Once safely down the Gelmerbahn Funicular we decided we hadn’t had enough terror for one day- and decided to play on the Handegg Suspension Bridge, which is a rope bridge suspended across the Handegg Gorge. Apparently it links the Handegg Hotel to the Gelmerbahn Funicular…. so maybe don’t stay there if you don’t like heights! The bridge is completely free- you don’t need to ride on the Funicular in order to cross the bridge.
Having defied death already, the three of us were feeling pretty good, although Mr WB was quite happy to stay off the bridge whilst he filmed with the drone. Baby Bird, who normally hates heights, stood in the middle for a good 20 minutes whilst we filmed. (I actually think that’s cured her fear a little bit, as she was quite happy to climb the rocks at Land End!) We were incredibly lucky that we had the bridge to ourselves for so long. Yet another advantage to getting up early!
When we got back to the van, we noticed that our brakes still seemed quite hot, despite us being stopped for a couple of hours. However, it had been a really twisty, turny mountain road to get here- we just had to hope they’d get us the rest of way down. We couldn’t exactly stay here halfway up the mountain!
Unfortunately, we’d gone perhaps 500m down the road when suddenly we had no brakes at all- literally the pedal went all the way to the floor. We were hurtling down the road, with half a ton of motorbikes pushing us even faster. I’ll be honest, I sat very quietly and tried not to panic- that was probably the most scared I was on the entire trip. Mr WB had to use the handbrake to slow us down as we descended the rest of the mountain- the noise of screeching was horrendous and didn’t help our nerves at all. How he got us safely round those hairpin bends I will never know.
We were lucky enough to find Garage Melchior Kohler, which is just north of Innerkirchen. We chose this one because it had some bikers on it’s main picture on Google- and we thought that might make them friendly. In fact, they were brilliant. Turns out the brake fluid had not been checked when we bought the van in May. Since then, we’d travelled Wales, England, Scotland, Orkney, Skye, France, Italy, Leichtenstein & half of Switzerland. The past few days of up and down steep mountain roads had taken it’s toll and the brake fluid had completely boiled dry.
The guys at the garage stopped everything when we pulled up in a cloud of steam. The owner didn’t speak much English but he could see the problem and he called his son who drove over to the garage specially in order to be able to talk to us- it was so lovely of them and they were incredibly helpful.
Within an hour, we had new brakes and new brake fluid. It cost us CHF 109, which was £96.87. Given how wrong the trip could have gone with no brakes, we thought that was a bargain and happily set off again towards Basel (which we never actually made it to, but if you want to visit, here’s a Destination Guide to Basel from continents and condiments). We wanted to get most of Switzerland out of the way before the long slog home tomorrow.
We stopped for the night at Portalban, on the shores of Lac de Neuchâtel. Here there was hard standing with overnight facilities for motorhomes, a pizzeria restaurant… with an entire boat parked next to it. God knows how they got it there as it must have been half a mile from the lake, but it was certainly a good talking point!
Paying for the campsite was a pain- the office was closed and wouldn’t open until 10am the following morning. We’re not ones to park & run- if there’s a fee we’ll happily pay it- but there was no other way to pay and we wanted to leave early to start the long drive home. In the end, we put the cash in an envelope with our registration & details and put it through their letterbox.
We were lucky enough to enjoy the most incredible sunset that night. Just look at these colours! Almost like a little apology from the universe for the terrors earlier in the day!
So that was our trip through Italy & Switzerland. Have you ever been? What did you think?