Thank you!

It’s finished! After 115 days on the move, I reached the place where I started 14 months ago. It has been a fantastic adventure and a unique experience.

A big thank you to all those who have followed my progress on this site, who have encouraged me and have written comments. Your messages were greatly appreciated and gave me much pleasure.

This will probably be my last blog.  There will be a few more photos and I will update certain pages.

The future?  I have a lot of photos, from different people, which will need arranging and sorting to select the best ones; there will certainly be some lectures to be given.

Finally, I intend to write a book about my adventures!


The last day – circuit of the Swiss border finished!

August 6th

Itinerary:  Customs post Riehen-Grenzacherstrasse – “Eiserne Hand” – customs post Riehen – customs post Hiltalingerstrasse

Distance:  27,4 km, on foot
Time:  6 hours 10 minutes (plus 30 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  660 m uphill, 680 m downhill

It was still necessary to go round the border north of the Rhine between Basle Town (canton Basel Stadt) and Germany, to finish the circuit of the Swiss border.  I left a little after 8 a.m. with Christoph Brändle and Urs Scholer, originally from Basle, a former colleague and a good friend.  The day would be beautiful and sunny but there was still morning fog in the Rhine valley.

We were soon in the forest going up the Grenzacher Horn and I chose the wrong path from the multitude of paths that crisscrossed in the forest, which cost us some precious time.  We passed St. Chrischona and crossed the valley between Riehen and Inzlingen, to reach the Maienbühl farm.  This marks the beginning of the “Eiserne Hand”, part of Switzerland which juts into Germany for more than 2 kilometres like a finger or a spear, all in the forest, often with muddy paths.  It took a good 45 minutes to walk round this “promontory”, only in the end to reach a place just 200 meters behind the same farm.

At the customs post at Riehen we were joined by Natalie, my younger daughter, her husband Andrew and two of their three children, Léo, 12, and Tessa, 7, who would walk the last kilometres with us.  So the seven of us go up into the vineyards of Schlipf, the only vineyards in the canton of Basle Town.  Difficult because of the steep slope and many houses and private roads.  But we soon come down to hike along a river called Wiese, to pass under the railway line and the motorway near the customs post at Otterbach and eventually emerge at the Hiltalingerstrasse customs post and commercial harbour, where I started my journey on June 5, 2015.  We are welcomed by Sally, Elke (Christoph’s wife), Inès (Natalie’s eldest daughter) and my brother Walter, who came especially from Vienna for the occasion.

This was not the right place to celebrate the end of the circuit; so the others went by car to the Dreiländereck, more suitable for the celebrations.  I only had to get into the kayak, wait until everything was ready on the other side of the water and then paddle the 200 m that separated me from the Dreiländereck, where about thirty friends and relations were waiting for me.  Champagne, etc!

Later, most of the party would finish the celebrations at Restaurant Schiff in Kleinhüningen.

Photos:

1. Urs and Christoph near Inzlingen
2. Boundary stone dated 1600, crest of the bishopric of Basle
3. Boundary stone dated 1700, crest of the nobles of Schönau
4. The vineyard of Schlipf, Lörrach behind

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The last 6 kilometres – video by Natalie Roschnik

https://youtu.be/ZK5TO4h-Ong


The last leg to Basle

August 4th

Itinerary, part 1:  Laufenburg – Stein AG – Wallbach – Rheinfelden power plant

Distance: 27,7 km, by bicycle
Time:  2 hours (plus 10 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  50 m uphill, 80 m downhill

Part 2:  Rheinfelden power plant – Kaiseraugst (Augst-Wyhlen power plant) boundary on the Rhine below customs post Grenzach

Distance:  16,5 km, by kayak, including some 400 m portage
Time:  1 hour 50 minutes (plus 15 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  10 m downhill

A nice sunny day, with clouds building up later in the afternoon.  I left Laufenburg – which has a most interesting history – at 9.15 on the bicycle.  Quite some up and down short flights of steps on the footpath close to the river.  After the Laufenburg power station, this turned into a level path and later a good cycle track.  There were one or two cyclists and one large group of walkers.  At Bad Säckingen there is the longest covered wooden bridge in Europe (we were told yesterday), about 200 m long, see photos.  After Wallbach, there were good forest roads in woodland.  I finally reached the Rheinfelden power station where Sally was waiting for me. I switched to the kayak; the bicycle went on the car.

