Showing all posts tagged switzerland:

Switzerland - Day 13

Well, the time has finally arrived for us to pack up our camp and then homewards. We both feel very sad about this as this has been an excellent trip which in spite of the difficult weather conditions earlier in the holiday we have both enjoyed greatly and have gained a lot from. It was particularly difficult this morning to pack away as the weather was so beautiful and it was sad to be leaving our good Dutch friends who have been so nice during our stay who kindly invited us for a coffee prior to our departure.

Packing away went smoothly and from start to finish took us about 2.5 hours which we didn't think was too bad considering that we have been here for 2 weeks, had been using a relatively large tunnel tent and had pretty much brought the kitchen sink with us :-) Once everything was packed away we enjoyed the coffee without Dutch friends before setting off on a journey stopping in a small town to check the tyre pressures before continuing north into Germany.

The journey went generally smoothly and uneventfully until we started to look for somewhere to stay for the night which we had planned to do with about 250 miles to go to the North Sea port. Finally accommodation proved more difficult than we had hoped but we eventually found a motel at a service station on the autobahn which involved crossing a footbridge to the other side of the autobahn. When we arrived at the place it was the most weird establishment and we decided to reject it and press on. Unfortunately as we were walking back to the car down a darkened path Lorena tripped and ended up on the floor. Having only relatively recently broken her wrist this could easily have been a disaster but fortunately no major harm seem to have been done and we made our way back to the vehicle, somewhat shaken.

Once everything has settled down we pressed on and eventually found another service area which had a motel attached to it. We had to check-in to a room in the service station so had no real idea what the accommodation would be like but as it turned out it was clean and comfortable and was certainly perfectly adequate for our needs, definitely an awful lot better than continuing to drive whilst tired and then trying to get some sleep sitting in the car which neither of us fancied very much at this stage.

So all in all, apart from the fall, a successful day. Because of the problems finding accommodation we now find that we have less than 200 miles to cover to the North Sea ferry port so there will be no great rush in the morning. The plan is to have a breakfast of some sort over at the autobahn service station before continuing north, we are due to check-in at 14:00 hours on Tuesday so as things stand we have plenty of time in hand.

Switzerland - Day 12

The first of September 2013 and what a great place to wake up to celebrate your wedding anniversary. We woke to a beautiful Alpine day to what has now become the normal alarm, the sound of the sheep with their bells arriving in the past year just above the campsite. It seems that these creatures follow their own natural routine and turn up at the same place at the same time every day. At first I thought that they were being let out by the farmer a certain time but it seems that their arrival is completely under their own steam.

With a long journey coming up we had no great desire to dash around at all, in fact we have had no great desire to dash around at all for the entire holiday! An enjoyable day pottering around the campsite, it is surprisingly easy for time to just drift by here in the outdoors when there are no particular jobs or activities to be performed at particular times, definitely a very relaxing way of life.

Spending 2 weeks under canvas really does make one question the wisdom of our way of life at home. Neither of us have missed the usual routines of things like television in the slightest and this trip has made it even more obvious what a huge waste of time the television can become. I'm sure somewhere someone has done a calculation about the number of years that the average person spends watching television during their lifetime and it will be interesting to know what the result of that calculation was. I am sure that if at the end of our lives we were asked whether we thought those powers have been well spent most of those will probably say that we wished we had done something else with them.

We had a fairly low-key wedding anniversary celebration, we decided to walk down into Kandersteg and visit the Hotel Adler where we stayed some years ago when I came to run the Jungfrau Marathon for the 1st time when I was pulled out by the medical team. At that time we used to enjoy a banana split on the terrace and we decided to repeat the experience to celebrate our anniversary. We duly arrived and found the place we had originally sat, maybe it was the time of year but it did seem very quiet and had perhaps lost some of its original charm. Anyhow, we duly ordered our 2 coffees and 2 banana splits but even those rental and is known to be expensive we were still a bit taken aback at the cost. The bill for this experience came to Fr.30 which converts to about £20, £20 for 2 copies and 2 banana splits, now that's just outrageous! A number of the hotels on the outskirts of Kandersteg in particular do look very quiet and in a number of cases appear to have closed down, my personal view is that this is because of a declining number of tourists who are sick and tired of being stung with extortionate prices. I'm convinced that either using a campervan or by camping as we are and bringing many of your own provisions is probably the only cost-effective way to visit this country any more. I reckon to spend 2 weeks here in hotel accommodation would be absolutely extortionate and would probably run into thousands of pounds.

