The Jura

Familiar Terrain
In the 10 months we’ve been travelling from SE Asia, we’ve seen a huge variety of spectacular landscapes. The Jura, the rounded mountain range in northern Switzerland, might be considered mundane by some, but we found ourselves awestruck by its early winter beauty. In the early 1990s we lived at the foot of the French Jura, walking and skiing there frequently. Perhaps it’s this experience that led us to appreciate it’s subtleties.

2009/11/10: St. Imier 36 km – Three 1,100 m passes.
We made a late start on a gloomy day. Perhaps we should have stayed another day with our hosts, but we felt ourselves getting restless and ready to wrap up our journey in Paris. We’re planning a flight home from there, and will purchase tickets soon, when Air Canada’s web site is working and we have internet access. The access is less straightforward than you might think, because wireless networks since Austria use some new encryption that our Asus doesn’t understand.

The climbs from Neuchâtel at 400 m were steep; the rain drizzled and then snow flurried, but the road remained clear of snow and ice. The snow clung to tree branches making a Christmas card scene. In Le Pâquier, we saw banners everywhere proclaiming “Didier notre champion,” with images of Didier Cuche in action, the world champion for downhill and super GS skiing disciplines. At the top of Col du Mt. Croisin, we were invited for tea by Germain, a keen mountain biker, who rents a farmhouse from Didier’s cousin. We descended to St. Imier, and considered going further, but the fog was rolling in so we found lodgings in St. Imier. We went out for a cheese fondue dinner in honour of my birthday. Yes, we’re now the same age, and we’re both 57!

2009/11/11: Delémont 63 km – 1,200 m pass
I’d slept very badly, and the breakfast was not up to a cyclist’s standards by any stretch of the imagination. We climbed from St. Imier at 700 m to 1,200 m, emerging from the mist into sun sparkling in snow. We stopped often to appreciate our surroundings and take pictures.

After shopping at Migros, we turned onto a section of bike route that was unpaved and very muddy, so the going was slow. Each bike route is indicated by one of two types of sign, either for mountain bikes or “ordinary” bikes, and we were following “ordinary” routes. In summer, we’d probably have barely noticed that a section of the route was unpaved, but on a wet November day it felt more like a mountain bike route. We moved back onto paved road for the descent into the valley, as we sometimes do. We like fast downhills. It was pretty chilly weather for a picnic, so we had a restaurant lunch, and continued to Delemont. We could have gone on, but we settled into a hotel and I was happy to catch up on missed sleep. The picnic supplies became a quick supper in our room.

2009/11/12: Basel 48 km
We dressed to battle the elements, and stopped a little further along to dress some more. We’re becoming expert at dressing for wet weather just above freezing. From Delémont, we’d sent an email to Mitchell, a Canadian we’d met in Sechi, Azerbaijan, who lives in Basel.

We telephoned him when we arrived in the city, and met him for a delicious lunch he’d prepared for us. We were joined by two friends of his who are keen touring cyclists, and also by his 10 month-old almost-walking trilingual grandson. His cyclist friends offered us useful route advice for the next leg of our journey. Later, we walked to the local VeloPlus store to browse and to buy the Michelin map for Alsace-Lorraine.


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