It may sound exotic but cycling in Europe with four women plus Siri came with a few challenges. As the token ageing male who had never used Air BnB, the experience was …. Interesting. Did I also say fun?? Yes indeed. The idea of the trip was to be away from Christchurch’s bleak early winter, and continue the policy of being out of country for my birthday. My belief is that if you don’t have your birthday in your home country then it doesn’t count – meaning that I am still not yet 50!!
From a distance half way around the world, we loosely organised a 300km loop around Nuremberg, a 330km loop out of Salsberg (home of the Sound of Music) and a 220 km ride from St Moritz down the Inn river back to Innsbruck. We found bike rental contacts online and suddenly I found myself in the mind of the customer, not the Operator, which provided a few valuable lessons.
The first lesson was that there seemed to be no full-service providers. Bikes were rented from one source, we hunted down Air B’n’B offers from another, and no-one seemed to offer advice on how to cycle where we were going. There seemed to be no luggage movement offers, so pannier bags and the limits on their capacity became the standard. The bikes were rented from 3 locations and it was fair to say that the quality varied greatly with one provider. In Innsbruck we found Reinhard and the relief of dealing with someone who understood our questions and was relaxed and seemed to have all the answers was huge!
If you have never cycled in Europe, the big change is the lack of stock roaming in the fields. No stock usually means no fences, and that impact on the landscape is amazing. The pasture just rolled unbroken to the horizon and it was truely the chocolate box pictures that Switzerland is famous for. For much of the riding, the surface was sealed and before you mock, believe me, it was a delight!! When it was gravelled, it was still a delight.
Quite quickly we fell into the routine of departing at the crack of 9am, cycling for a couple of hours and then trying to find an outlet for the morning coffee. This was not always easy, making it very clear that NZ has a highly developed coffee culture, and we can’t assume the rest of the world has caught up with us. The meals were as you would expect in another country – always a bit of a guess and invariably staying safe became a default. Staying at a B’n’B allowed us to do some our cooking and the supermarket shopping was easy – and surprisingly cheap. As with our trip to Korea last year, the language issue highlighted to us just how difficult it is when we had little comprehension of what was being said or offered.
The trails we rode were supported by guidebooks (usually in German) or via blog posts online. Quickly we learned that such reports varied in reliability so in the absence of a voice we could rely on, each day became a new challenge as we rolled with the hills and trails. Riding in late May/early June meant the summer hadn’t quite arrived but on the whole the weather was great – mid 20’s C, with a couple of days of rain just to make us feel good about carrying rain gear. Eventually all came to an end and we trained back to Munich and the two 12 hr flights via Hong Kong that bought us back to a New Zealand winter.