Stretching beside the road in preparation to cycle up to the Saint Bernard Pass, one of the highest motorable passes in Europe at 2480 meters in elevation and closed to traffic during the winter, we saw a group of touring cyclists and decided to tag on the back.
Two of them Polish and the other English we had a good chat until everyone was a little out of breath. A couple of kilometers later and we stopped on the side of the road for hamburgers, which it turned out later might have been a mistake...
Just after we started again we found a mountain stream funneling down the side of the road so we stopped to fill our water bottles. The water was cold, really cold, and just filling up the bottles hurt my hands. Despite this I splashed the water over my face a few times, and felt immeasurably better. Not sure if its just me, but I love the coldness of water coming down from a mountain, there is something about it that makes me wish I could drink this water all day... Although, I hear that apparently this wouldn't be all that good for you.
Getting back to the riding. Another 10 or so kilometers up hill and we came to the point were the tolled tunnel section begins for motor vehicles, and the tunroff for the mountain summit begins, snaking around the mountain as far the eye can see.
At this point we were up around 1600 meters in altitude and we began to feel that the weather was getting cooler. Strangely the road began to deteriorate, almost to the conditions in Laos, a third world country, and the cyclists coming down the hill in the opposite direction were having trouble negotiating the rocks, bumps and machinery scattered over the road.
Further up and the road starts to improve, and as we reach 2000 meters in altitude the tree line stops, leaving only green hills, snow capped mountains, glaciers, jutting outcrops of rock and incredible waterfalls and streams.
The scenery is spectacular, so we stop, not just to catch our breath, but to take off our shoes and socks and wash our feet in the cold water, water coming from glaciers above us formed thousands of years ago.
Finally another hour or so later and we're at the top of the Saint Bernard Pass, the border between Suisse and Italy were Saint Bernard built a hospice for travelers that still exists almost 1000 years later.
We cycle through the border, and for the first time nobody says anything or asks for out passports, and just like that we are in Switzerland.
Suddenly feeling famished we lean our bikes against a wall near the hospice when, looking around for something to eat I hear Shanna yell in excitement, 'Francois!!'
We hadn't expected to see them until the following day but as it turned out Francois had ridden up that morning over 70 kilometers from Sion, and was just as tired and hungry as us. Fortunately we were able to shelve our plans to camp somewhere in the mountains as Francois had payed for us to stay at the hostel, were apparently you can only stay if you have either ridden or walked up. Cool.
That night we watched the end of the Tour de France in a cafe and then shared a communal meal with some hikers and young scouts in the old hospice dining hall.
Tucking into the soup with bread, and steak and potatoes in the warm old room, prompted me of something from the past. Although I cant remember exactly what it was, it must have been something soothing, so I sat there, warm amongst the chatter wondering, in search of lost time and memories.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia