we eventually found the free camper spot for night one and after shovelling down some scran we got some sleep ready for a full on weekend. Saturday began with us driving the 100m or so to the central carpark where there were a few other bikers pulling up so I got kitted up, pulled the bike out and followed the crowd to the bottom of the uplift. Passes bought we headed up in the chairlift, Julie was going to walk down after helping me get my bearings at the top and of course holding my shaking hand on the scary chairlift.
Having heard about the Alpine trails being harder than their British counterparts I decided to start on a green (easy) and work my way up to the harder ones. The green was great fun, flowy and fast but nothing too scary to put me off, I was thinking about moving straight on to a blue next so jumped back on the chairlift alone at the bottom and headed back up. My second run of the green and I got caught behind a couple as the guy was coaching the girl down, now I am no speed demon but I wanted to get to the bottom so I could try a blue next so on a section of green that is on the fireroad I zipped past them, too fast, forgot about the wheel-sized ditch across the road and smack, hit my leg into the opposing side of the ditch and was thrown forward, with a searing heat pain in my knee as I flipped. After lying for a while I told the couple to carry on with their day and I lifted my leg using my hands up the bank as it felt like my knee had exploded, after a few minutes I made my way down the hill, half coasting on the bike and half hobbling using the bike as a crutch but every time I put weight on my leg it collapsed. Game over.
So despite my intentions of walking it off and going back up I ended up having to go to hospital instead, my weekend uplift pass was wasted on 1.5 descents of the green, how embarrassing! I am currently getting around on crutches and wearing a knee brace whilst I wait for my MRI on Friday and another appointment with the knee specialist next week. The trip was absolutely brilliant and this is just a minor setback, I plan on seeing lots of the world, starting with more of Scotland in the van, just as soon as my knee is working again. I will go back to Les Gets and ride the blue and red trails, it just might be a while away, the location is stunning and I was even treated to a chalet for my birthday which was lovely despite spending my time there on the couch with my iced leg in the air!
Keep it rubber side down!