Tag Archives: Hiking

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…

The Perfect Performance

Yesterday was a day of butterflies. They were everywhere. One thing I notice as I am hiking through these meadows and forests is that if they’re healthy there is nothing quiet about them. Everything buzzes, scuttles, and moves. Insects are everywhere. I haven’t seen this many ant hills since my childhood (and I’m ooold). Some of those ant hills are as wide as a person and at least one meter high. There must be a metropolis of millions in each one. On the trail, I can’t step anywhere without stepping on something. I just hope all those little critters are small enough, and the forest floor has enough give, so I am not crushing too many of them (Watch out for giant Liam!) Flies and bees are hovering and zooming all over the place. Oh, and I am rediscovering my grave dislike of horse flies. Give me a cute little mosquito any day. These horse flies are tenacious and their bite hurts like hell (grrrrr).

The beauty of this landscape is almost indescribable. I was thinking, will my photographs be able to convey how it feels here? But they really can’t. It’s the scent in the air as well. This potpourri of different grasses, leaves, bark, and dirt. It’s the perfect combo no perfume designer will ever even come close to designing. I wish, I could breathe more, breathe deeper, to let this wave of natural scent saturate me completely. Then, there is the sunlight hitting the foliage and blades of grass in different angles. And then, there is the wind, playing trees and grasses like instruments. Altogether, it is the perfect performance, the perfect composition. An opera for eternity.

Hiking in French

On the trail again!

Wednesday night, I said goodye to the area around Lake Biel in style, with a cheese fondue in a beautiful little mountain hut at Chasseral, up at 1’600 m, in wonderful company. Thanks so much to my friends Irene and Sylvain for making time and pampering me to bits!

On Thursday morning, my hosts Kathrin and Sepp and I drove up to Vue des Alpes. They did this trip extra to bring me to my next waypoint on the Trans Swiss Trail (which, I now found out, is more accurately called the Jura Crest Trail). We had a last coffee together before they “abandoned me in the forest” as they put it with a charming twinkle in their eye. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me and for letting me stay with them for an entire week. My stubborn feet and I couldn’t be happier.

I took it easy on this first day back and hiked only for about 5 hours. The trail was more stunning than ever, staying above 1’400 m for most of the day. Below I could first see Lake Biel, then the even larger Lake Neuchatel, stretching all the way to the horizon. The clouds were spectacular. So were the grass lands up above the tree line. There were quite a few hardy Swiss hikers on the trail. The many “Gruezi”s have now fully been replaced by “Bonjour”s though, as I have entered the French part of Switzerland completely. Unfortunately, the Swiss dialect of French spoken here sounds rather different than regular French. So, beyond “Bonjour” I don’t really understand a word my fellow hikers are saying.

Et voila, at the end of the day, I found a rustic “Sleep in the Hay” mountain hut where I spent the night to avoid the thunderstorms which seemed to threaten on the horizon.

Soon Back On The Trail

A wonderful day to you all! The inflammation in my feet seems to be almost entirely gone. Two more days of pampering the little rebels and off I’ll go on the trail again on Thursday. I will continue from Vue des Alpes on the E4 and keep hiking towards Geneva. Shortly after Vue des Alpes I’ll pass by Creux du Van, the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. Can’t wait!

Feet and Flowers

Beautiful summer days here at Lake Biel. I’ve decided to be extra careful and wait until Thursday before I continue on the trail. If I start now straight away, I’m worried the inflammation will come back. By giving my feet a bit more recovery time, I hope I’ll be able to keep on hiking without any further problems (for now). My days at the lake are filled with flowers. I write a lot and go on short walks in flip flops.

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…

At Lake Biel

Arrived at my temporary sanctuary in Luescherz at Lake Biel. Thanks so much to an old friend of mine for making it possible for me to stay in this beautiful oasis for a few days!!! I’ve stocked up on anti-inflammatory Voltaren gel and pills before coming to this little village. Next few days will be foot maintenance and writing articles for TheatreArtLife, plus brainstorming a bit more about step4circus, our initiative, which is still in its infant stage…

https://step4circus.com

This area around Lake Biel is so breathtakingly beautiful. The city of Biel itself is just gorgeous. I can’t believe I never made it here in all those years I worked in Zurich… only a couple hours away. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore more now, and am already looking forward to continuing my hike in a few days. I can actually see the Trans Swiss Trail across the lake from my window here… beckoning… 😉

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.

Hasenmatt

Another eventful day. We reached our highest point so far: Hasenmatt at 1435 m above sea level. The view was absolutely amazing as you can see. In the distance you can just make out the Murtensee and the Bielersee.

Since we are so high up now, the nights are freezing cold. I am wearing every piece of clothing I brought along with me but my teeth are still chattering. Looking forward to get out of the mountains in a week or so and be able to get a good night’s sleep.

Another problem we keep facing is water. The Swiss Jura region is very different from the Alps where you can find springs everywhere. Here, water disappears immediately in the pourous rock. We stop whenever we see a restaurant, to refill our bottles. But… most restaurants are closed due to Covid19. So, each day, it’s a bit of a gamble. So far, we always got lucky.

This mostly due to the amazingly helpful and friendly Swiss farmers. One lady whose doorbell we rang opened her door and asked “Water?” with a big smile before we could even say “Hello”. Last night, we slept on a meadow right in front of a farm house. Then, early this morning we were greeted with a hearty breakfast. Coffee, home-made bread, farmer’s cheese, milk and butter fresh from the cow. A true breakfast of champions!