Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Swisslandia

Wow. So, a year ago I was making almost this same journey, to Switzerland, to meet friends and then cycle, literally and I suppose figuratively, over the hill. I'm heading back to Switzerland to meet friends, maybe a bit further over the hill, but sans bike this time. It was supposed to be another big bike trip, but thanks to my propensity to crack frames and the the total and complete incompetence of Evans Cycles, I've not had a bike since 2 July. Maybe next week. I am so putting horrible reviews on every website I can find and writing to the head of the company once I get it back! So no, no bike, which feels like it has limited my world a bit. But I will hang out in Bern tomorrow and then go do a Julie Andrews on Monday. Not bad. I shouldn't complain. I'm flying back Tuesday. Train trip one way is fun. Both ways is a bit tedious. I thought about going back to work on Wednesday rather than taking the rest of the week off, but then thought no, f... it, I want the time off. Hoping to cycle on the east coast next weekend, if they could be so kind to give my bike back. I'm surprised actually how much it has stressed me out not having a bike. I feel limited in my motion and perpetually irritated by public transportation and the people on it. I suppose I like urban, but only on my own terms...

Heading across Switzerland now on a very clean double decker train with the Alps to my right, clouds glowing over them in the sunset. I'm very happy to be here for a bit but I have to admit I'm really upset about not cycling. I know, minor first world problem, but I am still pissed off beyond belief at Evans, who have now taken six weeks for a two week max job. I've wasted several hundred quid on Tube passes and travel tickets I couldn't cancel and yet they just dick around and do nothing unless I bother them constantly. Anyway, I just need to enjoy the trip I have and then be a relentless pain in the ass to them from the minute I get back.
____

Next morning, 830. Sitting, bleary eyed on a train at Bern station, not much sleep the night before thanks to the heat. So many slightly granola looking white people in Goretex! Hmm, the train actually left early. Having a slight panic I've somehow managed to get on the wrong train. I suppose I will see! That's because it's a special train. I have to get on another, local train which then splits. Honestly, you think they would announce these things in English! 😛 Still though, the trains are very clean and very zippy.
______

OK, all is forgiven. Well, Evans isn't, but coming here without a bike is. I'm sitting 9000 and some feet up on the side of an mountain, next to a glacier, looking out over the world. The only sounds are wind, water and a group of Americans who think each wind gust merits a hoot. It doesn't. Leaving the train, I took a small bus pulling a trailer up an absurdly steep and narrow road to a guesthouse. From there it was a few miles walking through forest, grazing land, open grassland and scree slope, all at increasing steepness. This being Switzerland, there were wooden stairs up the steepest part and a small hotel and teahouse (unfortunately closed) at the barren and extremely windswept saddle summit. That looks out on a glacier with enormous and rather imposing looking mountains behind, storm clouds hovering just the other side. I walked across the rocky, cairn strewn moraine to the glacier and walked out a few feet. First time in about 24 years. Anyway, I only managed about 4.5 hours sleep because of the heat. While tired, I actually feel OK and very relaxed, for once. I think nature is very much missing from my life, especially nature of the really mountainy kind!
_____

Another bleary morning on the train, heading under the Alps to go see a glacier and maybe hike if the weather holds out. My feet hurt from yesterday. There isn't much hiking around London. I figured out I climbed and dropped about a mile yesterday. Not too shabby. I missed the train I wanted this morning. Got confused by the ticket machine, which gave me far too many choices. Even though the instructions were in English, the little pissant town names were in German. Honestly. They should really come with a label (in English, of course), "Dear foreign tourist, graciously supporting our economy, you would like to take this route, which is the least extortionate." One for next time, maybe... 😜

____

Ooh, awkward, the only person on an entire bus! Still though, the climate nerd loves the fact that I went under the Alps to a more southern European climate. Still though, it's raining and icky. My hike may be more of an ooh pretty stroll...
____

Well, I think I have just experienced the most peaceful thing so far in my 41 years of existence (though, just as I wrote this it was interrupted by some nearby animal making a noise that sounded a lot like an orc (sp?), nearly making me wet myself. Anyway, I'm sitting on a rocky outcrop on the side of a mountain. Its perfectly still, with clouds hanging on the tops of the mountains. There is no wind and the rain has stopped. Save for an orc and the occasional bird, the single and only sound is that of the torrential river a good thousand or more feet below, milky bluey white with glacial flour from the Eiger Glacier, whose length I can see up. The melting ice has its summertime striations of rock and dirt and wends its way back into the white clouds. I have been sitting here for maybe half an hour and not a single person has walked by. It is, honestly, perfect.

And by chance as well. I decided to head down from the top. The weather was horrid. Rain and 100 foot visibility. Even the hotel with the panorama view was closed. So I walked down, back into the larch, pine and spruce forest. I saw a sign for the trail heading back towards the glacier and thought, hmm, why not. Came around a bend and there it was in the parting clouds. I don't say this much, but I'm happy now.

___
On the train back to Bern, somewhere under the mountains. My feet hurt, my contacts are trying to jump out of my eyes, I'm a bit smelly and generally wiped out, but actually completely content. I've not had at all the trip I planned, but rather, it seems, exactly the trip I needed. Life does that occasionally. I guess I've never actually done two days of hiking in a row, especially not in huge mountains. Today was about a drop of 6000 feet with almost no uphill. Not hard on the quads. Very hard on the calves, and, as it turns out, the tops of one's feet. Ow. Every life zone from treeless tundra to mid European broadleaf and everything from cold rain to mist to warm muggy sunshine. A geo-nerd's perfect day out. So yeah, today was fab. Will try to remember that when I go tomorrow to battle the evil forces of the world at Evans.

___

On the plane home from Geneva Swiss Air flight annoying 1, full of horrid British and Arab children treating the plane as their personal jungle gym. Much to my amusement in a plane full of Muslims, they are serving ham sandwiches. I had a really nice train journey, nearly empty and very quiet, with the Alps in the background, along with a morning run along the swollen Aare. I do like Bern. It is, to me, the perfect blend of urban and wilderness, not to mention pristinely clean and well organised. If this trip has told me anything, it is time to start thinking about what to do next in life, for both of us. Only this time it needs to be our adventure, planned together, rather than just mine.

No comments: