Highlight: Canyoning! Imagine white-water rafting without the raft; a pure 3 hour adrenaline rush. Complete with rapidly moving icy water, waterfalls, and crazy actions like jumping into a pool of bubbling water surrounded by sharp rocks.
Lowlight: Finishing the last of my peanut butter.
Money spent: 207 Swiss francs
Pairs of clean underwear left: 7
I woke up early this morning, loaded up on the toast buffet breakfast, and finished off the last of my peanut butter. 😦
At 9:30, 28 of us, mainly American and Canadian backpacking youth, were loaded up into vans and driven to base camp. There we were equipped with wetsuits, booties, butt pads, climbing harnesses, life jackets, and crash helmets. The helmets all had funny tag names, like “Toke” (given to the 11 year old Indian kid), “Yoda”, and “Ben Dover”. I picked out “Goose” – mostly because it sounded cool and it fit my head well. Then people started pointing out that Goose dies in the end…
Once we were all suited up, we were split into 3 groups and driven up the side of a mountain. Then we hiked another 15 minutes to reach the mouth of the river. The descent would take another 3 hours.
To acclimatize us to the water temperature, we were instructed to slide into the rapidly moving river and dunk ourselves under water. The wetsuits did little to blunt the chill from the ice-cold, glacial water. I could already feel body parts shrinking to new lows.
For the next 3 hours we made our way down the river. Once we set out there was no way out except to follow the water because tall cliffs blocked us in on both side. We made our way down the river using various strategies. Every few hundred meters, we would stop, discuss our strategy, and then proceed down the next leg. Sometime we jumped off cliffs into bubbling cauldrons – belly-flopping or cannon-balling. Other times we edged our way behind waterfalls (the noise of the water so loud you couldn’t think), repelled down rock faces, swung Tarzan style around corners, or slid down the river like it was a big waterslide – sometimes on our backs, sometimes on our stomachs and head-first. It was the longest adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced, and I did it all without the use of my fingers, which had frozen beyond use early on.
Even after you were used to the water, every dunk was torture. Luckily our guides taught us the penguin dance to keep warm. Even with the chill, it was one of the funest things I’ve ever done. And amidst all the excitement, whenever I looked up I noticed that around me was the most stunning natural beauty.
When we finally made it back to base camp, it was a chore peeling off our wetsuits. But we were rewarded with hot showers and a free beer. I bought a CD with pictures that photographers took of us on the way down the river. I hope they turned out well.
After canyoning, I grabbed a quick lunch of a few granola bars, an apple, and a tuna sandwich, and boarded a train east. I got off at Meirangen and looked for a hiking trail. It was drizzling lightly and climbing up the path made it feel like Vancouver. I snacked on dried mango strips, snapped some pictures, and just enjoyed the exercise and fresh air.
Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Interlaken are expensive and the only authentic Swiss food seems to be fondue – not my favourite. So, I opted to try a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Not very Swiss or even European, but I had a craving. Normally, Mexican food gets worse the farther you are from Mexico, but this was pretty good.
While walking around Interlaken, a spontaneous parade erupted, and a few Swiss marching bands walked by. Later, I came across a locked park where I could hear drums and music coming from inside the fenced area – some kind of marching band jamming session. I tried to get a picture, but was too far away. I found a gate that had just enough room underneath it for me to squeeze under. So, I slipped under and creeped up for a better view. Even close up, my pictures wouldn’t turn out (too dark) and I noticed a few people looking at me and pointing. So I quickly ran away and scrambled back under the gate.