We are moving on at the right time if the weather is anything to go by. Last night’s thunderstorm has gone but the rain hasn’t and it started again just as we finished packing the car to head off into the mountains. The weather report doesn’t predict any snow in the Alps but there will probably be a lot of rain.
We have had a wonderful stay in Lake Maggiore and it will go close to beating or at least equalling the time we had in Poppi, Tuscany.Even Gretchen is moving Italy up in her estimation to equal France as a country to go on holiday to.
It was another one of those Italian farewells as we left with hugs and kisses from Melia and Franco and we will miss Italy although we have got a short time planned back in the Dolomites in 3 days time.
We joined the SS33 highway over the Alps as the rain became steadier.
The mountain pass we are driving is the Simplon, a road we have travelled over before except from the other direction into Italy.
Last time we went into Switzerland we did have to stop briefly at
the border but this time although the border buildings are still there no one was interested in us and we left Italy and entered Switzerland.
Getting photos and video today is going to be difficult with the rain falling which is a shame as although the mountains are not visible to any great degree the waterfalls are spectacular. The waterfalls are just about everywhere we looked as the road wound its way up the very narrow valley towards the summit at 2005 metres above sea level. We did notice the reduction in the number of cars after we passed the point where you can put the car on a train and ride through the Simplon rail tunnel. Trucks also ride this way through the Alps and we had seen a ‘truck train’ the other day heading towards the Simplon Tunnel.
The road was undergoing a fair amount of repair where there had been rock slides and we were glad there were plenty of road galleries where you drive under a concrete roof but can see out to the side of the road away from the mountainside. With the rain you knew know what might be going on above
you as you drive.
There was still snow close to the road at the summit but with the temperature at 6C and rain and wind blowing it wasn’t a place to stop today.
We were down the Swiss side of the pass quickly and Brig was ahead of us where we needed to change direction and head for today’s challenge, the Grimsel Pass.
We had noticed this pass on the BBA V1 in 2009 when we drove over another exhilarating mountain pass, the Furka.From what we had read about the Grimsel it will provide some challenges with many hairpin turns and rises to an altitude of 2164 metres. Unlike other main road passes such as the Simplon, the Grimsel is usually closed from October to May but we are hoping it is open for us given it is almost the end of May.
However, our excitement turned to disappointment as we headed out of Brig towards the pass when we noticed a road information board showing that the Grimsel Pass was closed.
We didn’t really have a Plan B as we were so looking forward to taking on the Grimsel and we had to pull
into a car park to think the problem through.
We had two choices. One was to continue on to the Furka Pass and then try to drive over that to get to the bottom of Lake Lucerne and onto our destination about 50km west of Lucerne or head in a generally westerly direction to Martigny and then north and east to our destination. The second option would be the longest in mileage but probably more reliable with roads being open. If the Grimsel was closed then there was the possibility of the adjacent Furka Pass also being closed.
We took the second option and started out on what we noticed from regular road signs we passed as ‘The Grand Drive’. By the end of the drive we realised just how grand a drive it was taking us over half way around Switzerland!
The rain continued to fall as we cruised down the valley between two towering mountain ranges.
Just before Martigny we both remarked that it looked like the valley was coming to an end and there appeared to be no way forward other than over mountains.
Then as got closer to the town a
valley opened up to the right of us and we turned in that direction and headed in a northerly direction running parallel with the French border, although that clearly was a mountain range away. We certainly were taking the Grand Tour!
At Aigle we switched to the N11 and we headed uphill and we thought we were going to get the mountain pass crossing we had missed out on with the closure of the Grimsel.And it turned out to be correct and even if the road didn’t reach the heights of the Grimsel, the Les Mosses pass at 1435 metres was still a scenic road to drive.
Once we had descended from the pass the road travelled through rolling grassy countryside usually following a railway line. Despite that there was plenty of green grass in the fields available for the cows in the barns to feed on they were closed up in barns.
We had been travelling east for a while and then our direction changed to a northerly aspect again as we headed towards Bern.
Finally ‘The Grand Tour’ took us east again on the final stretch to the small town of Rorhbach where we
have an Air BnB apartment for 2 nights.
The countryside really didn’t change too much, green rolling hills with the road following the valley floors with small towns coming at frequent intervals.
The rain had stopped by the time we reached Rorhbach and we have our fingers crossed for tomorrow as we have just the day to see the sights of Lucerne.
The owners of the apartment live in Hong Kong but we have had very good communication with them and they had arranged for a lady who lived in the traditional Swiss chalet type building to meet us and let us in. She understood English OK but couldn’t put the words together to speak English. So she had one of her daughters do the translation.
The apartment was on the second floor and will suit our needs well for the two nights we are here.
PS:a bit of an obscure song by Paul McCartney,unless you are a fan of his solo efforts,but reflects the day of driving in the rain.You can listen and watch on Youbube as you read this blog.
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