South Dartmoor CTC


Sunday 7 July 2002
Afternoon ride: Dr Blackall's DriveWarm and mainly sunny
4 present: Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson, Eliot Thomas-Wright
Everyone was fit and eager for an energetic ride, so we set our sights ambitiously on Dr Blackall's Drive, a magnificent track running from the top of Dartmeet hill to the higher reaches of Newbridge hill. To start the ride we climbed Auswell hill from Ashburton, which in itself is one of the most intimidating hills in the area. Rolling down the other side with the moorland air whistling past us we couldn't resist a stop at the Roundhouse Cafe in Buckland, still unsold despite a heavy advertising campaign. The hot Eccles cakes and teacakes set us up well for the next climbs past Buckland church and up to the Widecombe road. After all that, the final mountain from Ponsworthy to the top of Dartmeet hill seemed a breeze.

As usual, the views from the track across the thickly wooded and steep-sided Dart valley were stunning and warranted a pause for quiet contemplation. There followed a speedy and exciting downhill off-road challenge that left us all with the highest of spirits and longing for next week's ride.

Michael has now acquired his new digital camera, but unfortunately he didn't bring it on this ride. Expect to see photographs and short mpeg movies in our web gallery before too long!

Friday 12 July 2002
Evening ride: Totnes CyclepathWarm and sunny
3 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones
After enjoying the rural lanes past Colston Farm we took the cycle path from Dartington Cider Press Centre through to the KEVIC playing fields. Two hot air balloons drifted effortlessly past us in close proximity while we played with our super-fast Frisbees in the brilliant sunset, making a spectacular site. We toyed with the idea of chasing after them, but eventually contented ourselves with simply watching them until they disappeared over Totnes castle. We concluded another excellent ride with a short tour of Dartington and a tough climb over the top past Pennywell Farm.

Sunday 14 July 2002
Day ride: Goodrington SandsVery hot, very sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Ryan Edmondson, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Ryan and Gavin on Goodrington Beach with some of Michael's family
Tao on the approach to Goodrington
Michael's extended family were having a fun day at Goodrington Sands today, so we decided to join them. The ride got off to a slow start when Luke inadvertently punctured Ryan's front tube whilst trying to add some air, but eventually we set off for the direct lane route through Staverton and Red Post with everyone feeling on top of the world.

We managed to achieve nearly four hours at Goodrington in probably the best sunshine of the year so far, each of us spending the time in a variety of ways. Luke and Ryan spent most of the time in Quay West trying to get value from the £6.50 entry fee; the rest of us enjoyed crabbing with the youngsters, pedal boats, walking, chatting and all the other things one can do at one of Devon's most attractive beaches. This certainly was a ride with a difference.

When we finally left at 4.45 we were all quite tired from all the activity, but the journey home still flew by fairly quickly. One or two members wished they had applied their sunscreen more liberally!

Friday 19 July 2002
Evening ride: Avon DamHot and sunny
6 present: Tao Burgess, Stan Ford, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley
Another perfect cycling evening, and once again we were lured to the open moor. So, unfortunately, were the midges, until recently almost unheard of in Devon: on this particular evening the midge bites were so bad that we might easily have been in the Scottish Highlands.

Our route took us through Dean Prior, past Nurston farm and up to Shipley Bridge, where the last of the visitors were packing their bags to leave. The path up to the dam was almost deserted, allowing us to enjoy its splendour without interruption. There was a little time for quiet contemplation as we sat beside the reservoir, then we pushed on to the Abbots Way and the path across the open moor that we cherish so dearly. A very thin veil of summer evening mist lay across the whole region, dampening all sounds to leave us in total silence. Amidst this eerie stillness we sped through the glorious aromas of grass and pollen to Cross Furzes and hence back to Buckfastleigh, feeling much invigorated by our adventures.