A pleasant ride down the river to Kaiseraugst, where there is a lock for larger boats but nothing for small ones. I had to land at the campsite/swimming pool, where Sally met me and we had a snack.  Then a longish portage (on a tarred road, with wheels on the kayak) and into the river again.  The last section was less pleasant – strong headwind, almost no current, and many industrial buildings and wharfs on the Swiss side (coal being unloaded, for example) and chemical smells.  I reached the frontier at Grenzach, landed at the Basle Rowing Club jetty (deserted) and hauled the kayak up to the main road.  Then I had an hour to wait – Sally had taken a wrong turning somewhere and then got caught in queues of cross-frontier commuters.

We drove back again to a small hotel on the German side of Laufenburg where we had decided to spend a second night. Good Chinese food in an almost empty restaurant.

Photos:

1. and 2. The covered bridge between Stein AG and Bad Säckingen (Germany)
3. Leaving Rheinfelden power station
4. Storks at Kaiseraugst

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A day by kayak

August 3rd

Itinerary: Eglisau (Rheinsfelden) power plant – Laufenburg

Distance: 41.9 km, all by kayak but 2 portages of about 200 m (Reckingen and Leibstadt power plants)
Time: 5 hours (plus 1 hour 10 minutes for stops)
Vertical distance: 30 m downhill

After a night in the small historic town of Kaiserstuhl, Sally and I drive a few kilometres upstream to the power plant in Rheinsfelden. Getting down to the river was a little tricky, over a very stony ramp, but in the end we are able to put the one-seater kayak in the water and I can set off. 4 km further down the river, Sally is waiting on the road bridge at Kaiserstuhl to take photos. Sally also met me at both portages with a snack and a drink, and again at the end of the day’s trip.

Cloudy at the beginning, the day, the weather became progressively sunnier. River descent without incident, the current varied between 2-3 km/h and a maximum of 12 km/h (measured with the GPS). Many small eddies where the water wells up to the surface, not dangerous, but making it more difficult to keep a straight course.  At one point a notice board surprised me by announcing some rapids (which were not to be seen on the satellite photos) – well, there were some higher waves but all went well. For a few kilometres there was an unpleasant headwind, especially before Leibstadt. Otherwise it was a beautiful day that I really enjoyed.

At the Reckingen portage, there were 2 carts for transporting small boats, where we had to put a coin in a slot to release it, just like for supermarket trolleys. Very useful!

Photos:

1.  Setting off at Rheinsfelden
2.  Bridge at Kaiserstuhl and Burg Rotwasserstelz (on German side)
3.  Old WW2 bunker (on Swiss side, one of many)
4.  Arriving at Laufenburg

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Cyclocross on the frontier north of the Rhine

July 27th

Itinerary:  Footbridge Nohl – Rheinau – Ellikon am Rhein (German side) – circuit around the frontier – Rheinsfelden power station, all by bicycle

Distance: 45,3 km
Time: 5 hours (plus 20 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  620 m uphill; 630 m downhill

After Schaffhausen there is a stretch of frontier on the Rhine, then a large part of Switzerland north of the Rhine – mainly the canton of Zurich but also a small exclave of the canton of Schaffhouse – starting opposite Ellikon am Rhein and finishing upstream of Eglisau power station at Rheinsfelden. Then the frontier lies in the middle of the Rhine all the way to Basle.

My reconnaissance on July 16th showed it would be very difficult to access the river, both with a kayak and by car, where the frontier hits it about 1½ km below Nohl (2½ km below the Rhine Falls). Furthermore, there are 3 weirs, all requiring portage of the kayak, around the “loop” of Rheinau, famous for its abbey on an island in the Rhine. So I decided to do this stretch by bicycle.

