Day 273 – ITALY and SWITZERLAND: From Villadossola to Brigabad via Simplon Pass

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 89.25km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.0km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 8h 05m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2061.1km (plus 9700km)
Ascent / 上り: +1780m
Descent / 下り: -1365m

By the vertical meters I climbed today, you’d almost think I was cycling in the Swiss Apls…

The day began with some more picturesque Italian alps foothills villages, this one the center square of Villadossola.

Courtyard in Villadossola, Italy

And just in case you ever wanted to know, this is what the rear end of my bike looks like. Yes, the rear light is attached by a piece of garden hose. I didn’t have the drill required to drill a hole in steel pipe, so I melted some holes in the garden hose to do the attachment. And hey, it has lasted 12,000km, so isn’t all bad.

Rear end of a bike in Villadossola, Italy

Enough of the gratuitous bottom shots, and onto the real action.

I was eased into the mountains slowly, with the haze of the Italian side of the alps giving me teasing hints into the wonder that was to follow.

Misty mountains near Villadossola, Italy

A road sign pointed towards Siberia. I gave that a miss, thinking it would take another few years if I went via that road.

To Switzerland, the long way (sign in Domodossola, Italy)

The task for the day was to get up over Simplon pass to the town of Brig in Switzerland. From Domodossola, that was about 60km with a 2005m high pass in the middle. The plan was to take it easy and see how things went.

Swiss border at Gondo, Switzerland

As usual, I was feeling good arriving in a new country. As soon as I crossed the border, the environment changed. The air smelt great for some reason. Like Heidi had just skipped past or something, leaving a scent of fields of daisies. Like, honestly, the air really did smell different. I thought maybe they had special scent dispensers hidden in the mountains to welcome tourists…

In search of water after the border, I found myself at Fort Gondo. A massive mountain fotress carved into the rock. To see the whole fort you needed to ring someone to arrange a visit, but the main access tunnel was open to the public. It led to a massive 90mm cannon aimed just right to ensure the quick dismissal of any unwanted visitors heading up the Simlpon Pass.

Fort Gondo gun near Gondo, Switzerland

Barrel of the cannon at Fort Gondo, Switzerland

Road up Simplon Pass as seen from the gun turret at Fort Gondo, Switzerland

The road up the pass is steep in places, but never goes over 9%. I was happy enough to spin away in my lowest gear for the four or so hours it took to get to the top.

Simplon Pass, Italy

From the top it was a quick 22km downhill. What took four hours to climb, took all of 15 minutes to descend.

Simplon Pass, Switzerland

My first ever night sleeping in the beautiful country that is Switzerland was on the covered porch of a deserted building.

First sleeping spot in Switzerland near Brig

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