Having consumed the banana splits we made our way back up to the campsite where we enjoyed another relaxing evening and meal cooked on a little stove before retiring just after sundown. Busy day tomorrow as we have to pack up our camp and head north towards the North Sea ferry, it will be very sad to pack everything away but all things come to an end and hopefully we will be back.

Forgot to mention that earlier on today we did have to come to the rescue of a young Dutch girl who was camping on the site who have been laid very low almost certainly with food poisoning. I've no idea what the cause of this was but she seemed to suspect that it was some cheese that she had in a cool box. She had got herself down today shower areas that was so drained that she didn't feel able to get back up to her campsite so I popped down in the car to bring her back up, I'm sure she will be okay within 24 hours though the campsite proprietor did suggest, somewhat unhelpfully, but she is gone to finish her off!

Switzerland - Day 11

Another nice day and this morning we opted to just generally loaf around and pick up a few supplies in the village as we were running a little bit low on some of the basics. Wandered into town, visited the bank, check the weather forecast and generally did the sort of things which constitute a relaxing holiday.

After a light alfresco lunch decided to get the Bromptons out and take a ride up to the Sunnbuel cable car station just for a little bit of exercise which was quite fun. As usual following any lengthy journey I had to do a bit of fiddling with the gear adjustments on the Bromptons as for some reason they always seem to manage to change their adjustment slightly. I may be doing the bikes and injustice actually as the readjustment may have been needed because of recently having had some Schwalbe Marathon tyres fitted which I'm hoping will avoid the puncture issues that arose in Majorca. It's worth noting that I have found the standard rim tape fitted to the Brompton to be absolutely useless and at the same time as the new tyres were fitted we had some Schwalbe adhesive rim tape fitted which hopefully will prove to be far superior and trouble-free.

People come and go at the campsite which is nice, there is a constantly changing scene but this is definitely be one of the more relaxing qualities that Lorena and I have ever spent. It has come as a considerable surprise that the aches and pains that often seem to plague Lorena when we are at home to a great extent evaporated. Neither of us are able to readily explain this but there has certainly been something about this holiday that has been very beneficial and which I'm sure will cause us to make similar trips in the future.

Holidays like this do you want and have time to think things through and to consider plans for the future. For a number of years Lorena and I had firmly believed that our future plans would involve the purchase of a campervan and that such a vehicle would be used for extended trips. The success of this camping trip has led us to reconsider that and it may well be that for several years at least trips of this nature will be our choice and whether or not we will go down the campervan route in the future remains a decision yet to be taken. I think it is probably likely that in the short and medium term we will elect to take longer trips with a fixed camping base which we will use to explore the surrounding area rather than constantly being on the move in a camper van.

It has been interesting being camped where we are, we have found ourselves in a very peaceful environment where there is little noise and little going on. In contrast the area of this campsite where the camper vans are parked is in comparison far more cramped and there will inevitably be more to-ing and fro-ing in that area it's being close to the restaurant and other campsite facilities. Anyway this holiday has certainly given us food for thought and has opened up new opportunities and options. If nothing else a two-week camping stay in Switzerland has worked out to be a very cost-effective and enjoyable holiday and in the 1st 4 to 5 days alone we more than paid for the equipment we invested in prior to the trip all of which we now have available to us for future trips at home and abroad.

Switzerland - Day 10

Another beautiful morning in the Swiss Alps, decided today to try to reach the Bluemlisalphutte which is I believe the highest Swiss Alpine club but locally. I have previously visited this put climbing up from Kiental which I believe is a shorter assent, if memory serves me correctly I previously descended along the route that we intend to try to send today.

From the campsite we took the cable car up to the Oeschinensee passing through Oberbergli. We encountered one quite tricky section which was protected by cables which made it an awful lot safer but we were soon up in the high alpine scenery, the use of several hanging glaciers to the east were spectacular.

Approximately one hour from the hut it became apparent that if we were to reach the hut and return and if that were to take us more than 2 hours we would have insufficient time to catch the last cable car from the Oeschinensee back to Kandersteg. Neither of us particularly fancied having to walk all the way back to the valley floor so the only option really left to us was to turn back at this point. Not long after turning there was a section of the route which was really quite exposed which Lorena was very uncomfortable on and it was clear at this point that the descent was going to take as longer than expected and that we had made the correct decision.

We followed a different route back to the cable car station, following a high traverse before dropping down steeply towards the station itself. The views along this route over towards the Oeschinensee were spectacular but along this route there were a number of sections where a slip or fall would undoubtedly have resulted in very serious injury or far worse.

We finally arrived back at the cable car station where we enjoyed a well-deserved ice cream before descending back into Kandersteg. After an enjoyable dinner of tuna, pasta and a Bolognese sauce we were visited by our Dutch friends from a neighbouring tent and we spent a pleasant while chatting with them about our days.

