Category Archives: Change

Byebye Switzerland, Hello France

Here a little map (it’s not exact), to recap and get an idea of how far I’ve hiked so far, where I am now, and where I’m headed next:
Yesterday, I walked until shortly before Sainte Cergue, then took a train to Geneva, where I plan to rest a couple days and have quite a few cold beers with my old friend Jonathan.

This finishes the Swiss part of my long distance hike.
The Jura Crest Trail was something to behold. Every forest, every meadow, every little village, every town more beautiful than the last.

I started my hike in Brugg (Canton Aargau) on July 6th, 2020.
Since then, it’s been 22 days, but only 15 hiking days
(7 days rest in between).
So far, only counting walking kilometers, it’s been approximately 200 km.
The Jura Crest Trail went up and down like a yoyo…
The highest point for me was at 1’600 m above sea level.

After Geneva, I’ll cross the border into France and continue onwards through the Rhone valley and the Vercours mountains…

Always Learning

Currently, I am a bit like a fish out of water. Instead of being surrounded by my usual abundance of ocean, I‘m immersed in green, rolling mountains, hills, meadows, forests, and fields. There is the odd lake of course. Nothing better than vibrant greens and blues going together.

I had finished my book Paralian hopeful, filled with a happiness and sense of home I had never before experienced. Life didn’t disappoint however and everything turned out different than I had dreamt and hoped. I had been through so much already, that I didn‘t quite expect life was going to punch me in the gut harder than ever before…

But it did, last year. Now, I am finding myself homeless at fifty with a tent and a backpack my only possessions. Good thing is, I have my resilience, hope, and positivity. I am starting over, still loving life, always learning, enjoying the moment as best I can, going with the flow… and hoping, somehow things will line up in whichever way they are supposed to.

Above 1000 Meters

Wonderful camping spot two nights ago. Only problem, it gets quite cold during the night when you are above 1000 m. At the moment wearing 3 layers of clothing in my sleeping bag. Lovely though to wake up to nothing but rustling insects and chirping birds…

Milky Way

After camping for a few days, we’ve now stopped for a couple days in the beautiful city of Biel. Yesterday was a lovely day of spoiling myself. I took a long, hot bath while listening to Cinemix, had a picnic dinner from Migros (awesome Swiss supermarket!), and went to the pharmacy to get some advice on why the soles of my feet are still hurting like hell…

Turns out, I have an inflammation in my feet. The pharmacist was helpful and seemed super competent. She prescribed some pills and a special ointment. I was a bit relieved to hear that, apparently, I am not especially whimpy, but this happens to rather a lot of hikers whose feet have troubles getting used to carrying the extra weight of the backpack in addition to hiking up and down through the Swiss Jura region. It doesn’t help that there are no cold creeks to hang your feet into in the evening.

Anyhow, the pharmacist recommends that I stop for at least three days to make sure the inflammation is gone, before I continue. I am gutted to be slowed down, but also immensely grateful to finally know why my feet feel like I’ve got half a dozen knives stuck in them.

Dave will continue on with his partner who is due to join us today. I’ll sadly remain behind for now. But I’m planning to continue on the trail by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. Depends on those two rebellious feet. Fingers crossed!

Being here in Biel with time to think brings back memories. I shop in Migros, in awe at all the delicacies and realize that, while I lived in Switzerland, I probably didn’t appreciate all these little luxuries enough. Even after only one and a half weeks on the trail, my perspective is already shifting. It’s a good thing. Being more aware.

I also think back on the last few years. Life, work, travels. There was so much good. Like the best road trip of my life so far, in 2013, from Zurich to Barcelona and back… all the way along the Spanish coastline, through the South of France, through Monaco, to Cinque Terre in Italy. Then we drove straight north, over the alps, back to Zurich. Driving this entire route for the first time was like a dream. As was experiencing the FINA world championships in Barcelona or deciding spontaneously to go to the opera. Or drinking Sangria in Barcelona’s old part of town. Then we drove on, through landscapes that were ever-changing and magnificent.