Sunday 21 July 2002
Day ride: Redlake Tramway (19 mi)Warm & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley
Luke and Tao on Ugborough Beacon
View of Brent Hill from Ugborough Beacon
Lunch on Ugborough Beacon
Redlake Tramway at Leftlake Mires
Riding the Redlake Tramway, with the Erme Valley behind
Tao shows off his mountain biking skills for the new camera
Leftlake Mires
Heading down the hill towards the river Avon
The grass near Petre's Cross was tall and thick
Michael following the Abbot's Way path along the Avon towards the Avon Dam
Tao looks for a crossing point on the river Avon
Following the Abbot's Way to the back of the Avon Dam
View of the Avon Dam from the Abbot's Way
Glorious summer sunshine blessed one of our favourite rides of the year, to the heart of the South Moor and the isolated Redlake Tramway. It's not exactly a long ride, so we felt we had the time to call in at the South Brent cafe for cold drinks and teacakes. When Tao had eventually worked out that the shop marked Newsagent was not the best place to buy his lunch, we proceeded at a leisurely pace to Wrangaton golf course. We all noticed the pair of golfers stop what they were doing and turn to face us as we cycled towards them. The look became even more fixed the closer we got, so we knew they were brewing up for a complaint. Apparently we were cycling 3 metres too far to the left - we were on the "fairway" and not the marked bridle path! To be honest it all looked pretty much the same to us, being a moorland golf course. Still, being obliging people we did as we were asked - and then found that the path itself crossed the "fairway" a few metres farther along!

The climb up Ugborough Beacon was tough in the mid-day heat, but the wind was fresher on top and the views were absolutely stunning: from the rocky tor on top of the Beacon we could see the coast from Plymouth right around to Teignmouth, and all the land was laid out in front of us like a map. An enjoyable lunchtime was followed by a truly adventurous ride across open moorland to the Tramway and on for several miles to the point near Redlake itself. There was no hurry, and so plenty of time for Michael and Oliver to try out their digital cameras. This was primarily to augment the new photo galleries recently added to the club's web site, but Tao seemed to think it was for his own personal album as he maneuvered skilfully down a steep slope past the grazing cattle.

Having crossed another section of open moorland through knee-high moor grass interspersed with cotton grass, we proceeded falteringly down the rough slope to the warm and sheltered valley of the river Avon. From here, the narrow path wound its way downstream towards the Avon Dam and our familiar route home along the Abbots Way. So ended another exhilarating summer adventure.

Friday 26 July 2002
Evening ride: LambsdownHot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Stan Ford, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley
Our glorious summer season of cycling continued with another moorland track ride, this time over Skerraton Down to Lambsdown. A tough climb brought us swiftly to the start of the rough track, and it wasn't much longer before we were riding into the sunset amongst the cattle and heather. The extensive views were so clear tonight and the sunshine so glorious that we couldn't resist the temptation to sit down for a few moments of admiration.

Descending rapidly down the rough moorland to Cross Furzes we detoured homewards via Coombe, where Michael had to deal with a puncture before we could complete the ride.

Sunday 28 July 2002
Day ride: Lannacombe Beach (49 mi)Very hot & sunny
4 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley
Lunch on Lannacombe Beach
Luke on Lannacombe Beach
Slapton Sands from the track to Strete
Tao checks out Oliver's camera
This was officially recognised as the hottest day of the year so far - and we certainly knew it. We were late starting as a result of another of Luke's famous punctures, but we didn't seriously contemplate shortening the ride as Lannacombe is a superbly unspoilt beach and we wanted to push ourselves in preparation for the tour. Our route through Rattery, Moreleigh and Chillington took us past no shops whatsoever, so Tao was unable to buy lunch and Oliver was unable to replenish his water supply.

We found a peaceful grassy spot above the rocks at Lannacombe for lunch that commanded panoramic views of the beach, sea and rock pools. There was time for a climbing expedition right down to the sea, but eventually we had to set off for the arduous journey home in conditions that could only be described as sub-tropical. We were aiming initially for Torcross, where we knew we could buy drinks and ice creams. It was nearly 3.45 before we were ready to leave again, and with another choice of routes we again chose the more strenuous, through Totnes, because it avoided retracing any of our outward path.

