Canyoning, Hammocking, Hiking in Interlaken!
I am so glad that I got to see the Swiss German part of Switzerland so early in the trip! I would have gotten the completely wrong impression of Switzerland by remaining in the French-speaking part.
On the train to Bern, I sat with a group of three other girls. When we stopped in Fribourg (a bilingual canton), two Swiss army boys sat across from us and were blabbering away in German. It seemed as if they didn’t speak English because they did not acknowledge us at all–until one of them asked us where we’re from! After a bit of conversation, they asked us what we thought of Switzerland. We told them that it is a beautiful country with so much to discover and they almost laughed in our faces: “What! There is nothing here but cows, cows and chocolate!” I guess they’re not proud of their stereotype?
We transferred to an Interlaken-bound train at the Bern station and were stuck among children on the top floor. These Swiss Germans built an entire playground on the train for their children! It would be pretty adorable, if it didn’t attract boatloads of loud, annoying kids. Somehow the train ride was still enjoyable, so I won’t complain… Interlaken is absolutely breathtaking. This is real Switzerland. The Switzerland you think about when you say you want to go skiing, or want to go waterboarding, or anything of that sort. You name it, Interlaken’s got it. Given that Interlaken’s a very popular tourist and adventure-bound destination, there are about 5 or so companies that host recreational events. Once I saw what Interlaken looks like, I knew that I made the right choice paying CHF 110.- for canyoning.
The hostel we stayed at is rated the best hostel in Europe! We weren’t surprised. Take a look at how beautiful it is: it’s the red maison à colombage. While we were having dinner at a pub, our waiter told us to go outside. We saw around 10 cows walking on the road with beautifully-adorned Swiss “shepherds” leading them! I thought to myself: “Only in Switzerland.” 🙂
AHHHH getting up at 8:00 in the morning after a long night was not so easy (although I did wake up at 7:30 because I couldn’t sleep). Breakfast was very tasty, though! Breakfast always makes getting up easier. Six of us had decided to go canyoning that morning, and we met outside of our hostel at 8:50. Our tour guide was a big buff Swiss German man who already began cracking jokes the second he saw us. Lest I say that he quickly said something about my height. Of course. We walked over to the adventure center, where Sebastian explained the “rules of the game.” He told us, “Before I give you wetsuits, I need to figure out what size would fit you. Go to the dressing room, put on your bathing suits so we can look at you and give you a suit.” Um…did he just say that he wanted us to wear our bikinis so that he could examine us? Oh God… I put mine on and when I came out of the locker room, he looked me over twice and handed me an XS suit (I suppose that’s a compliment?). Speaking of which, can I say that I was the only person in our group of 15 to receive an extra small suit? Hehe. Here’s the problem though: I may be short and have a small waist, but my thighs are huge!! It was such a struggle getting the suit on, I cannot even explain it. Once it was on, I tried to breathe and struggled. I’ve never felt so constrained by anything! Yet, I will be a little egotistic and say that when I looked in the mirror, I looked good. 😉 Sucks that we were not allowed to take pictures! We went downstairs to get shoes. The other guide (I honestly cannot remember his name) asked me what size shoe I am and I told him I’m a US 7 1/2 and he cocked his head to one side and said, “Really? Your feet look very small.” I told him I’d prove it, so he handed me size 38 and after I put them on he looked very surprised. Why are these two guides so judgmental?? The guide told us to grab jackets of the same size as our wetsuits and head over outside. Outside, I was handed a small lifejacket and was told to select a helmet. I picked my helmet and then glanced at the nickname on the front of it (all of them had little names so that the guides knew what to call everyone) and mine said, “Yoda.” Now, either that means that my head is very tiny, or it means that I am the wise one. You decide!
The second guide, OH HIS NAME IS TIM!, told us that in the van, there is room for three in the front, but given that he and Sebastian have to fit there, they need someone really small to sit in the middle. I’ve never seen so many people look at me so quickly. Yes, I was told to sit in the front. Sigh. Upon sitting in the middle, Sebastian made his way over to the seat next to me and said, “Oh, it’s you here!” I replied, “Apparently I’m the smallest person here.” Sabi responded, “Sure, that’s what Tim wants you to think” and then winked at me. I was really having some trouble understanding what the customs of these Swiss Germans are! They are too blunt. But maybe in some instances this can be a good thing?
The car ride was only about 15 minutes, during which time we made our way up a mountain. We got out and hiked for another 10 minutes. We received a step-by-step safety procedure, were told that most of the time that we would jump, we would have to land on our butts. My reaction: “I’m sorry, what??” The first intensive thing we did was rock climbing down. Boy, was it high! And my form was horrible. I basically fell the whole way. Frightening! Most of what canyoning consists of is folding one’s arms over the chest and lying down to follow the currents of the water through rocks and streams. Fantastic.
The scariest thing we did was jump from a 2.5 story waterfall. Sabi told us that we needed to jump in a very small area–he pointed to the circular perimeter–because outside of it was all rocks. Oh, and if we didn’t jump with our butts, we would break our ankles. I don’t think I have to explain to you how scary that notion is. But once he started counting down from 3, I knew that if I didn’t jump on 1, I’d never do it! Once I jumped, I felt all of the air kicked out of me, my nose filled up with water, and my butt hurt. Yet it was so exhilerating I wanted to repeat it the second I landed! We even jumped into the water superman style once! Pretty exciting. The entirety of the canyoning was basically jumping, floating with the water, swimming and going down backwards. I’ve never done anything quite so frightening and so exerting! Here’s a video from their website so that you could get a glimpse of what this is really about: http://www.outdoor-interlaken.ch/en/tours/49/canyoning-interlaken
Wow! My group was so exhausted after the trip. As for the pictures, we weren’t able to take any pictures because it was too dangerous, so the only one I have is the top one I posted that the guides took. The guides were filming the whole thing. I really wanted to buy the video, but none of my friends wanted to share the cost. 😦 It’s okay–I still remember every second! After the canyoning, we desperately craved Thai food. And we also wanted to go hiking. So we ate Thai food, then slept on some hammocks at a nearby camp and I went hiking for an hour! I couldn’t finish the hike because I was returning home that day. By the way, the beds you see in the slideshow are what the tents look like in the campgrounds: looks more like a honeymoon suite to me than camping! Least I say: I did everything I had hoped to accomplish in Interlaken and I’ve probably also never slept so much in one day!! I used every opportunity, whether it was at lunchtime on the table, or the hammock, or the train, I definitely overexerted myself and also rested. Best day ever!!!