How can I possibly have lived so many years in Switzerland without ever hearing about the Creux du Van? It’s lovingly nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Switzerland’ by the locals. Which (I have to be honest) is a massive overstatement. But, Switzerland is a small country and, like many other things around here, small doesn’t deter from being fabulous…
My good friends Angie and Leo caught up with me in Noiraigue yesterday around midday. From there, we hiked three hours up to the Creux du Van. As the trail zigzagged up the mountain, the Swiss were so kind to number the bends. It drove me nuts, because it made me feel as if the hike up was longer than it actually was.
One thing I’ve discovered over the last three weeks is that it’s best not to think about how long something will take. I’ve also learned not to think too much about the trail going up or down. It’s best to just move forward, step by step, no matter what the trail does, without obsessing about details which can’t be changed anyways. But yesterday, try as I may, I couldn’t ignore the bright yellow number on a tree at each bend.
Oh well. All worth it in the end. When we finally made it up to the plateau, the Creux du Van lay beneath us in all its glory. And, albeit small, it really is glorious!
Leo and I shared his first ever cheese fondue. Then, Angie and Leo headed back down. I stayed the night in a tipi in the forest which was slightly warmer than sleeping in my own tent. The nights are freezing up on the crest!!
In the morning, I got up at sunrise and went to the edge of the canyon. The wildlife I had hoped to see wasn’t there. But, the sun was out. I just sat there for a while, drinking in the beauty around me before I indulged in a large Swiss farmer’s breakfast at 8am to then head out along the Jura Crest Trail once more…
Yesterday was a day of butterflies. They were everywhere. One thing I notice as I am hiking through these meadows and forests is that if they’re healthy there is nothing quiet about them. Everything buzzes, scuttles, and moves. Insects are everywhere. I haven’t seen this many ant hills since my childhood (and I’m ooold). Some of those ant hills are as wide as a person and at least one meter high. There must be a metropolis of millions in each one. On the trail, I can’t step anywhere without stepping on something. I just hope all those little critters are small enough, and the forest floor has enough give, so I am not crushing too many of them (Watch out for giant Liam!) Flies and bees are hovering and zooming all over the place. Oh, and I am rediscovering my grave dislike of horse flies. Give me a cute little mosquito any day. These horse flies are tenacious and their bite hurts like hell (grrrrr).
The beauty of this landscape is almost indescribable. I was thinking, will my photographs be able to convey how it feels here? But they really can’t. It’s the scent in the air as well. This potpourri of different grasses, leaves, bark, and dirt. It’s the perfect combo no perfume designer will ever even come close to designing. I wish, I could breathe more, breathe deeper, to let this wave of natural scent saturate me completely. Then, there is the sunlight hitting the foliage and blades of grass in different angles. And then, there is the wind, playing trees and grasses like instruments. Altogether, it is the perfect performance, the perfect composition. An opera for eternity.
On the trail again!
Wednesday night, I said goodye to the area around Lake Biel in style, with a cheese fondue in a beautiful little mountain hut at Chasseral, up at 1’600 m, in wonderful company. Thanks so much to my friends Irene and Sylvain for making time and pampering me to bits!
On Thursday morning, my hosts Kathrin and Sepp and I drove up to Vue des Alpes. They did this trip extra to bring me to my next waypoint on the Trans Swiss Trail (which, I now found out, is more accurately called the Jura Crest Trail). We had a last coffee together before they “abandoned me in the forest” as they put it with a charming twinkle in their eye. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me and for letting me stay with them for an entire week. My stubborn feet and I couldn’t be happier.
I took it easy on this first day back and hiked only for about 5 hours. The trail was more stunning than ever, staying above 1’400 m for most of the day. Below I could first see Lake Biel, then the even larger Lake Neuchatel, stretching all the way to the horizon. The clouds were spectacular. So were the grass lands up above the tree line. There were quite a few hardy Swiss hikers on the trail. The many “Gruezi”s have now fully been replaced by “Bonjour”s though, as I have entered the French part of Switzerland completely. Unfortunately, the Swiss dialect of French spoken here sounds rather different than regular French. So, beyond “Bonjour” I don’t really understand a word my fellow hikers are saying.
Et voila, at the end of the day, I found a rustic “Sleep in the Hay” mountain hut where I spent the night to avoid the thunderstorms which seemed to threaten on the horizon.
A wonderful day to you all! The inflammation in my feet seems to be almost entirely gone. Two more days of pampering the little rebels and off I’ll go on the trail again on Thursday. I will continue from Vue des Alpes on the E4 and keep hiking towards Geneva. Shortly after Vue des Alpes I’ll pass by Creux du Van, the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. Can’t wait!
