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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 29 Jun 2006

Location: Interlarken, Switzerland

MapEntry 42 - Interlarken (21st - 24th)

The last paragliding video - the landing - will be added as soon as I get some time to upload it, it´s pretty long... sorry.

After our drive from the Rhine Valley we arrived in Interlarken, Switzerland, to the faintest bit of drizzle. Eventually it began to rain. Confused as to where we were, and where to get accommodation, we stopped at the train station and reassessed the hostels on offer. In the end we ended up staying at the Backpackers Villa, at 22 euro a night. Now, this wasn´t just a room, with the 22 we got free lockers, free use of the public spa, sauna, pool, gym, mini golf course, and free entry to the casino. Whilst it was quiet, and full of Christian undertones, it was only a 2 minute walk from the more expensive, and less luxurious hostels of Funny Farm, and Balmers Herbarge. In any case, you don´t have to be staying at those hostels to enjoy their bar facilities. It was at this point that Clint started using his charm, and ´our travel page´ to score some free internet usage. In the end we used about $16 Aussie dollars of internet time for free just by convincing the girl at reception we´d give the hostel a good write up.

Being a pretty long drive day, the first night was relatively quiet, and the following morning we headed into town to determine what activities we would fill our time in Interlarken with. It didn´t take too long to scratch out a number of great activites due to our size.

To go zorbing, Clint was too tall and too heavy, I was just too heavy (185cm and 85kg max) and we were both too heavy to go hanglinding (90kg max.) so we opted for paragliding and canyoning, a little less than $330. Then again, we could have used that gym and sauna membership to better use and tried to drop a few kg´s! After a bit of umming and ahhing, we decided to do the paragliding at 1230pm, just an hour later...

Well, what an anti climax that was. All psyched up for a great time, in the van headed up the hill, and when we get there, it is totally fogged in. Can´t see 10m in front of you. So we waited... and waited... and waited. Eventually, after two hours of waiting, my pilot decided that the fog had cleared enough, and we ran off the side of the hill, with a parachute attached to us, into the great grey beyond. But he was right, and within 20 seconds, we were through the fog, and in the air looking down over the ´interlocking lakes´ of Interlarken.

Don´t think I can say anything to justify just how good it was. Clint´s pilot did a couple wing overs on the way down, and Clint was about ready to soil his pants, but loved it all the same.

In the afternoon, when we were finally down on the ground again, we headed to the public gym for the spa and sauna. That was weird. This place was fully decked out as a swiss spa, with naked sauna´s and all that jazz. The spa was pretty lame, and not much like a spa, more like a warm pool, and there were programmes written that suggested 10 minutes in the sauna, then use the cold showers... crazy stuff, but it was cool. After the spa and stuff, we went outside and made use of the free mini-golf, posting a 49 for 18 holes (including one 7), on a pretty shabby concrete course - my practice for the Brittish Open is coming along nicely!

That night was the Aussie vs. Croatia 3rd game, and we wandered around town feverishly looking for a place to watch the game, with everyone wanting to show the Japan vs. Brazil game. We checked the Hooters restaurant, and the casino, plus played a few hands of black jack and broke even for the night, before giving up and heading to Balmers hostel just for the social atmosphere. Upon getting there, we saw the sign showing that the they had the game on... what an atmosphere!

Why didn´t we think of that first? Who else is more likely to show an Aussie soccer game, than a place where half of the Aussies in the wrold currently reside - hostels. So we missed the first 18 minutes, and were shattered to see that we´d already gone down 1-0. An ice cold VB and I was feeling settled in, as if I were back home. A VB never, I mean NEVER, ever tasted so good. And for the first half of every soccer game, the drinks at the Balmers bar were 2 for 1... bonus.

At half time I missioned back to our hostel, grabed Clint and my flags, and pulled the air horn out. Finally, a chance to use it. At the end of the game, with a 2-2 score line, and a berth in the second round, the air horn took a battering. And the ´almost´ goals that we ´almost´ scored a couple times late in the game also got some air horn attention. We met an American girl from Detroit who actually was in Australia and did her senior year at Pembroke College in 2001... small world is getting smaller still. A couple more drinks at the end of the game, and we had another earlyish night as we had an early start for canyoning in the morning.

