Chris Underwood took on an epic challenge recently. Here he shares his own experiences from his unforgettable trip!
After my father, Brian, died from PSP in 2016 I felt compelled to do something in his memory, something which would also raise money for the PSPA.
My dad had always been a naturally adventurous type. I didn’t have much experience of adventuring myself, but I did commute to work by bike, and so it struck me that perhaps a cycling challenge might be an option.
I did my research and discovered that if you kept your distances up you could cross a national border in Northern Europe every day, for more than a week on a bike. A challenge was born: 9 Countries in 9 Days.
Just after dawn on a misty June morning I set off from home. The first day involved cycling through both London and Paris; very much an ‘in at the deep end approach’ with my first experience of cycling abroad. Shortly before midnight, after many hours of train travel, I arrived in the small Swiss town of Chur, overshadowed by the Alps, and under a blanket of torrential rain. Here I met up with my brother, who would be joining me for the first few days.
From Switzerland we followed the turbulent course of the Rhine, over a covered wooden bridge and into the tiny principality of Liechtenstein. We chased the Rhine further the following day, all the way to Lake Constance, stopping for lunch in Bregenz on the Austrian border, and that evening in Konstanz (Germany) at the northern tip of the lake.
I was joined by a friend in Konstanz, as my brother had to return home, and together we headed North and into storm clouds hovering ominously over the already pretty ominous Black Forest. We spent a day crossing from one side of the forest to the other, resting in Freiburg that evening and then picking up the Rhine again the next day, now much wider and more sedate, for an easy ride into Strasbourg (France) taking a track with runs alongside the Canal du Rhône au Rhin all the way into the city.
The following day we headed first North through the Vosges and then back into Germany and the Saarland, the country’s industrial heart, spending the night in Saarbrucken. The next day demanded a steady climb towards Luxembourg City.
While following the Rhine we had managed to stay relatively flat for much of the journey so it seemed ironic that as we entered the low countries we hit the hills. From Luxembourg we ventured through the forests of the Ardennes and into the town of Spa, home of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Our final morning’s cycling took us from Spa to the Dutch border near Maastricht. I felt quite emotional as I saw that the road signs were now in Dutch, there was no grand border crossing to officially denote my achievement, just a gradual fade from one language to another. I felt proud, too, not only to have achieved my goal, but in raising over two thousand pounds for the PSPA. It had been quite an adventure. I like to think my dad would have approved.