After three nights at the Youth Hostel (thoroughly enjoyable, made all the more so by the manager who was like a mother to us all) we said a sad farewell to Monschau.
We took a bus up the steep hill to Imgenbroich to collect the bike, with bottom brackets and gears serviced for a very reasonable 45 euro. We decided Rosie had come of age to get her first cleated bike shoes and pedals – better to learn how to clip in and out on a tandem than on your own bike! She loves them.
Tom has become the Map Holder, strategically positioned in Seat 3, in front of Helen. He zooms in (leans backward) and zooms out on demand, and can carry the iPad when required. (We’re now navigating with MotionX with a bicycle network layer loaded – it’s great. One day soon we’ll start recording our tracks – chews up a lot of battery power.)
The trail from Imgenbroich to Gemund started with our first mighty descent through switchbacks. Helen had every piece of her clothing on, it was bitterly cold, but at least the sun was shining. Shane found it much easier to hold the drum brake on if 140kg of humans got off the bike, so Helen and the kids walked most of the way down.
Towards the bottom the grade improved and the kids discovered a new use for the skateboard!
The trail from Rurberg to Gemund followed the lakeside and was perfect. For Otford followers, it was like a long Lady Carrington Drive. Nice. We were quite proud to have found a flat route through notoriously hilly country.
With rain forecast for the following day, we checked into the Gemund Youth Hostel for two nights and spent our time eating Black Forest Gateau and doing some geo caching. (For those who haven’t heard of geocaching, people all over the world have hidden ‘things’ in various locations and posted the GPS coordinates of those locations on a website (geocache.com). You can login and find a cache in your area and go find it; some of the caches demand that you take your find and deposit it somewhere else, posting the new GPS coordinates for the next person – in this way, some caches travel around the world!)
We geocached a small empty tub of nothing (the kids generously wrapped up and deposited a lolly for the next lucky finders) and a WWII cemetery. 783 soldiers died in the small town of Gemund…
Monday dawned bright and warmer.
We made haste to Schweinheim, just 40km East, stopping at a bakery (of course!) at lovely Kommern, and ate lunch at the romantic Salzvey Castle.
The gentle descent into Schweinheim passed a cluster of humble castles set amidst bright yellow mustard fields and fine fillies frolicking in paddocks. All was well until we tried to find the campsite for the night. Our map, GPS and the locals told us we were in the right place, except that all we could see was a regular house. Poor or difficult navigation is doubly frustrating on our long bike; turning it around on a narrow road is never easy. This kind of frustration at the end of a day when we’re hungry is never welcome.
Turned out we were at the right place – in the end we walked in and found the Proprietor, one certain old fellow named Schnicker, fixing a flat on his old pushie. He was a bit uncertain about whether he wanted us camping there or not, but once he saw the bike he changed his tune and gave us a warm welcome. The place reminded us of an outback Aussie campsite – crap everywhere, tired caravans set up permanently and rarely visited, and odd-bods in situ. Schnicker mowed us a patch of grass, the permanently resident neighbours lent us a table and chairs, and we settled in for an evening of pasta, wine and badminton.
Packing up, the next day we continued east through some nice country to our Warmshower hosts south of Bonn.
We’re loving Germany, enjoying the Germans – very friendly, open and keen to engage – and we’re on the Rhein! Yay! Landmark!