Well, still dreary eyed at 730am, we headed out for canyoning. Fully decked out in wetsuits, a boyancy vest, helmet and a harness, we entered the top of the canyon (after an hour long drive out of town) and began our 800m decent through the canyon. I have never done anything like this before. Within 5 minutes of stepping foot into the water filled canyon, we were jumping of rock ledges into pools below and sliding down natural waterslides, cut into the rock face by the running water over hundreds or thousand of years. On some of the longer drops, where the water pools at the bottom were too small to jump into, we were belayed down on our harnesses. It was a rush from the minute we started to the minute we ended. If we weren jumping, we were sliding, and if not either of those we were rock hopping or wading through water pools. It took about 3 hours to drop 800m of elevation and was one of the most exciting things I have done in ages. For whatever reason, I was the only one to attempt a flip (and succeed, mostly) on our free dive.

After the canyoning experience, a buggered Clint and I headed for a bit of rest back at the hostel, and then back over Balmers for some dinner. Clint went for the safe Cheeseburger option, whilst I opted for the more tempting ´3 species´ burger! A cheese and bacon burger, with a fillet of chicken in there too...this thing was a monster. We sat outside watching the late game, which featured the Swiss, so there was a largish crowd. Our new American/Pembroke freind Caitlin, and friends joined us and we had a few drinks before being kicked out of the yard and into the over crowded and incredibly hot bar downstairs. After a few drinsk there, we decided to give Funny Farm a try, and it actually managed to be even hotter than Balmers. Eventually we called it quits around 3am, bruised, tired, and a wee bit drunk.

The following morning, we weighed up our choices for the day, and looking at the CCTV, Jungfrau appeared clouded over and we decided to give it a miss. As much as we wanted to go to the top of the mountain at 3000+ meters, it wasn´t worth the $190 to see a white out. Instead, we jumped in the car, and started making our way to Cinque Terre in Italy, but drove through the Siwss Alps, in what automatically made the hiring of the car worthwhile... a bus or train would not have been anywhere as good as this.

The drive was taxing, taking an hour to do 40km at times, even when there wasn´t an accident blocking our path, but the views made it so worthwhile. There were still semi-frozen over lakes at the top of the mountain passes, even in the middle of winter. It took a lot of time, but the views were definitelty worth it. After a late lunch in the very south of Switzerland, we crossed into Italy and started paying out our asses in road tolls, heading to Cinque Terre (5 towns). Arriving as late as we did, we figured we´d look for accommodation in La Spezia, the nearest large town, but got ourselves incredibly mixed up (not lost, just mixed up) and headed straight to Cinque to try our hand there instead. Getting to a ´tourist stop´ some time after 8pm we managed to secure an appartment for the night and made ourselves at home, Clint taking the double bed, me getting the fold out couch, as it was just too hot to snuggle!

Next issue 43 - our time in Cinque Terre.

Hope everyone is well, this issue came from Barcelona, we arrived safe and well this avo. Funny thing though, for the last 3 hours they have been playing the first 3 episodes of One Tree Hill with Spanish dubbing - very strange. Anyway, psyching up for the bulls now, all the bruising from the canyoning has gone down, and my foot seems to have recovered (it was sore for the last few days for some reason), so we are ready to run... stay tuned...

Also, check out this weblog and pictures of contiki as well if you can´t get enough of what I´ve been up to!

Also, in case anyone is interested, the clothing is really starting to fall apart. I ripped the crotch out of my jeans in Russia, so bought a pair there (apparently there aren´t many waists bigger than 34inches over there), and I have a rip in each leg of my denim shorts that started yesterday. Will look to replace soon. Left one T-shirt in Turky by accident, left my $3 ´thermals´ from Dubai in Denmark, and my DC Shoes have fallen apart, as have the $28 Lacoste knock offs from Turkey... could be running the bulls barefoot!