Currently, I am a bit like a fish out of water. Instead of being surrounded by my usual abundance of ocean, I‘m immersed in green, rolling mountains, hills, meadows, forests, and fields. There is the odd lake of course. Nothing better than vibrant greens and blues going together.
I had finished my book Paralian hopeful, filled with a happiness and sense of home I had never before experienced. Life didn’t disappoint however and everything turned out different than I had dreamt and hoped. I had been through so much already, that I didn‘t quite expect life was going to punch me in the gut harder than ever before…
But it did, last year. Now, I am finding myself homeless at fifty with a tent and a backpack my only possessions. Good thing is, I have my resilience, hope, and positivity. I am starting over, still loving life, always learning, enjoying the moment as best I can, going with the flow… and hoping, somehow things will line up in whichever way they are supposed to.
Beautiful summer days here at Lake Biel. I’ve decided to be extra careful and wait until Thursday before I continue on the trail. If I start now straight away, I’m worried the inflammation will come back. By giving my feet a bit more recovery time, I hope I’ll be able to keep on hiking without any further problems (for now). My days at the lake are filled with flowers. I write a lot and go on short walks in flip flops.
Wonderful camping spot two nights ago. Only problem, it gets quite cold during the night when you are above 1000 m. At the moment wearing 3 layers of clothing in my sleeping bag. Lovely though to wake up to nothing but rustling insects and chirping birds…
Arrived at my temporary sanctuary in Luescherz at Lake Biel. Thanks so much to an old friend of mine for making it possible for me to stay in this beautiful oasis for a few days!!! I’ve stocked up on anti-inflammatory Voltaren gel and pills before coming to this little village. Next few days will be foot maintenance and writing articles for TheatreArtLife, plus brainstorming a bit more about step4circus, our initiative, which is still in its infant stage…
This area around Lake Biel is so breathtakingly beautiful. The city of Biel itself is just gorgeous. I can’t believe I never made it here in all those years I worked in Zurich… only a couple hours away. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore more now, and am already looking forward to continuing my hike in a few days. I can actually see the Trans Swiss Trail across the lake from my window here… beckoning… 😉
After camping for a few days, we’ve now stopped for a couple days in the beautiful city of Biel. Yesterday was a lovely day of spoiling myself. I took a long, hot bath while listening to Cinemix, had a picnic dinner from Migros (awesome Swiss supermarket!), and went to the pharmacy to get some advice on why the soles of my feet are still hurting like hell…
Turns out, I have an inflammation in my feet. The pharmacist was helpful and seemed super competent. She prescribed some pills and a special ointment. I was a bit relieved to hear that, apparently, I am not especially whimpy, but this happens to rather a lot of hikers whose feet have troubles getting used to carrying the extra weight of the backpack in addition to hiking up and down through the Swiss Jura region. It doesn’t help that there are no cold creeks to hang your feet into in the evening.
Anyhow, the pharmacist recommends that I stop for at least three days to make sure the inflammation is gone, before I continue. I am gutted to be slowed down, but also immensely grateful to finally know why my feet feel like I’ve got half a dozen knives stuck in them.
Dave will continue on with his partner who is due to join us today. I’ll sadly remain behind for now. But I’m planning to continue on the trail by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. Depends on those two rebellious feet. Fingers crossed!
Being here in Biel with time to think brings back memories. I shop in Migros, in awe at all the delicacies and realize that, while I lived in Switzerland, I probably didn’t appreciate all these little luxuries enough. Even after only one and a half weeks on the trail, my perspective is already shifting. It’s a good thing. Being more aware.
I also think back on the last few years. Life, work, travels. There was so much good. Like the best road trip of my life so far, in 2013, from Zurich to Barcelona and back… all the way along the Spanish coastline, through the South of France, through Monaco, to Cinque Terre in Italy. Then we drove straight north, over the alps, back to Zurich. Driving this entire route for the first time was like a dream. As was experiencing the FINA world championships in Barcelona or deciding spontaneously to go to the opera. Or drinking Sangria in Barcelona’s old part of town. Then we drove on, through landscapes that were ever-changing and magnificent.
I get all nostalgic thinking about life experiences like these and think about how lucky I was to be able to share it all with someone who loved it as much as I did. It’s good to hold on to these memories, to treasure them. Life moves on, forever changing, but certain things remain forever good. Like stars in our firmament, lighting the way for us in harder times.