I get all nostalgic thinking about life experiences like these and think about how lucky I was to be able to share it all with someone who loved it as much as I did. It’s good to hold on to these memories, to treasure them. Life moves on, forever changing, but certain things remain forever good. Like stars in our firmament, lighting the way for us in harder times.

And, every time we have another profound experience, be it on our own or when we share it with someone who matters to us, we widen our horizon a bit further. We end up adding another star to our own personal Milky Way… making it glow just that tiny bit brighter…

More Sure Than Ever

Whilst on the trail and enjoying each moment as best I can, I still think a lot about what will be. What will the future bring? Will I ever find a job as a stage manager again? So far, I have mostly big show and circus experience. Will circus be reborn? I miss my work backstage. It’s always been so much more than just a job.

As my thoughts run away with me, I tell myself to relax and not dwell on what will be, because we simply don’t know, do we? Best to enjoy the moment and make the most of it, be proactive, use my enforced downtime wisely, and let it lead me to where it leads.

On the trail, I meet so many who inspire me. Like Chriggel the other day, a 14-year old farmer’s boy who goes on hikes even though he has lost his left leg from the knee down and wears a prostheses. He has an awesome sense of humor and told me, “I want one of those new prostheseses they are developing. Those will be sensitive to touch and you can feel when something touches your toe. You can even feel water. Then my dad won’t accidentally run over my foot anymore.” I just looked at him with a big question mark on my face. “Yeah, he backs up the truck to park it, and if I stand too close it happens. And then, I want to walk away but am pinned down, and I need to tell my dad, hey can you back up a little more. You’ve parked on my foot.” We both laughed and he proceeded to tell me, “In a couple years, I want to hike from here all the way to Rotterdam, and then take the ship back on the river Rhine.” Chriggel was full of life and worked hard on the farm, helping his dad. He didn’t seem like he’d ever let anything stop him.

Or then, yesterday, an old man literally ran past us on the trail when it was at its steepest. A little later we caught up with him and got to talking. Fred had hiked over from Lugano in the Italian part of Switzerland which is a couple hundred kilometers away. He was now on his way hiking back home again. He was 72 years old and told us how he used to hike up Mount Everest with his alphorn. And how next year he wants to do the Little Matterhorn and play alphorn at 4000 meters before it is too late. He said, “I am not as fast as I used to be. I used to be able to hike up 2000 meters in 1 hour, now I need 1 1/2.” (At my current pace, I’ll need 4 hours to do that.) After talking with us for 10 minutes, he finished his quick rest and walked away at amazing speed. A minute later, he had already disappeared over the horizon. Oh, and he does his long hikes with only a shopping bag. When I asked him what’s inside he said, “A spare shirt and a bottle of water. It’s all I need.”

Making the impossible possible, stretching the limits, overcoming boundaries… It’s what we do in circus every day, too. And as we do, we bring magic to the world. At the moment, all shows worldwide are closed due to Covid19, but we’ll be back! After meeting Chriggel and Fred, I am more sure than ever.

For now, I’ll try to make a difference for myself by walking and absorbing the many experiences along the way… and I’ll try to make a difference for our circus community by walking for #step4circus. Check out these links if you want to find out more:

Our first trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msf7rKELYxg

Our website: https://step4circus.com/

Our campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/step4circus

Also, on Facebook, search for Step4Circus and you will find our FB group.

The Shoe Dilemma

Ok, this is a tinyyy bit embarassing… (promise you won’t laugh 🤭)… I did really well in preparing and buying ultralight equipment. I even bought ultralight merino wool underwear (the most expensive underwear I have ever seen). For blisters, I was prepared with the right kind of socks and all kinds of paraphernalia…

However, what I did NOT do before I left was to actually turn my 3-year old, beloved, well-used Merrell trekking shoes around one time, to see what state they are in…

I do have sensitive feet. Yet, the amount of blisters and pain in the leg muscles I accumulated over the first week was to a large part due to me being an idiot and hiking up and down the Swiss mountains with worn-out shoes. Profile and soles were pretty much gone (I was sliding on those gravel trails like an ice skater) and the shoe didn’t lend much support to my feet and ankles anymore at all. In the end, I had blisters on top of blisters (a situation I had no idea was even possible).

