Damp. But awake. Which means I must have fallen asleep at some point. I pulled open the zippered tent door and peered out towards the green rise. Some light and blurred colors peered back in at me. I could make out the vague shape of an animal crossing the rim of the rise. A fox. Still lying on my stomach, I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around at the stuff inside my tent, trying to prioritize what to do first. “Contacts, Sasha. You can’t think until you can see straight.” I found my contacts in the little bag of personal care items, and carefully put them in, hoping my hands were clean, hoping I didn’t drop them, knowing that my glasses would be my last resource if I lost my contact lenses while traveling. With every movement, my body touched the wet sides of the little bivy, which were sagging inward, heavy with moisture from last night’s rain. Even so, there was no sound of rain falling now, which was an excellent reason to get up. I shoved all the gear and clothing out the little triangular entrance, crawled out, and gingerly stepped around in the moist grass, trying to balance myself while I pushed first one foot, then the other, into my damp bike shoes.
The skies held no threat of rain, and the road just a few meters behind me was still quiet. I packed up as quickly as I could and took a couple of photographs before I left. I had left Moutier last night and was now heading northeast along a bike route which shared the road inside the last eastern valley before the end of the Jura. Rather than going over a pass, this route takes one northeast to a natural ravine between two massive mountains, and from there one can head southwest towards Bern. This was my route. Although damp, I was in high spirits and felt rested from the night before, despite the dark thoughts that had corresponded with the evening’s weather. I wanted to find out what I could do today. Could I make it all the way to Meiringen? I had learned that Google Maps’ approximation of time and distance was only a guide, because there were many other factors affecting time to be considered while cycling. Wind. Clothing. Exhaustion. Hunger. Photography. Curiosity. Accidents. Things breaking. Sunsets.
The route I had planned went something like this, with the numbers referring to the routes, not distance:
Pleigne to Delemont- 64
Delemont to Moutier – 64
Moutier to Balsthal- 54
Balsthal to Oensingen, to Langenthal to Hüttwill- 71
Hüttwill to Bern – 34
Bern to Thun- 64
Thun to Meiringen- 8/9
Most of these were shorter regional routes, a few were part of the national route system. Somewhere on the way to Hüttwill, after finding a post office and mailing postcards, I saw a sign for Bern. Hoping that it would follow the Aare and thus, keep elevation changes to a minimum, I followed it, and this route took me all the way to Bern. Once in Bern, I decided to stop to explore the city for an hour or so. I had never visit Switzerland’s capital before and it was likely the last chance I would have to see it for some time. And they would likely have some coffeehouse where I could charge my phone. (Note: At this point in the trip, I was still trying to track all my cycling trips with a tracking app to collect data on distance and time. In Denmark this was simply no longer an option, as I was wild camping and was not stopping anywhere long enough to charge any device.)
Bern was incredible and I wished that I had been able to take a few days to explore the city, but all I had was a couple of hours. The Aare winds a serpentine blue line through the city, which is built on several different levels. This vertical quality of the city is intriguiging, as there seemed to be catacombs underneath buildings in the old city center. I was walking down one of the main shopping streets, which was lined with three and four-story buildings, when I noticed that each shop was prefaced with a large pair of doors set at a 45 degree angle to the ground, and some were closed and some were open. I peeked into the open ones and realized that these too, were shops, with steps which led down into them. And there were as many of them as there were of the ones above ground.
I left Bern reluctantly around 2:00 and continued towards Thun and the Interlaken area. I had only brought my bike luggage and had no backpack this time, and I noticed a tremendous difference in my energy since I wasn’t carrying the extra weight on my back. Once I reached Thun, I began thinking about finding a grocery store to resupply, since most of the shops would close by six and the next day was Sunday, on which they would all be closed. Even in a tourist center like Interlaken, it would be hard to find food outside of a restaurant. I stopped inside a little town, picked up cookies, juice, bread and Nutella, and headed to Interlaken. How different it felt, heading downhill, on the same road that I had taken to go towards Frutigen to visit my friends near Adelboden! It had felt so daunting that day, just covering those last 20 miles. Now I flew down the hills, from Thun all the way through Spiez, into Interlaken, and beyond. Rather than taking the flat, lakeside road past Ringgenberg and Brienz, I decided to follow the national route along the south side of Lake Brienz. It became steep and hilly rather quickly, and my pace became slower and slower. I realized somewhere around 7:00 that I wasn’t going to reach Meiringen that night, and decided to stop at a little campground.
I was welcomed by another traveling family, who were Swiss, and their children were very interested in my tiny tent. In fact, even after I had changed clothes and gotten inside for the night, they continued to play peek-a-boo at my tent opening and throw balls at the sides of my tent, but I was much too tired to even become irritated at them. I just snapped a few photos of the boy when he stuck his face in at the screen, which sent him off in a burst of giggles. I was asleep within minutes.