Days 28-33, March 13-18
It was a great flight overnight to Zurich, I managed to get a few hours sleep with ear plugs, eye mask and neck pillow, before I smelled the coffee and breakfast was being served. Those big airbus planes sure are comfy and the landing was perfect. We arrived about 6:30 a.m. and since our transfer bus was coming to pick us up at 9:30, we had time to spend in Zurich airport. Some of the group went exploring and I too gave in to my sense of exploration. I found a grocery store! It was connected by a glass walkway from the second floor, down an escalator over in another building. Walking and asking questions I found the grocery store. There I bought some fruit, bananas, oranges and apples. Food was pricey here I noticed.
Our bus came and we set off on our 3 hour or so journey high up in the mountains. The roads are really good in Switzerland and soon I was lulled to sleep. I woke up when my ears began to pop. We were heading upwards!
The narrow winding roads cut into the hillside had the bus rocking side to side and I had to close my eyes a few times – but eventually I got used to it. Our driver was experienced, I had to trust him, let the fear go.
There was the Adelboden sign! There was the Our Chalet sign! Shifting into low gear, we arrived at our destination! Oh the view! Oh the clean air! After the previous weeks in cities and in air conditioning, this was a treat!
We were warmly welcomed and rooms assigned. Staff were helpful and kind. After settling in somewhat we were asked to go to the t-bar, the name for the little room which used to be the snowshoes and ski room back in ’99. There was a coffee machine named ‘Dave’ that ground whole coffee beans for a really fresh cup of coffee, a kettle to make tea or hot chocolate and a small fridge for any food or drink purchases.
The itinerary was given out and wasn’t much different than the one Nancy had included in our journals and it was great to hear what we were going to be doing. A visit to Adelboden, Thun and Bern, along with a night hike, waterfall hike and outdoor cook out with a visit to the top of Engstligen Alp. There were a few evening sessions after the evening meal.
All I can say is what an amazing part of the world! Everyone challenged themselves in one way or another and I am hoping to try skiing next winter at home before I get too old to do it!
Adelboden is not a huge tourist area, it is situated at the end of a valley so there is one way in and out. It is still very small and the people who go there are hikers, skiers and Girl Guides and Scouts.
The building is made of wood and very cozy. In 1999 a new building opened to house the offices, conference room and additional sleeping areas, we stayed in the original building. I requested a single room as I sleep better knowing I’m not going to snore a room mate awake. It was great that the window could open to the fresh mountain air and I slept like a baby almost every night.
Our days began with breakfast at 8:00 which consisted of two flavours of yogurt, muesli, corn flakes, a wheat puff cereal, sliced cheese, the most amazing bread I’ve ever tasted, two types of jam, juice, coffee or tea. We were not usually at the Chalet for lunch and if an outing there were snacks to take with you, a fruit, cookie, nuts and juice. You never went hungry. The suppers were adequate but after all the spice of India, at first the taste buds tasted bland food (I bought some garlic powder to spice my own plate up ?) my favourite was Shepherds Pie!
The first day of walking into town I managed about 10 steps of incline and had to stop for a rest. The altitude combined with the incline made it difficult to breathe until I got used to it. Depending on the incline, a normal ‘Swiss incline’ I made 200 steps. I’m going to have to adjust my treadmill when I get home, the leg and butt muscles will thank me I think ?.
The sunshine is strong up in the mountains. I bought a sunscreen powder at home named Eminence and I’m so impressed at how well it worked! No greasy residue or itch on the skin, I applied it only 1 or 2 times an outing and though I got a little colour, I did not burn. I saw people who used cream sunscreen end up with very red faces.
There are several moments I will never forget: Sitting on an outdoor patio in Adelboden, a small town in the Bernese Oberland, just watching the little ant-like people skiing down the mountain and the puffy clouds drifting lazily by in the clear blue sky.
Visiting the local “Wood Carver” whose family is continuing in the business, creating beautiful pieces of art for visitors to purchase. The Guiding and Scouting groups must all have either the trefoil or fleur de leis with their name burnt on it or a scarf woggle. It’s just what you do when you visit the wood carver….
Walking in the dark under a starry sky to go and see the wishing tree, zig zagging downwards on paved roads then crossing a snow covered field on snowshoes. Not like the snowshoes we had decades ago. The new modern shoes with light metal and fibreglass straps and snaps, hold any sized shoe or boot. Very comfy and useful! Our eldest member of our group did very well, however, it was a little scary a couple of times, I thought it was time to rest and it happened that we were forced to do so. The wishing tree was a hollow tree, I never did find out what type it was, but it is said it is about 200 yrs old and it’s base is hollow. The strange thing is that it leafs out yearly so far. It was dark so I couldn’t get the scope of its size, but it felt happy in its location in a small forest on the edge of a hill overlooking Adelboden.
Another day we went to the city of Thun. Built in a valley at the edge of a beautiful blue river at the end of Lake Thunersee. The cobblestone streets, cafes and shops were delightful and locals and tourists filled the river area in the afternoon. On this perfectly sunny day, we found steps that went up and up and up towards the castle that overlooks the town. I paid the 10 or 12 francs and climbed up to the top of 12th century Thun Castle turrets and got some great pictures from that elevation. In the villages and cities around this part of Switzerland, there are fountains with running water as part of their infrastructure. I don’t know about why or the cost but it is so peaceful to hear the running water every few blocks or so. I did see people wash their hands and take a drink from the flowing water, but I thought no, not going to chance a bug or sickness, as much as I wanted to taste it.
