Daily post from Justin!
When the alarm went off this morning no one stirred for half a minute. Our bodies were all telling us, ‘you know good and well what you made me do yesterday, and I would like it very much if you would pull the shades and let me regenerate for another couple hours.’ No such luck. So we crawled out of bed and put our riding clothes on for the simple reason that we had very little else to wear. Going down to the cellar to retrieve the bikes, I realized that Alessio’s back wheel was flat. Closer inspection revealed that his back tyre was delaminated in an thumb-sized area. With a bit of tape and a new innertube, we managed to perform a rudimentary fix that would get us to the next bike shop about 1.5 kms distant. Before we departed, however, when Alessio went to tighten his shoes, the ratcheting system failed on one of them – surprising, as Alessio had worn them for the first time the day before. That too we fixed by wrapping tape around it. Were these bad omens? On the lighter side, by 8 in the morning I had already increased my knowledge of Italian explitives considerably.
When we arrived at the nearby bike shop we realized it would still be 40 minutes till they opened, and it suddenly occured to me that we had passed a cyclists’ club loading a Sprinter with all their kit back in Ulrichen. Rather than wait around, I cycled back to Ulrichen to ask them if they didn’t have a tyre they would be willing to part with, which they did, fortunately. After a little haggling I rode back to join Giuseppe and Alessio with the new tyre stuffed in my jersey pocket, and fourty francs lighter.
Once the tyre was mounted, we made our way through the stunning Wallis landscape to Brig, where we experienced a minor navigational setback: we couldn’t find our way through town, as oddly as that may sound. We kept ending up on roads that would end suddenly. Nevertheless, we finally made it to Visp and decided it was a good place for lunch, as we were about half way through our route for the day. Giuseppe went into a supermarket to buy some sandwich stuff while Alessio and I sought out a bike shop which, having called ahead, I knew to have some crank brothers pedals on offer. However, this now presented me with a dilemma: I now had three sets of pedals. Everyone knows that cycling can be done perfectly well with just one. I still had the original set, of which one was broken, but I couldn’t very well simply throw those away, they had been a gift from the founder of crank brothers himself, and hold no small measure of sentimental value for me. The pair I had bought for CHF 15 yesterday couldn’t very well be done away with either, I hadn’t even owned them for 24 hours! It was thus that, once having finished our lunch, I climbed to Zermatt considerably overequipped in the pedal department.
The scenery was stunning as we made our way through the lower reaches of the Matter Valley at the end of which lies Zermatt. Impossibly steep and craggy mountains vaulted up on either side, storybook-like villages clinging to their lower flanks and glistening glaciers pasted to the upper ones. It was like cycling through a sort of Disney film.
As a matter of fact, as a child, I only became aware that a mountain called the Matterhorn existed when, at the age of 6 or 7 I went on an amusement park ride of the same name at Disney land. Because of that, and ever since, the mountain has always held a certain mystique for me. And, truly, it is arguably the world’s most quitessentially mountainesque mountain. Its asymmetry, its steepness, its size and the fact that it so far above all that stands around it. Yet, until now, I had only glimpsed it from great distances; a shark’s tooth on the horizon. So immagine my complete awe as I rounded a bend just below Zermatt and the Matterhorn, in all its greatness came into view. Much greater, much higher than I had even expected or imagined. It was a truly awesome sight; an unforgettable moment.
Once we sorted out all our kit, trading cycling gear for ski and mountaineering gear, we made our way through the tourist-packed streets to our hostel. The view from our fourth-floor room looks squarely onto the Matterhorn. What a treat.
We gorged ourselves, hydrated, sorted gear, showered, reconned the route for tomorrow and joked around a lot. Spirits are high and we are keen on our third day tomorrow: the trek to the Montrosa hut!!!