Tag Archives: adventure

Hike, Gondola, and Scare the Elderly at Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland

I don’t usually make old ladies cry – but when I do, it’s because I’m standing atop a mountain on one leg.

I befriended a lovely Australian girl, Lauren, at a barbecue in Lucerne. We immediately connected on a few levels – we both were in transcontinental relationships, we both loved hiking, and we both loved peanut butter. Thus, plans to hike Mt. Pilatus together were the next logical step in our relationship.

We bought bus tickets and proceeded to take the bus in the completely wrong direction… twice. After finally making it to the right destination, we ascended up Mt. Pilatus for four hours, passing few people. The serenity and beauty of our surroundings overcame us and helped some silent moments between feel simply peaceful.

Treescape trail

Treescape trail

lauren pilatus

Lauren trekking the first part of our climb!

gondola ride switzerland

Guess what I wished for? (a snorkel set)

Guess what I wished for? (a snorkel set)

We were short on time, and took the gondola up the most taxing part of the climb. At first I was apprehensive – after all, I wanted to conquer this mountain with my own two (albeit short) legs! …But I must admit the views from the gondola made my moral compromise completely worth it.

Beautiful view from the gondola

Beautiful view from the gondola

Bobsledding in Pilatus

Bobsledding in Pilatus

gondola pilatus

gondola ride switzerland

Excited to embark on the second leg of our climb!

gondola in the coulds

View from the gondola ascending into the clouds

We got off and watched young children squeal and tourniquet themselves on the rope climbing course. I snickered when they fell… but only because I was jealous. Unfortunately for my short self, the course has an age requirement rather than a height requirement like most child-targeted places.

rope walking pilatus

Unfortunately this section is only set up for small children – else I would have totally been here.

I've got friends in low places... This is why you wear your seatbelt, kids

I’ve got friends in low places… This is why you wear your seatbelt, kids

Atop of the mountain, we witnessed a genuine Swiss alpenhorn player jamming out while clouds passed us by.

Horn blower must be winded pretty easily up here

Horn blower must be winded pretty easily up here

In the background, an announcement played.

“Smith family, please meet your family at the food court.”

Lauren: Did that just say, ‘please feed your family at the food court?’ Isn’t that a bit rude?

Me: Yeah, it is. Some jerk on a megaphone calling out families who have emaciated looking kids…

The announcement droned on. “…Please meet your family at the food court.”

We climbed along every viewpoint of the top of the mountain. Lauren mentioned that she has a small fear of heights but I didn’t think much of her statement.

snow in pilatus

A little bit of snow hanging in there!

pathway pilatus

Lauren had trouble going down this pathway, so we took the gondola instead

lauren and I pilatus bible verse pilatus switzerland chantae pilatus

pilatus

Lauren and I enjoying the view

clouds in pilatus

Clouds rolling over the mountain

I saw the edge of one of the most popular viewpoints as a perfect photo opportunity, and proceeded to climb on top of it.

Old lady: Oh my God!!! Oh my God!!! THAT GIRL!!! THAT GIRL!!!

On top of ledge, I looked around… what girl?

The old lady began crying. “You are going to give me a HEART ATTACK! GET DOWN! GET DOWN!”

Lauren’s own fear of heights kicked in pretty strongly and she asked me to get down as well. I obediently complied.

The old lady wasn’t done. “What if a bee attacked you? You could have fallen!”

Admittedly, I felt really bad for scaring her.

chantae pilatus

…but her tears were still totally worth this picture.

We trekked down in a hurry in a strong attempt to beat the sun setting behind the mountain. Luckily, we made it back on the bus just in time with sore legs and a strong sense of accomplishment. Pilatus was exactly the type of experience I wanted in my Swiss adventure.

Wood Switzerland Lucerne

A rustic cabin stores winter’s wood below the mountain.

Gondola Switzerland

Beautiful gondola scene

dandelion

Obsessed with gargantuan dandelions

switzerland crow

Crow relaxes on top of Mt. Pilatus… not a bad place to rest your wings

Switzerland Pilatus Cross

Lausanne, Switzerland

Rewind back to Lyon, where I sat in an apartment room sending messages to potential hosts hoping to line up accommodation plans for my journey through Switzerland. Being a solo and female traveler, I try to be as safe as possible – always checking for references, and preferring to house with female couchsurfers. I also try to avoid people with only female references (meaning the guy has an affinity for traveling women), people with no references at all, or people who respond with an excessive use of winkys. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, girls simply aren’t as active as guys on couchsurfing.

