We are in Switzerland, though apart from the weird version of French they speak here, there is not yet a great deal of difference to France. The morning started with rain, unclear maps and perhaps the stiffest climb up a rough mountainside that we have had to date - an experience that has started us thinking very seriously about the choices we offer to people. As the vanguard for our followers, we have to suffer and take the consequences for the routes we reconnoitre, but our reason for doing this is to help others to avoid the same degree of pain, so we are discussing strategies to see how we can do this most effectively.
The mountains are well and truly here, pushing us up to 1150 metres and then giving us the longest down run we have ever had to Yverdon – yeeh hah! The only negative in all of this was the extreme cold caused by rain and low cloud cover, but now that we are in the valley and installed in a hotel, the sun has come out and the discomforts are (almost) forgotten. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the body recovers and the brain manages to forget the pain, but then I suppose if this was not the case no one in their right mind to put themselves through these rigours.
Meanwhile Vasco remains Vasco and deserves his own space to define exactly what this means. Having learnt to ride our horses and share his space with two gargantuan monsters (who want nothing more than to tread on him and steal our affections), now our loyal canine has accepted (without complaint) that this time his place is in a bicycle, hanging off the handle bars of a bike. Actually, it is more like a sedan chair, or at least Vasco’s apparent ease makes it appear so.
Quite particular about which way he faces – nose forward for a good all round view – Vasco makes the best of his elevated position. Scents and sniffs are examined in great detail, passing dogs are sworn at from a safe distance and fast descents (definitely his favourite) are enjoyed with ear flapping ecstasy. Another aspect of Vasco, which can be trying at times, is his utter loyalty to the rubber toys we call ‘squeaks’, for obvious reasons.
Vasco needs his squeak, like a child needs that special, much sucked blanket, rabbit or tattered teddy bear. His squeak travels in the basket with him; usually with the result that he sits on it and passers-by probably think we have not only got a dog, but some kind of unfortunate other animal stashed away in our luggage. Initially, we started out with a canary version, with a corresponding canary-type squeak, but this was tragically left under a hotel bed somewhere and now we have its replacement – Captain Pugwash – a far larger and more raucous version, with a squeak reminiscent of a strangled cat. But perhaps it is in the hotels where Vasco really comes into his own. Bear in mind that we change location every single day and every single day Vasco is introduced to a new set of stairs, doors and I presume smells, but after the initial introduction he never forgets and never goes to the wrong room (probably smelling our socks at 50 paces) - a valuable attribute when I am too tired and befuddled to remember where I belong and useful (now that I have discovered his particular skill) for all those future occasions when I roam multi-storey car parks pretending to be taking a walk, when in fact I have lost my bloody car, again.
So here we are today, holed up in another hotel, the trio engaged in its usual post- excursion routine. Paul in the shower, me keyboard burbling and Vasco enjoying the relief of lying flat out on a bed after a hard day’s running and basket riding .
This morning, after recovering from an early bad choice of unmarked forest paths (familiar?), we are rewarded with a 250 metre climb - drag, push, sweat and heave of the bikes up a forest path to cross the 1000 metre altitude point for the first and I know well not the last time on this trip.
We had chosen this route to get away from the often busy N57 and were rewarded with a spectacular view looking DOWN on Chateau Joux (the twin to the citadel in Besançon). We wonder if others would be as foolish or whether they would prefer to take their chances on the main road. If there are blog readers that would like to sway our choice of routes. Please speak up.
Our maps show that there are 2 traditional routes over the border (did Sergeric go one way and come back the other?). We have chosen to go via St Croix. It is a little longer, but allows us to use quiet roads instead of hopping between the N57 and the precipitous paths. Having reached Yverdon, we are staying in a 2 star. Think I already know that there will be a premium on the exchange rate of the 65 euros for your normal French 2 star, but we are both tired enough not to care, right now.