8 Sep
03
 

   After all the hype, all the anticipation and waiting and promises, I have not done the 007 bungy jump . I would have. I took a 3 hour detour to get there and was willing to flip out my credit card until I found out that they don't do it on Mondays, infact they only do it on the weekends. WTF!! This really should have been on their website. I spent the rest of the day in a foul mood, even though Bronwyn did her best to cheer me up by buying me a Kinder Surprise Egg.

         Argh!!!


best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (5 replies so far)



  8 Sep
03
 

We headed to my friend Louis' house on Friday. He lives in Ettenhausen and it is a really tiny village without a train station so he had to pick us up form Aadorf and drive us the rest of the way. His wife (Mai) and son (Dany) were both home and Mai had made us a huge amount of Thai food for dinner. It was really good and then we walked around Ettenhausen. It seemed that everyone in this town was somehow related to Louis, usually his cousin, and as we wandered over the hills listening to cow bells we soon met a couple. On Saturday Louis took us sightseeing. We went to Stein am Rhein which is a small town on the rhein. What makes this town interesting is that all the facades on the buildings are painted with stories about what is in them. We the went to Rheinfall which is this waterfall withe a rock island in the middle which you can catch a boat to and walk to the top of. Yes, it was on the amazing race but only by fluke. That night we went to the town fest because the rifle team had just got back from a large tournament and everyone in town was invited to a big party with sausages and beer in the school hall. On Sunday we went to Liechtenstein and Appenzeller. We saw cheese being made and went to a different country for ice cream. It was really nice to go to the country for a bit. That night we had a special salad made out of a vegetable I had never seen before (and I worked at a vege shop). On Monday we left so craig could do his bungee :(


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
Wish you were here?     (0 replies so far)



  5 Sep
03
 

   For the last few days we have been in Switzerland. We still have a few left but we've done so much that an update is definitely needed. We have been staying at Mike and Sandra's house in Fribourg, where Craig has stayed before, and once again they were really gracious hosts and let two unruley Kiwis into their home.

   On Wednesday we took the train into Geneva to see for ourselves the center of all sorts of politcal and banking things. Craig even tried to open a Swiss bank account but without having 20,000 Swiss francs to hand an address is required (only the rich are allowed to do super sneaky bank stuff it appears). As many of you may know we are both avid fans of The Amazing Race, which had an episode or two in Switzerland, one featured a bike race along the shore of the lake where we went for a walk that day. We spent a while sitting in a lovely park over looking the water before heading back to see the massive (7 tonnes of water in the air at any time) fountain, but it had been turned off due to stong winds. Craig finally replaced his lost Swiss army knife too.

   Thursday was a trip to Grindelwald (also of Amazing Race fame). It is the quintessential Swiss valley, though now over run with tourists. We took a cable car up the mountain side and had the most incredible views. The valley floor stretched out below us like a little toy railway setup. After one turn on their little luge track, Craig walked up the mountain to a chalet/restaurant (and great, great views) while Bronwyn sat in the park and lay in the sun with her book (and went shopping).

   That night we came back to the apartment to find a raclette laid out on the table. We ate, we drank, we talked. It was another great night with the Swiss as they all have been. So now we are in Bern, about to see the sights, and then head west to Essenden, we'll write some time next week.


best wishes from
   Craig & Bronwyn
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Old Fribourg

Craig
Switzerland
July 28, 2003

   After leaving Oslo I stopped at Gothenburg (Sweden) for an hour, just enough time to nip into the shopping mall and do a little gift shopping. Then on to Copenhagen. Jørgen met me at the station and I spent the afternoon showing off my photos of Norway and comparing hiking stories with him.

   I really should have booked my train ticker earlier, when we got to the station the ticket booth had closed and advised me to get on the train and buy one then. I did, and the train pulled away from the station, but pretty soon I found out it was full, and the conductor expected me to get off asap. Luckily (for me, not so good for them) someone had missed the train and I got to claim their seat. That night was terrible, it was nigh impossible to sleep in the cramped cabins with six upright chairs facing each other and a bum on every seat. The most sleep I got was when I sat on the floor and put my head on the chair, and that was not comfortable at all. The next day (Friday 25th) I paused in Basel long enough to wander the streets, look at the interesting fountain and sit my the river eating my loaf of elfish whey bread.

