Having taken a train out of Bad Säckingen the previous day to meet some friends, we actually began day 9 far away from the Rhine in the town of Niedergösgen. Though we had originally planned to take the train back to Bad Säckingen to resume the route, our host (who was an avid cyclist himself) suggest instead that we skip the train and cycle back instead.
Cycle instead of take a train? Yes please.
With the sky closing in, we loaded up and began a lengthy climb out of Niedergösgen and high into the hills. As we climbed, memories of our first day climbing out of Andermatt immediately came to mind. I was already missing the earlier stages of the route when climbing was a regular feature of the day.
After climbing for roughly an hour, we reached the summit and began an epic downhill that seemed to last forever. Because Niedergösgen is above the Rhine itself, and we had climbed further still, we had the rare privilege of descending much further than we had climbed.
Cheating? A bit. Totally worth it though.
As we descended through great farmland and lovely country towns, I decided that I would unquestionably need to return to Switzerland and just ride the hills outside of the cities. Though the Rhine route had been unbelievably good thus far, my favourite parts had exclusively taken place in rural areas. I knew that later that day we would be rolling into Basel and that I would miss the clattering bells of Swiss cows once more. As the kilometres rolled past I took every moment in; a last hurrah as our time in Switzerland thinned.
Emerging from the descent, per our host’s superb directions, we found ourselves exactly where we had boarded the train the day before. To fully reset the moment, we backtracked into Bad Säckingen, leaned our bikes against the cathedral and had a spot of lunch before pressing on.
Leaving Bad Säckingen, we again crossed the long wooden bridge into Stein and followed the route as it trailed next to a highway. It was at that point that the cloudy skies began to open up their taps and lay a drenching on us. It even hailed a bit. Lovely.
Fortunately it was not particularly cold, so spirits remained high, and were heightened further still as the route ceased to follow the highway and plunged into the Unterforst.
Full of huge trees and richly vegetated, the Unterforst hosts the route for many kilometres and makes for a highly enjoyable segment of riding. Well signposted and with a trail that is generally in superb shape, I found this segment of the day to be profoundly relaxing. I selected a good gear, had a gulp of water, and settled in for several great kilometres while the rain soldiered on.
Nearing the edge of the forest, the rain let up, and we emerged into a more agricultural area fringed with some housing and industrial estates. It was here that we passed one of the many iconic sights along the Rhine route; the salt mine towers outside of Riburg. Due to their distinctive design and colour, the towers are impossible to miss and make for a great place to stop and take a memorable picture.
Beyond the salt mines, the route re-entered the forest for a short while before entering the town of Rheinfelden. Home to a great market street, it was also the last place in Switzerland that we stumbled on a public fountain with fantastic water. Water bottles refilled, and with a new threat of rain looming, we didn’t linger long pausing just to snap a few photos of the town and the Rhine from the bridge.
Beyond Rheinfelden the route passed mainly through urban areas and industrial estates with the Rhine itself generally in view. Approaching Augst, we made a lengthy stop to visit the Roman ruins of Augusta Raurica. This ancient amphitheatre is in remarkable shape (thanks in part to some restorative maintenance) despite having been founded in 44BC. In need of a rest, we spent nearly an hour in the area snacking and enjoying the view. Across the street from the amphitheatre we found additional Roman ruins, some with informative placards.
Leaving Augst, the route continued to pass through urban and industrial areas. The countryside of Switzerland was now permanently behind us, and I had a mental funeral for the excellent times we had there. From there onward, our view of Switzerland would be exclusively the city of Basel and its connected cities.
As it was getting late in the day and not wanting to combat the full chaos of a big city like Basel, we stopped just short of Basel proper and pulled up for the day in the city of Muttenz. Close enough to Basel that it includes Basel’s local tram service, Muttenz turned out to be a great place to make an overnight halt. Having quickly found a hotel, we freshened up and continued into the centre of Basel by tram and on foot to take in what we could as the daylight dwindled.
Looking over the Rhine that night from the lookout behind Basel’s cathedral, I pondered the thousands of great moments Switzerland had given us. Though I didn’t know it yet, Switzerland had offered up what would become the vast majority of my all time favourite days of the entire tour. Looking out over the Rhine, now a massive river fully navigable by large barges, I missed places like Disentis and Altstätten. I’ll go back and see them again.
Distance ridden: 73.64 km
Max speed: 50.3 km/h
Average speed: 15.8 km/h
Seat time: 4:38
Total distance: 601 km