Today we left Liechtenstein in the morning and headed back across the border into Switzerland. This was only noticed ten minutes after the fact when we rolled past the first Swiss village, no signs had marked our departure.The plan was to head south along the motorway and then split off west along the 19 which ran through a series of small towns. Almost immediately after coming off the motorway, the land began to rise and as we followed a river valley, impressive peaks and ridges looked down on us from both sides.
Slowly the road wound higher, broad arcs turning sharper as we gained elevation. With altitude came an intense sun and I felt the uneven heat of a driver’s tan on my arm. All around the land was an intense and vibrant green. Any signs of habitation blended perfectly into the surroundings and a distinct lack of litter made the country seem pristine and perfect.
Up ahead a weather-beaten sign marked the start of the Furka pass, and the road began to hairpin up higher into the mountains. With each sharp twist of the path we saw further out to the land below, the small towns becoming distant shimmers in the river valley. The drive was exhilarating. The roads were built to such a degree that I never felt unsafe, even on the tightest angles. Even so, as the car rounded the edge of a cliff and I saw the ground drop away just feet from my side, it sent a surge of adrenaline up through my chest.
Sometime later, after stopping to take plenty of photos, we had traversed the peak and reached our planned midway point – The Rhone Glacier. This primordial shelf of ice is slowly snaking is way down the mountain, its lower tongue melting away to form a pool that then cascades down into the valley below. Getting out of the car we made our way down to the edge of the pool, the summer heat had been replaced by a sharp chill which got only colder as we stepped inside a tunnel that had been carved into the side of the glacier. Ice melt dripped from the slick roof down our necks and the daylight soon submitted to the glow of fluorescents and we moved deeper into the tunnels. I can only imagine how long it took the curators to dig out this route with their chainsaws!
Walking through this ice formed millions of years ago was a surreal experience, perhaps only topped when we exited the tunnels and took a walk on top of the ice shelf which we could hear creaking and cracking below our feet as it slowly inched along.
Returning to our car we started off down the other side of the mountain and on to Interlaken where we planned to camp for a few days. A few twists in the road however and we plunged into the side of a thick cloud, the fog enveloping our car. Slowing right down we edged on carefully as a cacophony of motorcycle engines roared around us. As we punched out the other side we were in the thick of a motorcycle convoy also headed downwards. Slowly but surely the motorcyclists overtook and soon disappeared round the pass. We had a few minutes more of soaking up the scenery before black clouds rolled in above us and let loose a torrent of rain. As the rain came down it started to form a stream down the road, we pressed on slowly, keen to get to our camp before sunset. Up ahead a filling station with a small tin roof over the forecourt stood alone on the side of the road, sixty or so bikers huddled underneath for cover.
Eventually the route straightened out and we approached Interlaken. Nestled between two lakes and surrounded by mountains, we set up the tent, eager to explore in the morning.