A day on the Rhine

We ploughed along the busy A8 heading west. The route east was the way to Stuttgart and both carriageways were full of fast-moving freight, the traffic announcer on the radio amused us by continually referring in English to ‘stop and go’ on the autobahn.

At the Rhine we got off the road gratefully, and headed underneath it, literally, to a free overnight aire at Maxau am Rhein, a leafy suburb of Karlsruhe.

Bertha beneath the N10 and Railway bridges

A couple of vans were already parked up and half the aire was taken up with plant machinery being used by landscape gardeners who were cutting back trees along the riverside and chipping them.

It was noisy from their work, but surprisingly not so much from the four lanes of traffic thundering overhead across the high bridge that spanned the wide river.

In this corner of Germany the Rhine (das Rhein) flows west across to Wörth am Rhein, the last town before the border with France. Despite threatening skies we got the bikes off to cycle along the mighty river.

A wide cycle path south quickly turned into a rough track through forest and ended up in the middle of heavy industry. Tall chimneys belched out clouds of steam and elevated conveyor belts hauled mountains of coal.

Through Rheinhafen-Dampfkraftwerk

The cycle path wound through the grim towering buildings and workers’ car parks before stopping abruptly at a canal-side dock.

We discovered that to cross the wide canal we had to haul the bikes up two flights of thin mesh-metalled stairs that climbed steeply above the dark waters.

Up and over the Rheinhafen-Dampfkraftwerk

For someone prone to bouts of vertigo this proved terrifying but we were rewarded with the sight of a large tanker passing underneath our feet and a wave from its pilot.

I managed, with greater difficulty, to get my bike down the steeply nauseating steps. It was a relief to pedal wobbly away on land!

We bowled along south through large forested areas without any real destination in mind. At Neuburgweier we stumbled across a small car ferry that was plying its way across the river to the west bank.

It had just left but happily a wurst and beer kiosk was opening up under the canopy of the trees so we joined a small crowd of people and enjoyed a late lunch.

Ferry across the Rhine at Neuburgweier

The small ferry was a very reasonable 2 euros each and on it we met Deep, a Londoner heading with his bike and tent to Strasbourg. He was booked onto the overnight train to the south of France. That sounded appealing! We docked and waved goodbye on the bank of the river and turned north as he headed south. The skies were darkening.

For much of the ride we were up on the high flood defence banks with wonderful views across open farmland, mainly pasture on this side of the river.

The trail wound away from the river and it was surprising to see how far inland the defences actually reach. It started to rain but we had our jackets and the hoods were protection enough.

After half an hour the rain came down in driving gusts, out of nowhere and against us. We stopped under a tree and wondered about Deep, he had at least 30 miles to cycle.

A very soggy cycle ride back alongside the mighty Rhine

Surrendering to the weather which was getting worse we pedalled back to the riverside and shelter under the vast autobahn bridge. An immediate problem presented itself. How to get back across the river?  Bertha was tantalisingly close but unreachable. We climbed up a steep pathway that miraculously brought us up and onto the autobahn bridge, but on a separate section for cyclists.

It was nervy cycling in driving rain across the towering bridge and next to speeding traffic but it was safe. Back at Bertha we chucked wet and muddy clothing that was beyond saving and shared a warming tipple as her gas boiler heated up water for much-needed hot showers!

The heavy rain would continue until midnight.