Mele Kalikimaka

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Santa’s Helper!

For Christmas 2017, my family decided to meet in a tropical location since the past two Christmases have been ski vacations.  Since Zika is endemic in many tropical areas, Hawaii was one of the few Zika-free places we could go.  Twist my rubber arm!

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Diamond Head, Waikiki

My parents booked a house near Hanalei, Kauai which was awesome because the North Shore is my favorite part of the island.  We were between Hanalei and the Na’pali Coast so it was a really awesome location.  On the way, I had a several hour layover in Honolulu so I went to Waikiki.  It was beautiful!

I walked on the beach and stopped at The House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel.  I had a few drinks while listening to Hawaiian music.  It was so idyllic!  I also have a new tropical drink favorite.  Move over Pina Colada, meet Hale Passion (Rum, Passion Fruit, Almond, Coconut, Light Cream)!

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Switzerland Day 9: Gimmelwald-Grindelwald

After the Via Ferrata ended in Gimmelwald, we walked around for a bit in Gimmelwald. I had heard it was Rick Steeves favorite Swiss village and while I get it, I also don’t.  It’s really quiet and idyllic but why this village over another in the area?  IDK.  But it was very pretty but fairly quickly, we saw the village and hopped on the funicular to Mürren.

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I know this is cliche, but this photo does not even come close to capturing the incredible beauty.  Source

We took the train from Mürren to Wegen to Kleine Schdeigg.  The train ride was amazingly beautiful with an incredible, gorgeous view of Lauterbrunnen Valley and the 400 foot waterfall.  I was trying to take it all in, but somewhat distracted by realizing we had to pay a small supplement for that part of the train.  Although the conductor told me to enjoy the view and he would come back, I felt a little stressed trying to find exact change in CHF.  If I ever go back, I would like to see it stress-free and two, I would probably want to hike to a little overlook and just sit and look at the view.  It really was amazing.

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View from our window- Eiger Mountain, I think?

We got off the train at Kleine Schdeigg and hiked down to Grindelwald, passing the famed Eiger mountain along the way.  Along the way, we stopped at Alpizen for beer and a berry tart with the most amazing whipped cream.  The hike was really beautiful and I’m sure I took pictures, but I can’t find them.  We arrived in Grindelwald and to the 22 bus to Naturfriend haus, a hotel/hostel that was really nice and overlooked the village.  There was a laundry facility (5 CHF wash, 3 CHF dry).  We had made arrangements to eat dinner there and we enjoyed a really nice meal of bread, salad with salami and melon, bright yellow curried chicken and rice and finished off with ice cream.  Showers that night felt great and we were ready for the next phase of our trip, Ticino!

 

Switzerland, Day 9: Klettersteig Via Ferrata (Mürren-Gimmelwald)

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When we were planning the trip, it was really important to SMS that we do a Via Ferrata, or Iron Path.  There are several in the Alps and, basically, you walk on the side of a cliff along hammered in rungs while double-clipped into a steel cable.  When you get to an iron stake securing the cable to the rock wall, you unclip and reclip one at a time so you always have one contact point.

Both of us thought it sounded really cool and it was a high priority. The easiest way to do it is to rent the equipment from a local outdoor store since the setup is different than a regular climbing harness.  Basically, it’s two carabiners each on a slightly springy energy absorbing lanyard, both attached to a climbing harness.  We rented the equipment the night before because we wanted to start before less-experienced people got on the trail.  Each morning, the store has a rush of customers when it first opens at 9 but by going within about an hour of closing the day prior, the woman had no problem renting us the equipment for a 1-day price.  This is only possible if you don’t need a lesson on the equipment, which I highly recommend if you feel unsure!

Via overview
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We got on the Via Ferrata around 8.  We had it to ourselves, apart from three other people- all young men who were zipping along.  The Via Ferrata starts in Mürren and descends to Gimmelwald.  There are multiple rungs hammered into the cliff, narrow trails, multiple ladders and two bridges along the way.  Local guides have access to a lockbox that allows a climber to zipline across one of the gorges but for people on their own, there is an equally cool (cooler, even?) 3 cable bridge.

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I had so much fun although my sporadic fear of heights kicked in on the Nepal bridge.  The initial part had handrails that were too high so I was just walking on an unstable planked narrow bridge.  Ack!  Don’t worry, I was definitely attached via the gear but I just really wanted to hold on with my hands too!

The Via descends over the course so it’s not too strenuous.  The biggest factor is going to be comfort with the equipment.  There are also outings and guides for hire, so don’t let inexperience stop you.  It is really fun and an incredible way to see one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland!  We were done by mid-morning and continued our day by traveling to Grindelwald.  See the next post!

