Wednesday, September 3 – hiking on Wispile near Gstaad

Sunny and warm

Finally, out hiking in the mountains. We went to the tourist office and bought an Easy Access pass. You buy them for three consecutive days, but can then add on extra days. We bought a 5 day pass figuring we would hike all five days, then do a driving day.

We drove to Gstaad, and to the Wispile gondola, just past Gstaad. Free parking at the gondola, which is a nice change from Grindelwald where you paid to park everywhere.

We did not get an early start – it was noon when we arrived at the top of the gondola, so we started by having lunch. On last year’s trip, to Grindelwald and Engelberg, the mountain restaurants were exceptional for lunch (although as a vegetarian I did get tired of rosti or melted cheese sandwiches). But this first restaurant on our Gstaad trip was not great. (All the other ones we have come across have been good – this was just a fluke.) I had a too cheesy rosti, Steve and plain noodles, we both had water and it came to 50 CHF ($35). But we were sitting outside on the terrace with beautiful sunshine and a lovely view to the big mountains beyond, so it was still fun.

From Wispile you either hike straight back down the mountain (too steep), or hike back into the moutains for an hour and then down one side to the Gsteig valley or the other side to the Launen valley. This first hour of the hike was a gentle up and down hill as we walked back over open meadows with incredible views of the valleys below and the big mountains beyond. There was no one else on the trail.

We chose the Gsteig valley and ended up doing an hour hiking down the hill and destroying our downhill muscles (front of thighs, back of calves and the butt). The hike was beautiful and we walked through farmland and woods. We ended up at Fautersoey (we reached a trail intersection with one way for Gsteig, the other for Fautersoey, and chose the latter) on the main road through the Gsteig valley. The bus runs once an hour and we arrived about 10 minutes before it was due.

Or so we thought. I do not wear a watch and Steve only wears one when we travel. It is one of those old Timex watches that you wind and does not keep good time. Turned out we were 20 minutes ahead and could have stopped for the beer that I really wanted after all that sunshine and downhill. This is how you tell when a bus is about to come in rural Switzerland: people arrive at the bus stop. It was just us for 15 minutes, then 5 minutes before the bus about 8 other people arrived. Some were hikers, some were kids from the village heading to Gstaad with their skateboards.

I hiked wearing jeans and a short sleeved t-shirt and was a bit warm. The next day I switched to ligher cotton pants.

On this trip, we brought 1 pair jeans, 1 pair cotton pants, and 2 pairs shorts – figuring we would be in shorts the whole time. Well, on our first hike out, I developed a really ugly heat rash from ankles to knees, thus ruling out shorts for the rest of the trip. This rash always happens to me on longer, hotter hikes – and I always forget about it. It never happens at home, and we do hike there. I think it is something to do with the humidity – I don’t know. One time we went straight home from Switzerland hiking and I had a girlfriend (who is a doctor) look at it (it lasts for several days after a hike) and she pronounced it “heat rash”. It happens hiking in Colorado too. Sometimes in Santa Fe, I get a little bit of the rash. It probably has to do with the time spent hiking. In Santa Fe, we usually hike for 1 – 2 hours. On these hiking vacations we hike for longer.

Our apartment building has a laundry room with washer and dryer – and they are free (so you are not always saving coins for the machines). I did two loads of laundry this week. I packed planning on doing laundry once a week, but certainly could have packed less for this part of the trip.

Our evenings are usually the same. Back from the hike and we flip on CNN for a bit, then take turns on the computer, then I cook a simple dinner (either noodles and vegetables or rice and vegetables), then more computer or TV or reading. Quite pleasant and you are nice and tired after hiking. The apartment is very comfortable.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.