The heat and strain began to show, but we persevered and after yet another puncture for Michael finally arrived home at around 6.25. We all knew we had endured a tough ride, but after showers and a meal we felt that wonderful feeling of fit healthiness that only cyclists can experience.

Friday 2 August 2002
Evening ride: Chalk FordHot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley
Oliver had been carrying out major upgrades to his bike for the past three evenings, so it was no great surprise that he wasn't ready for the ride by 7pm. We agreed to wait for him at Michael's house, and passed the time by hearing how he had managed to remove his cranks with a hammer and then fix them back on again with the chainset on the left hand side - so tightly that he couldn't then remove them with a hammer again! He finally arrived at 7.40. We had been happy to wait, until he told us that he had been chatting with a friend on the telephone for part of the time!

The original plan had been to ride to Chalk Ford and then continue through Holne to River Dart Country Park, making a fairly ambitious evening. The late start had not totally dashed those plans, but when Oliver turned his front tube into a tea strainer on the way down the stony track to Scoriton, things looked less than promising. Twenty minutes later and we were still optimistic, choosing the direct route to Holne. Luke's puncture on a smooth road climb was the last straw, however, so we headed for home with all speed before some other punishment was administered.

Sunday 4 August 2002
Afternoon ride: BuckfastWarm but very wet
5 present: Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Eliot Thomas-Wright
Julian made the effort to come out today, and we were all looking forward to an extended jaunt to Venford and Dartmeet. The first drops of rain began as we left the start, and by the time we had reached Buckfast we were forced to take shelter under an unsubstantial bush. The rain just got heavier as we waited, and soon we were as wet under the bush as we would have been out on the road. A unanimous decision was taken to head for home for a social, with the possibility of heading out again if the weather improved. It didn't, so we enjoyed a few choice videos.

Friday 9 August 2002
Evening ride: StavertonDamp
3 present: Julian Duquemin, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
With inclement weather all about we chose an easy route along Colston Road to Staverton riverside, pushing the bikes along the final section to ensure the natives were not upset. There was time for a few minutes of Frisbee throwing in Staverton playing fields on the homeward journey past Caddaford.

Sunday 11 August 2002
Day ride: Plym Valley Cycleway (52 mi)Damp start, dry later
6 present: Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Drizzle at the start turned into spells of heavier rain that threatened to incite a mutiny by the time we reached Ivybridge. The forecast had promised a dryer afternoon, however, so we followed the cycle path to Plympton and then took to the newly-tarmacked Plym Valley cycleway as far as the wooded glade that has been our lunch spot on this ride since anyone can remember. Spells of light rain endured for a mile or two longer, but once we emerged at the other end of the tunnel, new rays of sunshine proved the forecast correct.

Burrator Reservoir was fairly busy, but the ice cream saleswoman had to manage without our business today. Julian briefly considered taking the rough moorland track to Princetown but eventually agreed with the rest of us that it would probably be wet and hard going as a result of the earlier rain. Instead we took Tao's recommendation of a shortcut along the old railway line down to the main road, which actually proved quite interesting.

On arrival at Princetown we were disappointed to see that the extravagant Lords Tearooms had now shut down, leaving only the original Foxtor cafe that had earned a somewhat lacklustre reputation over the years. A change of ownership at the Foxtor, however, meant no budgies or table service but a greatly improved menu - the hot fruit scones and delicious hot chocolate made the whole stop highly memorable. Suitably refreshed we proceeded with good speed through Hexworthy to Holne and Buckfastleigh, where we all felt need of hot showers, good food and a long night's sleep.

Friday 16 August 2002
Evening ride: StavertonSunny and warm
7 present: Tao Burgess, Julian Duquemin, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Phillip Oakley, Gavin Pearson
There was plenty of talk of Switzerland on this final evening ride before the big tour. We climbed Green Lane and detoured back through Staverton for some Frisbee-throwing fun in the park.

