Saturday, July 19, 2014


We joked about a bee sting a week ago. What we did not know then (but soon discovered) is that I'm allergic to the toxin injected with its sting, and Switzerland is not a bad place to get the news. Fortunately, we are in good hands. Geraldine takes me to the hospital when my hand begins to swell more than normal and something starts to go wrong in my throat. When the doctor asks me if my voice has changed after the sting, I did not imagine that an affirmative answer would mean a night in the Intensive Care Unit. The nurse, from Cadiz, explains that it is normal that the first bee sting is annoying but not dangerous, but this was already the second, and anaphylaxis occurs in a biphasic manner; that is, I could have an allergic reaction once I started feeling better, so it would be better to spend the night in the hospital, plugged into several machines to control oxygen, heart rate, stress and temperature. Around midnight he asks me if I have had dinner, and returns with a huge dinner while causing envy in the room.

At night there was no problem, just a slight fever, and after sleeping rather little, I was released from the hospital. The real shock comes when we went to administration and they tell us to go to pay the bill. Something has gone wrong with the insurance company and they tell us that we have to pay 5,000 Swiss francs (just over 4,000 euros). We spend the rest of the day on the phone until Mapfre assures us that will take care of everything, including the injection of adrenaline that Tarantino popularized injecting Uma Thurman in the heart (actually it goes straight to the thigh, but the scene was great.

We rest two days with the Creuzat family, watching it rain cats and dogs from the windows. Here we get caught up in the excitement of the impending trip this family is going to follow the Pan-American route with two small children for a year. With them we learn a lot about Switzerland, an economic miracle based on foreign sources of money, long hours and a Protestant morality. Here we will receive a lesson that will change our outlook on life: gruyere cheese has no holes! A variety of gruyere cheese made in France has become popular in Spain, which is also mixed with Emmental. But after several disputes, Switzerland has ensured that France cannot use the appellation of origin, but in our imagination we will always be happy with the holes. Olivier does not let us leave the house without having tasted an authentic Swiss fondue with Gruyere and Vacherin cheese, white wine and garlic.

Ahead we have four days left until the next house that will be really tough, not so much because of the Swiss slopes as the torrential rain that we suffer and that affect our mood so much. In some villages people tell us that one day it rained as much as it tends to rain in a month. According to the weather page, it has rained between 30 and 50 liters per square meter. The temperature has also plummeted: we entered Switzerland at 30°C and in the morning we are at 8ºC. The first rainy day we're lucky we get to camp in a covered place reserved for storing wood, praying that the workers don´t wake us early the next day. The clouds are so low that they do not allow us to see the most spectacular peaks of the Alps, and we have to settle for the slopes.

Many people ask us "what do you do when it rains?" The most obvious answer: get wet. You can have good overtrousers and a goretex jacket, but they are still plastic with limited breathability. When you spend ten hours outside, in the rain, you get wet to a greater or lesser extent, but if you're also doing some kind of exercise, the sweat also drenches you on the. In the end water also gets in the saddlebags, because inevitably you open them when you're in the open, and wet clothes don´t dry in the panniers but dampens everything it touches. The worst part, surely, is the tent. We always try to do free camping (we only paid for two campsites throughout the trip), so you do not know what type of soil or conditions you'll encounter along the way. If we are lucky, we'll sleep on a bed of leafy trees like wild oak or oak are the softest, but also retain a lot of water. These days with rain from the east will be the type of forest we find. It is also important to pitch the tent and tarp (tarpaulin) as quickly as possible so they do not get wet inside. But one day we do it so fast and badly that one of the poles from the tent splits, and five-minute procedure becomes an ordeal of three quarters of an hour, until we manage to unhook the broken metal from the seams of the tent, make a patch with tape and mount the tent. By the time we finish, we have a pond indoors. I'd say we could not sleep thinking it was going to break at any moment, but we are so tired we fall exhausted in the marsh that the tent has turned into.

The  count of these rainy days is catastrophic: the odometer screen has cracked, the e-book has stopped working, a tent pole is unusable, and to top it off that morning Gabi stabs one of the saddlebags with a knife. Sometimes, the most difficult thing is to get out of the sleeping bag. Ahead there is a lot of rain and a mountain pass called Brünigpass with 500 vertical meters covered in just 5 kilometers; or that is, 5 km with an average slope of 10%. But we are in Switzerland, and the people of this country make our life a little nicer: a cyclist pushes me in a couple of sections, and then encourages me to continue a little longer before giving up. We run into a couple of heavily laden cyclists who stop to talk to us. After trying to speak four German words we realize that just as we speak bad English, a sign that we are French or Spanish. It turns out that they are an elderly Catalan couple who are doing the same route that we are. Switzerland is a paradise for cyclists, there are several national routes and many regional ones to travel around the country, going through roads with little traffic or mountain trails. We follow Route 9, the road to the lakes, and it is a road that we recommend with enthusiasm, despite the mountains or precisely because of them.

The fourth day we can see cloud openings in the sky, we are still 80 km from Lucerne, but the road to the home of Rene and Monique is easy and very pretty. Thanks to a spare pole from his tent, we are able to fix up ours. We write to Vaude to tell them the situation and look for other solutions. Vaude is not slow to respond, for 9 euros they will send us a new rod from any part of Germany. However, Monique has found us a bargain on internet: a man on the border between Switzerland and Germany is selling a MSR Furius for 250 euros. Now we have to decide what to do. We like our tent, a Vaude Taurus 2p, but it is true that the foot area is not very firm, it is not completely self-supporting, it is three seasons and we cannot remove the roof to sleep only with the interior fabric in summer. The Furius is four seasons and doesn´t have the limitations of our own, which we bought very cheaply, second hand also, but with a lot of use. We have several days to think about what to do, go see the tent on Lake Constance and decide. For now, we try to contact more than the usual number of Warmshowers not to tempt fate too much with the pole, so that in Zug we have a fun evening with Franzi and Ralf. So, we only sleep one day outdoors in almost a week, in a picnic area away from the road with bathrooms, kitchen and trash can. The next day we also expected to sleep under the stars, but a cyclist stopped us on the way, began to speak to us in Spanish and invited us to sleep at home. But we made the mistake not to write down the directions, and after two hours up and down the surrounding hills, and getting dark, we gave up. It was too late to find a place in a forest, and we stop at a house to ask permission to camp in the garden. For us, the Swiss luxury campsites are too expensive, we cannot and don´t want to pay 30 or 40 euros per person to put up a tent in a place that has nothing special. The man who opens the door turns out to be a great host. He tells us that we can sleep his garden, but better yet we should spend the night in his home and offers us a good dinner and a delicious breakfast. In the morning, he prepares us a picnic for the day, with a couple of Cokes, lots of energy bars and apples from his garden. When we were parting he asks us if we have a Swiss Army knife and gives us one with his name. We will remember Albert fondly.

The last few days we spend in Switzerland the weather gives us a break, although the heat dehydrates us and the sun burns our skin. At last we can admire the mountains from the route of the lakes, and even have a swim in one of them. Almost without realizing it we cross into Liechtenstein, a curious little country where the monarchy is incompatible with real democracy. Thus, in 24 hours we have left behind two countries and now rest in Austria, in the sweet home that Christoph and Elisabeth have built with their own hands. At this very moment, we have a map of Europe open on the table and where we continue our journey to the end of the world.

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