I was in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland and so was the quintessential deckchair; unfortunately my bottom barely touched one as it was incredibly busy helping to push me up and down mountain tracks (not that I was complaining I loved every glorious minute of it).
And, hell no that’s not me looking like a ‘hiker’ in the first photo! I wouldn’t be distinguishable by poles or anything quite as practical! No, to find me would be to find the limp and the rather unattractive cotton wool look that I had perfected……it swaddled my toes and ankle area and oozed out from under the tops of my socks and boots. There would have been a lot less limping, cotton wool usage and walking downhill backwards (where humanly possible) had I bothered to ‘break in’ the boots before spending 5 to 7 hours a day walking in them….however as you will see the natural beauty, serenity and the simple mountain life that surrounded me made every limp and all the hard work well worth it!
One plane, 3 trains, one mountain train and one cable car transported me from the maddening crowds and confusion of August on the Cote d’Azur, to what is seemingly another planet, the alps of Switzerland… I was in my element.
I have my reasons for loving Switzerland, some of them sentimental; half my blood is Swiss, my grandparents (on my mothers side) emigrated from Zurich to Australia in the 1920’s, pioneers who got on a boat to travel to the end of the earth (Australia) without a word of English; brave, inspiring and beautiful people who made a very successful life for themselves and their family in a new and very different world, and I adored them both. It is thanks to them (and my gorgeous mother) that I have that little red and white passport that entitles me to live and work in Europe, and I am forever grateful.
When it comes to traveling I am very much a solo traveler, I absolutely adore carrying my camera around the world to anywhere with no one necessarily by my side, and I barely ever feel a moments loneliness when I do so. It is a luxury and privilege to have the opportunity to do this and I cherish it. Of course there are times when I would love to share the experience but then it passes and I have framed another shot or met someone interesting and inspiring along the way.
I have also loved traveling with my family and friends over the years however this is not possible very often as we all have different lives, priorities, responsibilities, and interests. I have only ever joined a small group situation for travel twice in my life and both times have been for some serious hiking with small boutique type organisations. Once in Crete (with a friend from Australia), and once in Australia to do the magnificent Bay of Fires Lodge walk which is not possible to do without guides, both experiences were great.
This time I joined up with Alpine Hikers to climb the less trodden paths in the Swiss Alps. We had a fantastic small group of people, and were fortunate enough to have Balin and Judy Strickland as guides; the most generous, patient, and fun people to keep us on ‘track’, (even offering to lug my very heavy camera and lens up the mountain on a particularly steep climbing day….of course I declined (no one should carry my luggage or camera or suffer for my ‘art’, except for myself of course)), and there were definitely some moments in the steep climbs where I wasn’t having that usual loving, you’re my best friend kind of feeling towards my camera!
A little bit of information on the dairy (photos above). This dairy called the Sefinenalp is where the well known Alp Cheese is made. During the summer months the cows graze the green pastures here and are milked twice daily (all 106 of them). The cheese is then made on the premises (electricity is supplied via a diesel generator) and is exported all over the world.
Once winter arrives the cows are taken down to the valley where they continue to be milked and produce cheese which is then known as Mountain Cheese.
If you love hiking amongst some of the world’s most beautiful scenery I can highly recommend Alpine Hikers for either group or self guided hiking arrangements, their organisation was seamless and they obviously have some pretty fabulous guides working with them (ours certainly were).
On more practical travel matters; a little word about a very special hotel in a the charming and carless Swiss village of Murren (above the Lauterbrunnen Valley). If you ever get to this part of the world in either summer of winter I can recommend the hotel Bellevue, the owners Ruth and Othmar Suter are such a delight, the hardest working, kindest and most obliging hoteliers in a small hotel that I think I have ever met. The view onto the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains is sensational (terrace below). I will be back there (hopefully for the ski season).
If you are in need of a brilliant massage while you are in Murren (as I was), give Sabina Kulicka a call or drop into her massage centre (on the main street) in the village, she can also come to your hotel.
Terrace of the Hotel Bellevue in the early morning