It is sad to realise that our stay is slowly drawing to a close but we still have a few days yet.

Switzerland - Day 9

Woke to a nice sunny day which was fantastic and we decided that today would be a good day to try to reach one of the local peaks. I had wanted for some considerable time to revisit First which lies to the west of our campsite. There is a cable car which runs up to a point at way of the ascent called Obere Allme and from there a steep path leads to the summit of First.

After a leisurely breakfast we walked over to the cable car station and enjoyed the ascent, the paragliders were making an early start and there were also a number of people climbing on the Allmenalp Klettersteig which though one is permanently anchored to the rock face still looks pretty precarious to me and I don't think I'll be giving it a try any time soon!

The ascent to First is quite steep from the go and after negotiating a few of the early sections we came across something we really haven't expected to see here, a pair of very friendly and healthy looking donkeys! These 2 characters were obviously used to people passing their way and showed an unhealthy interest in contents of our rucksacks, it seemed that our sandwiches were a far more attractive proposition than their past year. Passed a very pleasant few minutes here before pressing on into an area where the track became considerably steeper.

At about this point Lorena didn't seem to be going as strongly as previously and after a fairly short while it became apparent that the summit wasn't for her today. We had a conversation about the best approach to take and agreed that the descent down to the cable car station was perfectly safe and that Lorena would go back down and wait for me there whilst I carried on hopefully to the top.

Unfortunately by this time the weather had closed in considerably and many of the peaks were shrouded in cloud with just short breaks allowing glimpses of what would have been a magnificent mountain panorama. In spite of the weather, though it was still drive, I decided to continue on to the summit and after about an hour I arrived on what seemed to me to be a pretty precarious summit ridge. Turning south I headed towards the summit and arrived there at approximately 14:00 hours.

There was little to be seen from the summit so after taking a few photographs I started to make my descent. Part way down I met a family group, 2 adults and a group of children of various ages. We chatted for a little while but I must confess that I was somewhat concerned for their safety as they did seem quite ill-prepared should the weather had turned against them and the children did seem very small to be walking in what certainly wasn't there natural environment. I hope the trip went well and that they descended safely.

In good time I arrived back at the cable car station to find Lorena chatting with a Swiss couple, she seemed to have had an enjoyable couple of hours and a good feed on Rosti and coffee. We once again enjoyed the descent in the cable car and headed back to the campsite picking up a few supplies on the way, another very enjoyable day.

Switzerland - Day 8

I'm afraid once again this morning we were met with a damp and cloudy day but we are now pretty much used this and it really isn't an issue. Had a pretty good night on the self inflating mattress, it was nice not to wake up in the middle of the night on a softening air bed wondering whether I was adrift on the high seas.

Took a walk down into Kandersteg to pick up a few supplies. Switzerland has always been an expensive place to stay and we are glad that we took the trouble to bring the vast majority of our basic foodstuffs with us. Even something simple such as a small cake will cost the equivalent of several pounds and it is very easy if one has not planned in advance to end up spending quite a bit of money on basic foods which can be easily avoided through some advance planning. Given the cost of the basics here it is not difficult to estimate what the cost of stopping and hotel accommodation would be and the approach we have taken on this holiday is more than justified itself in financial terms alone.

We did consider at one point walking up to the Oeschinensee but the weather was pretty gloomy and we bumped into our Dutch friends and instead of heading off up the hill we accepted their kind invitation of Coffey in the small communal chalet next to our camping terrace. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours chatting with them about this and that and soon time for lunch and so the day passed pleasantly without incident.

I think Lorena has become a little concerned about a little ritual I have developed which involves me walking around the tent with 2 sticks gathering up what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of large brown slugs. It must be the wet weather that they seem to keep appearing so I've been gathering them together in a small plastic container and then depositing them elsewhere for others to enjoy, I know that this is a pointless activity but for some reason I can't resist doing it!

Later in the day there were a number of new arrivals at campsite including an English couple with a couple of youngsters who are camping quite close by, they seem very pleasant and the children certainly seem to be enjoying the outdoor life which is lovely. Also later in the day struck up a conversation with another very pleasant Dutch couple who are shortly off on a tour travelling between several of the Swiss Alpine club huts which sounds very adventurous and good fun. The lady was saying that she recently ran up Mont Ventoux for charity, impressive indeed! I've always found any Dutch people that I've met when travelling around to be extremely pleasant and very easy to get on with, for some reason there seems to be a nice bond between the Dutch and English people's.

