Day 42: Hiking Into The Clouds

As I sit here writing this post, my body aches. I’m not sure if it is from all the hiking or the impact of cliff jumping into the Mediterranean but dang I am putting my body through the wringer. Despite the aches and bruises, there is no quit in me especially when I am in the valley of the giants. In the morning, when I was brushing my teeth, I chatted with a guy from England who suggested a really good hike nearby that I wouldn’t have to take a train up for (i.e. I could hike the entire mountain by my own man power, which is exactly what I wanted). He gave me directions that I could not possibly screw up and from there I headed out the door. The base of the hike started off on someone’s cobble-stoned driveway, of all places, alongside a cemetery near a very old stone and wood church. I began the hike slipping on the rocks due to the rain from the prior night but managed to surpass this stretch with the best hiking stick known to man. The climb was very trying especially when I felt I had made no progress but, with the promise of great views above, I pushed onward and upward. The first view through the trees gave me a look at the small town of Wilderswil below. I ate some wild, baby strawberries from nearby which were deliciously refreshing (if I die, you’ll know why). I saw no one on the path and the only sounds I could hear were the distant rumblings of trains rolling up to villages in the mountains, the chirps of birds in these heavily wooded forests, and the heavy panting of a hiker gasping for air. At the next major alcove, I stood on a platform of large rocks overlooking all of Interlaken including the two lakes the city is squeezed between. As much as I could see, the clouds and fog covered up some of the peaks across the valley. I am so grateful I skydived yesterday. On a day like today, skydiving would have either been cancelled or not much would have been seen, thus ruining the whole experience. From this unreal vantage point, I had a picnic and ate like a gentleman. I broke off pieces from my loaf of bread and dug into my can of tuna; with some small cherry tomatoes to go along with it, I had the most classless sandwich imaginable but I felt like a king eating on the mountain. With that slight boost of energy, I kept hiking. In the distance further up the mountain, I heard a loud jangling sound of possibly some sort of bell. As I rose up further and passed by a snow capped mountain that seemed all too close and real, I saw a herd of freely roaming cattle munching on the lively green flesh of the mountain. As I got closer, the cows stared at me, in between shitting and eating. A few of these half ton creatures stood in my way on the path. I told them to mooooove away but they didn’t seem interested. Not until I approached them quite closely did they clear a path for me. After feeling more comfortable in their midst, I took a selfie near one of the largest in the bunch when in mid-shot, the cow moved apparently took closely for my liking and the camera captured my shocked look. Even though I had accomplished quite a bit and got some great views, I still wanted more, namely to stand on the very top of this mountain. After chatting and passing the first humans I had seen in hours, I reached the summit. Unfortunately, the view was of dense clouds and fog a hundred meters out but the satisfaction of standing that high above Interlaken was incredibly rewarding. After catching my breath, I walked back down since the clouds began to look more threatening. Halfway down, I began to feel raindrops and soon after that a crack of thunder echoed in the distance. Since I did not want to get stuck in a massive storm, I made the executive decision to treacherously jog down the mountainside while attempting to avoid the slippery rocks before me. In my race against nature, I made the occasional stumble which should have been a signal for me to slow down but I kept going. Back onto street level, the rain began to get more aggressive. With the iPad in my daypack, I couldn’t take my time getting back so I chose to run in the rain. I don’t know what makes running in the rain so great but with a few motivational songs pumping in my head, it became one of the most freeing experiences possible. Here I was, running in the rain in a foreign city with mountains all around me and the occasional onlooker giving me a puzzled look. Something about it just felt special, besides me :). Back in the hostel lobby, I sat in a chair panting heavily with my entire body soaked. Shortly after, Doug, the guy that suggested the hike I just did, sat down to join me. We talked about the hike and all the great views as well as what brought him to Interlaken. He rode his motorcycle from England all the way here through France to ride through the mountains and hike like everyone else. He also told me to try canyoning, which is basically a natural obstacle course of jumping off waterfalls and going down natural water slides. He had me convinced to give it a go on the expert level tomorrow. After I mentioned how I skydived my first day in Switzerland, we went into a detailed conversation about skydiving. Apparently this 20 year old had already jumped 300 times and has his license to skydive solo. He broke down the whole act of skydiving and how I can get my license. Although not cheap, he said it’s been the best way he has spent his money. He really got me jonesing to get my own license. For only 20 years old he has done quite a bit: he is a real daredevil and somehow is an aircraft engineer after apprenticing for a few years. What have I done with my life, haha? Anyways, he told me about a cheap place to eat in town that I had to try (an all you can eat salad bar, soup of the day, bread and garlic butter, and a main course as well for 15 francs seemed hard to believe or pass up). I had to move to a different hostel (actually a tent village) so I told him I would meet him back in the lobby in an hour. Boy did that hour and a half fly by. I went the complete opposition direction, which isn’t too bad on its own but when I had to carry 55 pounds of dead weight on my back it was a bear of a walk, especially after a long hike. After getting directions to the campground from an Asian of all people (by the way, they are everywhere; I didn’t realize I took a train to China. Seriously, I have never seen such a large concentration of Asians in my life. I am typing this as I am pinned into a corner surrounded by them), I finally found my way there and could now dump off my bag before making a beeline back to the hostel. After meeting Doug’s new friend Soham, the three of us traveled to the restaurant. I don’t know how but the food was actually really good. Never have I seen a salad bar with sun dried tomatoes in it. Finally I was able to fill up my system with a heavy dose of veggies and a satisfying, brothy soup before the main course of gnocchi. I ate well without feeling like the Swiss violated me by sniping my wallet. With our bellies filled, we made plans to meet back at the hostel after I got my bottle of limoncello to share. At the hostel we met two guys originally from California over a game of pool and a bottle of wine. When we were finished with that bottle, we went out to search for a corner store that might be opened but after 8 pm mostly everything is closed in Interlaken. The streets were so quiet and deserted. The town seemed like a place where you could leave your front door open and not think anything of it. At a Portuguese bar, we bought a cheap bottle of wine to share back in the lobby. Once the two Californian guys left, we kept alternating between the wine and limoncello bottles, a decision I now regret, haha. Anyways, after the lobby and bar crowd cleared out, only the three of us and the bartender remained. The bartender invited us over for a shot of some kind of funky, flowery delicious liquor. Then, he poured Jäger into fresh glasses. After cheering to this awesome hilarious bartender, we took down our shots. Two gentleman from Switzerland, who were crazy and awesome in their own right, bought the three of us a beer a piece and we cheered to them as well. Being all too generous, the bartender poured another, yes another, beer for each of us. This one I milked with what little staying power I had left in me. We all tipped him of course but the value of the drinks definitely surpassed anything we could give but he was happy to spend some time with us over several drinks. Also, I completely forgot the shots of limoncello we shared with the bartender (for his first taste, he seemed to be a fan). In total, I had glasses of wine, several shots of limoncello, a shot of Jäger, a shot of some fancy liquor, and two beers for a grand total of a 3 franc tip. I may sound like a cheap son of a gun but that’s all I had on me. After trading wild, ridiculous stories, I said goodbye to my two new friends and the best bartender the world over so that I could get back to my tent. I don’t know how I managed to find my way back. I was constantly batting my eyes to stay awake but I pulled it off. After dealing with the spins, I fell asleep at roughly 3 o’clock. What a day and night!

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