29 June 2011
In the morning we rode up to Simplon pass. For the first part of the climb there was a little-used side road, but we later had to rejoin the main road going up to the pass, on which there was much traffic. I am always impressed by the relative absence of retrogrades on Swiss roads, though, and this one was no exception.
On the way up we crossed Ganter Bridge. The span between the two largest towers is 571 ft (174m), making it the largest single span of any bridge in Switzerland. (The entire bridge extends 2224 ft.)
The last part of the road up to Simplon goes through many galleries, one of which was under construction and, very annoyingly, filled with silty water. I am still trying to get that stupid silt out of my jersey.
At the pass, there is a memorial to the WWII Mountain Brigade (Gebirgs Brigade).
The descent from Simplon was very fast and smooth— I reached a top speed of 46 mph (74 km/h)! On the way down we crossed the border into Italy, after which the road continued to descend between some very dramatic canyon walls.
We regrouped near Domodossola and packed our bikes back onto the car. We had lunch near Preglia (just having left Switzerland, food in Italy seemed astonishingly cheap). We then spent the afternoon driving to Vinadio, at the foot of the French Alps.
The whole trip, Piaw had been trying to impress upon us just how broken the infrastructure in Italy was. As if to prove his point, shortly after we checked into the hotel, Xiaoqin noticed that there was no hot water. Piaw went downstairs to ask the management about this. We were told that the boiler was broken, and that hot water would be restored shortly. Naturally, the hot water never materialized. To make things worse, the shower door in my room had come off its hinges, so I had to prop it up weirdly in order to take my cold shower. Oh, and the towels felt like sandpaper.
After a delicious dinner (I was pleasantly surprised at how well things were going on the communications front, what with the lack of Italian speakers in our group), I went out for a walk.
Up | Next: we've had enough of Italy. On to France