Monday, May 25, 2015

Montreux, Switzerland: Reunion with the Rhone

Lake Geneva is really just a really wide spot on the Rhone.  Earlier we had traveled upriver from Avignon to Vienne, south of Lyon, leaving the Rhone corridor before it joins the city of Geneva on the west end of the lake.  Now we descended down from our side trip to Zermatt, this time on our bikes, rejoining the Rhone river in Switzerland.  We followed it to the east end of the lake.

Favorite lunch spot on this journey so far -- park in the road median on our descent from Zermatt, with a fountain of great tasting water.
This valley is wide and flat and on either side are incredibly steep ridges and snow-covered peaks.  Cables for lifts to ski and hike run up the slopes on either side.  Whole communities are built high up on the slopes with terraced vineyards reaching down to the valley floor.  If you look long enough you will see trains up on the slopes, following a path that seems impossible until disappearing into the mountain.  Located in the valley bottom is industry -- sand and gravel operations, cement plants, agriculture, factories. 
Looking into the morning light from the Rhone valley.
We had an incredibly brilliant day when we went from Raron to Montigny.  We figured it would be mostly level along the river so we could cover a good distance.  That is until we encountered another one of those pesky road closures.  We flagged down a cyclist coming the other direction to ask if we could get through.  In German he said no, not possible, we should go up another road that will bypass the closure and the tunnels on the main highway.  So up we went, pretty darn steep for a while, and then across for another good long while, and then down pretty darn steep for a short while.  He didn’t mention that it might be easier on his ultra-light racing bike.  But it was well worth the effort --  the views were spectacular.
Looking east into the floodplain of the Rhone from our high point.

My man in the orange jersey, making his descent between the terraced vineyards.
It was a Monday holiday, and droves of serious cyclists were following this same detour.  And we noticed that they all started saying “bonjour” instead of “hello” by the time we got to the other side.  Somewhere along the detour we had crossed some kind of line between German and French Switzerland.
Back to Rhone elevation.

Terraced vineyards everywhere.

These tilted beds of limestone formed incredible ridges along our route.
We followed the Rhone until it emptied into Lake Geneva, and then along the lakeshore through Montreux.  There is not much room between the lake and the hills so all the transportation is squeezed into a narrow corridor.  But there was a wide bike lane most of the way and we felt comfortable getting through the city.  There is money here...big fancy hotels, chateaus overlooking the lake, and we were passed by BMW’s, Mercedes, and one Maserati.  But it must also be hard for the workers.  Our last night in Switzerland was in a crowded campground in Lausanne.  There were several semi-permanent tents whose occupants left in the morning for work and returning in the evening.
It is difficult to see the headwind in this picture.

We ended up camping four nights in Switzerland.  It is an expensive place.  The exchange rate for francs to euros is about 1:1.  Food was two to three times more expensive, except for yogurt and muesli, which were a bargain.  Good thing -- that is our morning fuel.  We have been paying between 10 and 15 euros a night in France for camping including 60 cents in taxes.  In Switzerland we paid 30 euros, 10 of which were taxes.

Our odd campsite situated between a spring pouring from a cliff and a busy highway.

The city of Montreux is within sight.

The view of Lake Geneva looking south from near Montreux.  It was hazy on our day, but it must be spectacular on a clear winter day.

Navigating the transportation corridor into Montreux.
Switzerland would be a great place to return to and explore some more, maybe even to ski.  Maybe it’s time to start buying those lottery tickets.
Carlos Santana is as happy as we are to be here, in the courtyard of the Jazz Club in front of the Montreux Palace.

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bonnie said...

Hi Guys! Switzerland (along with your fantastic photographs and exciting narrative!) is so very beautiful. And so GREEN everywhere. The un-drought. A fantasy land, just as I had pictured as a child! So, is June Lake really "the Switzerland of the Eastern Sierra", as I have heard? At least, more so than Bishop. Happy tail winds to you. Christina Cactulina is growing and says hello too! Thank you for your exciting adventure! Hugs, Bonnie

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