The photos below are roughly in sequence on what you’ll see along the way (well, SMS won’t be there but you know, the trail!)…

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Near the Start, secured to the cable
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Base jumping station.  SMS was braver than I was.  Even secured in place, I thought “Hell no am I getting close to that edge.”  Base jumping scares me!
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Hanging loose!
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Tyrolienne (Zip Line nearby)
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More trail-like
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Steep ladders!
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Nepal bridge

Switzerland, Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken – Mürren

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We woke up with twenty of our newest, closest friends and got ready for the day.  We had a trekker’s breakfast of muessli and bread- v. carb heavy!  We headed down towards Bundalp, starting over a few hundred meters of snow.  Fortunately, there was a rope and the very side of the path next to the rock was partially bare rock so we made it even though our shoes weren’t the best.

We stopped at a dairy along the way and bought some Alpkase, fresh (raw?) cheese that we bought from the farmer and ate at a picnic table.  It was heart-shaped- tasty and cute!  We stopped at the dairy shortly after we had a discussion as to whether to hike over another pass to Mürren or go to Griesalp and take the bus-train combo to Mürren.  I really wanted to hike but SMS felt we had already seen the type of terrain and experienced the somewhat barren hike and he didn’t want to have a repeat adventure.  I pouted and was bummed out but the dairy quickly lifted my spirits.  I realized that our chosen way was a lot more fun and SMS was right.

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I perked up even more as the hike became more and more beautiful.  We walked through gorgeous meadows and pastures and really, it was almost other-worldly beautiful.  We stopped at Berghaus Bundalp and had coffee and Hobelkäse.  We talked to one of the waiters/family members who said we were on “the most beautiful way” to Griesalp.  He had recently been in Miami and, although he said he liked the U.S, he asked why would he want to be anywhere else but here when it was so beautiful.  He definitely had a point!

After our second cheese stop of the morning, we continued on through fields, farms and pastures.  We saw herds of sheep, goats and cows.  One little goat was bleeting on the side of the cliff.  I wanted to help it but as SMS pointed out, we weren’t really that well-equipped plus the goat would jump down when it got hungry or thirsty (it really wasn’t that high up).

We walked by landslides and glacier-created rock formations, which was pretty cool.  We meandered into Griesalp, speeding up a bit when I heard the beep of a PostBus.  We were so lucky!  We made it with four minutes to spare, completely unaware of the timetable.  If we had missed it, we would have been waiting about two more hours!

We then had several connnections, with bus-train-train-train on our way to Mürren.  It was very easy with short layovers.  We took advantage of 30 minutes in Interlaken Oest by hopping into the connecting river between the lakes.  The water felt amazing and we felt very joyful and happy!

When we got to Mürren, we were very thankful for our shower.  We walked around quite a bit and rented gear for our Via Ferrata adventure the next day.  We ate at the hotel and then went to bed, exhausted.

Switzerland, Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte

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We woke up, very excited to begin our hut-to-hut hiking adventure.  We picked up our laundry from Womy- 25 CHF for a shopping bag full.  We took the train to Kandersteg and then sent our suitcase ahead for pick-up two days later.  It cost 12 CHF and was one of the better bargains of the trip!   That way, we only hiked with two small backpacks.

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Our destination was Blüemlisalphütte, a mountain hut at 2,840 meters.  We took the funicular up to Lake Oeschinensee (1600 m) to save a little bit of time.  We started hiking around 1330 and arrived around 1700. The hike was really interesting.  We hiked around the lake and then up into high pastures.  Then the trail turned very gravelly and vegetation went away.  It looked like the moon.  Across the valley, we could see a large glacier field.  It turned out that a lot of overnighters at the hut were there for traversing that ridge and/or ice climbing.  There was a separate ice-climber room since they all got up around 0300 to set out and climb while the ice was still firm.

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Back to the hike.  We could see the hut about 2/3 of the way there and it stayed stubbornly far away for another hour.  Finally, we got there.  It was a great experience but a little tiring!  I promptly bought a beer when we got to the hut- SMS had water.  Probably smarter but definitely less delicious 🙂  At dinner, we sat at a table with 3 Swiss and 1 Austrian men.  2 were alpinists and 2 were father-son hikers recreating a hike the father had done 3 decades prior.  We were glad to talk to them because they said the snow field that covered the first part of our planned hike the next day was actually quite small and there was a rope to hold onto.  Phew!

Dinner consisted of soup, salad, sausage and rice, and plum pudding.  The food was super salty, which was probably beneficial for everyone’s athletic pursuits.  We went to bed fairly soon after dinner.  The bedrooms were communal, with two long racks with mats laid out.  SMS and I slept next to each other but to either side were complete strangers.  Very close quarters but a cool and different experience.  We used our sleep sacks and slept fairly well.