Hiking Switzerland recap and thoughts

Right! I’ve been back two days. Gosh – is it only two days? On the other hand, my vestiges of jet lag tell me that, yes, it has only been two days. I worked on my 604 photos until I almost fell asleep at the computer. But now I’m done and ready for a meaningful (!) blog.

Also – some of my favourite photos from the trip:

At any rate, my cousin, Birte confessed that she’s a statistics nut and wanted a lengthy list. So here: for all the stats nerds out there:

Number of days to complete: 19 (that includes one rest day)

Kilometres covered: 360 plus an additional 2 0r 3 0r 4 for those few inevitable wrong turns and wee backtracks and shortcuts (otherwise known as alternate routes) that added a few K.

Elevation gained: 20,000 plus a few metres – according to the guide book but actually more – see short cuts/alternate routes above.

Slices of cheese eaten: 121

Number of four-letter words issued from my mouth (see shortcuts/alternate routes above) 12

Number of fucks spoken aloud in the Canton of Vaud where many gates are barbed wire and occasionally electrified. 5

Number of same fucks said silently: 1,876

Number of pounds of chocolate eaten: 34

Pounds of chocolate brought home: 5 or 6 or maybe 7 – whatever I could stuff in my pack and still be able to (barely) lift it.

Number of hiking boots that died on the trail: 1 pair.

Number of WTF! moments experienced while observing where the trail was about to take me: 6

Number of people who admired what I was doing: 8

Number of people who thought I was bat-shit crazy: 89,765

Number of cows encountered: 740

Number of goats encountered: 62

Number of goats who tried to eat my stuff: 3

Number of cow patties hiked through: 1,344

Number of times hiking boots were cleaned: 0

Number of newspapers used to dry boots: 15

Number of band-aids used on feet: 22

Number of trains taken: 3

Number of buses taken: 3

Number of gondolas taken: 3

Number of funicular railways taken: 1

Number of hairs shaved of legs on returning: 6,400

Number of falls: 2

Number of slips, slides and near misses: 82

Number of skinx not stepped on: 66

Number of fucks not given about the state of the world: 1,000,000,000

And some more favourite photos:

And now the monumental task of entering “real life” again. Yesterday my darling husband cooked dinner for us and I was so grateful. In the grocery store, I was brain dead – no clue what to cook or even eat. What’s delightful about a task like hiking for days on end is that everything is very simple. No decisions to make really. You get up, get dressed, eat, pack and walk. At the end of the day, you shower, eat and go to bed.

Simple.

I like that.

And a few more photos:

And there you have it. As I said, time to get on with life – do some work in the garden, walk dogs, look into some hiking real soon.

Biggest benefit of the trip? Walking into my head and my heart – knowing my truth, finding the courage to speak my truth, understanding myself just a bit better.

I see changes coming.

 

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Jet Lag and photo edtiing

This is a random favourite photo from my trip – hiking through the snow on Planplatten.

I did bake bread and do laundry today – and walk with Simon and the dogs. But I spent most of the day working on photos – almost done. Why has it taken so long? 604 photos!!!

That means I am completely exhausted. I will write a proper blog tomorrow and even add statisticsĀ like my cousin, Birte demanded. You know, things like how many cow patties stepped in, how many band-aids stuck on toes, how many pieces of cheese eaten. Stay tuned for all the answers you so desperately want to know.

 

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Home

Home.

Yeah, I know – why on earth is there a photo of a Swiss train station here when I’m back home in BC. Well, because I am too darn tired and way too lazy to insert anything else.

I have been up since 4 a.m. this morning – meaning a morning that started 9 hours before your morning because that’s the time difference.

More on everything tomorrow.

the best thing about coming home? Easy: Simon number one. Puppies number 2.

And a bubble bath and the pleasure of tossing everything in my backpack into the laundry hamper – well, not my iPad, but you know…

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Zurich airport

I had tons of time this morning so I took the long way to the train station – the route I took yesterday but this time with my camera. So! Presto! All the photos I didn’t take the day before but because this was Sunday morning, no crowds of people!

And you know, it’s just as well I had a lot of time. You see, I bought many pounds of chocolate yesterday, not really giving a lot of thought to how I was going to get it all home. I spent a fair bit of time packing and rearranging everything in my backpack and actually managing to make the booty fit inside.

