Category Archives: E4

Undercover in Underpants

Every day, I am amazed with the regenerative powers of sleep. My body feels a hundred years old when I go to bed. Everything hurts. In the morning, a little ache here and there but I’m good to go again.

This adventure happened yesterday. I fell asleep before I was able to share it with you. But here it is. I’m still chuckling just thinking about it:

Mid-afternoon, I needed to take a break. I was on a beautiful plateau and spotted shade underneath some trees. I took off all my gear, put my towel as a blanket on the ground, and then took off my sweaty t-shirt as well. Shoes, socks, and pants followed. I spread everything out so it could dry a bit, relaxed, had some water, and a snack.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise. I looked up to see twenty large cows coming through the trees. They looked utterly surprised and shocked to see me. The feeling was mutual.

I got up slowly and carefully, my mind quickly going through all the options. There weren’t many. All my stuff was spread out on the ground, and I stood there barefoot in my underpants. This was when the cows began stomping their hooves and moved towards me.

Could I quickly gather all my things and make a run for it? Too late. As several cows began charging towards me, I grabbed my phone and my walking sticks and moved slowly backwards. I began singing to the cows since I had heard grizzly bears calm down when they hear singing. Maybe it is the same for cows? It isn’t. If anything, they seemed to double their speed. I doubled mine, too.

As fast as I could, I hopped over some rocks and scrambled up the hill in my underpants. Then, I wiggled underneath some bushes.

The cow herd arrived at my stuff and, stomped their hooves. They circled my backpack and clothes suspiciously. Some of them gazed towards where I was hiding, but soon they were preoccupied with my stuff. I was scared. What if they trampled my backpack? What if they chewed on my shoes?? Should I run out and charge at them, screaming my head off? I followed my instincts and opted for keeping quiet instead, hoping they would soon lose interest.

One by one the cows checked out my belongings. They circled, sniffed, probed. Then, finally, one by one, they got bored and the herd slowly walked off into the distance.

It took about an hour, but then, finally, I was able to carefully approach my stuff at the bottom of the hill. All things considered, I was lucky. The cows hadn’t chewed anything. However, everything was covered in cow slobber. I took a couple minutes doing my best to quickly clean my clothes, shoes, and backpack and get rid of all the gooey slobber… always keeping an eye out in case the herd decided to double back.

Then, I quickly got dressed, worked some more on the slobber on my socks, put on my shoes, shouldered my backpack and snuck away.

This probably was one of my scariest and most hilarious experiences to date. For the rest of the day, I kept laughing every time I thought about it.

Of course, I had been way too busy running around in my underpants to take any pictures. So this one is just in the spirit of cows, showing some peaceful and curious bovines I met further on along the way.

The Foot Whisperer

My favorite spot today. Even though there wasn’t any shade, I couldn’t resist sitting on that chair for a while and letting my thoughts roam.

So many things going through my head… the present moment, cows, my growling stomach, memories, happiness, pain, the rich scent of the french jura meadows, a wasp landing on my face, cows coming closer, missing my work backstage, enjoying the physical exercise, blisters building on my left foot now (grrr), wondering where all this will lead, and telling myself to not wonder too much.

Signage was much better today. So strange after not seeing anything yesterday.

5 hours per day seems to be my limit for the moment. Longer than that and my feet start screaming.

I found out that heavy hiking boots don’t work for me on a long distance hike. With the lighter trekking shoes, it feels so much better. I am becoming a foot whisperer, noticing every little signal those two rebels are sending me. Never ever paid so much attention to my feet before.

French hikers are very polite, too. Bonjour-ing all over the place. One hiker shared his water with me today on the trail when I was out.

Beautiful landscape. Mont Blanc often shining like a diamond on the horizon.

Oh, and I did make it to Plan d’Hotonnes today!

Clumsy Adventures

I’m in France! 🇫🇷

Great! Bonjour! But, oh boy, where have all the trail signs gone?

In hindsight, I realize, even when it comes to marking their hiking trails, the Swiss are meticulous. There is a sign at every fork of the road. You literally have to be braindead to get lost. And, it’s not just the signs that make life easier. Little restaurants are everywhere. Apart from painful feet, hiking on the Jura Crest Trail was insanely comfortable.

Now, I’m on another planet. Trail signs seem to be almost in the endangered species list around here… and, most of the time, I just hope for the best…

Today, I made it to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. From there, I ambitiously hoped to walk five hours to Les Plans d’Hotonnes.

However, my confusion already began in Bellegarde. No signs anywhere. After 1 hour of searching and asking people, finally the village’s little tourist office opened and I discovered I had to follow the Rue de l’Industrie to find the Grand Randonnee trail GR9.

Off I went, into the scorching heat, passing quite a few cats who disagreed with any form of movement.

At some point, I saw a couple of red and white stickers marking my way… and then… nothing. I followed the road for a while and all of a sudden ended up in a village far away from my trail. Then, I followed my nose… along roads and fields with no shade… until I realized the trails I was taking were leading me back towards Bellegarde. I tried a couple of those expensive hiking apps I had installed. Useless. Finally, I had enough reception for wireless. Et voila, good old Google maps told me I was only 30 walking minutes away from the village of Ochiaz.

I burst out laughing, because it turned out I had spent 5 hours hiking in circles. By car, Ochiaz is only 10 min away from Bellegarde.

According to my research, the GR9 is supposed to cut straight through this picturesque little village. Yet, once more, the trail signs were either well hidden or non-existent. As I was standing by the side of the road, scratching my head, a lady in a silver Mercedes stopped next to me and asked if I was lost. Oui, I definitely was.

We chatted a bit and it turned out her family has an auberge (guest house) for hikers. I wonder how many geographically handicapped idiots she picks up at the side of the road each week.

I spontaneously decided to call it a day. Once at the auberge, I was surprised by an ice-cold pool with a view (my feet loved it 🥶). But, after dipping in for just a few minutes, I got distracted by a large number of insects who had come to drink from the pool and were in the process of drowning themselves. I spent the next half hour rescuing about 50 of them out of the water.

A couple hours later, the auberge owner cooked a cheese fondue dinner 🧀 (I looove cheese fondue!!!). Seeing Mont Blanc turn first golden, then orange, then pink on the horizon made it even more delicious.

All things considered, my clumsiness seems to have led me to the right place today, after all. And France isn’t all that bad so far 😉.

Toe-rnado

Yayyyy, my toe is finally getting better! It went on for weeks, and turned out to be an ingrown toe nail which got more and more infected and hurt like hell. I tried every ointment known to man. Nothing worked. It just kept feeling like someone stuck a knife in my toe. I got seriously worried that maybe I might have to stop hiking. But, since yesterday, I am trying yet another cream. This time an antibiotics cream and, now, the pain is already gone and the toe doesn’t look like a cherry anymore!

I am so happy and relieved. A few more days to let it heal just a bit more, then I will finally be back on the trail again.

In the meantime it’s wonderful to spend time with my friends here in Geneva. I’ll always remember the relaxed, fun, and uncomplicated time we had together. Thank you for sharing your home with me!

Geneva

Time flies. It’s my 5th day in Geneva already. The idea was to only stay for two days and continue on, but it’s all about the journey and the moment, isn’t it? To appreciate it, and enjoy it…

I feel so comfortable here with my friend Jonathan. Geneva seen through his eyes is surprising me in many ways. And the little toe on my right foot is still infected. So, I have extended my stay a bit more every day…

Yup, that damn toe is still acting up. It’s been two weeks now and I’m frankly a bit worried. I have tried a lot, and put so many creams and ointments on it… Currently, I am trying a new tip I just received yesterday: bathing the toe in camomile tea and then putting Betadine on it afterwards. If this won’t help either, I’ll go and see a doctor on Monday to get some antibiotics.

At least those toes are now getting a lot of freedom and sunshine in Geneva, as I am slowly walking through town in my flip flops.

It’s wonderful to see Jonathan again. We met while we worked for a circus show in Macau ten years ago. Even back then, his boundless positive energy blew me away. And his easy, relaxed smile often made my day. Especially, since we went through often hard times back then. He left after a year, I stayed a few years longer, and since then we’ve always tried to get together for a beer in Geneva, but it took me a whole decade to finally make it there ☀️.

He lives right next to CERN and it is ominous as well as exciting to think that the large Hadron Collider is operating underneath us as we sit on the couch watching Netflix. Who knows, one evening we just might end up in another dimension…

Yesterday, I had a chance to go sailing for the first time in my life. Like all good things, it was over way too quickly. But, ahhh, what a moment!!!

Other than that, I have spent a lot of time in the Bains des Paquis, Geneva’s favorite outdoor bath at the lake. I have watched Mont Blanc turn a soft pink at sunset whilst sitting at the pier and have enjoyed the uncomplicated international atmosphere of this special place.

I have picnicked on the banks of the river Arve. In the middle of the city. And it felt as if I was far away from any metropolis. In general, I keep getting surprised by just how much nature there is in Geneva. So much water. And so much green.

At the end of the day though, it’s never really the place, isn’t it? It’s all about the people you meet. And, so far, I’ve met wonderful people here in Geneva.

Oh, and I am shoe hunting… again. It turns out regular hiking boots, no matter how good, just don’t work for my feet on a long distance hike. They are too heavy and rigid. I will aim to find some comfortable trekking shoes before I continue on the trail beginning of next week.

For now, happy weekend to you all! Seize the day ☀️⛰🇨🇭

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…

Lac de Joux

After three weeks of hiking, I finally came across a mountain lake.

It’s about time! I always saw the big lakes in the valley: Lake Murten, Lake Biel, Lake Neuchatel, Lake Geneva. They were beautiful but way too far away. I kept longing for a cold lake to be right next to the trail, to dip those tired feet in. Or, even better, to throw that whole tired body into the rejuvenating mountain spring freshness. Well, today Lac de Joux did not disappoint. And the little village of Le Pont (aptly named) was so beautiful it almost hurt the eye.

Beware of Speedy Hikers

On my way towards St. Cergue this morning… getting ever closer to where I will cross the border from Switzerland into France…

As I stumbled to an open restaurant for a strong morning coffee, I came upon this curious little sign on the path.

Does it mean, “Beware of speedy hikers”? For slow hikers like me, so we won’t get run over? 🤔🌬

We Need To Talk About Cows

They are everywhere. Which is great, overall, and there is something soothing about all those Swiss cow bells, too… unless the cows are right next to your tent… Because, somehow, cows seem to never stop moving their heads, so the sound never stops.

Then, there is the good advice of “avoid the cows.” Great. How can I avoid them when my hiking trail literally leads me through every single cow pasture of the Jura region? Then, there are the signs saying, “Please don’t leave the trail.” Right next to other signs saying, “If cows are on your trail give them a wide berth.” Oookayyy.

And then, there is the thing about mother cows supposedly being especially aggressive to protect their young. If there are no calves, then you need not worry. But, today, I almost got attacked by cows who had no babies with them at all…? Thankfully, I had my walking sticks. The aggressive-no-baby-cows were standing right on the trail…

I left the trail, and gave them as wide a berth as possible, avoided eye contact, and literally tip toed around them through the high grass. When suddenly, I heard one cow stomping her hoves, followed by sounds of her galloping towards me. A quick glance backward confirmed she was headed straight for me. And another cow started to move towards me, too. Instinctively, I whirled around, into some sort of Kung Fu stance, both walking sticks extended towards the aggressive bovine ladies, and screamed at them “Leave me the fuck alone!” Somehow, the combination of profanity and sticks worked. The cows stopped in their tracks. I kept brandishing the sticks and continued tiptoeing, backwards, away from the large ladies, until I reached the gate in the fence and unceremoniously fled through it as fast as I could.

To celebrate my rather rude escape, here a herd of cows for you, changing pastures, and a little cow bell concert. Enjoy! To get the full cow-bell-fix, turn the volume up high 😉

Creux du Van

How can I possibly have lived so many years in Switzerland without ever hearing about the Creux du Van? It’s lovingly nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Switzerland’ by the locals. Which (I have to be honest) is a massive overstatement. But, Switzerland is a small country and, like many other things around here, small doesn’t deter from being fabulous…

My good friends Angie and Leo caught up with me in Noiraigue yesterday around midday. From there, we hiked three hours up to the Creux du Van. As the trail zigzagged up the mountain, the Swiss were so kind to number the bends. It drove me nuts, because it made me feel as if the hike up was longer than it actually was.

One thing I’ve discovered over the last three weeks is that it’s best not to think about how long something will take. I’ve also learned not to think too much about the trail going up or down. It’s best to just move forward, step by step, no matter what the trail does, without obsessing about details which can’t be changed anyways. But yesterday, try as I may, I couldn’t ignore the bright yellow number on a tree at each bend.

Oh well. All worth it in the end. When we finally made it up to the plateau, the Creux du Van lay beneath us in all its glory. And, albeit small, it really is glorious!

Leo and I shared his first ever cheese fondue. Then, Angie and Leo headed back down. I stayed the night in a tipi in the forest which was slightly warmer than sleeping in my own tent. The nights are freezing up on the crest!!

In the morning, I got up at sunrise and went to the edge of the canyon. The wildlife I had hoped to see wasn’t there. But, the sun was out. I just sat there for a while, drinking in the beauty around me before I indulged in a large Swiss farmer’s breakfast at 8am to then head out along the Jura Crest Trail once more…