And, every time we have another profound experience, be it on our own or when we share it with someone who matters to us, we widen our horizon a bit further. We end up adding another star to our own personal Milky Way… making it glow just that tiny bit brighter…
Another eventful day. We reached our highest point so far: Hasenmatt at 1435 m above sea level. The view was absolutely amazing as you can see. In the distance you can just make out the Murtensee and the Bielersee.
Since we are so high up now, the nights are freezing cold. I am wearing every piece of clothing I brought along with me but my teeth are still chattering. Looking forward to get out of the mountains in a week or so and be able to get a good night’s sleep.
Another problem we keep facing is water. The Swiss Jura region is very different from the Alps where you can find springs everywhere. Here, water disappears immediately in the pourous rock. We stop whenever we see a restaurant, to refill our bottles. But… most restaurants are closed due to Covid19. So, each day, it’s a bit of a gamble. So far, we always got lucky.
This mostly due to the amazingly helpful and friendly Swiss farmers. One lady whose doorbell we rang opened her door and asked “Water?” with a big smile before we could even say “Hello”. Last night, we slept on a meadow right in front of a farm house. Then, early this morning we were greeted with a hearty breakfast. Coffee, home-made bread, farmer’s cheese, milk and butter fresh from the cow. A true breakfast of champions!
The new shoes did a good job. I didn’t get one single new blister today 🙂 feet were hurting a lot though after 6 hours of intense hiking… but that was to be expected. It was a day of wild flower meadows, buzzing bees, gigantic ant hills, and cows. Hundreds of cows! We are now at Weissenstein, soon crossing over into the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Ok, this is a tinyyy bit embarassing… (promise you won’t laugh 🤭)… I did really well in preparing and buying ultralight equipment. I even bought ultralight merino wool underwear (the most expensive underwear I have ever seen). For blisters, I was prepared with the right kind of socks and all kinds of paraphernalia…
However, what I did NOT do before I left was to actually turn my 3-year old, beloved, well-used Merrell trekking shoes around one time, to see what state they are in…
I do have sensitive feet. Yet, the amount of blisters and pain in the leg muscles I accumulated over the first week was to a large part due to me being an idiot and hiking up and down the Swiss mountains with worn-out shoes. Profile and soles were pretty much gone (I was sliding on those gravel trails like an ice skater) and the shoe didn’t lend much support to my feet and ankles anymore at all. In the end, I had blisters on top of blisters (a situation I had no idea was even possible).
So, yesterday, I went into the shoe store in the lovely Swisss village of Balsthal and chatted for an hour with two knowledgeable sales ladies. Came out with awesome Lowe hiking boots. As my buddy Dave says, “How Lowe can you go?” 😂 Life is bound to get much less painful from now on!!! 😅
Yesterday evening the sky turned into this, my weather app giving us severe rain storm and lightning warnings. So we legged it to Balsthal in Canton Solothurn where we took shelter in a cozy old hotel. We are staying here today. The sky still looks pretty much the same with occassional showers. Good chance to rest our legs, treat our blisters, and I bought new boots (but that’s a story for another day)
Today was kind of an amazing day, agony in shoulders and feet included. We had to walk mainly uphill and it was a hot summer’s day. Now it’s only 2 of us. Another friend left, but my good old buddy Dave is still along for the ride (probably for 2 more weeks).
I keep being amazed by all the Swiss people we meet on our hike (and am falling in love with Switzerland all over again). This region (the Swiss Jura) has practically no water up high. It’s dry as a desert (almost no open restaurants and all wells seem to be in the valleys), which has surprised us a lot, plus combined with the hot temperatures the lack of water sources poses a bit of a problem. Amazingly, every door we ring opens up to friendly locals who are more than happy to fill up our water bottles.
As for hiking itself, the learning curve is quite steep. I am learning that walking downhill with a heavy backpack is putting serious strain on my leg muscles. Walking with hiking sticks helps a lot!!! I am also learning all kinds of tricks and techniques to make those damn blister plasters stick the entire day.
As you can see with this photo, our efforts today were rewarded by pure Swiss bliss, in every way. Towards the end of our hiking day there was even a guy up in the mountain yodeling and serenading us with his alphorn. Such a beautiful sound echoing from one side of the valley to the other. We finished our day in a restaurant with a marvelous Wurscht Chaes Salat (a sausage-cheese-salad), and a couple of deliciously cold beers. Now, I am in the tent again, soon falling asleep to the sound of cow bells and rummaging foxes in the forest.
My buddy Dave and I keep on walking along the Swiss jura crest trail. One of the best experiences of our lives, albeit intensely exhausting.