And then I had to pick the pack up and put it on my back.

Well then.

Let me tell you, not even backpacking in Yoho for 5 days did I have a pack nearly as heavy as this. But I did get it in place. I have become an expert at heaving this pack around. But it did mean that I had to walk very, very slowly – sloth-like in fact. And I had to bend over and lean rather heavily on my poles. But I got to the station. And because I was walking down Bahnhofstrasse, I took the requisite photos of brand names and window displays!

Including, of course, the holy grail of all Swiss shops:

And the second best of all Zurich stores!

And it was a beautiful morning – church bells ringing on and on and sounding quite wonderful and that fresh new feeling before the bustle begins:

And then I was there at the station – and I do love big city train stations. I love the light that filters in and the way sound echoes and pigeons flying high overhead and the food vendors with their pretzel carts and the feel of adventure – everyone setting out to somewhere new, somewhere exciting…

And then I bought my ticket and 10 minutes later I was at the airport, found my shuttle and checked in. And then I was back on the shuttle to the airport because it’s Sunday and in Switzerland, everything closes on Sunday (and I don’t mind at all – it’s kind of nice – a whole day off for almost everyone) and if I wanted lunch, dinner and breakfast, I would have to buy it somewhere and the airport was the only place where shops were open.

Zurich airport is interesting – kind of a monster shopping mall, which coincidentally has gates where airplanes take off. Really! There are two huge full grocery stores. Imagine Vancouver airport with a Safeway and Save-on and a huge food court and every shop you would expect on Robson Street. I am not exaggerating!

So I went into one of those grocery stores and bought enough food for today and tomorrow morning. And then I noticed I had only 10 Swiss francs left. At the same time, I noticed that immediately across from the Migros supermarket was the Sprungli store. Yes, Sprungli thoughtfully has a store before the flight check-in area. Just in case you were silly enough not to visit them on Bahnhofstrasse. So guess what I did?

Well, I mean, I had to spend those last 10 francs, right? Right?

And then after lunch and a much-needed nap, I did it: bit into my first Grand Cru. Blissed-out does not begin to describe it.

No words.

And then I walked in the warm afternoon sun for a few hours this afternoon. Followed my instincts and walked to Kloten and up the same hill Julie and I walked up three years ago and I walked by the hotel we stayed at and I marvelled that I found it – completely by accident. Pretty cool!

And that’s it. I’ll be in bed in about three hours because I have to be up before 4 am to make my flight. Ouch! And, knowing me, I won’t sleep well because I’ll be anticipating having to get up. But I’ve got a power bar or two and a couple of bananas to rev me up and get me going.

Sooooo looking forward to Simon and the puppies.

Thoughts for the last couple of days:

So happy and content in my own alone company. Odd how time works. The big hike already seems like a dream – something that happened in a past life. Right now feels real. Tomorrow is a mystery. And I’m okay with that.

Things about me that probably will never change. I started trying to change me when I was very young. Really young. I thought that I should be a better, kinder, more loveable person – and goddess knows I tried.

Now I think I actually have changed over the years and I like myself better today than I did 20 years ago. These changes, however, weren’t about being a “nicer” person but about being more “me.” Discovering and owning my true nature. That’s an ongoing process.

And there are things about me that might never change and I’m learning to not only accept but embrace those parts that I have always deemed less than admirable. I get impatient – a lot. The phrase that embodies my dark side: “what’s taking you so long!” This often applies more to things than people – but to both, honestly. And I don’t think that’s about to change. I can, however, alter the way I handle it. I know how to be more Zen-like, take a deep breath, accept. But impatience is part of who I am. Simon can attest to my adventure with scissors and especially knives when it comes to opening packaging that should be easy, darnit!

I’m never going to be a bundle of sweetness and light. I’m just going to take more time to notice how I genuinely feel about things and express that and live that and be true to myself. At least, that’s what I’m going to strive for. And not give a rats ass about what other people think. (I probably will care. But it’s a work I progress.)

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Zurich

Yup – that’s me just ready to set off for the Montreux train station en route to Zurich. The pack doesn’t even feel heavy any more. After being without it for one whole day (yesterday) it actually felt good to have it on (uh-oh – this cant be good).

And so I walked to the station – another beautiful cloudless, hot day – and not just in Montreux – here in Zurich too!

So there I was sitting in the train, staring out the window at the green countryside dotted with cute little villages thinking, “yeah – I would do this again.”

It was right then that I knew for sure that I am nuts. There are those who have suspected it for years and I just want to say to them, “you were right all along! I admit it.”

However, in my defense, I would do it slightly differently. I would probably break it out to an extra day and I would do the non-alternate route and I would do it with Simon. No one else would do. And seeing that I’m pretty sure Simon is going to give it a pass, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. On the other hand, there are a whole bunch of long distance walks in Europe so……

On another note, I am not in a rush to do another one.

Okay – I also had other thoughts. Things I would do differently in a practical sense. I would NOT bring my lumbar pack. Too heavy and takes up too much room. I would also pack fewer clothes. That said, washing clothes every single day was brilliant. Totally indispensable: the hard rubber protectors that slip over my hiking poles. Fabulous for hard surfaces and I had a lot of them. Rain pants and jacket – another must. The baby gaiters were also excellent. Another “can’t do without” item: dry sack. There was no way my heavy wool socks were ever going to dry overnight, so I put them in the sack and they finished drying later that day when I got to my next destination.

Can’t do without: bandaids, second skin – anything that will handle pain and blisters. I can’t imagine any feet coming out of this fully unscathed.

Not needed – travel size shampoo and conditioner and body cream. Just about every place had a body wash/shampoo and the mountain huts that didn’t still had showers and once in a while just plain hot water is good enough. It goes without saying that you need electric converters for your phone etc. Loved the money belt. Wonderful to have one basic credit card and cash right there immediately handy.

Also goes without saying that hiking poles are a must have.

I never needed my head lamp although I’m glad I brought it just in case. And I would have been in big trouble if I had not packed a light pair of gloves. Oddly, I didn’t need my toque nor my sunglasses. Still, glad I packed them. And I am incredibly glad I brought “camp shoes”. Oh yes, they felt so good after hours and hours in boots. They might end up being my most indispensable item of all.

So there – just in case you feel like walking 360k, that’s a list for you.

So I got to Zurich and set off with a long page of instructions on how to get to my hotel – Plattenhof. The first instruction told me to head south from the train station. How the hell am I supposed to know where south is?

And then there were a thousand and one turns I had to make and they all went uphill. A walk that was supposed to be 18 minutes was 48 minutes.

But it was worth it. This tiny little boutique hotel is a avant garde and the most insanely wonderful I have ever stayed in. The bathroom is a dream

The pics really don’t do it justice. The whole shower wall in glass with indirect diffused lighting and multiple shower heads and the linens on the bed are like 1000 thread count and everything is darn modern and so well thought out. I love it! And here’s the kicker, it’s on the Zurich University campus so it’s away from all the madness of downtown (and trust me, downtown Zurich on a sunny Saturday is mayhem) and it’s quiet and there are trees and it’s pretty.

I lucked out. Again.

And I haven’t even talked about the courtyard, the amazing bar, the flowers. Anyway, I dropped my stuff in the room, changed into a non-sweaty t-shirt and shorts and my beloved camp shoes and headed immediately to Bahnhofstrasse, reputedly, the most expensive shopping street in Europe. I walked by all the shops: Tiffany, Dolce & Gabbana, Cardin. Every usual suspect. And if Montreux is the city of Mercedes (yes it is), Zurich is totally Ferrari and Porsche. And there I was, in my shorts, t-shirt and camp shoes. Yup – totally rocking the high fashion look!

But then – there it was: Sprungli! The holy grail. I went inside. Stood there! Just inhaled the aura of chocolate goodness through my very pores. I found the Grand Cru bars and just touched them reverently. How much to buy? All my instincts told me to pick up their entire stock.

Realized that might not work.

And so I bought 4 of each kind of dark. Right. Done. And no, I am not going to tell you how much that set me back. Let me just say, I might have been able to buy another pair of hiking boots.

But I was far from done. I crossed the street. Next stop: Teuscher for a few small bars. Onward! Laderach! Here they make chocolate in these massive slabs and you just ask them to break off some of the slab. Or you can ask for a whole slab or half a slab (which is a lot of chocolate). I am not going to confess what I took away with me. Suffice to say, I didn’t ask them to break off a few small pieces.

