I have been trekking nearly everyday for the past four weeks. It was on one of these trips that I heard about Weg der Schweiz (The Swiss Path). I decided right then that this would be one of the hikes I do before going back home to South Africa. When I told Christine and Otto about this trail, they encouraged me to give it a try. And we started planning for it. However, I couldn’t pick a date right away because the Swiss weather is unpredictable.
The final touch
On week three, the weather started letting up. This meant we could finally get the ball rolling. Christine went down to the station to collect bus and boat schedules. Otto and I studied The Swiss Path map to find the best youth hostels around the trail. I then proceeded to make reservations. Otto designed a schedule for me, complete with the number of hours it would take to finish each stage, right down to how much I was likely to spend each day on snacks, drinks, dinner and accommodation.
Putting mama hen at ease
To put Christine at ease, whom I sometimes jokingly call mother hen, because she worries too much, we all drove up to Küssnacht, to get a sim-card for their old cellphone, so that I could call them if something happened. On the morning of my departure, ”call us if you run into any trouble,” changed to a desperate, ”Please call every night to let us know how you are holding up.”
The Swiss Path background
Before I get too carried away about my expedition, it is important that I give you a background of this trail.
In 1991 on the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Confederation, the 26 cantons in celebration came together and formed The Swiss Path. This trail is divided into 26 cantonal sections, in the order which the cantons joined the Confederation. The size and length of each canton is based on the number of its community. This project is the brain child of Zurich architects Stefan Rotzler and Peter Lanz. Moving along swiftly…
Trekking from Flüelen to Morsharch
The Swiss Path begins in the village called Brunnen which is located in canton Schwyz. Since I had already seen this piece of the trail, I thought it would be more exciting to get there by steam boat and begin the trekking from Flüelen. Being on the steam boat was such a treat; all the places I had been seeing from the top of the mountains, I was now admiring from the middle of lake. Seeing the same view from different angles is quite spectacular. By the time the boat arrived in Flüelen, I only had four hours to get to Morschach. I didn’t stop to sight-see because I had to find my way quickly before sunset.
Finding the trail signs was incredibly easy, I didn’t have to rely on the map much. However, there were times when the signs were at least one kilometer apart, or didn’t give me a clear direction. In such instances, I had to make wild guesses, if I realised that I was wandering too far from the path, I would go back to where I began and try a different route, fortunately this only happened once.
When I arrived in Mattli, Antoniushaus, it was twilight. My knees were aching and my back hurt from carrying 10 kilograms of travelling essentials. I showered and rubbed myself down with an ointment that Christine insisted I take with me. That thing works wonders, because when I woke up the following day, I felt brand new.
The next day, I jumped into the shower, went to the dining hall to have breakfast. By 8:45am, I began trekking to Brunnen. From there, I took a boat to Rutli, where Switzerland was founded.
Trekking from Rutli to Bauen
The second day was the hardest because the trail from Rutli to Seelisberg is unrelentingly steep, it didn’t give me a room to catch my breath. It only levelled for a bit when I got to the top of Seelisberg village. I was so grateful to see a view point, because it meant I could sit down and have a sandwich while admiring the villages across the mountain. When I felt rested, I explored the village, starting with the Maharishi European Research University (MERU). The story behind this university is quite an interesting one. Christine told me that Maharishi, a yogi from India, came to this part of the world with the intention to teach people to fly. However, the locals were not so open to this idea because you know hippies and “drugs”. Anyway, by the looks of things he succeed in bringing his brand of yoga here, because now there is an entire university dedicated to meditation and it’s named after him.
Christine’s story is an old wives’ tale, but it’s my favourite of the two versions I know. According to the university’s website, all studies carried out are concerned with specific aspects of the reaction rate of thinking behaviour. Yes, there is meditation involved, but no flying lessons. Dammit!
After admiring this enchanting village, I began my descent to Bauen another quaint village, so teeny tiny, only Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs live there.
The last stop for the night was supposed to be Isleten, but I had spent too much down exploring Seelisberg village, that if I made an attempt to get to Isleten, I would have missed the last boat.
Trekking from Bauen to Isleten
The last day was easy, it was flat and wasn’t challenging at all. The interesting thing about it though, were the tunnels with the twelve windows overlooking the lake. I was told to make a wish at each window and I did. If you see me driving around in a Ferrari, you must know the wishes came true.
Another thing I absolutely enjoyed about this part of the trail, was the art works on the walls and the carvings on the tree stumps. I absolutely love it when art meets nature. Unfortunately the tunnel was too dark to take any decent photos of the artwork.
By the end of my little adventure across two cantons, I had crossed seven villages. I will not pretend it was a mammoth’s task. Yes, there were red flags along the way, and steep sections, but if you love hiking this is completely doable and safe too.
When I embarked on this journey, I wasn’t expecting any applause or medals, I did it for my well-being. I wanted to see how far I can push myself. Even so, when I got home, Christine and Otto welcomed me with drinks and tons of chocolates. Otto had even gone as far as designing my very own diploma of The Swiss Path.