Yesterday, we came through beautiful landscapes. However, we gave it a rest after half a day to sort through our baggage to see if we can leave a bit more behind. When that was done we went to a pharmacy and bought some more Compeeds. Good to make use of civilization while we’re still so close to it. Today we’re heading out on the trail again. Seems it’ll be the last sunny day before rain will hit this region…
I just realized, I haven’t really explained where I’m walking at the moment. I’m on the Trans Swiss Trail which I will follow all the way to its end in Nyon. Then head on towards Geneva and the French border… and then crossing into France and onwards through the Vercours region and through the South of France. Yesterday my friends and I ended up somewhere close to Frohburg and set up our tents on this plateau with a view that isn’t half bad. I’ll need to do some blister maintenance this morning then we’ll see how far we get today. I’m really happy with my gear and thanks so much for all the good advice I received before taking off. Without it I’d be a bit screwed now 🙂. It’s great to start this off with friends. Andrea will stay only one more day. My old buddy Dave is open-end. We’ll see day-by-day how long he wants to tag along. The weather is outright fabulous at the moment. Not too hot but mostly brilliant blue skies. And the Swiss trail system is incredible. Yesterday, I even saw a sign pointing ahead and underneath (on an additional official sign) it said: 300 m along the fence then make a left… ahhh Switzerland, so delightfully quirky and perfectionist 🙂
Wonderful vistas on the Trans Swiss Trail yesterday. I did just 15 km due to blisters and feet and shoulders hurting quite a bit. Growing pains so to speak :). I’m hopeful that one week from now I’ll already be a bit fitter and in less pain. Yay, can’t wait!
First camping spot on our trip 🙂 after we walked 23 km on the first day. Damn, my feet hurt!!! This morning they hurt a little less, then 5 min into the hike they started hurting again. All well though and anticipated. Soon, it should get better!
Our sleeping spot was fun. Meadow with cows close by so we heard their cow bells all night long. Then got woken up by a deer that decided to trample straight through our little camp at 6am. Today we are 3 hikers 🙂
Found this amazing tree along our route yesterday. According to a sign next to it, this tree was first mentioned in the year 1668! It was so beautiful I wanted to stop right there and just stay.
It’s time to head out! This morning, I’ll start my long-distance hike along the E4 in Brugg, Switzerland… Amazingly, I am not heading out alone. 3 old friends have spontaneously decided to join me. Stefan will join for the first day only. Andrea will join for the first four days. And my good old buddy Dave is open-end for now. Might be as much as a month…
If at any point in time any of you feel like joining in for a few days/weeks as well, just let me know! Any time!
Alright, here we go…
Boo is helping me pack the last odds and ends. So tempting to pack her too while we’re at it… But it’ll mean an additional 4 kg, so I guess I better not 😉 I’ll miss her to bits but, gladly, my dad is taking great care of her.
2 more days! Still packing… This is all the stuff I’m planning to take. Need to ditch a couple more things though. I’m still about 4kg too heavy. Altogether, I’m at 14kg but should have no more than 10… What to leave behind? (I have to take my iPad mini and a solar power bank so I can write while on the road).
Packing!! Only 3 more days until the start of this adventure ☀️
I am properly nervous and excited. Making sure I don’t overpack, but also being sensible regarding safety. Pepperspray, just in case. A well-stocked 1st aid kit, an emergency blanket and whistle, and a Spot Gen3 satellite tracker with which I can broadcast my location from anywhere, plus send off an SOS signal to rescue services if I need to. More tomorrow, gotta run, pack a bit more!
In 4 days, I’ll begin what might be the adventure of a lifetime. Before I head out, I had planned to write some articles, to take with me and publish on the road (then I’ll also keep writing whilst on the way). Currently, my head is so full with packing, planning, last minute changes, ideas, and projects, that I’m experiencing what can only be described as a big ol’ writer’s block! Just now made myself a steaming hot Amarula coffee which will hopefully get me into gear!
What do you crave when you are far away from home? For me (don’t laugh) it’s Aromat. It’s a Swiss-ism. A quite unhealthy, artificial salt thingy. Most Swiss can’t live without it. Neither can I. And I’m not even Swiss. I’ve only lived there, off and on, for 17 years. Wherever else I went during the last 30 years, an Aromat was always with me. Making hard-boiled eggs and not having Aromat to go with it is a major emergency. Very sad.