A nice day was rounded off with a good meal of chilli con carne and rice followed by a tin of pears, we certainly haven't gone hungry on this trip by any stretch of the imagination. The problems will arise when the fact that we have been eating as if on a walking holiday without doing the walking manifests itself on the bathroom scales!

Well, time to turn in for a night on my much more stable sleeping platform, according to the weather forecast in the Kandersteg tourist information office the next 3 days should be much improved so if that proves to be the case we will try to make the best of what remains of the holiday.

Switzerland - Day 7

Decided last night to switch from the AeroBed to a more conventional self inflating mattress and had a much better nights sleep as a result of the change. This was actually quite a useful direct comparison as there was no doubt whatsoever that though firmer the self inflating mattress was an awful lot warmer than the AeroBed. I'd always imagined that a thick air mattress would be warmer but it seems that the cold air in the mattress remains cold as a result of being in contact with the ground and that there is very limited insulation between this large pocket of air and the sleeper. This experience has definitely made up my mind that the self inflating mattresses or a better bet, for me at any rate, than the AeroBed went camping.

Unfortunately today once again dawned overcast and damp and as things turned out it rained on and off for the vast majority of the day, the only thing that varied much was the intensity of the rain! It's actually been quite surprising to discover that inspired of the relatively poor weather we have been having our spirits have not dipped even though we have not been able to achieve, in walking terms, much of what we had planned to do. I am sad that so far I have not been able to make the video recordings that I had planned and unless the weather takes a serious turn for the better in the next few days it looks as if the recordings will have to wait until a future visit. It would be a shame if that proved to be the case as I had been looking forward to putting the material together over the next few months but what will be will be.

Over the last few days we have struck up a friendship with a very nice Dutch couple, Herman and Anique, who are camped fairly close by. It's been nice chatting to them About their past travelling experiences and comparing our general experiences of life. There is no doubt that on this kind of holiday you tend to meet up with some very interesting characters who have fascinating tales to tell. I hope that over time we will keep in touch with this couple as we seem to share many common interests.

Because of the weather much of the day was spent pottering around camp, chatting with our neighbours, reading and generally having a nice relaxing time. Having finished Michael Hutchinson's book I've now moved on to another cycling book entitled “Bad Blood" written by Jeremy Whittle. I seem to remember that I got partway through this book some while ago but never actually finished it, it's a fascinating account of doping in the Tour de France, a subject which is of great interest to many cyclists.

So, another day draws to a damp but enjoyable close, probably one of the most relaxing holidays we have certainly from a personal point of view it has come at just the right time following as it has the rigours of the 2 long time trials I recently wrote. Hopefully we'll be going back fully rejuvenated and ready for whatever comes our way.

Switzerland - Day 6

Very heavy rain again overnight but we woke this morning to a rather brighter picture though the skies are still far from clear. Quite a difficult day to read as we are very reluctant to spend a significant amount of money heading up into the mountains on a cable car only to find that when we get to the top there is little to be seen because of low cloud or even rain.

After much deliberation we decided to head in the direction of the cable car at Undere Allme with a view to going up the cable car and then ascending to the summit of a local peak called First. Unfortunately persistent cloud around the peak caused us to decide to stick to the valleys, there seems to be little point in going to significant expense and effort only to find that we were unable to see anything when we did reach the top.

We spent a very pleasant few hours wandering around the valley paths taking photographs, video clips and just generally enjoying being scenery. The Kandersteg International Scouting Centre was very busy with lots of young people from the UK staying who seemed to be generally having a good time. Checked out the Sunnbuel cable car station during the walk, these things are pretty expensive, the return cable car trip for the 2 of us would be approximately £40 which makes a day out walking quite an expensive affair and certainly something that needs to be planned for when the weather is ideal.

About lunchtime the clouds started to thicken up again but by this time we were well on our way back and once again we managed to arrive back at the camp just before the rain started again. Once the weather had broken the remainder of the day was a mixture of heavy showers and drizzle but again we had a perfectly nice time pottering about, relaxing and reading.

Later in the day we got into conversation with a very nice Dutch couple talking about past experiences that they had had. They both have an interest in photography and film making so it was nice to spend a little time chatting to them about our common interests.

The days soon pass with an enjoyable routine of generally keeping things going around the camp, keeping ourselves fed, getting out and about and of course plenty of the inevitable sleep. It's starting to look as if because of the weather and probably won't manage to see all the places we had hoped, if this does prove to be the case that's just one of the things that will have to be accepted and we will just have to make a return visit.