Sunday 18 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 1 Home to LondonNight
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Video of today's ride
Our epic adventure to Switzerland proved to be one of our best tours ever. We were blessed with excellent weather almost every day with only a couple of showers in the whole two weeks. Clocking up more than 615 miles in 11 days of cycling we managed to view all regions of this magnificent country from the fabulous network of cycle paths that make Britain's treatment of cyclists appear stone-aged. Huge lakes, clean rivers, gentle gradients, picturesque houses, good food and a friendly population helped make this a very memorable tour.

Day 1 started late on Sunday night as the five participants met at Newton Abbot Station at 11.45pm. Our bikes had been dismantled and packed into special £40 bike bags that Eurostar had insisted we buy in order to take our bikes with us to France. The overnight sleeper train arrived on time and it wasn't long before we were enjoying a comfortable night in sleeper bunks, soothed by the gentle sway of the train gliding effortlessly over the track.

Monday 19 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 2 London to Mariastein-Rotberg YH (10 mi)Hot & sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Lunch by the Seine in Paris
Video of today's ride
Complimentary orange juice and biscuits at 5.20am did little to prepare us for what proved to be a tough journey across London from Paddington to Waterloo. Our bike bags were not especially heavy, but the shoulder and hand straps became very painful after a few minutes of walking. And of course we had panniers and bar bags to carry as well. Oliver's mother had prepared some towel handles for his bag, but the rest of us had to improvise with gloves and items of clothing. It was with great relief that we stowed the bags on the Eurostar train before taking our seats on the 7.35 departure.

The train to Paris was comfortable and fast, giving us plenty of opportunity to catch up on some sleep. At Paris Gare du Nord we reassembled the bikes while Michael explored the possibility of leaving the bags at the station for two weeks. The quoted charge was around £70 per bag, so we thanked them very much and strapped the folded bags onto the panniers! We whiled away a few pleasant hours on the banks of the Seine before catching our final train from Gare de l'Est to Basel in Switzerland.

Our reserved seats on the crowded SNCF train were already occupied by other passengers who seemed unwilling to give them up. The guard seemed keen to help out, so he opened up a special air-conditioned compartment adjacent to our bikes and gave us exclusive occupancy rights! Soaring, thundery temperatures left us all suffering a little, but we were probably the most comfortable passengers on the train.

At 7.50pm we finally arrived in Switzerland. Our first night was to be at Mariastein-Rotberg youth hostel, about 10 miles out of the town and close to the village of Flüh. We were immediately struck by the cleanliness and peace of the town - and were entertained by the funny German names that resembled English words. The final climb in the dark was a little painful after such a long day, but eventually we found our way to the hostel and dragged our luggage up the hundreds of steps to the chateau entrance.

It was past 9pm but the wardens kindly agreed to cook us a very welcome pasta meal for £4. We arranged to leave our bike bags in a back room of the hostel ready for collection at the end of the tour - this was the only cheap solution we could find to our problem. Another Turkish hosteller proved a little too friendly by coming into our dormitory and talking endlessly, but eventually we settled down for a very comfortable first night in Switzerland.

Tuesday 20 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 3 Mariastein-Rotberg to Solothurn YH (49 mi)Hot with thundery showers
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Starting the big climb
Back at the main road near the youth hostel
Taking a rest on the climb
Hairpin bends on the mountain climb from Beinwil
Nearly at the top
Video from today's ride
A leisurely, late breakfast on the inside balcony of Mariastein hostel has to be one of the best ways to start a day: cereals, yoghurt, Swiss bread, jams, hot chocolate, coffee and orange juice, all served on simple wooden tables overlooking fabulous panoramic views. We were in no hurry to leave, but we knew that further delays would only add to what would be a lengthy ride.