So, even though I need to keep my backpack weight as low as possible, this Aromat shaker WILL have to come with me 😂☀️
Only 6 more days until I’ll be on my way! I’m getting quite excited and a bit frazzled. As always, the closer the date comes the more it seems like time is racing way too fast, and there is still quite a bit to prepare and test.One of the toughest things in organizing this trip has been to find a solution for carrying my meds. Being transgender, I need to give myself an intramuscular injection every 20 days. Testosterone doesn’t grow on trees unfortunately, and it can’t just be bought over the counter either. On top of that, it should be kept in the fridge so it stays stable. Yet, I’ll be hiking in mid-summer in France and Spain, with temperatures most likely spiking up to 30 and 40 degrees Celsius…Almost all travel refrigeration systems I looked at were useless to a hiker since they involved little ice boxes which were way too heavy and large.Then, friends of mine (thank you Maggi and Abel!) alerted me to pouches for travelers which are being sold in Australia. There are crystals sewn into the sides of these pouches and when you put them in cold water for a couple minutes, the crystals turn into a cooling gel, which stays cool through evaporation and keeps meds safe at 8-10 degrees Celsius for up to 50 hours… by which time I’ll need to find a cold creek again to re-dunk the small pouches and re-activate them.I wasn’t able to order these fantastic little (and also light-weight!) travel essentials in Australia, but ended up finding out that, nowadays, they are being produced in every country. As you see, the pouches have arrived and are ready to go. Nothing’s gonna stop me now 😉
Since the Covid19 lockdown began in Germany, on March 16th 2020, I am couchsurfing… and trying not to go mad.
Here, the borders have opened again on June 15th. But, mostly, I am still on that couch, until next week, when another chapter begins…
Have you been splurging on culture as well during Covid19 lockdown? During the day, I try to be productive. I write, read and watch webinars. In the evenings, I splurge and relax. I watch shows, circus, ballet, operas, theater, and concerts, (as well as tons of movies, and TV series). It’s been my lifeline.
The creative process is so important. As is the collective experience of live entertainment (I do count movie theaters in that, too, even though, of course, actual live shows are the full monty).
When I watch a recorded show online, I try to forget everything else around me. As I begin to watch on my little MacBook Pro screen, I turn off the lights in the room where I’m sitting, put my earphones in, and turn the volume up high to shelter myself from any real-world interruptions. Then, my eyes glued to the screen, I try to forget that I am sitting on a couch all by myself. I try to feel the uncomfortable auditorium seat (preferably in dusty, vintage, red velvet) underneath me, wriggling around to find the right position to be able to enjoy the next two hours without needing a butt or spine replacement after. I try to hear the excited chatter and whispers in the auditorium before the curtain lifts, try to envision the stage, try to see the technicians and performers hiding in the wings, ready to go and do what they love. I try to transport myself to the actual performance. I soak in the vibrations of the concert hall or show venue and smile when the magic on stage unfolds and the virtual audience around me applauds.
In the end, during bows, when a full house of spectators jumps out of their seats for a standing ovation, when applause is rolling through the venue like thunder, I laugh, with tears in my eyes, hoping with all my heart that sooner rather than later I’ll be able to work backstage again. I can’t wait to stage manage shows again to do my little part in contributing to the magic.
And in my private life, I want those concerts, shows (and sold out movie theaters) back, too. I want to throw myself into cultural life, dress up, make an evening of it, feel those goosebumps again, and the elation that always comes when witnessing greatness, heart, and soul on stage.
Last year, in one fell swoop, I lost everything… the love of my life, my family, my home, my cats, my job, and all my savings. I did my best to survive. Then, just as I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the Covid19 pandemic hit us all.
During lockdown, I had time to think about what had happened. As the enormity of it all began to fully sink in, I crashed. I worked through the pain. And I decided to not only survive but to keep remembering fondly, to keep being kind, to keep following my dreams, and to keep making the most of things.
So what do you do when you’ve lost everything and you’ve got nowhere to go? Why not take the time that is given, embrace the homelessness, and get walking?After some research, I decided on the the E4 European Long Distance Path. I will start my hike in Brugg, Switzerland on 6th of July 2020. And then, we’ll see…The goal is to enjoy the journey, travel slowly, be aware, and completely open for whatever may come. I am a stage manager by trade. I miss working for shows (a lot!). Getting back to doing what I love is one of two goals. The other goal is to enjoy walking and living on the road for now until I do get that job offer. This may mean walking for one week, or two…. walking for one month, two months, or six months… or even longer. If no job offers are forthcoming this year at all, then in January 2021, I should reach the garden of my good friends in the Quinta do Chocalhinho in Odemira, Portugal. In this case, I might spend the winter in Portugal… and write a book about this journey.Who knows… these are all just ideas, not definite plans. I’ll take things day by day, step by step. I’ll be super flexible, always ready to continue walking or to, at a moment’s notice, take a bus/train/plane towards my next professional challenge backstage.
I am as curious as you as to how this will unfold!