Category: Switzerland


Stage 1: Geneva to Stavanger

The first stage of my journey takes me from Lake Geneva region through Germany to Denmark and over the Baltic sea to southern Norway.

In brief here are a few stats:

  1. Over 2,000kms covered in 48 hours
  2. 995kms by motorcycle
  3. Overnight train and ferry
  4. Ride the Lysebotn (Lysevegen Road) with its 27 hairpin bends

And in pictures…

Packed and ready to leave on the first leg.

Packed and ready to leave on the first leg.

Checkin for the overnight train from Lörrach to Hamburg.

Checkin for the overnight train from Lörrach to Hamburg.

After a long hot night on the sleeper train, we arrived in Hamburg, Germany.

After a long hot night on the sleeper train, we arrived in Hamburg, Germany.

After long hot ride over 500kms through Denmark, we reach the port town of Hirshals.

After long hot ride over 500kms through Denmark, we reach the port town of Hirshals.

Preparing to board the Lysefjord ferry near Stavanger, Norway.

Preparing to board the Lysefjord ferry near Stavanger, Norway.

Under the towering cliffs you feel less than an ant, dwarfed by the sheer scale of the surrounding scenary.

Under the towering cliffs you feel less than an ant, dwarfed by the sheer scale of the surrounding scenary.

Hanging precariously 800m above the fjord, the Preikestolen is hard to miss. Renown as the most famous lookout point in Norway.

Hanging precariously 800m above the fjord, the Preikestolen is hard to miss. Renown as the most famous lookout point in Norway.

At the end of the Lysefjord is the Lysevegen Road with its 27 hairpin bends it snakes its way up the 900m ascent above Lysebotn.

At the end of the Lysefjord is the Lysevegen Road with its 27 hairpin bends it snakes its way up the 900m ascent above Lysebotn.

This year sees the return to motorcycle travel after a few years break looking after the newest additions to our family. We’ve not been planning this extensively but more intensively as the time frame for the opportunity to go traveling again by motorcycle only really came to head a few weeks ago when I floated the idea to my wife, Arja. At that stage we were about to book in flights to go on our annual family holiday, as most families do over summer when another thought, a second thought came to mind. Other people may have just dismissed it as absurd or too expensive or selfish. But I know that it would meet with neither a cold reception nor be rejected off the cuff. Instead we sat down looked at a map and then started to research the idea of traveling to the arctic over several weekends, returning to work during the week and continuing the following weekend. And so came about the concept of the time poor traveler only traveling over the weekends and working as usual during the week.

Further research and several days later we had a loose itinerary that would make the most of overnight travel by train and ferry and make the important connections by plane to get me back down to Switzerland ready for work on Monday morning. I’d just have to figure out how to iron my shirts on the road.

Switzerland to the Arctic Circle via Denmark and southern Norway

Switzerland to the Arctic Circle via Denmark and southern Norway

Now all that remains is to put the plan into action.

 

I have to say that this trip is something that I’ve been looking forward to since we first made it to Norway in 2009. At that stage our ambition to ride all the way to Nordkap was cut short by the onset of very cold weather and ice. We instead turned around and headed to Switzerland. Now this new era of motorcycling hearlds a new opportunity, traveling in stages and combining the traveling with family holidays, essentially getting feeding our travel bug piece-meal.

The traveling threesome of Pascal, Arja and Francois have just consolidated their committment to each other and formally recognised their long-term relationship, forged through inspirational travels across 37 countries and 4 continents by motorcycle. In the most romantic of settings nestled between the Alps and the Jura mountains on the shores of Lake Léman the couple exchanged vows inside the Medieval Castle of Nyon, the town which they now call their home away from home. The scenery breathtaking as it is, was made even more special by the inclusion of their famed motorcycle Francois. Francois has been instrumental in their travels around the world, having delivered them in safety through tumultuous regions of Kashmir, Pakistan, Algeria and Iran into the warm embrace of concerned family and friends.

Newly weds

The Newly weds Arja, Pascal and their motorcycle Francois in front of the Chateau of Nyon in Switzerland

Together they rejoice in their happiness and as they find their place in the world wherever it may be and we wish them all the best for their long and prosperous lives together.

Please join us in celebrating the union of Arja, Pascal & Francois and wish them a huge congratulations!!!

