In my last installment, my bike and I had just encountered two Spanish hikers who advised me to turn back because the trail was too dangerous to ride down. I brushed off their comments because they wanted me to ride down the paved road instead (riding on roads of any kind is anathema to mountain biking).
But … just in case, I looked at the map again. It looked like I was on the right path. But then I flipped the map over to the more detailed side, which I hadn’t noticed before. That’s when I saw it. The bike route. It didn’t go straight from Grindelwald First to Buossalp. It went from Grindelwald First to Bachalpsee (a lake) THEN over to Buossalp, forming two sides of a triangle. The trail I was on was the tiny, squiggly black line that bombed right down from next to the cliff walk. The black line that the map key told me was hiker only. Doh! And, sorry Spanish hikers!
I looked down, then looked up. I had a lot farther to go than I had come already. Going down is harder and more dangerous than going up. I would have to maintain my footing while also carrying the bike. As much as I wanted to taste that beautiful ribbon of singletrack beckoning in the distance, the sensible thing was to climb back up.
Sad face. I climbed back up, and then evaluated my options. Sadly, it was going to be about an hour uphill to Bachalpsee, then probably another hour down from there to Grindelwald. And, I could see from the countour lines on the map that I would have some climbing on the way down too which might make the descent longer than an hour. To add to the mix clouds were starting to form overhead.
So, again, deciding to be sensible, and not wanting to die alone on an Alp, I settled for doing the cliff walk and then riding the roads down to Grindelwald, thoroughly annoyed that the hikers got their way after all.
One highlight of the ride down was the cattle. Apparently if you come up behind cattle, and you’re moving quickly, they assume you’re herding them, and will form a line and start running ahead of you. This was disconcerting, because I didn’t know what else they might do, and they outnumbered and outweighed me. I tried talking to them and that seemed to calm them down, so I was able to pass through the several herds I saw on my way down, without being gored (even the lady cattle have horns).
Everything in Switzerland is crazy steep, even the roads but the bike had good brakes. For part of the way, I shared the road with some mountain go-karts (apparently they have a million recreational conveyances in the Alps, including go-carts, push-scooters and zip lines).
I even hit some tiny portions of singletrack and enjoyed them as much as I could. There was one area where a climb along a road might have led to more singletrack, but I ran into an American hiker couple who said that I would have to ride another couple of miles uphill to get to the trail, so I decided to turn around.
Because my vacation adventures are never 100% pleasant, I got caught in the storm I had seen brewing while I was up at the top. I was still about 2 miles out of town. Now, I had thought about bringing my rain shell on the ride, but then thought I wouldn’t need it (doh!). I wasn’t too worried because I knew I was close to town, and I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to develop hypothermia before I got back to my hotel room, but ugh, it was unpleasant. It RAINED! And the wind was bitter, driving the rain into my face in stinging needles. At one point, right outside the outskirts of Grindelwald, I needed a break, so I took cover on the lee side of a farm building. I was still getting rained on, but I was out of the wind for a moment.
I joined a miserable looking couple (not as miserable as me though, because they had jackets), who turned out to be from Phoenix. We chatted a bit, then I headed out again, wanting to get the misery over with. I had a good view of downtown Grindelwald, so it was a matter of aiming myself in that general direction. Again, because apparently no one in Switzerland has ever heard of grading, the roads were reeeaaally steep, but I reasoned that people had been riding, walking, and driving them for years without mishap, and I could too.
When I dropped off the bike, the woman who had given me the routing asked how I had liked it. I explained what had gone wrong, and she was gratifyingly impressed/horrified that I had gone down the hiking trail. She said it was very dangerous and I was lucky not to have fallen.
I didn’t tell her this, but while I was on the trail I had made the decision that if I started to lose my balance, or my grip on the bike, I would let the bike go, rather than risk following it to the valley floor. It never got that bad, but it was harrowing, and it was nice to have that acknowledged.
I made it to the train station in time for the immediate train to Interlaken, only to discover that it was standing room only, because apparently everyone leaves Grindelwald when it starts to rain. And then on the train, I found myself stuffed up against the door next to the Phoenix duo I had met while taking shelter from the rain. We had a pleasant chat, which passed the time back to Interlaken nicely. My shower, when I returned, was one of the more pleasant ones in recent memory, as was my curry dinner. Overall, a frustrating day, but I made it back in one piece, so I was happy.
So, that was riding in the Interlaken area. In future installments, I’ll relate the tale of riding in Crans-Montana, a ski village a bit south and east of Interlaken.