   By early evening I was back in Fribourg to stay with Mike and Sandra, the lovely couple who put me up (and put up with me) when I came her a month ago to see Levi. I slept pretty well that night. The simple joy of a bed that isn't moving and having a room without a pile of smelly hiking clothes (besides my own) and snoring Norwegians was just heaven.

   Saturday was moving day for Mike's brother's girlfriend. So the three of us drove over to the old part of Fribourg and helped bring all her belongings down three narrow flights of stairs to the van. I just can't seem to escape exercise, every where I go there is another reason to do walking/lifting/swimming. As a reward we (and all the other helpers) were treated to a big lunch at Bernard's (Mike's brother's girlfriend's brother) house. mmmmm lunch. Back at the apartment we had raclette (the melted cheese dinner) and polished off a quite sizeable amount of cheese, washed down with a few shots of Kirsch (40%) and then Grappa (37.5%).

   Yesterday the weather was pretty grotty, and as we walked around the Schwarzsee (black lake) the hills above us echoed with thunder. On the way home we stopped to look over the old part of Fribourg. It is really easy to imagine that area back in it's time. The little cobbled streets, the guard towers on the hill and the really old houses have all been very well cared for since then. It deserves a bigger entry in the Lonely Planet Guide for sure.
Mike spent a while on the phone trying to organise a train from here to Barcelona but it appears that it's school holiday time right now, and Barcelona is the place to be seen this summer, so a train this week is impossible. I might go to Italy instead. Stacey and Brie are heading to Rome today and it would be most cool to meet up with them again. It would mean giving up on seeing Bronwyn and Nina in Spain, but it's just too hard to reach there. I'll catch up in France next week I think.



best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (1 replies so far)



  6 Jul
03
 

The world famous Montreux Jazz Festival started yesterday, and it was the destination for Levi's last night (and early morning) in the continent. A whole bunch of the Swiss friends were there, and instead of writing their names, I recorded them. Hopefully this 3Mb video will work on your computer. The festival has two main indoor centres, for which tickets are sold and seats are limited. Instead of that we all walked around outside, on the crowded board walk jostling for space with various street performers and food stands. They have a rather greedy money system, for which you need to buy cards (confusingly called CASH cards which is a completely ridiculous thing to call something designed to rule out the use of cash). The cards are 60 sfr and come with 50 sfr loaded on them. You can easily use this card (but nothing else) to buy food and drink in the festival but nowhere else. Thus if you don't need 50 sfr worth of food you have lost even more money. I'd like to get hold of the person who came up with this silly idea and drop-kick some sense into them. Other than this crazy money system and one drunk guy harassing the ladies the festival was cool, lots of colourful displays and music playing everywhere.

   Tomorrow will be interesting. Levi and Sarah are leaving in the morning. I'll go the airport with them and then catch a train to somewhere in France. Not sure where, possibly somewhere on the west coast, or perhaps the Mediterranean. Where ever the trains will take me I guess.

A scene from the Montreux Jazz Festival

best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (2 replies so far)



  5 Jul
03
 

   Yesterday was indulgence day, or according to my Angel Card for that night "Abundance" (yes Mum, exactly the same type of angel card that we had in England). After a lazy morning online and staying out of the rain we had a wonderful fondue. A pot of melted cheese, a few chopped onions and wine sat in the middle of the table, and Mike, Sandra, Levi, Sarah and I dipped pieces of bread and apple in. It was really delicious and though I felt full pretty quickly I kept going till it was all gone because it was just that good. I even had another shot of Kirsch, but I did that to show I could, not because I like the stuff.