So imagine my excitement when I message a girl asking to be hosted, and she responds, “I can’t, but my friend Gabrielle probably can.”

An hour later, I get an offer from a brunette ‘Gabriele’ with a strong jawline from Lausanne.

In my head, I figured that the original girl asked her friend and that said friend had now messaged me.

I glanced at the profile but didn’t look too into the pictures or the small details. I read all positive references and the about-me section. It actually seemed like Gabriele and I had a lot in common! Excited to stay with a girl, I readily accepted.

Turns out, Gabriele is the Italian spelling of Gabriel – a male’s name. Obliviously, I took my train to Lausanne imagining girl’s nights out with a dark and masculine looking female. To be fair, Gabriele does have longer hair and wears sunglasses in all pictures.

Gabriele picked me up and we went to a barbeque with his friends on a lake. All were very friendly, even if they communicated in smiles and food offerings more than English. This part of Switzerland speaks French, one of the four official languages of the country.

A simple barbeque

A simple barbeque

Our view from the barbeque

Our view from the barbeque

Children playing in the fountains

Children playing in the fountains

Gabriele spent the next few days at a work event in Geneva, so I largely had the apartment to myself with his sister roommate. I spent most of my time walking along the lake, ducking into nooks to avoid random rain spells. The Alps dotted the background, and I loved the natural beauty of Lausanne vastly more than the industrial bustle of Geneva.

Swans run Switzerland - it's a fact.

Swans run Switzerland – it’s a fact.

statue lausanne switzerland

Paddle boats for those looking to tone their thighs.

Paddle boats for those looking to tone their thighs.

What a beautiful place to hang out

What a beautiful place to hang out

Quaint dock on the lake

Quaint dock on the lake

Solo travel breeds selfies... and floral accessories.

Solo travel breeds selfies… and floral accessories.

Sailboats speckling the blue landscape

Sailboats speckling the blue landscape

While the city is small, there are many gardens and even a free Olympic museum located on a beautiful boat on the lakeside.

Lausanne totes the Olympic flag everywhere - a symbol of their prized museum

Lausanne totes the Olympic flag everywhere – a symbol of their prized museum

The Olympic Museum housed on this boat

The Olympic Museum housed on this boat

Representing LA!

Representing LA!

Another Olympic jewel

Another Olympic jewel

Cute homes, stores, swans, and a stunning cathedral were frequent sights and stops for me as I wandered around. I was happy to find that the city was relatively free of other tourists like myself.

I loved these buildings

I loved these buildings

buildings Lausanne

One of the many beautiful sights I discovered in my meandering

One of the many beautiful sights I discovered in my meandering

Advertisements under a bridge

Advertisements under a bridge

No wonder everyone in Switzerland is so slim - nobody can afford the fast food!

No wonder everyone in Switzerland is so slim – nobody can afford the fast food!

I've been crushing the raillll road, all the live-long day....

I’ve been crushing the raillll road, all the live-long day….

The Cathedral can be seen from most of the city

The Cathedral can be seen from most of the city

Outside of the cathedral

Outside of the cathedral

Guardian she-goblin

Guardian she-goblin

Not necessarily being a Francophile, I struggled with the French-only bus ticket machines. Gabriele had advised me to take a ticket that was apparently only good for three stops (little did I know). The bus ticket checking brigade had checked me twice in the short time I was in Lausanne… the third time, I handed them my ticket proudly and resumed journaling. The man shook his head angrily and spoke to me in French.

A few seats away, another passenger was being chastised.

My blank expression must have shown a disconnect between his words and my comprehension – but when he pointed at the open door, I understood one thing: he wants me to get off.

The other bad passenger and I left the bus and stood on the sidewalk alongside my punisher until another English speaking ticket policeman came by. I explained that I was using these tickets every time and never had a problem before. I opened my wallet and revealed a black pocket stuffed full with tickets valid for only three stops… I told him that I been using most of them to get across the 10+ stop city.

He laughed and showed me how to pay for the correct ticket. I boarded the next bus unscathed.

The other Swiss passenger, however, was not so lucky… they did not entertain his pleads for mercy and fined him 200 Swiss Francs.

Ignorantia juris non excusat, or “ignorance of the law does not excuse” unless of course, you are a confidently-oblivious-five-feet-tall foreigner.

My Self Timer & I: A Love Story

My Self Timer & I: A Love Story

Perth, Western Australia: A Survival Guide

I’ve written about my travels to some of Western Australia’s hidden corners, such as Kalbarri, Margaret River, and Albany. I even gave a shout out to Melbourne. Truth be told, most of my time slipped by in Perth, Western Australia’s biggest city.

It’s a very mellow lifestyle in one of the more deserted states of Australia, and my first impression of Perth was that it’s much like San Diego, minus great Mexican food on every corner.

When we’re not galavanting in the wilderness somewhere or fighting each other with sticks, Moritz generally works on his PhD at his desk by the window while I act as his slave catch up on chores and research PhD programs. Sometimes I throw things at him as a distraction. He models ocean currents — so when people ask, I can say, “you know… he’s just modeling.”

He’s basically a model.

Yeah... he took this of himself.

Yeah… he took this of himself.

The humble abode

The humble abode

 

If you are a first-timer settling down in Perth, be prepared. While this city may seem laid back and calm, it throws curve balls at every corner.

Part I: Domestication

Like most semi civilized couples, the endless amount of laundry is a cause of 99% of our arguments. The washer doesn’t spin dry, so every clothing article comes out completely soaked. It seems more efficient to just throw your basket into the pool… which I sometimes do to Moritz’s shirts. His tactic for washing my clothes is throwing me into the pool while I’m still wearing them, so it evens out. Once in a blue moon, the washer will spin dry for no apparent reason, and the person who loaded it will proclaim themselves as god of the unwashed textiles and force every other person in the house to listen to his or her strategy.

My personal recommendation: only a few items (it works best with two shirts, a towel, and some undies to even out any imbalance – factoring that the towel will be heavier when wet), strategically placed, hot water, medium load and hardly any detergent. If you use too much detergent, don’t be surprised when your clothes to come out a slightly lighter color with a soapy film coating. I’d rather be stinky and bright than soapy and dull, I suppose.

Of course when you hang the laundry, Perth’s unpredictable weather will smite you by causing a rogue downpour after 10 days of cloudless sunshine. This pleases the extra-soap strategists who could use another rinse cycle. On sunny days, wind will blow the clothes all over the backyard… and hundreds of Australia’s many deadly slash poisonous spiders will joyfully and promptly use your bra or sock as a new home.

Might as well just chuck the laundry straight onto the floor instead of wasting time waiting for it to dry

Might as well just chuck the laundry straight onto the floor instead of wasting time waiting for it to dry

The place to go if your clothes could use another rinse cycle

The place to go if your clothes could use another rinse cycle

Lesson: Choose your battles – what is worth more – clean laundry, or your life?

Part II: Street Smarts

My favorite quality of Perth is that it fosters every adventure-type personality. If the waves are bad (which is typical – you need to head an hour either way up the coast for quality surfing), you can kitesurf, hike, swim, explore a deserted beach, or slackline in the beach park area.

Slackline superstars

Slackline superstars

I walk the line

I walk the line

We frequent Scarborough, and every time we go, Moritz hopes to see the “guy with the crazy drums.” However, we hear the drums and approach near the sound… but never actually see the drummer. At all hours of the day, the “famous reggae drummer” can be heard but not seen like a Houdini-Marley superperson. Sometimes, drum man switches up his style from erratic and spastic to a slow thud every couple of minutes.

Turns out, “crazy drummer dude” is usually a three year old banging on the plastic bongos at the children’s park.

Drum show for all

Drum show for all

Crazy Reggae Drummer Dude makes an appearance

Crazy Reggae Drummer Dude makes an appearance

A look of confusion spread over Moritz’s face at this discovery, followed by an expression of epiphany – “I too, can be crazy drummer dude.”

Luckily there were no children in line for the bongos when Moritz went to play them, else the park bully would have probably set him straight.

Lesson: Don’t trust your senses in this town, everything is out there to deceive you.

Part III: Human Interaction

Other humans are very common in Perth, but befriending an actual Australian is rarer than you think. It is much more common for foreigners to intermingle with other foreigners.

It’s essential that you bond with these aliens and consult them in your strategies for survival. Every nationality has something to share, and it’s important that you learn everything you can from those you encounter.

For example, one night Tom (English), Charlotte (also English), Moritz (German), and I (simply awesome) talked about survival in our home countries and life in the future.

Tom: When I was a kid, my friends and I thought it was fun to lob rocks at each other.

Moritz: We did that too! I had a wooden shield and an iron rod. One time another kid threw a rock at my face and I blocked it with my shield… it was awesome.

