Swiss Adventure

Switzerland, Part 3: The Campfire

I remember sitting at dinner on my first night at Our Chalet, with what seemed like, a hundred other people (it was in fact, about 30). These Girl Guides and Scouts were here for the final Youth Event of the summer, and it was their last night. I sat with some nice English Brownie Leaders, I’d met earlier, who had clicked onto why I was there. This duo demanded I tell them about the week ahead, as they’d heard it was VERY demanding (and they were right). I still haven’t done that. Maybe I should, when I have time.

Over dinner (Bratwurst and Mash, I remember thinking about how well I was being fed, for Guide Camp), the ladies invited me to campfire. At the end of every event, the group has a campfire, to commemorate the end of their time at Our Chalet. I was quite astounded at the generoisty, why I don’t know, I would have done the same!! So I crashed a campfire. I think it’s the Guiding equivalent to crashing a house party, except you’re welcome if you do crash a campfire, not so much if you crash the party of someone you don’t know. Ahhhh the joys of Guiding.

And so, after dinner, and a bit more of a relax, we trundled our way, up the path, to the campfire area. I was torchless (of course I was, I was completely unprepared for camp for once), but I didn’t mind so much. It wasn’t all that dark, and there were *hundreds* of people.

This was unlike any campfire I’d ever been too. There were volunteers and participants from all over the world. For once, I actually expereinced people teaching songs native to their land, instead of having to figure out how the damn things went myself!! Summer was blessed with a wonderful volunteer, Agus, from Argentina. I think, I honestly can’t remember. She was (and I imagine still is) a fantastic entertainer, playing guitar, and getting really involved with the action songs. She really had me in stitches. It was an emotional time for everyone, as all the friendships made over the 9 days the participants had been at Our Chalet, were strengthened, by a knowing that people would stay in contact, possibly for many years to come. I was not untouched by this, as I knew that the two friends I had made, only that afternoon, would be leaving in the morning, opening a new avenue for new people to come and enjoy the offerings of the Chalet.

After the campfire, girls and Leaders that had completed the Our Chalet challenge, were presented with their badges, a challenge that I would take on myself over the coming week. On the way back to the Chalet, I was invited to an evening hot chocolate with the two English Leaders, and we exchanged addresses, and badges, and headed up to bed.

Amazingly, I woke up at what must have been almost midday Melbourne time freaking out about having to go to work. Instead, it was 4am in another country, and I’d almost knocked myself out on the slope of the roof (I was in the end room, and the roof sloped ever so sharply over my bed!).

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Switzerland: My afternoon of adventure, before the real adventure began!

Upon my arrival to Our Chalet, I was greeted by one of the Winter Volunteers (affectionately known as Vollies), Lesley.   A lovely woman, her duties for the day were guest services.  She introduced me to Maegan, and let me know which room I would be staying in.  It just so happened that the first night I spent at the Chalet, I spent in the Bonderspitz room, the exact mountain I had decided would be my peak, only days earlier.  (A peak means that you reach the very top of the mountain, Bonderspitz being just over 2500m high.)

After settling into my temporary overnight abode, having a shower, and getting changed, I decided it would be a good chance to adventure into the valley town that is known as Adelboden.  This in itself was very much so a challenge, as being on one side of the valley, meant that you had to climb down the valley, and back up the other side to get into town, and the other way round on the way back.

However, it was a nice walk into the valley (despite getting slightly “lost” on the way), and obtaining some postcards and stamps, I was all set.  I decided to head back to the Chalet, to *shock horror* go on the net and let people back home know I was safe.  It was here, in the T-Bar (where everyone at the Chalet could chill, have a hot chocolate and browse the net) I met Sally, an Australian Autumn Vollie, who had only arrived a few days earlier.  At this time, the summer vollies were finishing their time at the Chalet, and the Autumn vollies were taking over, and there were FAR more vollies than guests the entire week I was at the Chalet.  Sally then took me around and introduced me to the rest of the Autumn vollies that were currently living at the Chalet, Mackenzie, Mette, Aisling, and of course Maegan. 

During this afternoon I saw some wonderful views, met some people (locals and visitors alike) during my solitary adventure, and learnt my way a little around Adelboden, a magnificent little area, that would be my home for just over a week.

Hiking back up to Our Chalet

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Switzerland (Part 1)

Seeing as my Swiss adventure was a week-long escapade, and, in all honesty one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life thus far, I don’t think I could possibly put it all in one post, I’m just a little too impatient to do that.  

My adventure started on the Monday of my departure.  I woke up, feeling fine, still needing to pack, and with a couple of hours up my sleeve till my trip to the airport.  As the day wore on, I started to feel mighty crook, and put it down to partying that weekend.  Little did I know, I pretty much had either the WORST hay fever I could get before an international flight, or a head cold that would make my trip hell if gotten out of control.

After checking in, discovering my baggage was waaay under allowance, and going through those formidable doors to the international customs, security, passport control and terminals I realised I’d need at least some Panadol.  I can honestly say, next time, I’ll be buying it before I leave.

Upon boarding my flight I was delighted to discover not only was the seat next to me empty, but we were given hot towels by our airline.   I don’t think I expected this kind of awesome in an economy class, but you know, don’t hold high expectations and you won’t be disappointed.  I managed to sleep for most of the flight, waking only for food, and landing.

Arriving at Singapore airport, at 9:40 pm their time, and feeling a little worse for wear, and with 3 hours to kill, my first stop was the chemist.  I’m still not 100% sure what it was I bought there, but it worked!!  The whole time I was waiting I kept nodding off, only to wake, paranoid someone would steal my stuff.  Before I carry on, Changai airport is amazing.  The humidity is high, but that’s to keep the amazing display of orchids alive.  I really wish it was something I could photograph, but alas, thankyou terrorism, I can no longer take photos in airports like I did when I was ten.  Maybe I couldn’t then either, but who would suspect a blonde haired Anglo-Saxon child of anything other than “WOW! I’m OVERSEAS!”

Needless to say, at just before 3am my time I was boarding my flight to Zürich.  This was when the excitement really kicked in.  No it wasn’t because I was finally well on my way to my destination.  It was because I saw the A380 I was about to board, and the engineer in me got all happy and joyous.  For anyone interested in machinery and transport, these are amazing aircraft, and look truly… majestic, and yet intimidating at the same time.

During this flight I was surrounded by either a) people speaking various forms of Malaysian, Mandarin etc, and b) those speaking German.  Obviously not the staff, but one noted thing, on both flights announcements were made in English, but on the first flight, it was then repeated in Mandarin, and on the second in German.  It was rather odd.  On this flight I wasn’t lucky enough to have an empty seat beside me, instead I was seated in the aisle, with two blonde haired, blue-eyed Swiss children in the seats next to me.  After I fell asleep, all I remember is those two children, clambering over me, unsure of how to wake me up, when they wanted to go to the toilet or walk around.

Landing at your final destination is always a truly bizarre experience when travelling internationally, especially when you think “wtf, why am I in Canada?” for no apparent reason at all.  It probably had a lot to do with all the trees that are surround the airport.  damn Lumberjacks.

And again, during my whole stay in Switzerland, on public transport, everything was repeated at least three times, in English, German, and I think French, I really can’t remember.  One thing about arriving in Switzerland, even if you do go through the “I have something to declare” door, they tend to just… wave you on.

Catching the train was the next part of my challenge.  Finding the right train to the right place, in a place organised as well as Switzerland, when you are used to the substandard organisation of the Melbourne train system can be quite daunting.  Especially when even their regional trains were organised.  And had two levels.  That’s right, a double-decker train.  Not gonna lie, double-decker trains are pretty fun.  And even in economy, you have a little table to do work on, and LEG ROOM!  So organised.  Even the graffiti along the tracks was nice.  It said things like “Welcome to our hood” and that kind of thing, random F-bombs were sprayed here and there, but obviously by the few delinquents that got through the system.  The graffiti, I wish I had photos, but the train moved to fast, was actually really good, and didn’t look…  dirty.   Even swapping trains, then catching a bus was easy.  I asked for a ticket to Adelboden, not realising there were several Adelboden stops, and the driver looked at my shirt and instantly knew where I was going.

Now, on arrival to Our Chalet, it is traditional for guests to walk up the hill from the bus stop.  I get many questions of “how did you know where you were going?” etc.  The answer is this:  All members of WAGGGS have a homing beacon that tells us exactly where to go when we need to get there and its Scout or Guide related.  True story.

Actually.  This is how:

Yes that’s right, the route to Our Chalet is signed.  It makes life much easier, especially when you realise how tough that walk can be, when you’ve just travelled for over 24 hours.

After hiking up the path, and thinking I’d never make it, or somehow get lost, I found another sign, and the last tiny leg of my uphill battle.  That hill seems like such an easy climb now, after I did it every day for a week.  The first thing you see on your way up the small path to Our Chalet is Spycher:

And so my swiss adventure began….

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