Ever since Rotterdam we want to get on board one of the freighters and travel upstream for a while. However, the opportunity never arises as it is not so easy to get close to these ships. This is why we use the last possible opportunity and get on board your average passenger ship, which takes us the roughly 20 kilometres from Basel to Rheinfelden. We pass two locks (a real experience for the passengers) and the chemical plants Schweizerhalle.
At the sight of the tanks memories of that morning on 1st November 1986 are brought back (I am a Basel expat) when, after the fire in the Sandoz agrochemical storehouse, the whole city stank worse than the special wing of my high school after the butyric acid attack carried out by rebellious senior students. 15’000 cubic metres of poisoned extinguishing water coloured the Rhine crimson and caused an unequalled fish kill. 25 years later the area was still considered not completely decontaminated.
From the ship we observe storks on their nests and film flying ducks. A ship is your perfect slider for filming: just hold up your camera and things happen.
On arrival in Rheinfelden we cycle through the old town, which looks as though it had only just been polished and ¬– passing old salt drill towers – carry on into a wood and reach the Rhine once again. In Wallbach we end up in an oppressive estate of detached houses with banana trees, palms and plaster statuettes in their front gardens. All the way to Laufenburg we cycle on minor roads. At one stage, the bicycle lane comes to an abrupt end and cars pass us by a hair’s breadth. At an electric power station daring men dismantle a power pole without a safety net. After Laufenburg things get quieter. We pass Leibstadt nuclear power station on a narrow bridle path. We film pretty beetles, whose names we can’t determine in a trice and a grasshopper seeking shelter behind Gabrielle’s foot.
Then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves in front of a cage with dozens of tweeting and cheeping parakeets. As we approach them, they start a loud concert – we don’t know whether it is out of fear or out of joy because of the welcome diversion. It only takes one flat of their wings to get from one end of the cage to the other. Some of them climb up and down the metal mesh. We’d like to free them, but aren’t sure whether they would be able to survive.
We find accommodation in Kaiserstuhl and cycle along the river Glatt’s meanders all the way to Fällanden and on to Maur the following day. On the way we film lamas, herons, coots, a stalking cat and the obviously runaway dog Chili. We manage to calm her down and hand her over to two police men who bang! appear in their bright police car as if on cue. The woman appertaining to the dog can be determined thanks to the dog tag: Apparently it wasn’t because of a hunting instinct but out of an anxiety attack that the dog went astray. The police men take the very hot Chili to the nearby stream and wait with her until she is picked up and taken home.
The lamas, rather untypical for the area, are not reared for their meat here. The owners organise lama trekking, children’s birthdays and offer for school classes to get to know them. The lamas are praised as therapy, pack and working animals, too. According to the farm’s website, the lamas can even be handled by inexperienced people due to the animals’ teachable and docile character. The question whether any of this is in the interest of the animals never arises.
On reaching Maur we tackle the last climb up to Hinteregg and reach Hof Narr happy. A hand-painted banner «Welcome Home Gabrielle & René» beams at us from above the front door. Inside an unbelievably yummy welcome cake decorated with piglets awaits us…