Leaving Sion to continue cycling across Europe was a bittersweet affair. Whilst Francois and Severine had left the day before to do some high altitude training for a University study, we had gone to the local bicycle shop (thanks heaps to Severine’s mum who drove us there) to pick up our bikes.
Looking at our bicycles, newly serviced and gleaming I was amazed by just how clean they looked. In fact, they looked as though someone had gone over them with a fine toothcomb and a can of polish. Great we thought! Then we looked down at the price of our bikes being serviced, and the two new chains which were fitted to them and were unable to believe our eyes, almost $600 Australian dollars. I racked my brains wondering what the exorbitant cost was for, and tried desperately to read the receipt, much to the annoyance of the French speaking Suisse standing behind the counter. It seems, I learned later, that you do not question the price here, and simply accept with meekness so as not to risk the chance of looking as though any amount, no matter the high cost, means nothing to you or your bank account.
Interestingly when we had first taken the bikes in for a service we were told that the front wheel would need replacing. Francois replied that that was the wheel they had built for him only six months ago, and asked what was wrong with it as there were no obvious signs of a problem. Suddenly there seemed to be no more problems with the wheel. Hmmn.
Anyway, much to the annoyance of the guys in the shop (and the embarrassment of my entourage) I looked down at my bike and spun the front wheel. It rotated around once, and then with a sudden jolt it stopped.
I moved onto the back wheel (a brand new one that they had just built) and did the same. It didn’t stop immediately, but swerved noticeably at one arbitrary point, indicating even to the newbie cyclist that this wheel had a buckle. I showed it to them, much to their reluctance, and was told it was the tyre. Wow, I’ve never heard of that one before I thought to myself.
An hour later, Shanna and Severines mother had left in the car with her bike, the front wheel of my bike adjusted and swinging freely, a $600 dent in my pocket for I’m still not sure what and I was back on my bike and cycling up the mountain through the rain (seven hundred meters climb in altitude- or going up the Mt Dandenong I-20 climb the equivalent of three times). Soon though, I wondered what the new noise was, a constant grating sound apparent with each revolution of the pedals, and began wondering if all that had been done to the bikes was a trip through a car washer (in my imagination I was picturing something like a giant dishwasher with a bike in it).
The following morning we left the Lamon’s beautiful home overlooking the Swiss alps in the mountains of Sion (altitude almost 1300 meters), heading for France. We were sad to leave, remembering fondly our week there, and how much we’d done during this short time with Sev and Francois, in their stunning little corner of the world.
Thanks to a bum steer from me we started heading in the wrong direction and thinking how wonderful the tail wind was. Realising we were going the wrong way we turned around, me with a backpack on my back with mountaineering gear in it ready to send home, and began heading the right way, into the wind towards the beautiful lakeside city of Lausanne.
$115 later and the backpack is off my back and heading to Australia, wow it feels great, not only to get rid off the big pack but also to be riding again. If only the wind wasn’t intent on blowing us back to Sion it would have been perfect!
Through the strongest head wind imaginable we pushed our pedals. Progress was slow, much energy was spent, and then the rain started to fall. It was about 5pm, and we’d just stocked up on food at a supermarket, when we saw an abandoned structure, which would offer protection from the rain. We wheeled our bikes under the big concrete pillars and ceiling, and investigated a big warehouse - it was also abandoned. We cooked our pasta in the warehouse, admiring the graffiti, but as it grew dark decided we’d been happier camping outside with the cold wind.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia