Cities / Towns Visited: 19
Countries Visited: 8
Steps Taken Today: 15,526
Steps Taken Around the World: 866,629
As I swept the curtains aside on our final day in Zermatt, I was greeted with dappled clouds and warm morning sun. After much deliberation over breakfast, we finally decided that we’d give the Matterhorn one last shot. Thus our day started much the same, as we headed to the cable car station, and after forking out another gut wrenching few hundred dollars, we rode the lifts up. The only difference; we were actually going to make it to the summit today.
As we docked, and alighted the pod, it was as if we stepped onto another planet. The station looks like the kind of place evil geniuses plot world domination, with cloud engulfing everything, to the point where anything more than ten metres around you began to disappear out of sight. It was -12°C and the view was, nonexistent to be polite, but we’d made it. A strange sense of accomplishment helped ease the price. We ventured into the station, and took the first left, stepped into the lift, and ascended to the panorama viewing deck. We knew there wouldn’t be much to see up here in the clouds, but we were the highest we’d ever been, so we really just needed to go to the top for the purpose of personal achievement. As we slipped out of the lift, and out of the door of the small foyer, we were spat out into the blisteringly cold wind of close to 4000 metres above sea level. The railings, decorated with windswept ice, telling of the constant barrage of wind. You know you get a lot of bad weather when your weather vane has a hammer attached to it to smash the ice off so it still works. As with most places in Europe, the ‘attaching love locks to everything’ fad seems to extend to high altitude, but I must say, they had come up with an ingenious way to prevent keys being tossed out onto the mountain. They provide a box to tuck them into, and periodically they are taken and frozen into the eternal ice of the glacier. Our threshold for blizzard tolerance was reached in the space of about 5 minutes, and we quickly ducked back downstairs.
We moved on, following the corridor carved out of the rock until we reached the end, with a restaurant and gift shop to the right; this may be the first time I’ve ever seen a toasted cheese sandwich cost almost AU$30, and having paid more than $100 each to get up here, you still had to pay to use the bathroom, we gave both a miss. The true end of the corridor leads back outside, for those insane enough to try and climb down the mountain. Thinking back to the cemetery in Zermatt, with tomb after tomb of climbers who never made it back, including a gravestone for over 500 unknown climbers who have lost their lives on the Matterhorn, and the surrounding peaks in the last 100 or so years, and with the sign just outside the door of the summit station making it blatantly clear that you are risking your life should you continue, there was no amount of money on the earth that would convince me that was a good idea. From here there was only one other option; left.
Passing through the gate and jumping into the lift we descended three floors to the main attraction of the mountain, the glacier paradise. We weren’t sure what to expect, but as the doors slid open, we stepped out into the heart of the glacier. Yes, you read that correctly, we were inside the glacier. We walked down into the eerie blue cavern, passing the ancient ice, compressed by the ages to the point that it was almost perfectly clear. It it wasn’t for the non slip mats, and electric lighting it would have felt almost alien to be there, the perfect sort of place to film a horror movie. Eventually you come to a larger cavern, filled with beautiful ice carvings of alpine animals, and a dragon; and a slide made entirely out of, you guessed it, more ice. Okay, at this point we felt as if we hadn’t been completely ripped off.
Before heading back down to earth, to carry on to our next home away from home, we stopped off in the cinema, and cuddling up into pod chairs we watched a quick documentary on animals in the surrounding areas, from alpine birds of prey, to the sure-footed ibex, it was fascinating. As we descended this time it was with slightly healed hearts; the mountain hadn’t failed us completely.
A couple of trains delivered us to Lausanne, the beautiful town, sitting unassumingly beside the even more beautiful Lake Geneva, and after a bit of an unhill trek, we arrived at our Airbnb, greeted by our friendly Swiss host, Laurent. The country was looking up; come on Switzerland, you can pull it back. After quickly whipping up some dinner, having a bath (because I finally had access to one again), and settling into bed, I dozed to my reflections of the past few days. First impressions are important, but giving second chances is sometimes the bravest thing you can do, with not only people, but also places. You can’t always expect life to be ready to deliver its best on its initial attempt. Nature doesn’t always give us what we want, but in the end we need every single good and bad part of it; every snow storm, every earthquake, every volcano, no matter how devastating they are. Without them it is unlikely we would even exist, and if by some miracle we had still come along, our world would be nowhere near as beautiful. Those earthquakes gave us these mountains, those volcanoes gave us our tiny islands. If you are persistent though, the storms will clear and nature will show you her treasures.