Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The last steps

Adelboden is a gem of a little town, as entered town after 7pm, tired and cold, our thoughts were focused on two things only, food and shelter, our most basic needs. Throughout our adventure we had only secured accommodation for the first two nights and as it started to get later everyday we were aware that we needed to get to the route stage early enough to find lodgings for  the night. This was quite a challenge for us not having pre booked accommodation and it was definitely out of our comfort zone.   

On the way into Adelboden Lisa noticed a bed and breakfast place and we made our way there. To our great suprise the bnb was run by a young ex South African and her Swiss husband.  She was an extremely warm host and their home was beautiful.  The house had a magnificient view over the mountains and a beautiful flowering tree which Beverley proceeded to take numerous photos of as she loved the view so much.

We spent some time in the little town as it only gets dark late in the evening and learnt that Adelboden is a very popular ski town, in the centre of the town,  two large granite stones have been carved with the footprints of the world ski champions.

We also visited the local church which was built in1433 and was still used for services. An amazing thing is that in every town we visited in Switzerland had a church which was ancient but it was still used  by the community and well looked after.  The stained glass windows and organ were exquisite. The church bells also ring on the hour in all towns we travelled through, it is magical to hear.

The wooden houses and the flowers on the balconies are everywhere in the small towns and the pride people take in their town is very evident. All the towns we visited were spotlessly clean, even though plastic bags are given out at the shops, none of them littered the town.  

Our journey from Adelboden to Lenk started with the temp at 2º, but without rain. We walked through beautiful fields filled with flowers and we stopped constantly to take photos (and to get the heart rate down). It was extremely cold when we reached Hahnenmoospass and we were greatful once the descent began as it warmer on the way down.

The view  from Büelberg was absolutely breath taking, we were able to see the mountains around us clearly, it was a magnificent day with the sun shining and cloudless. The descent was steep and when we finally reached Lenk we both had shaky legs. The trip from Adelboden to Lenk was one of the most enjoyable so far.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Snow angels

While in Grindelwald we hoped to take the well advertised train ride to the top of Europe but after discovering that it would cost more than R3500 for the 2 hour trip and that the mist and cloud would cause low visibility we decided to continue to Lauterbrunnen instead.
 It was cold and raining, even with 4 layers of clothing, including thermal vests and long johns we still felt the biting wind. The views around us were breathtaking, but we were unable to see the peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau which was disappointing.

From Lauterbrunnen we made our way to Murren passing the Staubbach falls and were lucky to get some sunshine and some fantastic views of the Jungfrau. The village is car free and has some beautiful wooden houses. Handmade lace was for sale in one of the village stores and Beverley was tempted to buy. It is always a mission to go into any shop with the backpacks as trying to manouver between the displays is a disaster in the making. This is a good deterant to entering shops, especially ones with glass displays.

We decided to ascend to the summit of the Schilthorn using the aerial cableway, this proved to be an excellent decision. Once  we reached the top of the Schilthorn which is 3000m above sea level, we encountered snow, lots and lots of snow. Until now all the snow in the valleys had turned to ice and not easy to walk on. Here we found fresh soft snow, a  first for Lisa. We had a ball, making snow angels, throwing snow balls at each other, really acting like kids,  it was so much fun that some bystanders joined in.

We then ate lunch in the revolving restuarant, the location of the 007 movie "In her majesty's secret service".

Even though the view was limited, we had major fun. We moved on again to Lauterbrunnen where we spent the night as we did decided not to go onto Griesalp as some of the route  was to be covered  by rope and ladders.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hide and seek

The weather continues to play havoc with our plans, we now play hide and seek with the mist,  the mist hides everything and we seek all the promised views. Now and then the mist removes her veil and we get a quick glimpse of the beauty that surrounds us.
On route from Engelberg to Meiringen, the longest route on the trip,  it rained most of the way, turning to snow on the Joch pass, at first we thought it was hail but were extremely happy it turned out to be snow, even if it was wet and cold. According to the locals we are experiencing some unseasonal weather as it  should be 23º and sunny this time of the year but being strong woman, we take what comes our way and deal with it.