Switzerland has had the good sense to set up a set of nine national cycling routes that cross the country in all directions. All the routes are clearly signposted on the ground, leading cyclists along gentle gradients and quiet cycle paths whenever possible. We had a choice of routes today: backtrack to Basel along route 7, follow route 3 over the mountains (779m) to Aarau and then take the level route 5 to Solothurn, or take a shorter, more direct and more scenic mountain route that was only a local cycle route and climbed to 943m. The latter sounded more attractive even though we had no clear maps for the central part of the route, so we set off with eager anticipation.

We arrived at the village of Laufen after just 10 miles of climb and descent, so we bought lunch at the local shopping centre and enjoyed it by the roadside. The big climb began shortly afterwards, taking us along numerous hairpin climbs through typical Swiss mountain scenery. After catching the tail-end of the thunderstorm we eventually reached the top, only to find that our route was taking us down a very, very long descent to a village that we could see a long way below. We double checked our route as well as we could, but our worst fears proved correct: there would be another long climb to follow.

Our late start was now coming back to haunt us, but we struggled on and finally reached the 943m pass with nothing but downhill ahead of us. We maintained excellent speed all the way to the youth hostel, finishing with a lengthy cycle path that followed the river Aare for miles. We were certainly beginning to like the Swiss cycle routes!

When we reached the centre of Solothurn village we discovered that Swiss youth hostel signs are neither plentiful nor striking. We found a sign pointing along a street, but after a few minutes we discovered another pointing back the way we had come. Retracing our steps we discovered that we had ridden right past the imposing hostel, which looked more like a library than a place to stay the night. It had revolving glass doors, a glass elevator, glass stairs and interesting dormitories with three adjacent mattresses on a very high bunk area, all overlooking the busy river. The self-catering kitchen was more of a disappointment, enclosed entirely in a small wall cupboard and consisting of a sink, hob and a small cupboard full of pans, plates and cutlery. We had to take it in turns to cook our food, so it was late when we finally settled down for a night that was punctuated by the sound of numerous Swiss trains passing on the other side of the river.

Wednesday 21 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 4 Solothurn to Cudrefin hotel (45 mi)Hot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
A shop stop at Büren
A stork near Altreau
Gavin on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel
Video of today's ride
Wednesday morning began with the busy sound of many people cycling or walking past the hostel, on their way to school and work. There was so much to see from our second floor window that we sat there for some time just taking it all in: the young man towing his dog in a cycle trailer; the numerous boats pacing up and down the river. Even the ducks were entertaining.

On leaving the hostel we located a cycle shop where Michael could buy a replacement tyre, then we set off to follow Route 5 down river. The path took us through fields of sunflowers and sweetcorn, and then alongside the river Aare. Suddenly, near Altreu, we were stopped in our tracks by the site of a white stork in its huge, untidy nest on the roof of a house. These rare birds thrive in the traditional agriculture of this region, and we saw several more birds and nests during the course of the next half an hour. There are around 100 pairs in Switzerland, reintroduced since 1948.

We stopped briefly to explore the village of Büren with its impressive wooden entrance bridge, destroyed by a fire in 1789 but reconstructed in 1989. Boats using the river must be constructed to be especially low in order to pass under the bridge. We bought some of the superb yoghurt drinks that we had grown to like so much, then proceeded to Biel and the Bieler Lake. At Mörigen we enjoyed lunch by the lakeside, entertained by a family of children playing in the water and, later, by our own Frisbees. Pressing on through Lüscherz we soon found ourselves at Thielle with a difficult decision to make. We were staying at a hotel that night with no possibility of a self-catering kitchen. We were at the head of another long lake. Our hotel was part way down the south side, but the only shops were towards Neuchâtel, part way down the north side. We decided to make the detour, and found a huge Migros shopping centre in Epagnier which provided us with good food and comfortable seats for its consumption. This was now definitely French-speaking Switzerland. An enormous mound of burning straw in a field turned out to be a demonstration by the local fire service.

