I was staying in Schweiz (central Switzerland) with a friend who was living in a tiny locality of Einsiedeln – ironically called ‘Gross’ – back in 2006. Population was around 50, and there were only a handful of streets. He commuted to Zurich for work via park’n’ride for over 1.5 to 2.5 hours ever day – but the view from his gingerbread house made the long trips more than worthwhile …
I had arrived in Zurich after the usual l-o-o-o-ng flight from Australia only a day before, and was extremely jet lagged. But the opportunity to foot it up a Swiss alp is not to be sneezed at, regardless of the state of body or mind – so when he suggested that’s what we would do the next day, I was in.
It was a drizzly and cold Sunday morning. We packed water bottles and cameras, and drove south from Gross along the banks of the Sihlsee, eventually stopping at a small carpark, which seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere.
The air was so fresh, my lungs were dancing in my chest. I could have burst into song: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!! but my hiking partner was somewhat extreme conservative central Swiss, and spontaneous outbursts of childhood musicals were not likely to be smiled at. So I just stood there, with my song expanding inside me like a gum bubble, sucking in the moist, sweet air.
We started walking towards the base of the mountain, and I came across this sign:
It basically says: Caution! Flying golf balls from the right. Please go through quickly. No standing still. Hilarious! We had to cross the fairways of Ybrig Golf Club to go up the mountain. We had an interesting time dodging balls as we crossed on the way up and back. The golfers didn’t care if you were in the way – they just played through as though you were just a bird that would jump out of the way. Friendly …
Regardless, it was an alpine wonderland. It was like walking in a rainforest – drizzling lightly the whole time. Pine trees and typical European forests snuggled around us, whilst up ahead you could easily see the rocky, barren peaks – where not even the hardiest of flora can survive the extreme temperatures. Soft, fluffy clouds bounced along the treetops, looking like custard sliding down a Christmas pudding.
Half way up the mountain, we saw another warning sign:
This one seemed obvious – “Warning – Cows on the road?” I asked.
“Sort of. It says “No responsibility is taken” he replied.
“No responsibility for what?”
“For anything the cows might do”
Up the road a bit, we came across cows with huge bells around their necks … how ‘Heidi’ can you get? They were so different from Aussie cows. Not skinny, or Brahmans bred for the Asian market … these were the sort of cows you find in a ‘Milka; ad. They wandered freely along the roads, munching on lush grassy patches between the forests and the tracks. So sweet were their faces, I found it hard to believe they could cause any harm. Until they started following us as we left … and getting closer … I started wondering if they were going to push us off a slippery slope somewhere. Sweet, my arse! These cows were territorial. I turned and yelled “Raaaaaaar” at them. But they just continued closing in.
Fortunately we came to the end of the bitumen road, and they stopped. I’m sure I heard one of them laughing at me.
I know why. It was a tough uphill walk facing me. At 1,000 meters above sea level, it was half the distance before altitude sickness kicks in – but I was feeling it already. Maybe it was just a combination of jet-lag, excessive beer drinking the night before, and my body’s overall preference for sea-level. And the track was as slippery as a water slide seasoned with dishwashing liquid.
It really didn’t help that I was wearing the only pair of casual shoes in my suitcase. A pair of Nike runners. Great for dry roads, but useless in soggy uphill alp situations.
The track became something only a mountain goat might entertain as a pathway, and once the angle of the climb got to around 80 degrees, I had to give up. My hiking buddy left me there, gasping for breath and clutching my chest to stop my heart bursting through my ribs, and continued to the top.
After catching my breath, I slipped and stumbled back down the track and sat looking at the cows again until he returned, smugly criticising my lack of stamina. I’m a city girl who has sat on her corporate arse for decades. He trained as a rower for the olympics. Bully for him.
But between you, me and this blogpost – the Aussie country girl was a lot less scared of the cows …