Dear Family, Friends and fellow riders,

We’ve some news that we’d like to share with you. As you may know, early last year I popped the question to Arja and she accepted! Last October as financés we left on our trip around the Mediterranean Sea and through North Africa, it was an immensely warm and fascinating experience. The joy of our ride and the need to keep warm returning to Europe in winter brought abouts, as per chance, the most incredible of journey’s we will experience yet. Yes we are expecting a little Gullvik/Bosshard quite soon! If we include our little meander of a ride from Australia to Norway in 2009 we have now covered a total of over 80,000kms of testing, bumpy and at times rough roads in the saddle together. Well it is time to hang up the gloves so to speak, and give the Riding2up blog a break for a little while at least, or until we can find room for a 3rd! It has been a long road full of challenges and obstacles and well in truth it’s not over yet, but rather just a change in direction. In light of this extraordinary event we have decided to tie the knot here in Switzerland by having a small family wedding celebration ahead of the birth of our child due end August. We would love to be able to share this very special event with you, but alas it will be small, intimate and understated. We will nevertheless look forward to celebrating in spirit with you and hopefully in person together some time down the track. We are extremely delighted and couldn’t be happier at this evolution in our lives. So far although very busy, Arja has been doing very well. I won’t say any more, albeit to tell you that we don’t know the sex, it will be a surprise!

For those of you perhaps inclined to send us something, please don’t, we have everything we need. Our motto, less is more, simple is better, is under strain already as we struggle with the accumulation of a lot of unnecessary belongings. Although parents far and wide I’m sure will tell us that accumulation of stuff is simply unavoidable.

With this I wish you our warm regards and look forward to sharing with you our new adventures.

Please keep in touch.

Pascal & Arja

Happy new parents to be, embrassing life to the fullest extent.

Even though our trip has had a rough outline for almost a year now, the detailed planning hasn’t really been possible until just several weeks ago. Why not? Well, if you’ve followed the news in Europe, North Africa and the Middle-East then you’d know that according to reports, the region is in turmoil^. This has made our planning extremely difficult to say the least. Our original plan was to ride the western Mediterranean through Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia then back to Europe via Italy or France. With the closure of borders to Syria and Libya and the cancellation of the ferry service from Alexandria, Egypt to Venice, Italy, this route was made virtually impossible (not to mention that visas for Syria are currently not being issued). The added headache regarding how to return from Egypt to Europe due to the cancellation of the passenger ferry meant that the only other option was to fly back and freight Francois, requiring significant time and paperwork.

Our backup route would take us to the western side of the Mediterranean, including Morocco and Tunisia. Less than two months ago we didn’t even begin to consider Algeria as an option. At first we thought it would be imppossible as no one we knew had travelled through Algeria in over a decade. Then when we realised it might be possible, we found out that there were almost no ferries running from Algeria outside of the peak summer season to mainland Europe, and what with the border between Algeria and Morocco being closed for the past 30+ years, we were short on time and solutions. Persistence and a lot of research has paid off; we are now almost set for Algeria, just waiting nervously for confirmation of our visas.

New route through North Africa

Route around the Mediterranean Sea

Route around the Mediterranean Sea

Visas

One of the least well known countries in North Africa would have to be Algeria. Having only recently come out of a 20 year long civil war and still not entirely open to tourism, it is no wonder why Algeria struggles to attract attention when it is overshadowed by Morocco to the west and Tunisia to the east as favoured tourist destinations by Europeans for decades. So why do we want to go? Well the answer is easy, because we want an adventure of course! But truly, we don’t know much about Algeria, it’s not even on the tourist map and the only people we know that have been to Algeria were there more than a decade ago. So given it’s not a tourist destination, it’s also not the easiest of places to self-drive with our own vehicle, and so wisely we have enlisted the help of a recommended travel agency based in Southern Algeria to accompany us and provide us with vital local knowledge and expertise. The visa requirements for Algeria are quite strict and without the support of an accredited travel agency, we would need to obtain a certificate of accommodation (Certificat d’hebergement) for every night we are in Algeria, we would also have needed a letter of invitation (Lettre d’Invitation) to accompany our visa applications. This still doesn’t guarantee that we would be issued with visas, so we went with the Travel Agency in order to have some credibility for our visa applications ensuring they would be taken seriously.

As of today, Arja has received her visa, however I am still waiting for mine. It’s only 4 days until we leave and I am pretty anxious about getting my passport back. The visa, and my passport, is still with the Algerian Consulate here in Geneva and is the missing link in our North African adventure and without it, we will have put off a lot of planning and to prepare a plan C, just in case. Now that we are so close and it looks like we will be going through Algeria,  it is very exciting and I have butterflies in my stomach and I can’t sleep at night. Who would’ve thought that a little piece of paper could put us on such a knife’s edge.

