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Via Francigena, Days 12 and 13: From Besançon to Pontarlier (FR) and Vevey (CH)

Day 12, 10th Aug (Wednesday): From Besançon to Pontarlier (77.73 Km)

The day started with a French breakfast in the hostel’s cafeteria in the company of Nathalie, whom I met the day before. Breakfast done, goodbyes said was time to get all the mess sorted, take the bike out of the bike garage and move on. Was great to get to know Besançon, but at this point I was still concerned in not taking too much time in one single place so I had enough time to fix things if anything went wrong. At this time the crossing of the Great  Saint Bernard was still an unknown challenge to me.

The next destination was Ornans, stage 41 on volume 2 of the Lightfoot Via Francigena guide.

The ride started with going back to the centre of the city and riding a few kilometres alongside the river Doubs which crosses Besançon.

As I was taking pictures of the Citadel from the river side I remember thinking, thank God I don’t need to ide up there and then I looked at the route Google Maps traced and that was exactly what it was suggesting me to do. I spent several minutes evaluating the maps and could not see a suitable alternative, as other routes appear to required me to climb up there anyway, just from different directions. So, in for  penny, in for a Pound and the British say. Little did I know at the time I would have to go much higher and in a distance of just 4 Km I probably had to climb 350 m of very steep roads to Chapelle des Buis, some of it I had to dismount and push as the angle of ascent was more akin to a staircase than to a road. The view from up there was quite nice though.

After Chapelle de Buis Google was directing me to take a dirt track and not to make mistakes of days past I decided to ask for directions from some locals who were walking up the road. They said “No, No… tout a droite” and directed me to continue downhill on the road I was on and always keep to the right. Yeah, that also proved to be a mistake or I didn’t understand their instructions properly. Took me at least 45 min to get back on track and I had to partially ride the hill up again and push the bike on a steep dirt track up as a bonus.

As I arrived in Ornans I wanted to post some pictures and then I realised the credit on my French SIM card had expired. That meant no Internet. Since I believed this would be my last day in France, I decided not renew the credit and rely on Garmin for navigation, what proved to be a mistake later, which made me ride in circles at least 15 Km more than I needed to.

Ornans is a nice little town. The river gives it a somewhat Venetian feeling. After I got my pilgrim’s credentials stamped at the tourist information office and had a little snack break, the next destination was Mouthier-Haute-Pierre.

The road from Ornans to Mouthier-Haute-Pierre is beautiful and surprisingly flat. It already had a definitely Alpine feeling. As I couldn’t find any of the normal places open, I got my stamp from a Hotel I passed as I arrived in Mouthier

After Mouthier my destination was Pontarlier and I had planned to ride to Jougne this day, the last French town before getting to Switzerland. The problem was that I was, as I had no internet connection on the phone and had not downloaded the offline maps for the region in Google Maps I had to rely on my Garmin Edge for navigation. I was riding on the D-67 road up to that point and Garmin was instructing me to take the D-41, even though the road signs were indicating I should stay on the D-67 for Pontalier. I decided to follow Garmin’s instructions and must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because somehow I found myself back to the same point I had passed about 8Km before. The navigation mistake was as large as the distance I would have ridden to Jougne (about 15 Km), so as I arrived in Pontarlier I decided to stay there, in a F1 Hotel, which a friend said could be an option for cheap accommodation n France before I left UK.

It wasn’t as cheap as a pilgrims’ hostel, of course, but at €31 with breakfast included, it wasn’t bad. The hotel itself appears to be built of several containers put together. You get your own room, but have to use collective toilets and bathrooms.

Day 13, 11th Aug (Thursday): From Pontarlier, France, to Vevey, Switzerland (94.11 Km)

Before riding to the town centre of Pontarlier to get the stamp on the pilgrim’s credentials I met another cycle-tourist, Joshua (may be mistaken on the name as I forgot to write it down) from Belgium at the hotel. He was cycling to Mount Blanc (I believe) for a climbing holiday.

Once I got my credential stamped, I set off to the next destination, Jougne, stage 44 in the Lightfoot guide and the last town in France. The day started with a “victim” though. I forgot my Gore Windproof cycling jacket at the hotel. I only noticed I had left it there when I arrived in Jogne, 24 Km away. The weather was definitely cooler than that what I had experienced days before. Wasn’t cold, but going down was a bit “fresh”, hence the reason I looked for the jacket and realised I no longer had it. There was nothing I could do at that time. Going back 24 Km certainly wasn’t an option, so I accepted the loss and decided to buy a new jacket in the next town, which was Orbe in Switzerland, stage 45 of the Lightfoot guide and the 1st town in Swiss soil.

Crossing the Swiss border was a milestone in the pilgrimage I was very happy to have arrived this far with the power of my legs.

As I arrived in Orbe the first thing I did was to look for a clothes shop in the hope find something to replace the Gore Windproof cycling jacket. The best I could find was a sleeveless jacket for 60 Swiss Francs which wasn’t cheap for what it was, but it proved to be necessary and sufficient later on in the journey. Once that was sorted, I got my stamp in the Tourist Information office did a little coffee break at local café and moved on as I wanted to do ride longer this day to compensate for the navigation errors of the previous day.

The next destination was le-Mont-sur-Lausanne, as the name suggests, very close to Lausanne. As I understand le-Mont-sur-Lausanne is more like a part of Lausanne than a town on its own, so I could not find a place to stamp my Pilgrim’s credentials (asked at a restaurant, but they had no stamp), so I simply left to the next destination Vevey, stage 47 of the Lightfoot guide.

I was really looking forward to cycling this stage, as I knew I would eventually start cycling alongside lake Geneva. I wasn’t disappointed! The views of the lake and the mountains are simply magical. Switzerland is a really beautiful country. Simply had to stop several times to take pictures.

As I arrived in Vevey I went straight to the Tourist Information Office, which, unfortunately due to the late hour (was about 6:00 pm) was already closed. I looked into the Lightfoot guide for the list of pilgrim accommodations and decided to stay at a pension which was very near the place I was, as at that point I had done already more than 90 Km, so I was pretty tired and didn’t want to go looking for alternatives.

The owner of the pension was very kind and gave me a map and a lot of information about Vevey and surroundings.

Vevey is the town where Charles Chaplin lived the last 24 years of his life and he is buried, so I had a mission next day: To go visit his tomb, pray for him and thank him for the wonderful hours of entertainment he provided us throughout his years. I know that as a person he was a considered a controversial figure, but that was really irrelevant to me. He was different and through his way of being he made a difference in the world.

So this concludes the report for days 12 and 13, but as usual before I thank you for reading this far, have you consider making a difference today? You don’t need to become Charles Chaplin to do so. A small contribution to Mind UK, one of the UK’s leading mental health charities might make a difference to quite a few people. Consider this… you also have the power to make a difference, not only through money, but through many other ways (money is a good option, though, if you can afford it 🙂 )

Thank you!

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