After Montreaux, we decided to take the motorway to Interlaken rather than the shorter route to avoid stressing the van, but the motorway had it’s steep sections as well. It took us on a loopy sort of route past cheesy Gruyere and through Bern, the very pretty capital where we stopped for lunch and had a wander. We were now in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and the shop signs had turned into real mouthfuls. We made some sandwiches in a square next to some hobos getting pissed, and watched some old guys play giant chess (one was hopeless). My Sarth Efrican (actualy his accent is fairly mild) mate Andrew had recommended Interlaken to us, and while I wont vouch for his choice of rugby and cricket teams, in this area his judgement was spot on.
Interlaken as the names suggest, is a town between two big lakes, one draining into the other. To the north, up a narrow valley the north face of the Eiger, the Munch. and the Jungfrau can be seen poking their snowy peaks at the horizon. We spent the night in a campground and gave the van a scrub. The next day we rode to the station and a caught the train up the valley to Lauterbraunen, where the scenery becomes so biscuit tin beautiful it’s scarcely creditable. The Tummelbach waterfall launches itself off a high cliff and bearded farmers rake hay in green pastures with jingling cows against a backdrop of enormous peaks. We walked up the valley under a line of cliffs to the base of the Jungfrau, and there took a cable car up to Gimmelwald, that with it’s clutch of half-timbered house huddled on top of a precipice, and panoramic view of the Eiger, somehow manages to up the ante on picturesqueness.
From Gimmelwald we went up to the ski town of Murren, underneath the peak that the restaurant Piz Gloria clings to. Piz Gloria was the one in the Bond flick, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, starring the widely recognised as the best James Bond, George Lazenby. I thought about going up and taking a look but 70 euros each was even steeper than the cable car, and I didn’t want to risk encountering Blofeld until I’d visited Q. Instead we took the ‘flower trail’ walk that leads along the ridge for a couple of hours before descending down sharply to where we left the bikes. The bike trip down the valley to Interlaken was a high speed bit of fun with the road tracking the line of the winding river gorge
After Interlaken we followed the north shore of the Thunsee lake, stopping for coffee early in the morning while a magical mist still hung on the still waters. Again trying to avoid stressing the van we took a roundabout route around Luzern before turning back south through a series of very long road tunnels, some 20 kms long of listening to our muffler reverberate off the tunnel walls. Eventually we emerged on the Italian side of the alps and down and endless slope that several cars had broken down or overheated trying to make there way up. We had been tossing up between going to Locarno or Lugano, both swiss towns on the northern edge of their respective lakes they share with italy. The choice was made for us when I missed what turned out to be final turn off to Locarno, so we spent the day in italian-looking lugano. On a baking day, I went for a swim in the lake where an ice-cold stream met the lake shore, and found a small eddy that wasnt covered in floating flotsam and duckshit.