Switzerland

Back in 2007 I embarked on a trip to Switzerland with one of my best friends Tommy Curtis who was fascinated by the climbing world and in particular the Eiger, a mountain he really wanted to see and this all rubbed off on me too as my shelves are now filled with many books about adventurous climbers.

View of the Alps

This was to be a short trip of 5 days to experience as much as we could with some trekking and river rafting from the bottom of the Eiger and I have to say, it remains to this day one of my favourite places.

We flew to Geneva arriving at about 1am in the morning and had a quick wander round looking for food as we were both hungry, we found a place open late that did burgers, sandwiches, ect. and were both grateful for some food, strange how hunger often strikes in the early hours.

The next morning we got up and had walk around Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Europe and formed from a glacier is the largest lake in Switzerland. The water looks clean and sparkling with a huge fountain named Jet d’Eau one of the largest fountains in the world set at 140 metres high which is an impressive sight, the lake has many swans and signets swimming at its edge side.

The awesome sight of Lake Geneva Fountain

Later we went to find CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, which is one of the world’s largest scientific research centres, I wanted to see it as my father used to work there as a physicist studying atoms and dark matter. At CERN, the most complex scientific instruments in the World are used to study matter or the fundamental particles, in studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature, I got to see the outside of it, which I was happy with.

After this we caught a train to Wilderswill, a beautiful quiet little village not too far to Interlacken, the train journey itself had been a treat with every view being worthy of a picture postcard, we passed many mountains where waterfalls sprang out from them.

Waterfall from the melting ice

The bus dropped us at the bottom of a road so we began to walk up the narrow, windy road to Wilderswill village passing colourful flowers and snow-capped mountains in the background, it was visually stunning.

The wooden houses had different coloured shutters making them all individual and the gardens were full of roses and other beautiful flowers, may had hand carved wooden furniture outside.

One of the wooden houses

We walked with our backpacks on along the road until we found the Baeren Inn, Wilderswill (The Bear Inn) a traditional swiss Rustic Inn since 1700s with toy bears placed throughout, wood carved furniture and some of the best food I have ever tasted.

The Amazon, Ecuador

The Amazon – Tribes, Shrunken Skulls and Crocodiles

This is an account of my trip to the Amazon including the trials of Tribal life and taking some forest medicine through the nose.

View of the Amazon

View of the Amazon

Following on from my brief visit to Quito, Ecuador I flew down to the Amazon basin with my travelling companion Jonas from Copenhagen, Denmark and took a boat along the river Coco before walking with backpack on and grabbing all cameras along narrow walkways through forest and over bogs where bright orange dragonflies weaved in and out of reed beds and huge blue morpho butterflies flitted about. We then took a short canoe ride and paddled across a lake to Sacha lodge.

We were to stay at two different bases whilst in the Amazon, Sacha Lodge a fairly commercial site set up for the ease of seeing wildlife with local guides and then the NAPO Wildlife centre, a more obscure place, much further out and set up for naturalists and wildlife researchers rather than tourists.

There are no roads leading to Sacha Lodge, it is accessible by river only, food comes the same route as I did, down river Coca by paddle boat then over the boardwalk through the forest and across the lake.

Water comes from a well near the North trail head and is purified by an ‘ozone filtration system’, clever stuff, power for the site comes from two diesel generators which swap ever 12 hours, solar power cannot be set up here as it is too cloudy.

Organic waste is managed on site by a compost heap and inorganic waste such as plastics, etc. is shipped up river to Coca, there are toilets here, which is a real luxury, toilet paper can not be put in the pan as it blocks the system so instead you put it into a bin next to the toilet.

The lodge was dreamed up by Arnold Ammeter, better known as Benny who was born in Interlaken in Switzerland who came to Ecuador in 1979 to work with Gold before getting into coco cola distribution then he branched out to opening natural lodges and in 1991 Sacha lodge was created.

Sacha lodge is a beautiful place consisting of comfortable huts with wooden walkways a few feet above the forest, there are paths leading into the forest in all directions and you can wander off alone to explore, which is really what I wanted and then get off onto the natural forest mud trails.

Although I am most likely in the minority, I find having a guide often more of a hindrance than a help as I much prefer to be away from other people to walk quietly and slowly through the forest looking for insects and frogs. Having to ‘keep up’ on a hike means that you are walking past tons of wildlife, unseen eyes watching the walkers from their camouflaged habitats, searching for frogs and insects takes time and often involves carefully combing through leaf litter and searching under logs and fallen branches.