Looking out from our accommodation at Camping Jungfrau, I instantly felt small in the shadows of the enormous snow capped alps; Flanked by the tall stone valley walls and dotted with cascading waterfalls that lead down to where I was standing. The little rolling hills are blanketed by the greenest grass I’d ever seen, and I stood breathing in the crisp air long enough to realise that what I first mistook as silence actually had a quiet harmony of the gurgling icy river, the subtle spraying of the waterfalls, and the distant tolling every now and then of the brassy cow bells. In mere minutes, I felt at home, and I couldn’t wait for the days of adventure and adrenaline that lay ahead of me.
Water, Air… I Was On Fire
Our first day set the standard for what was to be an insane stay in Lauterbrunnen. We got up in the misty morning and were picked up by Outdoor Interlaken’s shuttle bus, ready to brave the freezing cold water and grade four rapids of the Aare river between Thun and Bern. I had never been white water rafting before, and I knew I was not great with cold water, so I was wondering what I’d signed myself up for as I pulled myself into my full-body wetsuit, helmet and boots. The guides instantly put me at ease, cracking jokes and giving me enough information and demonstrations that my practical brain could stop overthinking everything. As we made our way down the river, I was so focused on working as a team and listening to our guide, that any trepidations I had rushed away with the water. There were moments of high intensity when the raft bumped into rocks and rushed down cascades, but also moments of calm, where we could enjoy the beautiful views and have a laugh. We also had to jump out and practice getting back in the raft, so I had to toughen up and brave the freezing water, which thankfully numbed me enough that I went swimming later on. What fun!
After drying off and defrosting, we headed to the Interlaken Seilpark high ropes adventure park, which I was a little bit hesitant to do, as I can sometimes get scared even on relatively low heights. After getting a demonstration and putting our harnesses on, I let the boys go first, as we started on the blue/medium level course and I was nervous. As soon as I got got onto the course, I surprised myself, as all of a sudden I got into what I referred to as me “bad*ss mood”, which stayed with me for the rest of Switzerland. As soon as I realised I was comfortable with the heights and actually good at clipping on and off the lines, getting over the obstacles up in the treetops and zip-lining or free-falling back down to the ground, I rushed ahead of the boys and went hard through all the levels, up to the black/extra-hard level. After conquering the final rolling logs, shaky tightropes and wobbly ladders 10 metres high. I felt so elated after I’d conquered something that I thought I’d be terrified of and it gave me good practice for the bigger climbing adventures to come.
As High As A Kite
I spent my 21st birthday jumping out of a plane over Byron Bay, Australia and didn’t find it too terrifying, so I was buzzing and excited to go skydiving over the stunning Swiss Alps. This activity is something that a lot of people draw the line at, but I remember thinking it was relatively tame, as you don’t actually look down, feel that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, and throw yourself out of the plane. Instead, the tandem instructor asks you to look at the roof and wrap your legs under the plane, and then they throw you both out for the free-fall. Knowing this, I was chirpy sitting in the plane, having a chat, taking in the scenic flight, then jumping out, with my instructor performing a few cool flips in the air because I told him I was feeling “bad*ss”… After the parachute was pulled, it was a relaxing and incredibly scenic flight through the mountains, down to the gentle landing. This experience encouraged me to set a new goal when I get home – to get my solo skydiving certification! Unfortunately, the video of this moment is ruined because of my nose running disgustingly in the wind. It was my fault, as I flew with a flu, but I still can’t bring myself to watch the whole thing…
In the morning, Faith and I were up early and treated to another perfectly clear blue sky, as we were picked up to go paragliding with Paragliding Interlaken. After the adrenaline fuelled few days we’d had, I didn’t feel anxious at all as we got strapped in, our instructor straightened out the parachute, and we gently jogged down off the edge of the 1300 metre cliff. I know a lot of people were really terrified to paraglide, but I honestly found it so relaxing, like sitting in a really comfortable armchair, looking out on the best views I’d ever seen. We did a few fun turns in the air at my request, before gently touching down after about 20 minutes. Honestly, I would recommend just doing the skydive instead of the paraglide, as you get the best of both worlds, but paragliding is definitely an easy introduction to the feeling of flying.
I feel lucky that the squad are all active and love the outdoors, so we are always our happiest when we’re out exploring nature. As you can imagine, Switzerland delivered everything we could want and more. While here, we went on two amazing hikes – the scenic Mountain View trail, and the anxiety inducing Via Ferrata. We were caught in a thunderstorm when we took on the Mountain View Trail, but the views were incredible, despite the peaks of the mountains being shrouded in clouds. It was equal parts thrilling and relaxing wandering the trail and hearing nothing but the heavy cracks of thunder and the jingling bells of the cows grazing. It took us about four hours to get to Murren, but we took our time, taking photos and savouring the scenery.
The Via Ferrata was a different story. After all of the adrenaline inducing activities we did while in Switzerland, this hike was the scariest and most gratifying physical activity I did. Jordan, Wes and Intern Sam did the trail in the morning, but Faith and I headed off on our own after we went paragliding. Firstly, we went to Intersport and hired hiking boots, gloves, a harness, climbing clips and a helmet. The high ropes activity park provided us with a great practice for this climb, as we had to clip on and off metal wires the entire time for our safety. During the climb, we stood on metal pegs on the edge of the rock face, 600 metres above the ground; tiptoed along two tightropes over waterfalls; climbed down a dozen thin, vertical ladders down the edge of the cliff; and crossed a long suspension bridge over a huge gorge. The only other people we saw were three base jumpers, who launched themselves off the cliff face as we watched in awe. If you’re looking for your inner bad*ss, then this is the one for you!
See You Soon, Switzerland!
For the sake of all the other amazing places I’ve visited on this trip, I’ll try and take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book and stay neutral. However, this place definitely stole my heart on this trip and may be my favourite stop on the whole network (big call, I know). Although I had visited Lauterbrunnen on my backpacking trip last year, I was struck all over again with how the area actually manages to live up to every incredible stereotype I had of Switzerland, while still leaving me feeling overwhelmed. Lauterbrunnen may not be at the top of Europe, but I felt on top of the world.
The Recommended Hostel: Camping Jungfrau
Coming to Camping Jungfrau feels like coming home – if you lived in the most beautiful place ever. As soon you step off the coach, you’re welcomed and checked in by one of the family members that owns the campgrounds – Ruth, Hans or their son Adrien. Then you head off to one of your gorgeous wooden cabins or rooms, where you can look out of your window and see the amazing Swiss alps, the high rocky valley walls, and one of the many waterfalls crashing down, surrounded by mist. There are lots of facilities on site, including a kitchen and a little shop, but my favourite is the restaurant. Inside you’ll find incredibly large, delicious meals including all of the Swiss specialities: cheese fondue, potato rosti and the famous apple macaroni… In this quiet little town, the best place to head for a night out is the famous bomb shelter/bunker onsite. This was our favourite place on to stay on the network, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!