Constantly thinking about how the camping experience can be improved even though it has proved to be surprisingly comfortable so far. Also been considering whether it would be more cost-effective to make the long drive south to the Channel ports to cross over to mainland Europe rather than using the North Sea ferry. In the end it's all a balance between cost and convenience but as time goes by and work commitments reduce making the drive south and making these camping trips longer may be the better option in the long term.

All that is for another day, in the meantime I'll sign off and head for another night of thrills and spills on the AeroBed!

Switzerland - Day 5

According to the weather forecast in the tourist office in Kandersteg today was going to be a wet one and so it proved to be. The whole valley was filled with thick grey cloud and none of the mountain peaks were visible, certainly not a day to be out walking in the mountains and given my desire to take photographs and make video recordings this was definitely one to simply write off.

Spent pretty much all of the day pottering about the campsite, I managed to read a another large chunk of Michael Hutchinson's “The Hour", a book which I enjoyed greatly 1st time round and am enjoying just as much at this visit.

Apart from being very very cloudy and miserable it rained heavily on and off for the whole day and the Samara 400 continues to perform brilliantly. I highly recommend this tent, the rain we've had here over the last 24 hours must be pretty much as heavy as it gets and I would certainly have no qualms whatsoever taking this turned over to the English Lake District.

I'm continuing to have problems with the AeroBed I'm using which in spite of having checked the valves and still deflating slowly overnight which is irritating. I think I'm better probably end up reverting to one of the self inflating mattresses we brought on the trip as a backup plan but I'll persevere with the AeroBed for another night or so for now. The problems with the AeroBed came particularly to the fore tonight as the temperature dropped really quite dramatically and we both had to bring into service the secondary lightweight sleeping bags we had brought with us for this purpose. If it gets much colder still have a few extra layers we can deploy if need be but if the forecast is to be believed that shouldn't be necessary. Must admit this is the 1st time I've slept in 2 sleeping bags at the same time on a summer holiday!

Switzerland - Day 4

On the way back to the campsite yesterday we checked the weather forecast at the tourist information centre in Kandersteg as the weather appeared to be changing with a bank of cloud building in the West. Sure enough the forecast is for bad weather on the way certainly on Sunday with the possibility that the bad weather could arrive on Saturday afternoon, today.

With the weather forecast in mind we decided to plan just a short walk this morning as yesterday's sunshine had well and truly gone and the temperature had fallen noticeably. Higher up the valley through Kandersteg is a very beautiful hidden valley called the Gasteretal which makes a very pleasant walk. There is a small village called Selden in the Gasteretal which makes a nice destination for a walk as there is a small mountain bus service which can be used for the return journey if required. Based on the weather forecast however it seemed unlikely that we would get that far up the valley so we decided to simply walk until the weather looked as if it was deteriorating and then turn back.

We took the vehicle up to the cable car station at the head of the valley, unpacked the walking gear etc. and set off. Recently when making video recordings I have made extensive use of a monopod which makes a huge difference to the quality of the material recorded. On this trip I decided if at all possible to force myself to use a tripod which though pretty inconvenient does produce far better results in terms of stability. I have to admit that even at this stage of the trip carrying a camcorder mounted to a tripod when out walking is something of a chore but I'm hoping that the end result will prove to be worth it. I'm just taking this a day at a time but I'm hoping that I will be able to stick with this technique and I'm telling myself that this isn't something I'll be repeating in a hurry. Suffice to say that I haven't seen anybody else so far carting a video camera, with an external microphone mounted, all stuck on top of a tripod.

There is quite a sharp climb from the cable car station up into the Gasteretal and from the look of things there has been some seriously bad weather in the not too distant past. There were several sections where the previous path has been completely washed away and at least one of the previous footbridges has also been washed away but has been expertly replaced with typical Swiss efficiency.

Lovely scenery climbing up into the valley and then a very pleasant walk along the valley floor just enjoying the outstanding scenery. Great shame about the weather as by now it had completely clouded over. As we were walking along we passed a couple of elderly people who were clearly locals, neither of us spoke each other's language but the message that they got over to us loud and clear was that we were going to need rain clothes! We paused briefly to have a snack and took the decision to start our return journey back to Kandersteg before the worst of the weather set in. We didn't really get that far today with such poor weather threatening, just a little way past the elaborately carved signpost to the Balmhornhutte.

Made our way back to camp and arrived just in time before the heavens opened. What followed was a pretty severe test of the waterproofing of the tent and thank goodness the Samara 400 performed brilliantly. Even after many many hours of very heavy rain I was unable to find a single point where water entered the tent. The rain continued throughout the night and it was a relief in the morning to find that everything had remained absolutely bone dry which gives us great confidence for the rest of this trip and for future trips.