   After lunch the five of us plus Jill and Magdelana drove to the Caillers chocolate factory and sat through a really terrible short film which basically showed that even the village idiot can get a girl if he uses chocolate as his bait. We saw just one room of the factory and then were led straight into the tasting room. Mmmmmm, chocolate, free chocolate, lots of free chocolate. I sure was glad I brought a bottle of water with me, otherwise I would never have been able to eat as much as I managed to that day. My favourite types were the white and plain milk, so I had extra of those. We staggered back to the car all feeling bloated but satisfied. The next stop was the Maison Blanche vineyard. More people joined us. Cab and Vallory, Pat, Luke and Savannah (sp?), Mark, Tom and Helana, possibly more I'll have to check the photo. I don't usually like wine, but seeing as we had come all this way, and everyone else was enjoying a sip or two, I joined in and found a few bottles that I quite liked. Everyone came back to Jill and Pat's place for a pot luck dinner and sparklers (July 4th). I learned a few new French sentences and had a good talk with various people. Mike and Sandra left and though I will see them again in just a few weeks to pick up some of my stuff from their place, Levi and Sarah won't see them again this year, so it was a sad farewell.

   Today Mark and Francene came with Jill, Levi, Sandra and me to France. we drove right to Chamonix, the start of my Tour de Mont Blanc. During the last stretch I was able to point out a few of the peaks and passes that I used walked past along the way, the wonderful sunshine really made everything look great. Unfortunately there were clouds on the top of the mountain and though we went up there and waited with the 'pilots' we were unable to do the planned tandem paraglides :-(

   After a while at the top, the guides said it just wasn't going to happen so we came down, took a few photos of the rest of the valley and headed home. We stopped along the way to play on some boulders beside the road and as Levi carefully traversed the side of a particularly large one, a young french boy came up and told him that it was much easier to climb up the other side. Levi kept going where he was, working sideways around the boulder, so the boy took the quick way up to show the silly foreigner how it should be done :-)

Near the launch point for our cancelled paraglide

best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (0 replies so far)



Rock Climbing and Castles

Craig
Switzerland
July 04, 2003

I've done the touristy thing, and the not so touristy thing. Wednesday saw Sarah and I take to the road in Mike's car. As she is American and comfortable with driving on the right, I just did navigation. In Montreux (home of the famous jazz festival)we met Jill beside the statue of Freddie Mercury, who made the town his second home, which seemed to please the locals. A pleasant walk beside Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and we were at Le Chateau de Chillon . Outside there were masses of American school/college kids. And one of the teachers even asked which bus we were on. After giving them a head start we followed the guide books walk through dungeons, crypts, banquet halls and bed rooms. It's a cool place, with a good feeling for what it would be like to live there. The castle itself was started in the 11th century and was improved upon at many times throughout its life. Right now they are repairing one wall. It would be kinda cool to be a work man there and tell your friends that you build castles for a living :-) Lunch at a Movenpick cafe beside the lake was very nice. Just one more moment when I wish I had a pic-phone to send photos of what I am doing as I am doing it.

   Once again we negotiated the Swiss road system and returned to the apartment. For dinner we visited the new Mexican place just walking distance from here. Nachos are strange when they come with Swiss cheese on them, the smell and taste are quite different to what I expect, but then a real Mexican would probably think the same of nachos in NZ.

   Thursday was an outdoors day for which Levi, Sarah, Marc, Franseen (sp?), Luke, Cab and I went rock climbing. It was my first real outdoor rock climbing in ten years, so naturally I chose to start on the highest one. Levi was the lead climber. Meaning he went up first and took the rope with him, hooking it in as he went. On my turn I had only gone 10 feet before having to let go and drop back a bit to start again, which kinda shook my confidence a bit. Slowly I crept my way to the top and could enjoy the view, before abseiling back down. For a while the others watched as Marc, Franseen and Luke climbed together to an amazing height. I'd love to be able to just know that I could take on a cliff like that and not have to worry about ropes. They did take ropes but never slipped so in theory they would have been fine without them, except for descending. I had a bit of a scramble up the side, a much easier route but without a rope and with my hiking boots on it was pretty scary. Then I slowly repelled down the main rock face, that was fun

   Dinner was at a nice pub in Lausanne where they serve beer in 3 and 5 litre tubes. The thing stands up on the table and as each glass is emptied it can be refilled from the tap. I don't like beer so I stuck to water, but it did look like a good way to spend the evening.