As for the other countries, Tunisia and Morocco there is not need for a visa, so that makes it a lot simpler. Although that said, the day after we arrive in Tunis, there will be elections and judging by previous unrest resulting in strict curfews these elections may prove to be more than just a nuisance.

Equipment & Preparation

We are essentially undertaking an expedition into the Sahara and like any adventure into remote arid desert regions respect for our environment is paramount to our success and also to our survival. We have made several, albeit small but important changes, to ensure we are adapted to the climate and conditions of the Sahara and the Atlas Mountains. The temperatures are likely to fall below 0° degrees Celsius at night and may range up to or even above 30° during the day. Water and carrying enough has always been a difficultly especially when we are already fully laden and packed to the brim. The addition of tank panniers at the front of the bike will help with carrying extra supplies and water, if Arja doesn’t fill them with baklava and other sugery sweets behind my back! We will need to change to desert going tyres and regularly check our air filter to ensure it is clean. All of which will count when we’re lost knee deep in Saharan Quicksand.

We’ve done it before, so why the anxiety?

Well it’s simple, each trip is different, our trusty stead is not new any more, he has clocked up over 70,000kms and with recent issues† we are still a bit apprehensive about Francois’ mechanical and electrical state. We are also going through some very troubled regions. Together with the unpredictable nature of motorcycle travel, and our limited window of leave, we are trying to fit in a lot in a short amount of time. But most of all I can’t leave without my passport that is still with the Algerian Consulate in Geneva, pending issue of my tourist visa!!

Footnotes

^ The following are sample reports of turmoil in the regions from Europe, to the Middle-East and North Africa; Arab Spring, Greek Riots, Spanish Protests, Libyan Civil War, Egyptian Revolt – Mubarak, Syrian Revolution, Tunisian Reform.

† Fuel Pump Controller failed for the second time, closely followed by the battery and the ABS unit. We also had to replace the rear brake disc that was out of spec. During the ABS unit replacement, the BMW dealer also performed two recalls on Francois. All in all we should be set, but it’s never a certainty. Of course, having all these issues happen whilst at home are so much better than on the road leaving us stranded.

Swinging Francois out of a hairpin, we catch up with a campervan from the Netherlands and the pungent smell of burning hot brake pads invades our helmets as we slow to enjoy the scenery, unable to pass on the narrow mountain roads. The spring air, heavily laiden with pollen from fields of canola, announces the onset of spring and the looming presence of holiday makers, then as we slow for traffic the stench of manure hits erasing the clean fresh smells of spring. As we approach the pass of Schallenberg in Emmental, the heart of Swiss cheese of the same name, we see why the hoards of motorcyclists are craming the chalet as we look behind and admire the undulating green hills with cardboard cutout Alps in the background. We pull over to take a break and immortalise the beautiful scenery enjoying a coffee in the sun.

Salut! Ciao! Grüsech mitenand! Welcome to Switzerland!

We’ve been living in Switzerland for eighteen months now (my goodness, how time flies), so we thought it was about time to share some of our personal reflections and quirky observations about our Swiss life.

Since the New Year, the weather has been fantastic with almost four consecutive months of beautiful azure skies and spring temperatures, so much so that we’re both receiving a wholesome dose of vitamine-D. It honestly felt like spring in January when we were sitting out doors in altitudes above 2000m with nothing but a t-shirt on and beer in hand. Of course, we have been making the most of what little snow there has been this past winter season with Arja learning to ski (downhill) and Pascal snowboarding in his faded and well worn motorcycle suit.

We have also been making the most of our time on the week-ends to explore further afield from our respective home bases of Interlaken (in the Swiss-German part) and Nyon (in the Swiss-French part).  With Arja living in self-imposed exile in Interlaken, she has been hosting Pascal’s week-end visits into the Bernese Oberland and the majestic alpine vistas of the Jungfrau region. The Eiger (“devil”), Monk (“monk”) and Jungfrau (“virgin”) are the most famous mountains in Switzerland, well perhaps after the Matterhorn which notably was the inspiration for Toblerone.

