Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Top of the Mountain

Happy Sunday all!

I'm such a silly girl. I can't imagine having missed this experience. I'm groggy as a type from an afternoon nap, but it's a groggy from a fun and exhilarating hike.

Yesterday started off well with a trip to Interlaken for a chocolate tour. Yumm.... The dark chocolate was just what this vegan needed. The girls scarfed down multiple pieces of cake. They were quite fun with their dessert fixation! Then, we split up and half the girls went white water rafting and five of us went horseback riding. The ride was short and scary, which left us a bit disappointed. The horses were tired and hungry, and even the leaders horses had to be led. One of my co-leaders fell off her horse when it started to gallop. Scary. My horse, Nora, had to be led because she wasn't too keen on going anywhere. I love riding, and usually it's such a good experience. The rafters made up for our day by having a fabulous day.

So, we came home and the three of us hikers packed our overnight pack. I tell you--I was petrified. They really talk it up as being hard, strenuous, etc. so that people take it seriously. I'm proud to say (and I can throw out humility now that I'm back on safe ground) that my body didn't hurt or ache or malfunction at all. I think the previous three days had prepped me for the hike, so I didn't find it too difficult. Yahoo! My two girls, the oldest and most mature in the group, did fabulous. One found it very difficult, so we were in the back of the group, letting her take her time so she could make it to the summit. She made it, and that's all tha matters.

We left at 8pm to hike to the cheese maker's hut, where we would sleep. The sky was blue and a bit cloudy but not threatening rain. After two and a half hours or so, we made it to the hill below the hut. As we walked up, the cheese maker played his alpine horn to welcome us. I can't tell you how that music inspired. This is Switzerland.

After a cup of tea, we all packed into the hut for a four hour sleep, none of us sleeping all that well. However, we did have the melodious clanging of the cow bells to put us to sleep. We woke up at 3am to start our ascent. We woke up with a sky full of stars and not a cloud in the sky. It took us three hours on the steep ascent. Switchbacks, rocky paths, etc. It was a steady 700m incline, so we just hammered away.

Yet, reaching the top, just after sunset, still no clouds in the sky, we could see the Alps all around us. The grass covered mountains, the steep mountain faces of others, and the snow.

Then, we made it back down, the cheese maker came out to play again and my ears teared up. What a fabulous day and one that none of us are likely to forget. It's our last night here, so time to pack. We're home in three days. It's hard to believe.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Feel the Pain and the Rain

Well, here I am again. It's our fourth day at Our Chalet, and it's rained every day. Luckily, we are mostly...prepared for it.

Our boots finally dried today from Wednesday's hail storm/flash flood/mudslide extravaganza. What a day that was! Seriously, it was a fabulous day, but a stressful one. My legs and butt still feel the pain of the extra uphill hike I took as part of the "search and rescue" party that went up to find the group left behind with the swollen ankle. Of course, we missed them and they beat us down by three minutes. Ah, well. No big injury.

Thursday we went to Ballinberg, an outdoor museum where you can see sample houses from all the different Cantons in Switzerland. The girls took obnoxious pictures with animals, sampled free cookies, and stayed mostly dry--except for rain in the morning. It was a beautiful museum through a big forest, and quite an education. We particularly liked the mustached man in the hair stylist room, where we posed our traveling gnome. (Each girl has the gnome for one day and gets to take pictures of him in goofy places all day.) Last night we had Sports night, and the girls played a plethora of games to expend their energy.

I have to say that one of the best parts of the day is the evening meeting with our group crammed into our room (the leader's room). We goof around and act silly. Last night one girl told me I was so serious in the meetings prior to the trip, but now I'm all "sassy." Duh. It's called stress planning :).

Today we walked to the wood carver and abseiling in more rain, but more spitting rain than "let's drench their boots, their socks, their ears, etc. Today's abseiling experience was scarier by far. Hey, want to drop down a gorge with a rushing river beneath you when you can't see the bottom? Oh, me! me! me! It was quite fun in the end, despite the wet rocks that the ole boots didn't want to grip with. By afternoon, the boots were dry and soaking up the sun as we ate by the river. Then, we went off to the wood carver for some sampling of local art. Fabulous. Then, the walk home. Oye. Four hours of walking today.

Tonight we had a man come out and play the Alpine Horn, think Ricola commercials. Wow, was he fabulous and funny. He just kept posing and posing and posing for pictures.

