We have made it to the other side of the Alps – and it’s a relief to have confronted the biggest obstacle we should face in Europe.

Given the time of year, we were concerned that bad weather might delay our crossing. There were strong headwinds the day before when we were refused a pitch at a campsite because the owner said the weather was too bad to put up a tent (we were happy to pitch, but were forced to find a room for the night – the first night in a bed for three weeks).

By the next morning the wind had dropped, but there was heavy rain instead. We began our climb with mountain cattle ringing bells of encouragement through the thick morning mist. After a few hours we were wet and cold and found a railway station waiting room in Andermatt to shelter in and warm up. Then, after the steepest section, more hairpin bends and riding through clouds in poor visibility, we reached 2108 metres and the Gotthard Pass. Although we were denied a view from the top, the weather helped in some ways because it kept us cool and prevented us seeing how much further up the mountain we had to ride!

After a quick change into warmer clothing and a bowl of soup at a mountain-top restaurant, we began our long downhill ride. We got some glimpses of the mountain as the mist began to clear and there was a distinctive smell of wood smoke in the air of the villages we passed through.

One day on, we are now camping on the shores of the lake at Lugano, enjoying warmer weather which we hope will last as we ride down Italy. We cross the border near Lake Como tomorrow.

[To get to the Alps we followed the Canal du Rhone au Rhin from Strasbourg and then the Rhine, crossing briefly into Germany and passing through Basel. This section was relatively uneventful, although we did get into trouble with the owner of a French campsite, who ended up locking the toilet block and turning off the water supply to the campsite to try to get us to leave!]