I left home at 5.55 a.m. and drove to Eglisau railway station north of Zurich getting there in good time to reassemble Sally’s bicycle (inside the car with the front wheel off) and prepare my rucksack before taking the train to Neuhausen (near the Rhine Falls) at 8.40 a.m. From Neuhausen station it was less than 2 km to the Nohl footbridge, the actual start of the day’s circuit. I followed good cycle tracks on the Swiss side up to Rheinau, where I crossed the Rhine to do the next part on the German side (no bridge at Ellikon am Rhein).

The rest of the land circuit was mostly on paths and untarred roads in forests or in open agricultural land, with the occasional track that was either no longer there or completely overgrown (but luckily not with brambles!) or very muddy and/or steep, or led through a fenced-off field, probably somewhat worse on the German side of the frontier. A lot of up and down, all quite exhausting.  Finally I reached the end of the day’s circuit at the Eglisau (Rheinsfelden) power station where it is possible for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river.

A further 3-4 km on the main road took me back to Eglisau railway station, from where I was able to drive home again. Total round trip – just over 12 hours.

Photos:

1.  Another view of the Rhine Falls
2.  Rheinau abbey (taken on July 16th)
3.  An interesting border stone, called Rafzerstein
4.  Border stone with coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Baden

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Update

On July 13th, we left Walter at the Youth Hostel in Richterswil on Lake Zurich – he will fly to Spain on July 14th. Then we drove home.

The weekend of July 16th/17th is foreseen for a reconnaissance along the Rhine downstream of Schaffhausen. There are about 7-8 dams and power stations between Eglisau and Birsfelden and I need to decide where we can embark and disembark with the kayak and which sections can or should be done by bicycle.

Then Sally and I are going to Scotland to attend the wedding of our eldest daughter Sonia!

I will resume the circuit from July 27th onwards.

The (triumphant) end of my circuit of the Swiss frontiers will take place on Saturday, August 6th in Basle:

1.  Arrival by kayak at the Dreiländereck around 15.30 – 16.00
2.  Celebration and drinks
3.  Evening meal together in a restaurant from 18.00.  Everyone is welcome

Please send a short message to Sally (sally.roschnik@fvp.ch ) before July 30th if you want to join us for the meal.  Thank you in anticipation!


Finished with the mountains!

July 12th

Itinerary:  Pfälzer Hut – Sücka – Triesenberg – Triesen

Distance:  17,5 km
Time: 4 hours 30 minutes (plus 20 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  170 m uphill; 1580 m downhill

It rained a lot during the night. In the morning, it was no longer raining but the sky was overcast with lots of clouds hiding the peaks.  We decide to go down to the Rhine as directly as possible and leave the hut at 8.50 a.m.  After 2 hours walking, we reach the Berggasthaus Sücka where we hope to have at least a coffee.  A notice board announces that they are closed today due to a bereavement.  Interesting view of Steg – houses and barns around a large rectangle of cultivated fields (see photo).

A short climb followed by a small tunnel takes us to the slopes overlooking the Rhine 1000 meters lower down.  It is colder and there is still fog.  A good path takes us to Triesenberg where we get a little lost among the villas and a fitness trail.  It starts to rain slightly and we find the main road going down to Triesen in hairpin bends (no shortcuts or paths found, either on the map or in the field).  It starts raining more and more strongly and is soon pelting down hard. Sally called me from Balzers where she has just arrived and I asked her to pick us up.  Finally, we reach the first houses in Triesen and are able to shelter under trees, where Sally finds us, completely soaked, 1 km from the Rhine. We go to an inn for a snack and to dry out.

This marks the end of the mountain section between the Samnaun and the Rhine (Silvretta and Rätikon mountain ranges).  My thanks to those that accompanied me – Sonia Roschnik, David Hefti, Christoph Brändle and Walter Roschnik and especially to Sally for the logistics!