Jungfrau Region

A perfect day under the the Eiger, Monk and Jungfrau, near Interlaken, Switzerland

Arja and her tobogon

Arja and her tobogon

Interlaken is where all foreigners are obliged to come to experience the Swiss Alps. This is most likely due to the fact that Interlaken features on the front page of Lonely Planet, and every other guide used by Arabians to Zulus. Interlaken is the multi-cultural melting pot of Switzerland with more Chinese and Indian restaurants per square metre than Chatswood and Paramatta put together. The Indians film Bollywood movies here, the Arabs come to flaunt their wealth, the Germans come to test out their expensive hiking gear. On a lazy evening after work, drinking a cold Coopers at Hooter’s, Interlaken, you can watch the world pass you by…

On the other hand, around Nyon the region of La Côte from Geneva to Vevey and up to the Jura on the northern side of Lac Léman and Route du Vignoble is strictly French speaking. Any other language still raises eyebrows even though English, Portugese, Italian and German are as common as the blue tit (if you don’t know what one is then we’ll forgive you this once, but it’s the most common small bird in the region which closely resembles a sparrow). Nyon is our home away from home where we frequently enjoy a gelato and stroll by the lake side with splendid views of the Mont Blanc across the lake. So romantic Nyon is at night with it’s Château illuminated that Pascal even mustered up the courage to propose to Arja one balmy night in March.

Of course Switzerland is world-famous for so many things: mountainous landscapes, first-class banking institutions,  ridiculously expensive hand-made watches and how can we forget Swiss cheese and chocolate. But the convenience and the benefits of living in Switzerland come at a price.

Switzerland requires all residents to purchase expensive health insurance.  The insurers are well equiped to sign you up and take your money, that’s the easy part, but changing insurers later on, however, is trickier. You can only switch once a year, in November to be exact, and only with at least one months notice and the completion of a myriad of forms.

New arrivals to Switzerland have to have a few handy tools ready for all the cultural differences that will come their way. The first essential tool to always have on hand is a pocket size hip-flask filled with the national schnapps – Kirch. Not only does it provide courage to face steep slopes whilst skiing it warms you up and helps digest the cheese! Do not even consider coming to Switzerland if you have not already cultivated a taste for cheese. Cheese is a national obsession and is eaten at every meal – the passage down the esophagus aided only by a digestive schnapps or two.

The land-locked island in Europe is home to many things but for us it epitomises wintersports and the countless opportunities to explore mainland Europe by road. It is a dream to ride the alpine roads, at every bend a mountain vista equal to a postcard awaits. But as we all know life isn’t a bed of roses and there is always another side to the coin, a thorn that pricks and leaves it’s mark.

That said all countries have their negative points and well if there is something we’ve learnt over our travels it’s to make the most of what we have and make every second count.

Decorated Cow

The ornate cow bell is a tradition in Switzerland to mark the end of grazing in the mountains and when the cows return from pasture in Autumn

It is with several months of anticipation that we are now set for take off tomorrow, heading for the Arctic Circle 66.6 degrees Nth. Although that said, we haven’t even left the confines of our lower alpine region and it very much feels like the arctic has come down to meet us in early anticipation. With over 20cm of fresh snow in the last 24hours there has been traffic chaos across most of western Europe with hundreds if not thousands of accidents, airport closures, delays to public transport and the like. Hence we are very anxious about catching our flight tomorrow given the forecasts for more snow across a large band of Europe including France and Germany. If we are lucky we’ll be spared the fate of thousands that have already spent countless hours stuck at major airports for their flights to be either postponed or cancelled.

As we search for some good news on the weather front we found the forecast for northern Norway and it was very amusing to see the symbol that the Norwegians use to represent good weather. It is much like a sun, but as the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon showing a full sun would be an oxymoron so instead they show that the weather is fine with a horizontal line and the sun shining beneath the line. I find this very amusing as it is dark 24hrs per day and it implies that the weather further south is fine. See the extracted picture for the Norwegian meteorological bureau.

Keep tuned to this spot as we post updates from our Arctic adventure amongst the reindeers and huskies.

For all last minute updates see our twitter posts.