In Meiringen we did the touristy thing and visited the local sights. We visited the church of St. Michael, where while doing renovation work to the church in 1915, seven earlier churches were found under the present church, we were astounded once again at how accessible this place of heritage was. The church grounds were empty and we entered into the evacuation site via some stairs leading down and we saw the original Roman altars and some of the original church walls. It was fascinating walking amongst the well kept grave site, looking at the headstones, we were surprised at the ages reached by the parish  members, it must be in the water!

We visited the Sherlock Holmes museum which, unless you are a fan, is not worth the visit. We have become castle spotters and were  pleased to see the Restitum castle ruins  in Meiringen.

We took a short detour on the walk from Meiringen to Grindelwald to visit the Aareschlucht, an enormous gorge which is really worth the visit, it is a 1.4km gorge along which the emerald green water gushes. Inside the gorge the Swiss army carved out two caves during World War 2, which could house over 200 men. The caves were never used and have been sealed. We also kept our eyes open for the Tatzelwurm,  a mystical creature which may be a distant relative of the loch ness monster, but we were not lucky enough to spot it. However we were lucky enough to spot the lesser known South African tourist when we passed some ladies who spoke some Afrikaans to each other.  After spending many days trying to have a chat using gestures and very limited German, it was so nice to have a chat, they we were from Pretoria nogal.

The Reichenbach waterfall was our next scenic stop, it is here where fictitious Sherlock Holmes came to his demise, the spot where he fell was marked with a star. The falls can only be described as fabulous, the steep climb to Zwirgi was ahead of us. By midday the clouds and mist covered most of the area again, but we were able to catch glimpses of the Engelhorner. We stopped in Rosenlaui and here we were rewarded with amazing views of the mountains and the waterfalls in the area.

On the way down to Grindewald  we passed many sections which still had large patches of ice, we also saw the Obere Grindelwald glacier. Grindelwald was a very touristy area and after the solitude of the mountains, the loudness of the tourist groups was not pleasant and we rushed to find some accommodation to get away from the noise and to get warm.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Mountains every where yet none to be seen

These last few days the weather has been overcast,  rainy and misty.  On the route from Urnerboden to Altdorf while on the Klaussenpass we walked for about 3 hours only able to see 10m in front of us due to the low clouds and mist on the pass. We were unable to see any of the mountains in the area. It was eerie coming across a completely deserted hamlet.

Although it was slightly spooky in some parts, the mist created a beautiful backdrop with droplets of water settling on the flowers and grass. The route was very muddy in some parts due to the ice melting and crossing the paths but this also caused stunning waterfalls.  

Due to the mist we somehow missed one of the turnoff points and got completely lost. While walking through some farmland we came across three cows sheltering on a farmhouse porch, it was very funny to see.

As we do, we had a midday nap on the side of the road and were rudely woken up by a car passing by. The naps are probably due to the fact that the sun only sets at 9:30pm and rises at 5:30am, and have still not been able to adjust to these times, often going to bed after 11pm with it feeling like it should only be 7pm. We landed up adding 3 hours to our journey and we came upon a "berggaushuis" in Ratzi where we spent the night in a dormitory. We then took a cable car down the valley and continued to make our way to Altdorf.  

Altdorf is beautiful town which is old and modern at the same time. The town square has a statue of Wilhelm Tell, a national hero in Switzerland. According to history, a tyrant by the name Gessler made everyone bow to his hat and when Wilhelm refused to bow Gessler arrested him and ordered him to shoot an apple off his son's head which he did.  Beverley is too afraid to even mention that her maiden name is Gessler in Switzerland, could you just imagine the response!!  

We took to the road again from Altdorf to Engelberg going through Attinghausen and on the way to Brusti visited castle ruins dating back to 1360. Standing in the ruins was incredible, realising that more than 600 years ago the castle was lived in. A remarkable thing about this heritage site was that it was totally accessable for us to walk through and like every thing else in this country, well kept and litter free.

We reached Brusti and again the route was covered in mist. The Surenen pass which is partially a ridge walk had poor visibility and we were not able to see any of the promised views in this area, hopefully the weather will improve as we walk further.  We have been on the trail for 7 days and are getting stronger and taking the challenges the weather throws our way in our stride, pun intended.