Rafting, Canyoning, and General Craziness

Monday, June 13, 2005

Welcome to Interlaken
If ever there were a place to lose your life doing something ridiculously foolish and therefore fun, that place would be Interlaken. The place is a mecca among no others for extreme sports and, as the title suggests, general craziness. There are also tonnes of not so crazy things, like hiking and biking through the Swiss Alps for those so inclined. I've not done it yet, but if the rain lets up today, I probably will.

So, I arrived here at Balmer's Herberge, a hostel of rather famous proportions, and got checked in. I'd booked a dorm room, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that, as I unlocked the door, I was, in fact, in a private room. All the fun of a hostel with a room to myself, even if it was room 13, and at the price I'd've payed for a 12 person dorm. I'm not sure if this was a mistake on their part or they overbooked the dorm, but I don't intend to find out.

The hostel grounds
Interlaken is a small town, so everyone here stays in the basement bar/club to party, and I quickly discovered that this is essentially an American frathouse. EVERYONE is American here, I meet maybe two Canadians a day tops and like 10-15 Americans. You can tell because they all have their college shirts on. It's like us Canadians and our flags on the backpacks I guess.

Anyway, with happy hour being 2-for-1, I had a little more beer than intended but a good time downstairs. It was the only morning I didn't have to be up before 8. I went white water rafting the next day, which was fun but disappointing, I was expecting a little more challenge than Austria, and while the one rapid was pretty good, most of it was basically a river tour. I probably wouldn't have done it except that by booking it with skydiving and canyoning, I got it essentially free. Free is good in Switzerland.

KC Leads the group into madness
The next day was the big day: Canyoning. This is a very wild and extreme sport which is apparently illegal in Canada, so I had to do it here. And I'm so glad I did. What is it, you ask? Well, you go to the top of a gorge and make your way down along the water. Being that it's a gorge, there are a LOT of waterfalls and cliffs, and you have to get down. Now, do you rappel down a rope? Sometimes. Do you jump from cliffs into a small part in the pool where the water is deep enough and there are no rocks? Sometimes. Do you slide down narrow chutes where you must keep your hands above your face so that you don't obliterate your nose as you slide beneath an impossibly low overhang of rock? Sometimes.

Making our way into the canyon
So here's the day canyoning. First, we boarded the van and rode 45 mins to the top of the gorge. We got on our gear, a wetsuit, jacket, lifejacket, and helmet, and trekked through the woods, across logs that had fallen over ravines and bridges with gaping holes in them. We got to the top of the creek and made our way along it to our first, and we were informed, biggest jump. Now, I'm not a person to jump off the platforms at Hairy Bailey into a safe swimming pool. But this was a 40 ft jump across a waterfall (we were standing on the cliff to the left of it and had to jump into a pool to the right). I was scared witless as my turn came up and asked what happened if I landed where the water fall was and not on the right of it.

The first jump is the deepest
Well, he said, there's rocks there. Don't do it. Fair enough, I was convinced. So with a mighty and altogether cowardly leap across the waterfall, I took the plunge into canyoning. Having done the biggest jump for the day, I felt much better, but not for long. We soon came up on a place where the water flows along a smooth rock face at a very steep angle (almost vertical). But it's smooth. We again came up on the left of it. This time, the trick was to jump sideways, INTO the cliff wall, hitting it with our backs, and sliding down the rock with the water some 50 ft below. There's no way to really explain this, but man was it freaky.

My perma-grin
The whole thing was a blur, but I had a grin on my face the whole time. In fact, my cheek muscles were sore from the grinning. The scenery was beautiful the whole way and it was just one crazy thing after another. Jumping into a small pond, rappelling down a 150' waterfall, climbing partway down a waterfall on the rope and then letting go to slide along the rocks, it was great great fun and I can't recommend this highly enough. It was worth every cent and then double that, too.

One of the more gentle waterslides
I should explain more about the slides, though. They are generally chute like as the water has carved a niche into the rock face. This means you go down, usually, with your arms up protecting the side of your head. The ride down is wild and fun, but when you look back and watch the next person, you realize that you get tossed around like a ragdoll going down those things. It's too bad I don't have video, because it's unbelievable. Even the pictures don't really convey everything.

One of the waterfalls we rappelled down
Anyway, that was canyoning. This morning, I was supposed to go to skydiving, but when we got to the airport the weather had changed and we had to cancel. I leave Interlaken tomorrow but hope to get up in the morning before I board the train for Strasbourg, France. Today, I may go hiking as I said. There are a couple Canadian girls who are going as well, so I may tag along with them. The rain seems to be letting up a bit, so it should be nice. I'll definitely let you know.

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Anonymous said...

wow dean skydiving i would of loved to hear what you said about that!! sorry i havn't talked to you in a couple of days but i was busy in moosejaw and dancing and stuff like that. Guess what SOUTH CORMAN PARK IS CHANGING YOU HEAR ME CHANGING!!! :( isn't that bad. anyway brenda might be organizing a festival in NEW YORK for everyone.and tomorrow i have to walk 1 mile is that far if your wondering why i wet to moosejaw it's because i had to go to hope's birthday party it was fun except i splashed chance and he had a big fuss over a little water.but do you know what? a baby boy drounded in a hot tub and a woman called out "look the baby is drounding and a man with nice clean clothes on n and a cell phone in his pocket and his car keys and stuff were in hi pocket and the man dived right into thhot tub and saved the baby and he wrecked his cell phone and all of his electronical things that he had with him but he atleast saved the baby the end i wrote this at 4:43 pm luv ya mariah

Dean said...

Hey Mariah! Skydiving was very fun, not as scary as I thought it would be at all. The scariest part was going up in the plane and then looking out the window when we were above the clouds and thinking that I was going to jump out of the plane all that way down.

I hear you, SCP is changing, but what do you mean?

A festival in New York!? Would you and Larissa be going?

Anyway, I will probably call home this afternoon, so maybe I'll talk to you later.