Retracing our steps we proceeded quickly past the large farm at Witzwil, noted for its special corridors linking areas of its land that allow rabbits and other animals to move freely, and soon reached La Sauge, near Cudrefin, where our hotel was just off the road. The south side of the vast Lake of Neuchâtel is Switzerland's last swampy region, interrupted only by the few small towns situated on the banks. The area is a nature reserve for wild birds, and the hotel is frequented by birdwatchers from all over the world. We took up the hotel's offer of a free walk down to the lake, but a birdwatcher positioned on the path ahead of us with his tripod-mounted binoculars clearly felt he owned the place as he was very unwilling to move to allow us to pass! The sunset was glorious and we spent some time just enjoying the tranquillity of the area before returning to our room for another night of well-earned rest.

Thursday 22 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 5 Cudrefin to Lausanne YH (64 mi)Very hot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
The rough road through the forest to Lausanne
Video of today's ride
Today's route took us along specially-created paths through fields of more vegetables than we could count. We had reached the town of Yverdon-les-Bains at the far end of the lake by lunchtime as the riding was very flat and easy, but we were so keen to find a shop that we took a wrong turning that cost us a couple of miles of unnecessary riding. Another Migros supermarket provided food, and a quiet play park offered seats and welcome shade from the mid-day sun for lunch.

Under the main road bridge was the most incredible BMX track we had ever seen. If the signs hadn't pointed out that it was only for the use of club members we would almost certainly have given it a try!

Now, finally, we faced the prospect of a little climbing - a gentle 200m climb over 20 miles. As we reached Golion in sweltering temperatures we got our first glimpse of the world famous Lake Geneva, and soon afterwards we were riding through forest tracks on our way to Lausanne. Pausing at the side of the vast lake we suddenly realised that whilst the Swiss have no coastline, their many lakes offer a superior replacement. There was a sandy beach, children playing in dinghies and swimming, people sailing boats as part of a club - all the fun of the beach was taking place here on the lake. We could easily have tarried longer.

Proceeding to Ouchy we discovered that we had passed the hostel again, but we noted the take-away food bar for possible use later. Lausanne hostel turned out to be very large, very modern and very uninspiring. It was obviously used frequently as a conference centre, and whilst it was comfortable and clean it lacked the character that we have come to expect from youth hostels - and a members' kitchen! We had some difficulty finding rooms with opening windows - we would probably have suffocated if we had stayed in the rooms we were originally offered.

We chose to explore the lake side on foot all the way from Vidy back to Ouchy. Once again we were amazed at the night life - everyone, young and old, was happily enjoying sports of all kinds in a safe and friendly atmosphere. Behaviour was impeccable, and the whole walk was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We capped it off with some delicious pizzas and pancakes at the takeaway bar, and some interesting pictures of the moon reflecting across the swans on the lake.

Friday 23 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 6 Lausanne to Château d'Oex YH (65 mi)Very hot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Stopping for water at the public fountain in Le Bu
Vineyards at Lutry
Les Moulins, near Château d'Oeux
Video of today's ride
Lausanne is home of the Olympic Games, so Olympic statues, flags and buildings were dotted everywhere in this attractive town. Along the lake front were fountains, flower beds, seats, sculptures and many happy people just enjoying the surroundings. It was as we left Lausanne, however, on Route 1 that we discovered the most stunning sight of the tour so far: grape vines, all loaded with delicious grapes, lining the hill from the side of the lake right up to the horizon. Presumably the south-facing slopes offer ideal growing conditions, but the sheer number of vines was staggering. We rode for miles and miles towards Vevey, but the vines just kept going on and on, all neatly terraced and arranged in tidy rows. We felt as though there must have been enough grapes produced in this one area to supply the whole of Europe! The owner's name was printed in huge letters on the rocks above the vines, as if staking out his territory. Quite how they manage to pick them all if they happen to ripen on the same day we couldn't quite fathom - perhaps they pay the whole town to give up a day for grape picking?

