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Railway Wild Camp

by Tyler

We left Luzern today to begin our final leg in Switzerland. As we rolled out of camp it was already very hot; 30 kilometers into our ride we were feeling (and smelling) pretty sour. Dripping with sweat, Tara stopped in a tiny patch of shade and collapsed in a heap by the side of the road. I joined her, and as we ate our lunch we talked and talked, getting a lot of complaining off our chests. We both uttered the unspeakable words—"This sucks, I want to go home" and like magic, having admitted our worst fear about the trip, suddenly we were both laughing again.

The next part of our ride passed easily as we cycled up and down the rolling green hillsides leading to Lake Walen. Along the way we stopped at an "Aldi" to load up on food, preparing for the approaching mountain pass. Everything was cheap. Of course, just as we're leaving, we find the most affordable grocer in the country!

Mountain View

The end of our route for the day was a cycle path along a river leading to Walen Lake. When we arrived we spotted several people floating downstream (just like in Bern) and a group of young boys jumping off a railway bridge into the pristine water. With five or six sweaty hours in the saddle nothing in this world could have looked more inviting. All we had to do first was find a place to camp.

After a few minutes of searching we found a suitable wild-camp upstream near a weird-looking, water-logged, abandoned building. We quickly hid our bikes behind it, started the Spot spotting, and ran to the shore where jumped hand-in-hand into the swiftly running river.

Train & Bunker

It was perfect, the water was cold and refreshing and the current was very strong. We were swept away instantly and the rail bridge where we'd seen the jumping boys appeared shortly after. Of course, I had been plotting to get Tara to jump with me. As soon as we got close I convinced her to swim to shore and come up "just to have a look". I knew I'd have my work cut out for me, the bridge was a lot higher than that rock in Cassis.

Unfortunately my plan was thwarted quickly when I realized the jump required some difficult climbing to get to the lower I-beam of the bridge. Ever willing to step outside of her comfort zone, Tara (reluctantly) tried to let me boost her up to the bridge a few times. In the end it was pretty clear she didn't want to climb the smooth concrete face to get to the bridge, so I went up alone.

Tara walked upstream and slipped back into the river while I scaled the rock wall leading to the bottom of the bridge. As I made my way across the ledge of the lower I-beam a train flew by overhead causing the whole structure to vibrate intensely. Yikes (read: cooooool)! I made it easily to the jumping-off point and looked down warily. As Tara approached the me from the river some 20 meters(?) below she yelled out "One, Two, Three… Jump!"

A moment of hesitation followed by a few suspended in air ended too quickly with a huge, exciting splash and we were back together, floating down the river side by side. It was getting late when we hauled ourselves, completely refreshed, out of the river to head home. Floating is hungry work, on the way back to camp we were both excited to bake the frozen pizza we'd bought in our trusty oven.

Back at camp as I was preparing to make dinner, a small disaster occurred. Our MSR fuel pump has been on its way out for a few weeks now. Ever since I fixed the "pump cup" when it detached (the rubber bit at the end of the plunger, like on a syringe) in France it has been sort of difficult to pressurize the fuel bottle. Tara suggested we purchase a replacement back at Tretlager Radikal Hochwertig, but I had thought I could fix it. When the problem worsened, we had a new pump sent to Tara's parents hoping ours would last until they meet us in Italy. No such luck!

Tonight, the pump failed completely; the the rubber cup tore and would no longer create a seal. As I was reading the parts diagram and trying to make a temporary fix I realized it was probably my fault. MSR includes a mineral based oil for lubricating the pump but when I fixed it I used our Park Polylube; it must've broken down the rubber enough to make it tear.

Thankfully, we had our emergency backup alcohol stove and some purple "meths" from England to burn in it. Our trusty alcohol stove did the trick and we were still able to have pizza! By the time we finished, we wished we'd brought two! As we were wrapping up dinner it was finally getting dark enough to set up an abridged version of camp: just the tent, no rain-fly, and only our bed.

With free-camp made, and night finally upon us, we snuggled up in the tent. I called my sister to wish her a happy birthday (happy birthday, Amanda!) and then we spent some time reading our journal entries from the very beginning of the trip. We were curious to read what we had to say almost five months ago and we both had a good laugh realizing how totally clueless we were when we started.

Clueless as we might have been, we didn't take anything for granted then. Lately we're finding it easy to ride along, not even appreciating the beautiful scenery that surrounds us; either because we see so much of it, or due to silly things like being covered in sweat and grime or not having a fridge.

On our second day in Scotland, we were totally enthralled with a bike path, the likes of which we've ridden countless times since. They no longer seem quite so magical or beautiful. Laughing and groaning together we made a point to remember how we got here, how far we've come, and how we're on a grand adventure. It's easy to forget.

Before we fell asleep we got to witness one new sight though: trains passing right by our camp just a few feet away. As they flew by, the passenger cars would light up our tent like a lightning strike and right after they were out of view we could see glowing bursts of electricity crackling and arcing down their power lines. So cool!