And I was done!

Except that I crossed the street to go back and there was the smaller Sprungli shop and I just could not pass it by. I made no clear decision to enter it. I just found myself inside. And once inside, I had to buy something, right? I think 4 more bars went into the bag.

Okay – now I’m done. I just went into the big Coop store to pick up take-out in my hotel tonight because I was not about to walk back into town for dinner. And I did that – salads and a falafel wrap and then – oh look! Villars has set up a tasting booth!

So I thought I might as well buy a few bars of Villars and then hey! Why not a few more bars of the organic coop brand?

And then I really was done for the simple reason that I now had two huge bags weighing down my arms and I had to go back uphill and couldn’t carry any more stuff (read chocolate).

And that is it.

My apologies for the lack of photos of the city. I forgot to bring my camera. Instead, I have a photo of the train station in Montreux. I adore train stations!

And really, I don’t think I would have taken city pics anyway. It really was/is a madhouse.

Tomorrow I am off to my airport hotel. And then home. If I remember, I’ll write some more personal thoughts tomorrow. I would now but I think this post has already gone on far too long. And one last thing – I have not yet touched all that chocolate. I finished the bar I started yesterday. This is called discipline. Also, yesterday’s bar was very very very good and there was quite a bit left so I’m not exactly depriving myself all that much. I’m saving pure chocolate ecstasy for tomorrow.

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Montreux

I loooove Montreux,

There – that’s simple. As towns go, this one has an awful lot going for it. It is more French than Paris. Known as the Swiss riviera, it deserves the title. Palm trees everywhere, lush tropical flowers I have never seen, rich, tropical scents in the air, balmy breezes and warm temperatures that give no hint that fall is ever going to come, and a lifestyle that is completely oriented to the outdoors. I walked for hours today (yeah, I know, a rest day) – most of it on the amazing waterfront. This place is happening! It’s like the whole town is in festival mode and yes, there’s the 18th annual celebration of Freddie Mercury but it’s more than that – there are food trucks and musicians and people swimming and stopping to smell the roses and beer and wine pop-up stands and oh, the flowers!

But, before I did any of this gallivanting all around town, I went in search of new Lowa hiking boots. Apparently, I was out of luck in Montreux. But I had other fish to fry as well, I stopped into the Zurcher confectionary shop and bought a bar of their handmade dark chocolate. I do not want to admit how expensive it was. I ate a goodly chunk of it after lunch. Exquisite! Almost too rich, actually. But yeah, that’s the flavour. That’s Swiss chocolate at its finest.

But back to this morning. I stopped in at the railway station to buy my ticked to Zurich tomorrow. Did that and was just turning away from the counter when I thought to ask the woman, “I know this is a shot in the dark, but you wouldn’t happen to know where I could buy hiking boots?”

“You probably want good quality ones,” she said.

I nodded.

“Then you have to go to Vevvy,” she said. That’s where you’ll find them.l

“How far is Vevvy?” I asked.

“Ten minutes by train,” she said.

“And when does the next train leave?”

“In 6 minutes.”

And so I bought a ticket and hopped on. Hopped off 10 minutes later and stood in front of the station assessing the situation. Where to go? Where to find the shop I was looking for? On a whim I turned right and 2 minutes later there it was: Oeschinen sports.

And, of course, the rest is history:

Guess which pair are the new boots. Can you also guess what I did with the old ones? That said, part of me kind of wanted to get them bronzed. But I left them there. The new ones are lynks (spelled something like that) and I also got new insoles (trust me, the old ones were in worse shape than the boots) and I got everything at 20% off. This does not mean they were cheap. ‘Nuff said.

So – back to Montreux for lunch wearing my new boots and feeling quite pleased. Then off to explore the town. And then I noticed this sign:

Say what? But of course! The castle of Chillon! I’ve see a ton of pics of it. I just hadn’t married them to where I was – and only a 45 minute walk.

And so off I went and bought a ticket and toured it for a good part of the afternoon and was in complete cultural awe. I remember so well falling in love with Lord Byron’s poem, “the prisoner of Chillon.” Something about it always stuck with me. And here I was, in the centuries old castle. I took my time wandering through it. Wow!