Tomorrow is Interlaken and chocolate tasting, followed by horseback riding. Then, because I am the only adult in the group really able to do the overnight hike, I get to do it with two girls who just HAVE to do it. Lord, all I want to do is sit with a glass of wine and soak my muscles. But no. I get to trudge up the mountain from 8pm to 11pm, sleep in a cheese makers hut for three hours, walk three hours to the summit for sunrise, then walk back for three hours. Oh, lord help me. At least the butt feels less pain today...

Okay, until after the hike...

Stay sane. Love life.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Zip Line Junkie, Sprained Ankle, and Hail! Oh My!

Hello all,

A quick one as my time is short.

I've made it to Our Chalet. For those of you who know the story, I went 12 years ago when I was backpacking across Europe. This time, it's a real visit where I can buy things, hike, and not try to hitchhike down...

It's our third day here in Adelboden, and it has been an adventurous few days.

We left Lugano for a series of prompt Swiss transportation over the course of six hours: two trains, a bus, and a taxi--all of them leaving and arriving at the exact time announced. The girls were pleased with our 'surprise' of a taxi to Chalet from the bus stop. It is quite a hike. As a matter of fact, quite a fwe of the group are doing that hike as we speak. I am the token adult who came back with the girls who didn't need money... Oh darn :) My butt hurts, so I don't mind. More on that in a second...

So, yesterday was our first official full day at Our Chalet. It started with an Opening Flag Ceremony, followed by breakfast, and departure. We hiked over an hour to the Adventure Park, where another group stayed. We hiked up to the gondola/ski lift to the top of Selleren. Once there, we decided to walk down so that we could see if we were all up for the overnight hike on Saturday night. On the hike down, which was supposed to take us 45 minutes but took us an hour and a half, a girl sprained her ankle. We left two adults and a girl with her and the rest of us went to report. They made it down okay, but it was a stressful hour, I can tell you. She's doing fine and quite a trooper.

Then, we made our way to the Adventure Park, where we did a high, HIGH, ropes course, hooked up into all sorts of safety harnesses. Then we abseiled, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and then the Zip line. Oh, yes, I'm going to be a Zip line junkie, I think. Bring it on. I just screamed like a little kid and did it again and again and again.

Then, on our walk home, we watched the rain come in until we were soaked through and being pelted by grape-size hail. Ouch. We made it home safe and in good spirits, but ouch!

More later. Time's a tickin'.

Miss you all,


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lugano and Hormones

Well, here we are on our last morning in Lugano, heading off to the Girl Guide World Center in Adelboden.

Lugano is a beautiful lakeside citz. Our hostel is right above the train station, so the girls fearful comments, 'how far do we have to walk?' were unfounded. We had to walk 10 minutes with our bags in Zurich, and that seemed to have made them realize how much thez packed.

Yesterdaz we spent the daz in Lugano and on the lake. We started our daz with a trip to the Church of Marz of the Angels. The frescoes were magnificent, but the girls were more intriguedsd bz the casket with a glass side where zou could see the dead bodz...

We walked around the lake a bit, some girls going for gelato and some finding a merrz-go-round and taking a ride. Once thez tore themselves awaz from their childhood, thez bounded right into teenage hormones with a group of Italian high school bozs nearbz. One of our particularz boz crayz girls encouraged the others to go over and take a group photo with them. I just stared in awe and anxietz, as I was the silent, stew-in-the-corner boz crayz tzpe.

We tore them awaz from their 'Bella Bella' shouting newfound loves, then, it was off on a Lake tour with us. First stop was Paradiso, where we took a funicular to the top of the mountain. What a beautiful view (and no bozs...) We ate our picnic lunch atop the church roof, enjozing the overcast but pleasant daz.

Down we trekked, where we boarded the boat and went to Gandria, a seaside fishing village. Who should be on the boat, but the group of infatuated bozs. Us adults retreated upstairs even though I was sure there was trouble forming downstairs. Alas, the bozs and the rest of their class (who knew thez were on a school trip...) got off the boat before us. I felt a bit bad for their Italian girl classmates who were now second class citiyens with the American girls around. I did breathe a sigh of relief when thez left. This meant the next stop would be without bozs. Yeah. I can't find the exclamation point on this kezboard...