Chateau Chillon on the shore of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)
Looking down from the top of the rock climb


best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (3 replies so far)



  2 Jul
03
 

   On Monday Mike had the day off. He took Levi, Sarah, Dom and I out on his little boat to Lake Neuchatel , which is the largest lake contained wholly within Switzerland. Mike was wearing his Alinghi hat a lot of the time, and there were a few Team NZ jokes thrown around in jest. There was no wind out on the lake, so without anchoring we were happily jumping off the boat and swimming around. It was a really nice day to be spending in the water but eventually we had to head back in. Once we came back through the channel to the lake where he keeps the boat the wind had picked up, and we had a very exciting trip back across to the marina. Levi did most of the sail work, I handled the ropes and Mike was in charge of the whole operation. We were really getting throw about out there, but we arrived in one piece.

   That night we had dinner with Urg and Monica, the organisers of Levi, Mike, Sandra and Tom's sailing trip around the Caribbean. I saw the photos and it really looked like an idilic holiday. Again more Team NZ jokes, lucky that Alinghi was lead by two New Zealanders or I'd of had no come backs :-)

   Yesterday we went to Trümmelbach Fälle, which is a series of underground water falls. It was an awesome display of power, the carving of the rock and the thunder of the water was very impressive. In the afternoon we went to Gruyere and walked around the castle. In the middle of the medieval township there was a museum for HR Giger, the man who did the theme for Alien and Species. There was also a bar, the big boney chairs and the roof arches were like spines. One wall was covered in deformed skulls, all quite disturbing. That night most of Levi's Swiss friends gathered at Dom's house for a raclette. In this traditional local meal, small scoops with cheese on them are placed under a heating element and melted, then poured over potatoes or what ever is on your plate at the time. It was a great night, and I got to try Kirsch water for the first (and the last) time :-)

   This morning I have uploaded some photos, check out 'Day 6 already', and Tour de Mont Blanc completed' to see them. Today hasn't been decided yet, so I'll have look in the Lonely Planet Guide and see what I can come up with.


Leaping into Lake Neuchatel
One of the waterfalls at Trümmelbach Fälle
The people I have been hanging out with in Switzerland

best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (2 replies so far)



River Aare

Craig
Switzerland
June 30, 2003

   So we drove back to Bern. In the convoy there were 9 of us: Mike & Sandra, Levi & Sarah, Pat & Jill, Thomas, Dom and last but not least me. First we saw the bear pits, which are just what they sound like. Two pits with big bears in them. Then we walked for quite a way, past the youth hostel and through the free swimming pool/park. We left our stuff in the sun in a crowded area and started walking upstream. There were literally hundreds of others doing the same. They covered all ages ranges, just so long as they were fit enough to swim in a very strong current. Mostly they seemed to be young fit Swiss nationals intent on throwing themselves into the River Aare and wafting down stream. We joined them in the march to the launch bay and soon we too were flowing back towards the pools at about 2-3 meters per second which is a vary strong current to swim against. I had real trouble staying afloat. Perhaps my legs were tired from all that walking, or perhaps I had too much for breakfast, either way I was sinking like a stone and using up a lot of energy just staying above the water line. I was the first to join the local show offs by jumping off the bridge. But on the second run (which I stayed out of because I really lacked the energy to do another straight away) everyone else made the leap.

   After that we sat in the glorious sunshine for a while, and I was able to have a look around. From this brief, and discrete, scouting of the crowd, I can certainly recommend the place to any would be travelers. Being only 300m from the hostel I can see it being the place to hang out in summer, just watching the veritable bikini-fest walk by. Peter (both of you) you simply have to come here.