So, yesterday, I went into the shoe store in the lovely Swisss village of Balsthal and chatted for an hour with two knowledgeable sales ladies. Came out with awesome Lowe hiking boots. As my buddy Dave says, “How Lowe can you go?” 😂 Life is bound to get much less painful from now on!!! 😅

A Beautiful Day

Today was kind of an amazing day, agony in shoulders and feet included. We had to walk mainly uphill and it was a hot summer’s day. Now it’s only 2 of us. Another friend left, but my good old buddy Dave is still along for the ride (probably for 2 more weeks).

I keep being amazed by all the Swiss people we meet on our hike (and am falling in love with Switzerland all over again). This region (the Swiss Jura) has practically no water up high. It’s dry as a desert (almost no open restaurants and all wells seem to be in the valleys), which has surprised us a lot, plus combined with the hot temperatures the lack of water sources poses a bit of a problem. Amazingly, every door we ring opens up to friendly locals who are more than happy to fill up our water bottles.

As for hiking itself, the learning curve is quite steep. I am learning that walking downhill with a heavy backpack is putting serious strain on my leg muscles. Walking with hiking sticks helps a lot!!! I am also learning all kinds of tricks and techniques to make those damn blister plasters stick the entire day.

As you can see with this photo, our efforts today were rewarded by pure Swiss bliss, in every way. Towards the end of our hiking day there was even a guy up in the mountain yodeling and serenading us with his alphorn. Such a beautiful sound echoing from one side of the valley to the other. We finished our day in a restaurant with a marvelous Wurscht Chaes Salat (a sausage-cheese-salad), and a couple of deliciously cold beers. Now, I am in the tent again, soon falling asleep to the sound of cow bells and rummaging foxes in the forest.

On The Trans Swiss Trail

I just realized, I haven’t really explained where I’m walking at the moment. I’m on the Trans Swiss Trail which I will follow all the way to its end in Nyon. Then head on towards Geneva and the French border… and then crossing into France and onwards through the Vercours region and through the South of France. Yesterday my friends and I ended up somewhere close to Frohburg and set up our tents on this plateau with a view that isn’t half bad. I’ll need to do some blister maintenance this morning then we’ll see how far we get today. I’m really happy with my gear and thanks so much for all the good advice I received before taking off. Without it I’d be a bit screwed now 🙂. It’s great to start this off with friends. Andrea will stay only one more day. My old buddy Dave is open-end. We’ll see day-by-day how long he wants to tag along. The weather is outright fabulous at the moment. Not too hot but mostly brilliant blue skies. And the Swiss trail system is incredible. Yesterday, I even saw a sign pointing ahead and underneath (on an additional official sign) it said: 300 m along the fence then make a left… ahhh Switzerland, so delightfully quirky and perfectionist 🙂

First Night in the Forest

First camping spot on our trip 🙂 after we walked 23 km on the first day. Damn, my feet hurt!!! This morning they hurt a little less, then 5 min into the hike they started hurting again. All well though and anticipated. Soon, it should get better!

Our sleeping spot was fun. Meadow with cows close by so we heard their cow bells all night long. Then got woken up by a deer that decided to trample straight through our little camp at 6am. Today we are 3 hikers 🙂

All The Stuff

1 gear

2 more days! Still packing… This is all the stuff I’m planning to take. Need to ditch a couple more things though. I’m still about 4kg too heavy. Altogether, I’m at 14kg but should have no more than 10… What to leave behind? (I have to take my iPad mini and a solar power bank so I can write while on the road).