“Liz, why haven’t you written anything adventurous lately,” my sister whined at me the other day from behind her iPad. “You’re called Young Adventuress after all.”
Er, crap. Don’t you hate it when a 11 year old is right? I’ve done so much traveling over the past six months, I’ve inadvertently split my blogging time between playing catch-up with my trips (get excited for more Spain, Egypt, France and Portugal stuff!), how-to, expat and food posts and neglected my adventure stories! UH-OH!
“Well, one time I went canyon jumping in Interlaken. I jumped off a platform and freefell 300ft before swinging up and down a canyon in the Swiss Alps. How’s that for adventurous?”
Back a few years ago, I had heard that Interlaken was the adventure capital of Switzerland. So I booked a quick weekend flight over from Madrid to Geneva in February, and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Little did I know that I would both completely fall in love with Switzerland AND have the time of my life!
I’ve written a lot about Switzerland on my blog. One of my oldest and dearest friends is living there now, so I bum over whenever I get the chance. Switzerland is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with a landscape straight from a postcard and with the most clean and efficient way of running things I’ve ever seen. Switzerland is the only country that makes Germany look sloppy. Not to mention the chocolate and cheese ain’t half bad either. The only problem is Switzerland is soooooo expensive. You have to plan your adventure activities carefully and maybe eat only pasta and couchsurf when you’re there
At the last minute, my friend N decided to tag along. We spent a chilly Thursday night out on the town in Madrid before catching an early flight to Geneva. By Friday night, we caught a train to Interlaken, meeting the Swiss equivalent of a group of boyscouts who were wearing lederhosen, knee-high red socks and invited us to try their homemade alcohol while singing Swiss campfire songs. I wish more train rides were that fun.
The next morning dawned sunny and blue we wanted to book an adventure activity. “Let’s go skydiving!” I yelled enthusiastically over a breakfast of chocolate croissants, thrilled to have slept in a bed and to finally be in the infamous Alps. “It’s 500 Swiss Francs, ” N pointed out. “That’s 500 bucks.”
“Damn. What else can we do?”
We ended up settling for canyon jumping in Interlaken for 100 franc with Alpin Raft. It’s basically like bungee jumping but instead of having a bouncy cord where you drop straight down and bounce back up, you have a rope harness around your waist and you jump off a platform at the top of a glacial canyon, and you freefall down and accelerate for 90 meters before the rope catches and you swing up and down the length of the canyon in the Alps. Here is a video.
We met up after lunch with the group and drove out into the mountains in Grindelwald. The road was covered with so much snow and ice we had to get out and walk the rest of the way to the jump site. I thought the van was going to slip off the side of the mountain, so walking was fine with me. Our guides (let’s call them Lars and Hans) hopped out and easily carried all the equipment up for us while we slid and slipped our way to the top of the gorge. Is is just me or all men in Switzerland absurdly hot and masculine? I feel like they could all climb the Eiger north face in winter or survive an avalanche in the Alps. I’m sure our mountain men guides could have carried us up too if necessary. “Walk faster lazy girls!” Lars yelled from 10 meters ahead.
We took turns getting weighed (oh the shame! Why did I eat so much cheese?) and getting harnessed up. It was really high and I was starting to get nervous. A couple of American girls jumped before me which gave me encouragement. I looked over at Natalie. “Are we really gonna do this?” I mouthed. In her typical New Jersey style, she looked at me and said, “Queen, we’re in the freaking Swiss Alps. Don’t be a p****.” Sound advice.
Unfortunately, the Korean girl in front of me didn’t hear N’s wisdom because she crouched down on the ledge for a good 5 minutes tottering back and forth and muttering to herself and crying before finally toppling over curled up like a ball. It was both inappropriately funny and quite possible the last thing I needed to see before it was my turn.
I walked up to the edge while the Lars hooked me up to the ropes. I looked across the gorge and at the sky, avoiding looking down. I nodded without listening as they gave me a pep talk. When they had me lined up at the edge, I took a deep breath, opened my eyes and jumped!
I screamed as I fell, jumping without feeling attached to something is a huge thrill! When the rope finally caught, I swung up and down the canyon several times before catching the rope below and pulling myself down. It was by far the biggest rush of my life, such a high. As the snowy canyon whizzed by me, I looked up and could see the platform way up above. I couldn’t believe I was brave enough to jump off that high! It was such a feeling of euphoria and pure exhilaration! As I scambled onto the wooden platform below, I ran straight into Hans and hugged him. He laughed and patted my head indulgently (he was about 6’4) and said “I know.”
This was the first of many crazy and probably stupid adventurous things I would do in my life. That day I realized several things. I loved the feeling you get from crazy adventure sports like this. I was completely in love with Switzerland (the men had nothing to do with it). And never, ever canyon jump 300 feet an hour after eating your weight in cheese fondue for lunch.
Have you ever gone canyon jumping in Interlaken? Do you love adventure sports too? Even been to Interlaken or Switzerland?