Monday, July 16, 2007

CH - Zermatt

I had a lousy night’s sleep. The blanket barricade worked, but it worked too well. I found myself not even using that half of my ~3-foot-wide mattress. I completely shunned the other half. Now add onto that the following:

- Someone in the room definitely had cats, to which I am just allergic enough to make my nose run incessantly.

- I had an orchestra around me: 4 snorers out of 17 other people. Hopefully I did not join the cacophony symphony.

- The youngest of the family of nine was looking out the window and was excited about seeing cows. He later realized they were horses and repeatedly let the whole room know about it. This would have been exceptionally cute if it was not 6 am and if he weren’t shrieking in that excited youthful tone of voice.

- The sky is light about 18 hours per day… in a town of tourists, that means they think it is perhaps 7 pm when it is in fact 11 pm. So the streets were quite noisy with families and their cute, gleeful, and loud little children. Nevermind the heinous screams of American adolescent girls well after the families left for slumber.

The good news, however, was that my bed buddy skedaddled early. I annexed his bed and slept in late (meaning: till 8 am). Because I slept in, however, I missed skiing. I hadn’t realized that it is only open from 07:00 til 13:30. Just as well, because my legs were a tad weary from the day before. I decided to take it easy: ride a cable car to Gornergrat and hike my way down the ~1.5 km altitude difference. The ride up is very scenic, but the area where you disembark tops it all: several glaciers forming off of a whole encirclement of mountains. Home to an astronomical observatory and weather station, it is also the standing-around-gawking point for a plethora of tourists.

I began to climb up as high as I could mostly to get away from the crowds, only to spot a tightly-winding path down the steep slope, toward the glaciers. I had to do it… looking back, however, the change in scenery due to this path was not all that significant; but it was definitely a fun path in itself to traverse; and it also got me away from the tourist crowds. The path zigzagged almost directly downwards, going about two meters in one direction before turning about-face and doing it again; and sometimes I actually had to climb down sets of rocks. This kept me occupied for about an hour, til I reached the bottom of the path – near to the glacier but not quite at it.

The whole way down, I would periodically pick up a rock and casually roll it over the edge of the path, just to see where it’d stop rolling and what kind of path it took along the way. In a couple cases, it’d hit the next part of the path and stop. Other times, it’d disappear right over the edge and be gone. In my head, I’m thinking “if I slip… I’m the rock.”

Along the way I reached Riffleberg, where the buffet-style restaurant had empty metal bins where the entrees should have been. Starved, I grabbed an apfelstrudel and a Magnum ice cream (for SFr 10!) and rested my feet a bit. I continued to Riffelalp, my old nemesis from the day before; and of course the restaurant I wanted to eat a closed at 16:30… I arrived at 16:35, just about twenty minutes earlier than the time I had arrived the day before.

At this point I wussed out and took the train the rest of the way down. Not because I was tired – I actually had lots of energy – but because I had no desire to face the flies again within a forest where I have no interesting view, anyway, other than of flies and trees. Also, I had to pickup my skis for the next day as well as my glasses (I finally lost that darn screw whilst hiking yesterday).

I had Mexican for dinner, which wasn’t half bad. It tasted the same, except a tad less spicy that I’m used to. Well… not really a tad… but it certainly wasn’t bland. I gave in and submitted to an early bedtime in my new bed: one at the foot of my old one but without any bed buddies beside me.

Upon returning to my hotel, I discovered a perfect redneck sunburn: the tops of both arms up to my sleep, my neck, and my face – except for now-distinct lines from my sunglasses and a lighter jaw due to the UV-blocking power of facial hair. I probably should have realized that being several thousand meters upwards in the atmosphere, with snow all around reflecting sunlight toward me, I was going to get a bit more radiation than one probably should in a single day. At least the Vitamin D kept me fed. …Oh and my feet look absolutely disgusting.

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