So, we went to Gandria and took a pleasant hour stroll up and up, telling the girls to enjoy the lazy saunter and not worrz about the climb. Sheesh. Zou'd think we've been torturing them. It made me realiye how little thez probablz walk in the suburbs. It's probablz in a car and out of a car and in a car and out of a car. Us adults were picture happz (and some uncomplaining girls, too) as admired the houses and flowers and cobblestone streets.

Then, we rushed back to the boat and back to Lugano. Who should get on the next stop but all the bozs. This time, it was all cozness. The girls who had drawn their attention (i.e. our girl not shz about her cleavage) kept to themselves, while the bozs tried to use the other girls as a go'between. 'What's her name?' they said, followed bz our girls, 'Ask her yourself.' Ah, those bozs. All talk.

The onlz downside of the daz was that we saw a girl with an ipod, which we discussed before the trip as not allowed--for securitz reasons and for socialiying with each other reasons. We had a brief talk at them and told them we were disappointed. We left it in their hands to talk about it amongst themselves, as we knew a few other people had cheated bz bringing ipods. Then, later we had a sappz moment as I said that it made us proud when thez sat around together, getting to know each other. I read a sappz passage from a book and a group hug ensued. Ahhhhh...

So, now we are off to Adelboden and a week of not carrzing our bags anzwhere. Lovelz...

I hope zou are all well and happz and enjozing zour weather wherever zou are.



Monday, June 18, 2007

The z is the y and vice versa

I'm ebracing the Swiss kezboards. the y is the z and vice versa...

We are in Lugano todaz after a two daz train trip through the Alps. We first stopped in Pontresina on the Bernina Express train. The hostel was fabulous, great location two steps from the train station, good dinner and breakfast, and friendlz people. The train journez kept all our cameras busz, and it was alwazs a rush to catch the great shot before a tree got in the waz. of course, there was another great shot coming up, and up, and up.

Zesterdaz we took the second leg of the journez from Pontresina to Lugano, dipping into Italz in Tirano and along Lake Como. Sorrz, no George Cloonez sightings. I did sit next to a lovelz 80 zear old Italian man who put mz Italian to the test. The girls are now teasing me about mz new bozfriend. He took a digitial picture of the mountain, insisted I take one, too, then we showed our shots to each other. Of course, I'd just seen spectacular mountains, and didn├Ąt want to tell him these were nothing compared to Swityerland...

So, now we are in Lugano, soaking up some Italian Swityerland before heading up into the Berner Oberland tomorrow to the Girl Guide Center, Our Chalet, in Adelboden.

So far so good. Not sure how being a 'parent' of nine suits me, but it's nice having two other parents. Okaz, breakfast calls. I can't wait to show zou pictures. I hope zou are all well.



Friday, June 15, 2007


Hello everyone,

Here I am in Zurich with a keyboard that has keys switched around. So let's see how long it takes to type this...

Zurich suits me. Quiet streets, quiet and environmentall friendly trams all around the city.

We arrived in Zurich yesterday in a warm day, not all that conducive to walking around with bulky backpacks to the hostel, but a lovely day for our first bag free walking day, too. We dropped off our bags at the train station, strolled around town to the Fraumunster and old side streets. Lots of pictures of colorful houses and side streets. I took my obligatory picture of the James Joyce sign, of course. I wonder who I can convince to go to the Ulysses reading on our last night...We enjoyed a simple soup and salad dinner that we prepared and ate on our hostel room with a lovely view of the city.

Today was a rainy day and a perfect one for the Swiss National Museum. We wandered for a few hours and then made our way back to the hostel in our first rainz walk. Then, off again, because we can't waste daylight hours. So the Grossmunster Church and St. Peter's Church. We walked up the 180 turret steps in Grossmunster church for a great city view. We have our first dinner out tonight, so a treat for everyone.

Tomorrow, Chur and Pontresina. Beautiful scenery awaits. It's quite an experience being a chaperone and someone who knows all the tricks of Europe. The whole group works well together, and I know we have lots of fun ahead of us.

So, for now, I hope this finds you all well.



Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Switzerland Here We Come!

After a year and a half of planning, I am off to Switzerland with 9 girls (ages 13-18) and two other leaders. Right about now (11:43pm day before departure), I'm feeling like I could sleep for a week. Instead, it's a long haul flight in my immediate future.

So, tune in over the next two weeks as I make my way around Switzerland on my first ever travel leader role. It's a new hat for this international traveler to wear. It fits well, but it's just so tiring!