It was at Vevy that we had to switch to Route 9, heading up into the mountains. Vevey is another lakeside town like Lausanne with delightful tree-lined walks and statues. We soon found Route 9 and proceeded to follow the signs, but after ten minutes we noticed that we were heading further along the lake, towards Montreaux. Clearly Route 9 started at Montreaux, not Vevey, so we must have missed a sign pointing in the other direction. Retracing our steps we soon found the offending sign, almost completely hidden from view by the leaves of the tree in which it was mounted.

Even though we had planned to move quickly it was still nearly lunchtime when we started the long climb into the mountains. Once again the sun made the going tough, but we pressed on through more rural scenery and settled down for lunch near the road at Châtel St Denis. There was a seat but no shade, so we couldn't stay there too long. Around the next few corners we came across a marshal for a cycle race who spoke excellent English. She couldn't believe her ears when we told her we were headed for Château d'Oex, and advised us to stop chatting and get cycling! Groups of cyclists were passing us on the other side for several miles afterwards, all keen to out-cycle the other teams - we thought they must be training for the Tour de France!

Bulle was our next stop, offering another supermarket for yoghurt drinks and evening meals. Michael also availed himself of the opportunity to purchase a French / English dictionary, to help him with the translation of our French guide book. We still had a good way to go, so we quickly returned to the saddles and set about following Route 9 past another lake and through Gruyeres (famous for its cheese) to the quiet back roads again.

During the tour we passed through many small villages, and nearly all of them boasted a public water trough fed by fresh spring water emanating from an overhanging pipe. Today the trough at Le Bu, adjacent to an unusual polygonal chapel, proved just what the doctor ordered, its cool waters making an excellent cooling agent and the pipe offering top quality refills for our water bottles. The heat really was tiring.

The final sprint of the day took us through a low pass into an adjacent mountain valley, and then onwards and upwards to the small town of Château d'Oex. The hostel was easy to find, but the warden less so: she seemed to be a part-time warden who looked after the hostel as a chore, and it took several rings of the bell before she came down from her private room. Her desire to be left undisturbed for the evening meant that she was more than willing to let us use her main kitchen for our evening meals, so we eagerly set about learning how to use catering-style gas cookers and can openers. She even said we could help ourselves to milk and pay in the morning! Several flies were zapped by the "SuperZap 5" fly extermination machine while we were eating our meal in the dining room.

Once again it was so late by the time we had washed up that there was just about time to get ready for bed before we collapsed from tiredness.

Saturday 24 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 7 Château d'Oex to Leissigen YH (48 mi)Very hot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Ready for the downhill from Saanen-möser
View near Gstadd
Rowing the boat on the lake from Leissigen hostel
Video of today's ride
Château d'Oex has a cheese dairy where you can see how cheese is made over an open fire. Unfortunately it takes place at 1.30 every day, so we had to content ourselves with watching the cable car crossing the valley while we restocked our food supplies at the local coop supermarket.

Today's route was to take us right up to the base of the Swiss Alps. Without further ado we set off along relatively easy roads, passing the picturesque village of Rougemont with its melancholy church bell. Next stop was Gstadd, bustling with activity as we rode down its main shopping street. A German gentleman insisted on using our camcorder to take some shots of the whole group before we continued along the street, doing our best not to knock anyone over. We would all have liked the opportunity to stop here for a while, but our plans for an earlier arrival at the hostel would not allow it.

The famous Crystal Panoramic Express train passed several times as we climbed out of the valley towards Saanen-möser at a height of 1279m. The views were spectacular. From there we had plenty of downhill to speed us along our way, taking us through Zweisimmen (the confluence of two rivers) and then along several interesting sections of riverside path, most with a gentle downhill gradient. This region, known as Simmental, is famous for its luxurious Swiss houses and the wild waters of the river Simme, as well as for its speckled breed of Simmental cattle. We certainly saw many examples of all three as we rode down river.