   We had one more run, and one more jump off the bridge and when I finally managed to drag myself out of the water and stagger back to our spot, we all needed food. We ate, we talked, it was a really nice evening. Capped off by the five of us (M&S, L&S and I) having ice cream in the town square. I hope to have many more moments like this along the way, but doubt it will be as cool as a town square in Switzerland with friends both old and new. I see it is now just past midnight, and we have a day of sailing planned for tomorrow so I had better be signing off. talk to you later.







Friends getting swept along in the River Aare






The River Aare in the evening



best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (3 replies so far)



  29 Jun
03
 

   Hello one and all. I am currently sitting in Mike and Sandra's apartment in Fribourg. They are friend's of Levi, who is here too. Some of you may have met Levi before, he came to Auckland in the first half of 2002. Anyway, they have been kind enough to let me stay for a week and I'll be doing various tourist things with them. I may take some time out to see my cousin who is in the area (you can follow her weblog if you like at euronutters.co.nz).

    So yesterday, after swearing I'd not move one than one step, I walked all the walk to Chamonix rather than wait the same amount of time for a bus (15 minutes). Such a tourist based town, it was a big change from being up in the hills and I didn't like it. So I started my Eurail pass and headed for Bern, the capital of Switzerland in case you didn't know. Once there I headed straight for the hostel and off loaded my much heavier-than-I-remembered bag. I wandered the streets for a while, before picking a kebab for dinner. Apparently I don't know enough German for 'not very spicy please'. The shops were all shut, or about to, so I walked along near the river. There is a big play area, with free swimming pools and plenty of space for frisbee and volleyball if your feet aren't making you limp like a three legged dog. Even though it was a Saturday night in Bern, I had to go to bed early because my left foot was (and still is) kinda swollen like a red balloon. I don't know what is going on there. perhaps I'll start another weblog called Craig's Feet and there can be daily updates on what is wrong with them at the time.

   Today all the shops were closed in Bern, it's Sunday and that's what they do. But after my walk beside the Aare River, I found a number of cafes putting their chairs out into the main square. They seem to have funny little underground shops, that look like they should be wine cellars or something. Unfortunately none of them were open so I have no idea just how far underground they go. I took a train to Fribourg and met Mike this morning, and the plan is that we'll head back into Bern to go swimming. Quite possibly right next to last night's hostel :-)


best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (2 replies so far)



  23 Jun
03
 

   Wow, what a roller coaster so far. I've walked about 130 km so far, over mountain ranges, along ridges, down steep slopes and through Swiss valleys. I'll try to give a day by day account.

   The first day was wet at first, and at the top of the first climb I very nearly decided the whole thing was a silly idea. I was actually giving off steam at one point, so I lost a layer of clothing and put my foot down, this would not stop me. Many hours later I staggered through les Contamines to Notre Dame de le Gorge where I stayed the night.

   The next day looked a lot better weather wise and started with some lovely pasture. The cows were tinkling their bells and the flowers were blooming. I came to Col du Bonhomme at about lunch time and could see an awfully long way from there, but there was more to come. I carried on up to Col du la Croix du Bonhomme and then decided to make the diversion to Col de Fours. At this point I had to do a fair bit of tramping in the snow, luckily I had splashed out on some new hiking poles when I passed through les Contamines so it was easy going. At the Col I met a group of five French people and asked them to take my photo. Their leader (called Heidi!) did so and then the six of us made the final accent to Nord Tete from where I could see the day's walk. It certainly looked impressive. They went back to their refuge, and I headed down the other side of the hill to Refuge Mottets. It was a long way down, and a lot of it was on snow. I really wanted to pull out my skis, and reach the bottom in about 5 minutes, but they must have been in my other bag ;-) At Mottets I met some good people, who have been with me on and off for the walk so far. Three of them are in this hostel right now.

