Together, cycling is easier
It was the day of encounters. At first I cycled – for a change, in sunshine – along with a Swiss from the town of Zug, in his mid-60s, tanned, on a mountain bike that had already seen better days. “I’ve stopped working after 45 years,” the cyclist told me. “And now I am fulfilling my life dream. I always wanted to make a long bike trip.” I asked him how much time he took for the ride along the Rhine. “I’ll see how far I get until winter,” he said, grinning. In the further conversation it turned out that he was also a passionate mountaineer. He had climbed all four-thousanders of his home country, said the Swiss: “Actually, I had always dreamed of climbing Mount Everest one day. But tourism on this mountain has nothing to do with the way of climbing that I like.”
By ferry to the other side
With a heavy heart, I had to allow the Swiss to race ahead, I could not keep up his surprisingly high pace in the long run. But I did not go alone for long. My next companion was a 77-year-old local who is usually doing a half-day bike trip every day, in good weather. “I have to be back home by noon,” he told me. “Otherwise, my wife worries.” I owe him that I did not have to go a long way around the town of Rust (which most people know because of the leisure park nearby). This was a peninsula, the local expert explained to me at the decisive parting of the ways. Therefore, it was better to change to the French side, and to return later to the other side with a ferry. No sooner said than done. This was a really good advice. And by the way, I added with France the fifth nation on my tour down the Rhine after Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany.
Over the creek
Shortly after I had said good-bye to the senior, I landed in a dead end. “Have you not seen the sign?”, asked a man who was standing with his old bike on the Rhine. I had overlooked the sign. I now had two alternatives, the man said: either to go back one and a half kilometers or follow him on a secret path: “But you have to cross a streambed. I get over there with my bike. But I do not know whether you can do it too with your packed bike.” I thought: What he is able to do, I also can. I followed him on the trampled path with nettles and brambles. The streambed was not dry, as I had supposed. Instead, I had to carry my folding bike across some boulders, in between water flowed. I took off my saddlebags and brought first the bike and then the luggage over the bridge of stones. After all, I could continue my journey without a long detour.
The fourth encounter of the day was a planned one. In the town of Kehl, I met Ralf Dujmovits – the so far only German climber who has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders – and his life companion, the Canadian climber Nancy Hansen. They wanted to accompany me on their mountain bikes a bit of my way along the Rhine and thus support me morally. Together with Ralf and the Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, I had launched the campaign “School up!” at the end of June 2015 to rebuild the school in the small mountain village of Thulosirubari, which was destroyed by the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April that year. My donation bike trip “School up! River down” is to flush further money into the project, so that we can pay the ongoing construction work at the new school.
End of the day trip after 125 kilometers
I really enjoyed sharing a bit of my way with Ralf and Nancy. Besides, I almost forgot my tired legs because of the good talks. Even a heavy downpour, the first of the day, could not cloud our good mood. In the town of Söllingen we finished the bike day – for me after 125 kilometers, for Nancy and Ralf after 45 kilometers. I spend the night at their house in the town of Bühl. Tomorrow morning they will bring me back to Söllingen, where I will continue my journey down the Rhine. I have now managed 589 kilometers in total. Some were quite exhausting, but encounters like today’s compensate for all the hardships.
Date16. September 2017 | 0:19
TagsAid project: School up!, Folding bike, Kehl, Nancy Hansen, Ralf Dujmovits, Rhein, Rhine, Rust, School up! River down!, Söllingen