It was along one of the riverside tracks that Oliver had his little accident. Michael had been setting a moderate but safe pace at the front of the group, but Oliver decided it wasn't fast enough and rode past with a smug grin all over his face. Seconds later he had come off on a bend, sporting cuts to hands and knees and a bad elbow graze. It took a little time to patch up the damage, but he was able to ride so we were soon back on the bikes again.

The final lap to Spiez was fast and furious until our cycle route traversed a huge gorge near Wimmis. The cycle path had been suspended precariously under a road bridge and was made of a transparent steel mesh that enabled a clear view to the depths below!

Another half an hour of riding along the banks of the Thuner Lake brought us to Leissigen hostel just minutes before the evening meal was served. As usual there was no self-catering kitchen, so we bought the barbecue meal and made the best of it. The hostel itself was an old wooden building situated in its own grounds beside the lake. Closer investigation revealed that it also owned the boat house, and that the rowing boat within was available for hire. Even Tao, who has never been particularly fond of water-based travel, could not resist the adventure, so we all piled in and took it in turns to row ourselves right out to the middle of the lake. Surrounded by the mountains of probably the most visited area of Switzerland we spent a thoroughly enjoyable time getting palm blisters before returning to the boat-house in the semi-darkness.

Sunday 25 August 2002Tour: Switzerland Day 8 Leissigen to Brienz YH (23 mi)Very hot and sunny
5 present: Tao Burgess, Luke Fursdon, Michael Jones, Oliver Lindley, Gavin Pearson
Mountain views from the train to Kleine Scheidagg
Leissigen youth hostel
Kleine Scheidagg
Mountain view from Kleine Scheidagg
View towards Interlaken from the train on the way down
Video from today's ride
Sunday was always planned as our rest day. With just 23 miles to cover we had allowed ourselves sufficient time to enjoy some of the many interesting attractions in the Interlaken area. The one we finally chose was the railway to the Jungfrau mountain range, so we set off early from the hostel and soon found our way to the East Interlaken station.

Most railways couldn't be considered for such a steep climb, but the Swiss have a solution with their special 3-track, cog-wheel trains. We paid around £29 each for the return ticket from Interlaken (567m) through the ski resort of Wengen (1274m) to Kleine Scheidagg (2061m), and the views were certainly breath-taking. A breakdown in the train ahead of us meant a transfer to bus for a small section in the lower reaches, but soon we were back on track again and heading towards high mountain peaks with real glaciers. We considered taking the final leg of the journey up to Jungfraujoch, the highest station in Europe at 3454m, but the additional price tag of £40 didn't really seem justified, especially as most of the journey was via mountain tunnel and the top of the mountain was shrouded with cloud. Luke was disappointed, but I'm sure he'll return again one day to finish the journey.

Kleine Scheidagg itself consisted of just a station, a few shops, several restaurants and a multitude of hardy goats resplendent with traditional Swiss bells. After looking over some of the restaurants we selected an outdoor pizza takeaway where the pizzas were cooked in special open-air wood-burning bake houses. The flavour was certainly excellent. Many cyclists were circulating the paths around us, and we quickly realised that bringing the bikes up on one-way tickets could well have proved a much cheaper and more enjoyable way of finishing the round trip!

There was just time for some more photographs before we took the return train via Grindelwald. It was on this section that disaster befell Oliver: his expensive 64Mb memory stick from his expensive Sony camera flipped across the carriage, landed on the rear part of a fold-up seat and promptly fell through a crack in the floor when Oliver tried to retrieve it. He looked in vain for a ledge on which the stick may have landed, but the clear view to the track below left him with no hope whatsoever.

Our bikes were still waiting for us at Interlaken. We had a little climbing to do as we followed the cycle route around the Brienz Lake, so we were grateful when Brienz came into view at the end of the lake. To make our evening perfect, the hostel had a kitchen, and the local garage sold milk and other provisions. It was unfortunate that Luke's can of Swiss baked beans turned out to be lentils!

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