Bern was another outing we did, however it was not a sunny day. It was actually rainy and cool out. My pictures of the several fountains within the city are not as colourful as these fountains really are, but they are pretty interesting. Myself and another group member waited at the Town Clock Tower just before 1:00 with the crowd. There was a bear within this cuckoo clock like array of characters, but at 1:00, the bear just raised his arm. And that was it. Probably as the time goes on each hour would give more of a show? We didn’t wait around for it and headed up to the church, looked into shops and had a few beverages in the cafes through out the day. Getting back on the bus and warmed up, I fell asleep on the way back to Adelboden.
One day we took a hike towards a place called Engsitligen Falls. I suppose we walked or hiked, or whatever term one would use to describe walking along streets and roads, walking across bridges and following a lively stream up to where the Alp is located, although the Alp itself is several hundred feet up via gondola. We hiked through the snow at the end of the road and came upon a Staff member cooking on a fire. A picnic area has been built complete with lean to and picnic tables under roof structures. From here our mission was to hike up and up towards the falls to get a picture and enjoy the view. Some of our group couldn’t make it due to physical limitations, but some of us did, enjoyed the view and feeling of the place, took pictures and shared them with the people who couldn’t make it. One member just planted herself on the edge of the trail in the deep snow and waited while we went on then came back. She said how amazing it was in the peace and quiet watching and listening to the most beautiful birds as they went about their flitting about. It sounded like she was in heaven and I too would have enjoyed that tremendously. After the excellent meal of campfire cooked sausage we hiked back to the gondola station to make our way up the mountain. OH MY! They pack the people into those things, the sign said 36 maximum. I made myself as much room as possible, I am really thinking I am claustrophobic and need to find out the cause. Pointing the camera out the window on video took my mind off the tight quarters and I was awed by the sights! Arriving at the top, the staff gathered the group in the sunny, windy gondola exit and gave instructions for a meeting point and time.
We headed towards to restaurant and saw the entrance to the fondue igloo which is a huge pile of snow that has had rooms and corridors carved out of it in order to be used as a restaurant. Special evenings and times for this, there was no one there but the place smelled of cheese, and yes it made me hungry! There are skins laying on the benches and carved out chairs and couches with beautiful flowers frozen inside rectangular vase-like displays. REALLY neat!!
We found a table at the restaurant out of the wind for the moment, needing sunglasses to dim the brightness of the sun reflecting on the snow. Hot chocolate with real milk, and other beverages were ordered. I enjoyed my locally brewed beer. I began to get cold so thought I’d better move and get warmed. I set out walking towards piles of snow in the distance. There was another igloo, or quinzee, ahead. You can rent one of these snow igloos to sleep in . The door to this was locked but a woman said they have to be pre-booked. The sky was so blue, the cold air so crisp and clean and the snow was reflecting the rays, you really need sunglasses. I can see that snow blindness wouldn’t take too long to happen.
There are areas for children and beginners to ski, tobogganing and tubing. There is a ski tow with continuously travelling 4 meter or so long vinyl tow ropes maybe 1 1/2 inches in diameter that you could hitch onto in order to take you to the beginning of your hill ascent or back to the gondola station. I saw some people fooling around and grabbing onto them, most falling and laughing while being dragged on their bellies or backs and some using them as they are meant to be used, riding on your skis to the station or to another hill. I thought I’d try it. I grabbed hold. Oh my they are stiff and slippery with wet gloves! I only had shoes on and slid for a little while. I thought I’d put on my video on my camera and see if I could tape the journey I wanted to make. A couple of tries and finally I made it about 10 meters with me yelling and screaming, trying to stand up on my slippery shoes as one foot hit several bumps along my journey. Some skiers saw me and were laughing and I laughed with them. It’s on video although all that is seen is my coat! My laughter was genuine though and I had so much fun and felt like a kid!! Pure joy in this beautiful place!! I went for a walk around the area, then saw the time, had to go to the gondola. I was tired. I thought, what the heck, I’ll grab onto the lift to go back up the hill where the gondola station was. AND I did!! I yelled at one of our group who had her SLR camera and she took pictures of me, and then I found out another one of our group took pictures of me. I don’t know whose picture it is, but it shows the snow flying out from my feet! My arms were numb but my knees and ankles and back held on until the top of the hill where I let go… What a rush!!! Going to have to try skiing before this body gets too old!!
The staff at Our Chalet were so accommodating and helpful and we all had an amazing time. Challenges, singing, games and campfire in the beautiful fireplace with fondue, cheese and wine (this wouldn’t happen with a girls group – we were all adults there at the time) and peaceful nights. The air was so clean. I did say that already didn’t i? Cleaned out the nasal passages and lungs that’s for sure. I even had a chance to do some painting with watercolour. Sitting out back of the Chalet building, listening to a spring water pipe constantly running, mixing colours and doing my best, I created a picture of what I was looking at. I got lost in it. Time went by so fast, it was time for another scheduled event and I had to stop.
In 1999 when I was there with a Ranger Girl Guide group, we had a woman named Ellie who would be part of our hikes. She was amazing! Walking with 2 poles I had a heck of a time keeping up with her then. I had thought about her several times over the years. Well, as I came through the door and saw her with the Centre Manager, I thought I knew this woman. AND I DID! As soon as she introduced herself I remember the hikes and the knowledge she imparted to us back then. She could identify any flower and I think that’s why I remembered her so well. Anyhow, turned out that she actually made the Our Chalet sign out of wood that is hanging at the entrance now. It was great to get a picture taken with her!
Our closing ceremony and Campfire evening was lovely. Lisa and her helper made a fire in the fireplace and the smell was mesmerizing. Nothing like the smell of campfire. The singing was fun and emotional. We received our special pins for staying here and those who completed challenges received their special badges, crests or patches, whichever terminology you wish to use.
Our time came to an end. I felt sad to leave this beautiful place. However, it was time for our last destination on this trip. Pax Lodge in London England.