Best Regards,

Pascal & Arja

Snow, snow and more snow

Winter has come early and europe, we wouldn’t usually even expect a white Christmas well at least not on the plateau of lake Léman, but since almost a week it has been unseasonally cold and snowing! It’s at this time of year that I wish that I had a snowmobile instead of a motorcycle, no, I’m stil not wishing for a car, but never say never! Well in truth it is possible to ride a motorbike in the snow but it’s probably more hassle and expense then it’s worth given the inevitable drops and spills that would ensue, that said I’m still hoping for the weather to clear so I can tuck Francois away and undercover from the freezing winter conditions but I was caught napping (no unlike most of the transportation public and private) and the photo below is Francois covered in no less than 20cm of fresh powder, just outside our apartment in Nyon. Needless to say the motorcycling season is over but I’m sure to get my winter fix of snowmobile when we’re up north in the Arctic Circle for Christmas! That’s right we’re taking the polar plung and heading for 68° 46’ North to spend the festive season with the Gullvik’s amongst herds of reindeer, surrounded by expansive fjords and under the dark skies illuminated only by the aurora borealis skies that define Norway in the depths of a frozen winter, brrrrrr.

After this season of indulging in powder white snow we’ll without a doubt be craving the sun, surf and warmer weather.

Riding2up has a new Blog

To capture all our updates in one easy to read location we’ve started a new blog. From our website select the main menu item Blog.

2011 Calendar up for grabs

If you haven’t played the Traveler IQ game yet and registered a high score then you still have time. Hint: to make it easier, zoom in on the page with Ctrl and the ‘+’ key

Click here to Play! (or go to www.riding2up.net and follow the links to the games page)

Remember to send a screenshot of your high score to riding2up before 15h December to go into the running for the pictured calendar. Entries close on 15th December 2010, so be quick and accurate. Good Luck!

For full competition details click here.

Best Regards,

Pascal and Arja
E riding2up
W www.riding2up.net

Alpine Camping – Emmental Treffe

We have now uploaded the photos from the Emmental Treffe, a small Swiss bikers meet in the foothills of the Alps and the home of Emmental cheese. It was a great weekend, with lots of stories around the campfire eating Roesti, Fondue and Cervolas all cooked over open wood fires in the forest above Langnau. In the early mornings we were afforded a cloudy view of the Alps from our campsite at 1045m. Please view the new album by following the link below and going to the Emmental Treffe photo album.

http://www.picasaweb.com/riding2up

As for the bikers we met, they were an eclectic bunch from all walks of life, riding old Condors (with Ducati engine) right out of WWII or Russian made IMZ-Ural military bikes with BMW Boxer engines to Moto Guzzi fully equipped with sidecar. There was even a home made side car on KLR650 ridden to NordKapp by Guido and Esther (who invited us to the meet). To our new Swiss motorcycling friends it was a pleasure to have met you all and we look forward to seeing you again hopefully in the near future.

Although you might be lead to believe that this marks the end of the riding season in Europe, this bikers meet was the first of many over the winter riding season. There are many bike meets throughout the winter months, and often the bikes and riders are covered in snow. For these cold nights camping in the middle of winter a warm sleeping bag, thermals and spikes or chains are highly recommended.

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New to Riding2up – Traveler IQ – The World Game

Do you know where Sucre or Victoria Falls are on a map? Could you point out Micronesia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? If you’re a world geograph buff or if you just want to learn this is the game for you!

Test your skills on world geography including capital cities, tourist destinations and other place names.

Play now. Go to the new GAMES page on our website or click here.

Competition – Play and Win a Riding2up 2011 Calendar

Get the Top Traveler IQ score when played on Riding2up.net and you will win a Riding2up Calendar for 2011. Competition open until 15th December 2010 CET.

Conditions of Entry

To enter the competition contestants must send by email a screen shot (in .jpg format, see sample attached) of your top score to riding2up before 15th December 2010 to go into the draw to win a Riding2up Calendar for 2011 complete with their postal address. The decision made by Riding2up is final and no communication will be entered into. There are no runner up prizes. The winner will be notified by email. The winner’s prize is a 2011 Riding2up Calendar and is non negotiable and non transferable. The prize will be sent by post in January 2011. The winner should allow up to two weeks for the prize to arrive. Riding2up adheres to our privacy policy with respect to all personal data. All participants entering in the competition agree to our privacy policy and the terms and conditions on our website. Riding2up reserves the right to publicise competition details and winners on their website.

Warning: Games can be addictive. Any abuse or misuse is not the responsibility of Riding2up and by playing the Traveler IQ game or other activities on www.riding2up.net you, the user, accepts Riding2up terms and conditions.

If you received this email in error or would like to be removed from our email list please reply to riding2up with the subject Unsubscribe and we will remove you from all future newsletter and email updates.

Best Regards,

Pascal & Arja
E riding2up
W www.riding2up.net

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