I saved the dungeon for the last. I won’t say I got shivers or anything. But I felt it.

And this is the only view Bonivard, the prisoner, had for 6 years.

So it was an amazing day. And, as I said, I love Montreux. It has taken me by surprise. I didn’t expect to like it. And one of the things I like are the people. A hugely diverse group of every colour you can imagine. And everyone seems so chill. Yeah – really nice place. That said, it’s built on the side of, shall we say, a hill. It makes Nelson or San Francisco look almost flat.

Tomorrow – Zurich.

And one day closer to hugging my husband and puppies!

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Via Alpina – stage 18 (completed)

I admit that when, at 4.30 this afternoon, I sat down in the funicular for the 5 minute ride to the centre of Montreux, and I realized that this journey was over, I had a few tears in my eyes and a bit of a choked up thing going on.

I have not analyzed what that was about. At the time, it was because it was an ending and being in it was hard and amazing, and beautiful. And it was because I did it and it’s one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. And it was the end of this and soon, a return to “real” life. And I’m happy about that.

But mostly, the emotion was just that – emotion. I felt full. I felt alive. I felt brave.

I also felt an awful lot of physical pain. But let’s get into the day.

I started off shortly before 8 under dark, cloudy skies. The first 3 or so hours of the hike were not a highlight of this trip. It was valley walking and then dropping into a gorge to finally rise up beside a lake. And for the next two hundred thousand hours, the trail (read paved road) ran beside the lake.

Finally dropping me into a dark tunnel:

And out the other side to lots and lots more paved road going pretty far down into a valley. This is always a tad disappointing when you know you have to go up and over a pass. I was just beginning to do that when the first rain shower began. On with my pack cover and goretex. However, this is also when all the prettiness of the alpine began to happen again. It was also when the next four cow gates were the dreaded barbed wire kind. This time I figured it out. I actually had to pull one of the fence stakes out of the ground. This was not easy. When I did, a whole section of fence fell down. I was sorely tempted to leave it like that. But being a semi good person, I replaced it. Imagine going through this four times while you are standing in stinky cow muck, trying not to impale yourself and wishing you were a 200 pound guy who could have worked this a lot easier than me.

Sigh

And then the rain stopped. Yay! I could take photos!

It was a steep climb for a few hundred metres and then through a farm gate and – well, goats.

I tried to take photos but they got too close and actually started eating my camera case (you can see the proof) and then they followed me for the next 10 minutes or so before deciding that I was no fun.

And finally, the pass and there it was far, far below me: Lac Leman ( Lake Geneva) and Montreux presided over by Mont Blanc:

And that was the first 5 hours of the day.

And I had promised myself no more cow shots, but I couldn’t resist this one:

And then the long, long trek down. And that was fine until I had to go up and up and up so steeply that I stopped to pull out my iPad and check the trail instructions. Yeah, the guide called this another one of those “wonderful” belvederes that the APR is so liberally blessed with. Belvedere you say – I call it endless and pointless sidehilling when all I really want to do is go up or go down.

I did pass a lovely stone house:

And trees in the clouds:

And more clouds:

And for the next two or three hours I stopped every 15 minutes to either take my jacket off or put it on. Finally, I took the darn thing off for the 10 gazillionth time and decided I’d rather be rained on than take my pack off one more time.

So this was one of the things today: I was hurting from the minute I set foot on the trail. My feet are a mess. My left knee not as good as it should be although better now than this morning. I got very little sleep last night because my feet were throbbing and crazy hot. Most of the hike today felt like that last hour or two of a day-hike when you’re just eager for it to be over. After nineteen days, I was ready to stop. And that’s such a psychological thing too. Your mind knows how much it has to do and sort of gears your body to do that. I’m sure if I had to go another day or two, I’d be good to go. But today was the last day and I was all in “are we there yet?” mode.

And so, finally, after almost 9 hours, I arrived in Glion, the upper suburb of Montreux, about 30 minutes from the bottom and my hotel. A steep, mostly stairs climb down. So I took the funicular because I honestly don’t think my feet were up for it.

And here I am, waiting for the funicular to leave.

Done. Completely done. Close to 30k again today.

I have no reflections tonight. I will have tomorrow. Right now, all I want to do is be brainless and relax knowing that tomorrow I have absolutely nowhere to go.

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