"An Insane Canadian"
The volunteers at Our Chalet are presented with a challenge which involves the different categories of programme and work of our time here. These categories include Swiss culture, physical, WAGGGS and more and there is also a section in which you can make up your own personal challenge.
I chose to cycle to not Frutigen, not even Spiez which is about 22 km away from Our Chalet, but to ride all the way to Interlaken a town located in a picturesque mountain valley nudged in between the lakes of Thun and Brienz.
When I was planning this journey pretty much all my fellow vollies and long term staff members thought I had lost my mind if not completely at least a little bit to take on this huge feat. The weather had been reasonable lately and the day had finally come but as I woke up in the morning, the sky was quite dark and it was still raining. I choose not to go as the whole reason was to be able to see the lakes on my ride over.
This just made everyone’s doubt increase even more and I decided to go the next day. Starting the day in perfect sunshine (an hour later than my scheduled time to leave as I had slept in) there was no reason why Interlaken couldn’t be conquered that day. The days before I had been planning my route, most of the advice and direction I had gotten was that I can always turn back and get on a bus or train whenever I get to a town. So much for positive encouragement.
Finally setting out by taking a cycling path alongside a mountain we use weekly for summer programme, I was having the time of my life until about ten minutes in when I hit my first hill. Of course when you hike this hill it’s not nearly as bad as on a bike when you can’t stop or drag your feet up at a snail’s pace. I made it about halfway, okay a quarter of the way and decided to just walk up. At the top I went back to my cycling until pretty much every single uphill section for the entire ride for the day which I walked.
The feeling of reaching Frutigen was pretty much equal to finishing a marathon although it wasn’t really that bad as it had been downhill almost the whole way except for a few steep inclines. I stopped to take my first picture of the day with the sign, my bike posing in for me. The next town I reached was Reichenbach.
After Reichenbach came Mulenen and I was still feeling very confident in my ride as I had been recognizing all the towns by this point and had some kind of general sense of direction. As I passed through Mulenen I followed the signs to Wimmis I town I had never even seen on a map before. About halfway through Wimmis I thought about going back to Mulenen and taking a different route but as I was debating this for half an hour I finally reached the highway!
One of the most terrifying things about Switzerland (are there any? You ask) is that there are many, many, MANY small towns and hamlets and villages in the Bernese alps which to the untrained non-German speaking eye look pretty much the same. So taking a bike ride by yourself to a place you sort of have been to a couple times which is far away is probably the equivalent of shock therapy for this. One of the hardest things about this day was that even though I had a general idea of where I was going and that there were cycle routes along the way I had no markers nor any times to follow. As I biked through small town after small town (I’m sure by now you can tell I come from a major city), I finally reached Spiez.
Spiez is actually quite large I have come to realize after biking through and also sits up on top of a lovely hill which leads down through the lake of Frualensee which is usually dotted with small sailboats in the summer. I had finally reached the water! My destination was so close! I was full of joy and accomplishment until I saw the sign that read 26 km to Interlaken. WHAT! I had just cycled for forever and half it felt like, and there was still more to go?!?!
After Spiez I reached the quaint town of Darlingen, which said that Interlaken was only five kilometers away (most likely true but those five kilometers felt like fifty) and after a ten minute break and self pep-talk I continued my now slightly uphill journey. Finally I was there, but the journey was not over yet. I had to get back the same way I came….Just kidding I took the train and the bus. But I did have to walk up the Our Chalet hill which was the most difficult part of the whole trip. I felt like I was half dead when I came back and my legs were basically jello.
As I awoke the next day early to do breakfast duty, every single muscle in my body ached even my arms which I do not understand and I had quite a few bruises. No one was sympathetic to my pain and just said “well, it was your crazy idea” and I had to resume my chores. Even after all the soreness, I still would highly recommend this ride to anyone, from Chalet guests to Lance Armstrong to really experience the Bernese Oberland by cycling to Interlaken.
Mariam Hussain (Canada)
Summer Volunteer 2012