As strategies taken from battles of the past were revealed, plans for the future unravelled.

Charlotte: What if everyone had to wear a helmet?

Me: You’d definitely have people using them as a status symbol – ugly Louis Vuitton ones would take over Hollywood and rappers would sag them back.

Tom: Someone would find a loophole – the law doesn’t state the thickness of the helmet so somebody invents ones that are paper thin.

Moritz: Mine would be nuclear proof. (He’s still a bit sensitive from the war)

Me: Nuclear proof? Just the head? So your body gets blasted to smithereens but your head is perfectly intact… I sense a design flaw.

Moritz: I’m working on it.

Tom: *Snaps* Natural selection – all of the idiots walk around with nuclear proof helmets… “It’s okay guys! I got my helmet on!”

Lesson: Use social hours as conference time for potential security threats.

Part IV: Surviving Shark Territory

I’ve said it before – sharks are a legitimate problem in Australia. The number of attacks have increased exponentially, and it seems as though there is no method to their man-eating madness. Some believe it’s simply a result of more people entering Australian waters, while others cite a change in currents as a cause of sharks existing closer to shore.

Where the sharks frollick

Where the sharks frollick

Every day that Perth has a ridable wave, Moritz convinces me to slither into a wetsuit and stumble into the water with a board in tow.

Why they make the wetsuits black here is beyond me. Why make us look more like a seal than some of us rotund people already do? In every other relatively sharkless water, it’s stylish and slimming. Here, it makes me feel like a drown prone hunk of shark bait.

I’m not sure exactly when I started googling shark facts before our surfing endeavors, but it’s fair to say it’s become a habit.

“Did you know that some think that sharks attack at dawn and dusk?” I’d inquire as we stepped into the water to the setting sun.

Moritz nodded.

“How come you’re not supposed to pee in your wetsuit?” I’d ask, feeling dehydrated due to not drinking anything all day for this exact reason.

“Because it smells like some chemical found in seals blood, I think.” Moritz would answer.

“Hm, some people think it’s because animals urinate in distress. Do you think that’s a reason? I don’t think that makes any sense because animals urinate all the time – even when they’re not in distress, so wouldn’t the sharks come every time they did that? Do you want to record us singing that camp song I taught you, the one about the baby shark? We could do it on the streets and make some money.”

Moritz became a faster paddler with each passing day that we went surfing. The second we hit the water, he would bolt into the waves without any hesitation.

While I have never had a personal encounter with these beasts, Moritz on the other hand, has. While diving with some of his friends, a great white – four meters long – circled suspiciously around him. I guess it’s understandable he tires of my information bombings and questions easily.

Usually, once I was in the water, I barely thought about my toothy friends. This is because huge waves often came out of nowhere, and the currents kept me in a perpetual state of paddling.

One time, as my body flung over the wave, I heard Moritz let out a high pitched, “bye bye!” It’s a dog eat dog world in the water, so prepare to fend for yourself.

Lesson: Educating yourself on the risks of the wild does nothing except freak out those nearby.
Side note: Sharks, while scary, are amazing creatures that need to stay protected. Find out how to help here.

All of these tips have been acquired within only two months of traveling Australia. Not to brag, but I’ve already picked up on the native tongue quite a bit. With a little bit of luck and common sense, (and of course the help of this guide) you too can survive life in Perth.

If we can live here without dying, anyone can.

If we can live here without dying, anyone can.

Albany: Where You Live Happy & Free

I’ve been in Western Australia for the past month, and It’s perfect for antisocial nature-lovers. You can wander for hours along the green coastline without seeing anybody — which is precisely what I did this weekend in Albany with Moritz — my funny/oceanographer/surfer/German boyfriend, with a smile like this, needs no introduction.

I wish I looked this good after three days without a shower

I wish I looked this good after three days without a shower

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Barcelona! More Than a Club!

Confession: In Madrid, I claimed to be a Real Madrid fan because somebody told lied to me that’s the team that Gerard Piqué aka Shakira’s husband played on. Now, you can scold me for not doing my own research — I know, I know. So I arrived in Barcelona as a Real Madrid fan for the sole reason of believing that I was rooting for Mr. Shakira.

Turns out, he’s actually on FC Barcelona. Feeling torn over my professed love for Real Madrid, I hesitantly switched over my loyalty to FC Barcelona.

This becomes semi relevant later in this post, but mostly I needed to get that off of my chest.

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