Davo and Steff set off for more 306 exhaust repairs while me and Jez sampled the delights of a McDonalds breakfast Swiss style. Bread and jam was both surprisingly filling and surprisingly tasty. And after a lost in translation conversation about tea I even ended up with a posh teabag full of Earl Grey, making the best McDonalds cup of tea I've ever had. The other room meanwhile slept in til the last minute.
We got moving after the daily detour to the nearest Shell and got onto our first of four planned passes for the day. The Oberalp doesn't seem to get the exposure of some of the others in the vicinity but again it was a pleasure to drive in the dry and the steep snaking section going down the west side gave a great view out into the Urseren valley. You don't even see the lovely alpine town of Andermatt down below until you are almost level with it.
As pretty as the town is, most of us had seen it before and we had time to make up and so we carried on, through the valley to the next pass. Here, we saw our first sign of bad news. Big red signs declaring the Furka Pass as closed. Memories of 2011 all over again, was it really going to beat us a second time? We thought we'd see how far we could get, so we carried on anyway...
And about three quarters of the way up, there was the barrier across the road. Time to turn round and head back. But not until we'd had a snowball fight of course! In the meantime, an official looking van came down the pass to us, announcing that in 10 minutes the pass would open. It was actually going to happen then! Or not, as the case would be, when a second official in a Dacia Duster came down to tell us that the pass would now not open. Gutted.
We hung around anyway, taking photos of the scenery and playing in the snow, until a further half hour had passed and now bikes began to come down from the summit. The dutch bikers told us that the other side was perfectly clear and with that we dropped the barrier and proceeded, the only four cars on that road having it all to ourselves. And it was just awesome! Obviously the weather plays a huge part in these passes and today it was all perfect. Dry enough for driving, but with the snow covered mountain sides making for the most stunning backdrop. We skipped stopping at the summit and instead stopped on the western side for some photos alongside the glacier at the source of the Rhone.
From our viewpoint here, the next decision was made for us. The Grimsel Pass was going to be completely inaccessible going by the large white cloud hanging right over the top of it. Without this link we wouldn't be doing the Susten Pass either. We could only head further west out of the small deserted village of Gletsch and from here it took an hour of ignoring the sat nav before we got rerouted, the day's driving getting longer and longer all the time.
The weather was pleasant enough but the slow drive through the next valley to Brig was uneventful and we were just getting too far out of the way, until we found another pass, or so we thought. It wasn't until we reached the top it became apparent that this was a dead end road to a railway station. We drove back out and back down the windy hillside into the valley whilst I frantically tried to work out where we were and where to go. And once at the bottom I realised the train was the easiest option. We would have to wait for the next one, but it would cut out an hour of driving and nearly 100 miles worth of fuel, even if we had already wasted both by going up and down already.
Back up it was then, with a quick stop at the apricot shop half way up. CHF22 per car and we were sat ready to board the Lotschberg railway from Goppenstein to Kanderstag. We drove onto a rusty old looking carriage, put the roof up and turned the engine off as for the next 15 minutes were whisked quickly through 10 miles of mountain to emerge on the north side now bound for Bern and beyond
Our motorway journey from here overlapped us with our second day as we found ourselves giggling at the signs for Wankdorf once more. Further up, we all had a run in with the Swiss speed cameras, getting all four cars flashed for doing 70mph in an apparently 60kph section of motorway. Oops.
Nevertheless, we weren't stopped as we reached the border crossing and it was only a short drive into France where we found our hotel for the night. Despite having spotted a Domino's delivery bike nearby, the receptionist was able to recommend a restaurant in walking distance and given that everybody had done enough driving that was a sensible option. We spent the evening in the Petit Resto wondering how we could smuggle out a life sized wooden carved man. I don't think Zoe's special handbag was big enough though.