misox castle 


north of the alps 

in zurich 
Date: 09/13/2004
Title: familiar roads
Location: zurich, switzerland (438 m)
Text: 59 093 kilometres on the road

when i woke up this it was raining and i was happy.

it wasn't sarcasm or a masochistic streak of my character that made me smile at the glum weather that enveloped the valley with its dull coat of grey fog, heralding the approaching autumn with cold drizzles. from experience i knew that rainy weather south of the alps usually meant sunshine in the north. this last ride of my trip was no longer part of and adventure in unknown lands but a routine drive home on familiar roads.

as i drove north i was mostly spared by the rains which were merciful with the returning lost son. but it was cold and as i ascended the san bernardino mountain pass the visibility gradually diminished in increasingly in dense fog. i could have taken the seven kilometer long tunnel through the mountain but i choose to punish myself with a ride over the pass itself, a biker's delight in good weather but an eerie odyssey in this milky haze. i was completely alone on a narrow road that seemed to come out of nowhere as it gradually took shape in an enchanted realm of dense fog, surprising me with sharp curves that led up to the top. it felt like gliding in a cloud; there seemed to be no ground, and the trees, vague shadows, like observing giants from another world, seemed to be floating by in an oppressive silence that almost drowned the noise of my engine.

then paradise: as i descended on the northern side of the mountain the clouds expelled me into a broad valley, full with sunshine. the deep blue sky was dotted with small white clouds and the air was clear and fresh. within a few minutes i was dry and the damp cold quickly evaporated from my bones. i had been right about the weather.

there was a road sign that announced spluegen, another beautiful mountain pass with eighty terrific hair bends that led south to italy. and just for a moment i was tempted turn right, leave the highway and abandon my plans of return. italy, i thought, then slowenia, croatia and ultimately india; unlimited freedom and adventures could be waiting for me, i still had a chance. a heavy feeling of longing and nostalgia spread from my stomach as i passed the sing, surrendering to the inevitable, unable to escape from reality once more and i felt tears rise hotly into my eyes. "the trip is over," i thought, "i am going home".

the rest of the drive was pure routine, familiar roads which i had traveled so often. there were no surprises as i knew all the details: this castle on the hill, that peculiar tree, a bend in the road, tunnels, gas stations, chur, glarus, pfaeffikon, and then the first glimpse of zurich.

as i entered the city and drove along the lake, as i crossed a bridge over the limmat river and took the correct lanes in the dense evening traffic, i felt as if i had never been away. had it really been me in the desert? had i spent more than week on a boat on the congo river? mud in rwanda? bombed-out roads in angola? had it been real or had it all just been a dream? returning to zurich was as strange an experience as leaving it three years ago.

i arrived at the 'bohemia' bar shortly after six in the evening. i parked my bike and embraced my friends who had already waiting for me in order to celebrate my return. but the moment of my arrival, an event i had tried to imagine so many times, in situations when all roads had seemed to come to an end, when desperation had taken over me or when i had been truly fed up with it all, that glorified moment now seemed just too normal. but i soon stopped thinking about the philosophical aspects of returning from a long trip as the mood rose with the growing consumption of beer and wine and the great company of my friends. slowly a thrilling realization dawned in me: i had really done it!

i don't remember until what time the party lasted and how i got home. but i do remember that i woke up in the middle of the night, unable to believe where i was. it was then that i realized that now, that the trip was over, the most daunting aspect of the adventure still lay ahead: what after africa?

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