Photos:

1.  Steg, Liechtenstein
2.  First view of the Rhine

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Naafkopf – Liechtenstein

July 11th

Itinerary:  Schesaplana Hut – Gross Furgga – Barthümeljoch – Pfälzer Hut – Naafkopf, 2570 m – Pfälzer Hut

Distance:  14,0 km (9,4 km to the hut, then 4,6 km to the Naafkopf there and back)
Time: 4 hours 50 minutes walking (3 hours 15 to the hut, plus 10 minutes for the stops, then lunch at the Pfälzer Hut before climbing the Naafkopf (1 hour 35 minutes there and back)
Vertical distance: 1100 m uphill; 900 m downhill

Good weather.  It was a fairly easy day.  Walter and I left the Schesaplana Hut at 8.10 a.m.  We went slowly but surely to the hut.  We had to cross countless snow fields and snowy gullies on the last section, including one fairly steep gully.  The Naafkopf was done without rucksacks;  splendid views from the summit.

The Naafkopf is the highest mountain in Liechtenstein, but shared, because it is also the triple point where Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland meet.

Tomorrow Walter and I will go down to the Rhine, which will complete the mountainous part of my circuit.  The weather forecast is bad.

Photo 1:  Pfälzer Hut

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Schesaplana

July 10th

Itinerary:  Douglass Hut (Lünersee) – Totalp Hut – Schesaplana, 2964 m – Gamsluggen – Schesaplana Hut

Distance:  14,3 km
Time:  5 hours 10 minutes (plus 1 hour 40 for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1120 m uphill; 1170 m downhill

Fine weather.  Christoph had to leave us; Sally drove Walter and me to the Lünersee cable car.  The parking was more than full;  she could not leave the car anywhere close and so went down to Brand, where she was still able to see and listen to the alphorn players.

From the upper cable car station, Walter and I went up to the Totalp Hut for a drink, then climbed on to the Schesaplana, without any problems except for two short sections of steeper snow.  Beautiful views from the summit.  On the way down we turn off on a path that is well marked but often covered in snow, leading to the Gamsluggen.  Some chains help cross this somewhat tricky col.  Finally, we follow the Prättigauer high level path to the Schesaplana Hut where there is a happy atmosphere.  We eat outside facing the sunset – magnificent!

Photos:

1. Walter at the Totalp Hut
2. On the Schesaplana
3. Gamsluggen

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Black salamanders and alphorns

July 9th

Itinerary:

1st part:  Carschina Hut – Schweizertor – Verajöchli – Douglass Hut (Lünersee)

Distance:  14,4 km
Time:  4 hours 5 minutes (plus 20 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  450 m uphill; 690 m downhill

2nd part:  Douglass Hut – Lünerkrinne – bus stop Leidl (near Vandans)

Distance:  12,6 km
Time:  2 hours 40 minutes (plus 10 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  230 m uphill;  1400 m downhill

We left the hut at 7.10 a.m. It had rained during the night and it was still very gloomy, with a lot of cloud hiding all the summits. The path was still wet and there were black salamanders almost everywhere, walking on the path, standing on small stones, sometimes mating. After 2 hours we reach Schweizertor and continue up to Verajöchli towards the Lünersee. The weather is gradually improving and we met the first hikers.

At Lünersee there a little sun. We hear alphorns on the other side of the lake, we go round it to the west (good road, almost flat). At the small restaurant of Lünerseealpe there is quite a crowd – two Swiss are giving an alphorn performance. Along the way, we meet other groups of players. We learn that there is an alphorn festival, perhaps sixty different groups from Switzerland and Austria, each group having 3 to 6 players. These groups would stop along the way and play for a few minutes before going on further, and alphorn music could be heard from all around the lake. Incredible party atmosphere!

At the Douglass Hut, where the Lünerseebahn cable car ends, more crowds eating, drinking and taking photos of the players – we do the same!

I have arranged to meet Sally and my (half) brother Walter in Schruns this evening. We walk down almost to Vandans at the bottom of the valley, where it is very hot. We take a break at a bus stop and Christoph discovers that one will arrive within 5 minutes, the service only starting today! And already the small bus is there, we find room in it for the last kilometre down to the station. 40 minutes wait for the next train to Schruns, 4-5 km away, where we are met by Sally. With her, I take a bus to Gargellen to collect our car. Finally, we settle into a hotel (shower, swimming pool and sauna for some) and have a good meal and Christoph and Walter.

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