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Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Long Trip but Good Trip

It felt like I was attending someone's funeral. Everyone was wearing black while I was in a red "Hello can anybody spot me from a mile away" expedition jacket. But I guess that is what you expect when you fly to Geneve on a weekday. But then again, they were going for business while my only concern was pleasure. I was so sleep deprived (had an interview the day before) that I crashed quickly and woke one hour later while the plane was already taxiing on the runway. When the wall clocks are Rolexes and the concourse is littered by huge billboards for watches, ranging from the cheap (Swatch, Tissot) to the boring and common (Rolex, Tag Heuer, Breitling), to the real deal (Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin....ps after this shameless plug I deserve to get one...) you definitely know you are in Geneve. But today, there was a dent in the armor of Swiss precision. My backpack came out of the wrong carousel. This seemed oddly amusing since my spoken French is crap and I did not want to have to ask where my backpack was. My real concern was the weather. Thankfully it was moderately sunny. And the Swiss tradition redeemed itself when my train left on the dot at 11:36am for the small village of Visp. I was running away from French-speaking Geneve to the Germanic Saastal Valley which I picked as a last minute destination after realizing that Zermatt and Interlaken would probably still be full of bloody tourists. I wanted isolation. I wanted alpine hiking paths that were empty. I did not feel like socializing. It was supposed to be just me and the mountains. I got to Visp exactly at 13:53 and exhaled the wonderful thin air. I could not help but to look for that Swiss drink called Rivella (you will forget that coca cola ever existed) while waiting for a bus to take me to the Saastal. But then shock horror! The 14:25 bus came 10 minutes late! That could only mean the one thing I did not want - bad weather. Fortunately, the bus ride through winding roads along glacier fed streams, through rock tunnels, and past picturesque villages went smoothly. The village of Saas Fee sits 1800m above sea level and when I got there at 15:20 the city was covered by a 3-inch blanket of snow. The snow is definitely early (damn you Kyoto Protocol renegades!). I got a map from the village information booth and called my lodgings using one of the freephones (Globe and Smart must hate a place where phonecalls are gratis). Saas Fee has been car-free since the 70s and I was picked up by my host on his electric taxi (electric cars are eerily silent, you dont even realize its running). My host apologised that renovations were being done to his bed and breakfast (which sits on the edge of the Alpin gorge) so he booked me instead on a 3-star hotel which on paper costs three times as much as I paid to be on his hotel. The only downside was that I could not see the middle Mischabel peaks from my balcony, but I had a great view anyway. The pine trees, the traditional houses on stilts, the smell from the fireplace, and the thinness of the air remind me so much of the Cordilleras that it felt good to be here. And everything was so efficient. The much revered Swiss Honesty System still works that I just showed up there, no forms to sign, no need to show ID, no need to register and they said "We've been expecting you, here is your key". Very environmentally friendly - no paper work. After travelling for 7 hours, I took a quick nap knowing that the sky couldn't possibly fall on me as I was surrounded by 14 of the highest alpine peaks.......

Switzerland has 4 official languages, with Catholic and Protestant villages but the Cow unites them all........

I arrived on a rainy afternoon. But rain is nothing to someone who grew up in the wettest city in the Philippines......

The clouds hung low at 3000m hiding the 4000+m peaks of the Mischabel alps......

By special request, my room was set in the royal standard of His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem who was warmly welcomed by the locals.....(more on this in later posts)....

It's good to know I have my own personal safe in my room. Sadly, I do not have anything of value to store in it......

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