   The next day (Friday) Heidi's group came by the refuge just as I was packing up, so I walked with them for as long as I could keep up, but had to drop back eventually. At about 11:30 I came to the border at Col de la Seigne. That was a great view. I took plenty of pictures (as I have for the whole trip) so you can see them all once I return to England and put them online. Down into Italy and it got hot. For a while I walked level but then climbed up to Mont Favre Spur before descending past a ski resort into Courmayeur. Walking the long dusty road from the resort was hard. Anyone who has ever driven up to one in a car knows how steep they can be. I was glad to be going down but it was very hard on my feet. At the bottom I passed through Dolomme which was an amazing little village with winding streets and over hanging buildings, a great welcome to Italy. That night I stayed in Pensionne Venezia, and much to my disappointment was placed on the 3rd floor, without a lift! The owner spoke no English, and I spoken no Italian, so we both muddled along in French. I managed to find all the shops I needed, and I didn't miss breakfast so I figure everything went well

   Saturday was a hard day. I waited a while in Courmayeur for Heidi to turn up at the bus stop. She took a bag with some of my stuff in it back to Chamonix because I was carrying too much weight with me. I gave her some of the kiwifruit jam I had been carrying for just such an occasion. After that things start to turn a little pear shaped. I took the route up to Rifugio Bertone but got a little lost. Well a lot lost actually. I spent 2 hours climbing up some scary slopes, scrambling over boulders and clinging to tree roots while desperately trying to get either foot onto something solid. Eventually I climbed out of a gully and found a grassy patch. I was very close to calling a rescue helicopter, but carried on up the hill to find the Rifugio. When I got there I texted mum and dad and almost broke down in tears. It was a very scary morning and when I think of how utterly stupid I was, and what could have happened, well I was very glad to be there in one piece. That afternoon lifted my spirits. A stunning walk along the ridge from Mont de la Saxe to Tete de la Tronche and then down into a beautiful hanging valley. I raced down the next valley to Rifugio Bonatti. Great meal and met up with some people from the previous days. None of them had trouble on the path where I got lost so it must just be my own fault.

   I'm up to Sunday right? From Bonatti I dropped down to Val Ferret (Dad, I didn't see any ferrets, but they are quick little animals and may have been hiding). At just about the same time as the sun really started doing its thing I started going up hill to Grand Col Ferret which had me crossing from Italy to Switzerland. That night I stayed at le Dolent. Normally the hostel hosts large groups but because it was Sunday they had all gone home. The owners were kind enough to let me have a room, even though they left at about 8pm. I found I was locked in, but could escape via the dinning room windows :-)

   And that brings me to today. An easy walk down hill to Issert. I bought some strawberries along the way and really enjoyed the little Swiss hamlet though which the Tour de Mont Blanc passes. Eventually I came to the hill climb, but it was only about 400m for the day which is the smallest so far. I am now at Pension En Plein Air in Champex. I've had a swim in the lake and spent about an hour on the computer. I would go out in the sun, but I am already a little toasted around the edges.

   Tomorrow is the hardest of the lot. Fenetre D'Arpette takes 3 hours (I'm guessing 4 hours for me, and is 1200m above where I am right now. I'll be starting early to avoid the main heat of the day and should be well past the summit before lunch.

   I am missing home of course, but thankfully I haven't much time to sit and think about just how far away form everyone I am. Text messaging is brilliant. I was glad to text Peter on Saturday night and get replies from other people. All spending the evening at the flat I assume :-) Bronwyn and Nina, I think I am going to need about a dozen packets of Winegums (the English ones only), can you bring them to Spain pleeease :-) Right I had better let someone else use this. Au revoir







Lupin House
A sweet little French house on the way to Bionnassay






Notre Dame de la Gorge
Walking uphill after Notre Dame de la Gorge







La Balme
The valley leading to La Balme from Notre Dame de la Gorge






Aiguilles des Glaciers
Looking up at Aiguilles des Glaciers from Refuge des Mottets







Col de la Seigne
The French/Italian border at Col de la Seigne






Mont de la Saxe
The walk along the ridge of Mont de la Saxe







Armina Valley
A small valley facing the Grandes Jorasses, on the way to Rifugio Bonatti






Col de Ferret
The Italian/Swiss border at Col de Ferret



best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (14 replies so far)




Art work and site design by Craig Stanton. Entries written by Craig Stanton, Bronwyn Leak and Nina Lindsay. All rights reserved. © 2003