Dave the motorhome is being extra naughty right now. He’s parked in a free car park in the small Italian town of Druogno (N46.13276 E8.43270), and is charging his weary leisure battery on the supply provided for the twice weekly market held here on a Friday morning and Sunday!
Jay finally made it into bed about an hour after me at 1.45am, so neither of us were particularly grateful to the helicopter which landed around 8am, possibly on Dave’s roof – it sounded close enough! Dave was filled with sleepy and thick heads, and a suitable stash of bottles for the recycling bank. Overnight the clouds had rolled in, ominously full looking – snow or rain, we didn’t want to get caught up in either – and bringing a very real chill to the air. After breakfast we took a very brisk walk across the car park to see if there were actually any Marmots in Marmot Land (a small fenced off area with a hut at the top of the pass we had slept on). Would you believe it, one of them had also crept out to sample the fresh Alpine air – but chose to stay in the caged area by his little home.
The weather forecast told of rain/snow on the pass we needed to cross today. We’d originally planned to stop on it for the night but the same forecast reported temperatures of -9oC tomorrow up there, so that wasn’t going to happen! Katherine, Phil and Lennox still hadn’t surfaced by 11am so sadly we couldn’t say goodbye, but left them a note on their windscreen in the hope that we’ll meet up again soon. They’re off to Zurich but will be in Italy at some point, so you never know. Less than half a mile from where we had slept the mountain dropped away revealing our morning challenge – the twisty downhill bit.
As you can see Jay and Dave took it all in their stride:
The downhillyness continued for several miles as we passed through tiny villages of wooden houses, each with a white church often topped with an onion spire – we were certainly in rural Switzerland, not exactly the picture postcard bit, but the working bit. The aroma of fresh manure on the fields has followed us for the last few days, and today was no exception – although it was us doing the following for a while.
As we wound down the mountainside each village we passed through got slightly bigger and a bit more commercial. From a few tired wooden houses and odd looking houses on stilts with big feet to keep the mice out, they grew to airport and train station wielding ski resorts with huge hotels and chair lifts up to see the Grosser Aletschgletscher or Great Aletsch Glacier – the largest glacier in the Alps which forms an arc around 23 km (14 miles) long. Covering more than 120 square km (46 sq mi), it’s though to be close to a 1 km thick in places and was no doubt still open to be seen today, however we were on a mission to get over a pass ahead of the weather so had to make do with the huge billboard adverts with images of it positioned along the roadside letting us know what we’d missed.
In the biggest town of them all at the bottom of the valley we’d set sat nav on a mission to find a supermarket as we’d drunk most stuff in the van last night and were running short on a few other essentials. We knew it would be silly expensive in Switzerland, but probably no worse than Italy and it was an excuse to grab a couple of bars of Swiss chocolate too.
I’d been given the names of two of the cheaper supermarkets by Petra and Joseph and Satnav proudly told us we could find a Denner (the other being Migros) in Brig. On arrival it was close to the town centre with no car park, but what was that logo on the edge of the screen – it can’t be! A Lidl, just a bit further out of town (thank goodness we downloaded the Lidl Points of Interest database). Pulling in we carefully shopped to use up our Swiss Francs which was easily done as we avoided the beer because Jay was still feeling a bit delicate.
With another mountain pass to go, the rain starting and both of us tired and hungry we turned to our trusted friend – McDonalds. A stupidly expensive box of chicken, a burger and some fries cost us the equivalent of a night at a campsite, but they tasted good (and we used their wifi to upload the video of us on the mountain pass above). Fuelled up we set off for the Simplon pass which we could see clinging precariously to the side of the mountain high about Brig.
Dave climbed steadily and the lovely Swiss people have built most of the pass undercover, cut into the side of the rock with a roof to protect it from snow and falling rocks. This meant that we could see clearly as we wound our way up into the clouds. Unfortunately the top of the pass isn’t covered in, so there really wasn’t any point in stopping to admire the view.
The 19km, 10% descent began with a lovely sign showing a lorry with it’s brakes on fire – thanks for that. So Dave tip-toed his way down the hill mainly in third gear. Slowly the cloud cleared then suddenly the road went bumpy. Dave really wasn’t happy about this after many, many kilometres of lovely smooth German and Swiss roads and rattled and squeaked his annoyance. You guessed it, we were approaching the border with Italy.
A customs guard sauntered out from his warm booth and eyed us up as we drove straight past him, well he was a bit late making it outside. Almost instantly cars began to perform stupid overtaking manoeuvres solid white lines in the middle of the road once again meant nothing – the memories of our time here earlier in the year came flooding back.
We found the car park with ease and spotted the electricity box tucked away in the corner of it, so reversed Dave up to it. No one batted an eyelid and it’s dark now so I doubt anyone will. After freezing temperatures and an overcast day Dave’s battery needs a little top up, as do our gadgets – so we’ll be charging for a few hours tonight before we hit the sack early to recover from last night. Jay has already rustled up hot chocolates with cream on top and is now creating a feast from our camping cookbook. It’s cold, dark and raining but team Dave are happy.
Have a great weekend.