Everything seems to speed up at the end of a trip. At the beginning, when I emerge from jetlag and start to feel human, the whole trip stretches out in front of me. I write my journal, I write in the blog, I organize the day’s photos. I can keep this up for a few weeks. Then things speed up, the photos are not so organized and I start to write in point form.
Another wonderful day! Do you know the South Park episode where Cartmen gets a lot of money and buys an amusement park? He is standing there in the park and says “I am so happy”. Well that is us. Switzerland is the amusement park, but, unlike Cartman, we are sharing the park. However, some days it does feel like you have it all to yourself. Switzerland is not crowded. The buses are hardly every full, you wait in very short lines for gondolas if there is a line at all, there is always a table available in the restaurant and the even serve all afternoon (past the normal 2pm cutoff) in the hiking areas, you can always find a parking space.
Today we started out to do a big uphill climb (to the top of Hornberg – what a great name!!), but forgot our poles, so went back to the apartment (we had only been walking about five minutes), got our poles and changed our plan. We are as unorganized now as we were at the start, when we did that hike to Aigle without our poles.
Did I mention that I got wonderful new hiking poles in Kandersteg? One of the cheapo ones we bought years ago broke, so I had to get a new set. Steve wants a new set but won’t admit it. He uses our cheapo ones that say “Switzerland” and have edelweiss on them. Mine say “Lekisport” and are sleek and grey. Steve’s are a cheerful green.
So we walked along the river to the Wispile gondola and took it one way to the top. The cost was 20SFr each – one way is never half the price of a round trip. We should have walked into Gstaad, to the Tourist Office, and bought an Easy Pass. These are 33SFr each and are good for three days. You can add on extra days for 11SFr per day (I had forgotten this and thought they only came in three day passes). But we were too lazy. We had been to Wispile to do the hike to Launensee the week before, when we were at the hotel in Gstaad. That day had been overcast. Today was bright and sunny, temperatures in the low 70s.
We followed the same trail for a bit more than an hour, walking straight back along the ridge from the gondola station. Incredible views in all directions. Paragliders were jumping from a spot near the gondola station. The sky was filled with paragliders and gliders. We love to watch the planes bring up the gliders and then let them go.
We got to a point at the end of the ridge where you have to go downhill. To the left is to Launen and Launensee, to the right is to Gsteig. This time we went to the right. We walked downhill, steep in some parts but mostly a gentle downhill, for another hour and a half. We had started at 12:15pm but reached Gsteig at 3:15pm (we spent half an hour having a snack and a rest on a bench beside a river, looking out over a meadow to the valley beyond).
We had intended to have a late lunch in Gsteig, then walk back to Gstaad (2 hours), but instead got the 3:40 bus back to Gstaad. The downhill walking had made us tired and it was a hot day.
Most of our hikes have been two to three hours. It seems that is all we are able to handle these days. A leisurely morning, an easy afternoon hike, a leisurely evening. In our “youth” (i.e. before we started spending 10 hour days in front of the computer), we did harder and longer hikes. But we console ourselves with – at least we are out hiking! I think real hikers like Robert Rainey or Marta must chuckle when they read my detailed discussion of a three hour hike. But for us, this is the beauty of Switzerland. There is hiking for all levels. If you want to be up in the mountains but only walk for 30 minutes, there are lots of places to go. If you want to do a ten hour walk every day, you can easily do that. Or, like us, if you want some gentle exercise, lots of fresh air and beautiful views, and the opportunity to stop for lunch at a good restaurant along the way, you can do that.
Another thing anyone reading this must wonder about – why go all the way to Switzerland to hike? Don’t you live in the Rocky Mountains? Yes, we do. And we have done a lot of hiking in the US. And we love the hiking in the US. But, Switzerland hiking is easier and it is easy to spend a few weeks in these charming mountain towns. Switzerland is a nation of hikers so everything is well organized and set up for hiking.
Today we came upon a group of about ten people, about an hour out on the trail, with a camp fire going. They were cooking their lunch. One of them was on her cell phone.
After the hike, we went back to the apartment and changed, then went into Gstaad for the Saturday afternoon shopping sprint. Shops close at 5pm on Saturday! On Sunday, they are closed all day. The rest of the week, they close at 6pm. Things are quiet here in the evenings.