Tag Archives: Trekking

Switzerland: we are here



Street view at Interlaken…

From urban edgy to outdoor rec heaven, from the steamy heat and energy of a city jammed with people to the crisp alpine air of a town nestled between two lakes – flying from Tokyo to Zurich and jumping on a train to Interlaken in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland feels like intergalactic travel…

Yet both Japan and Switzerland have much in common, including their love of sticking to the rules, their stunning scenery, their strong connection to culture – and how they seem to come alive at night.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Switzerland is definitely a walking culture!

In the evening in the village of Interlaken, everyone is out promenading, eating, drinking, chatting and lapping up the long days before winter sets in.

And when the sun comes up, out they come in their walking gear, with their hiking poles and backpacks…

On our first day here, we join them on Europe’s highest train ride. Along the way, some jump off to walk between alpine villages.

But we’re going all the way – through tunnels chiselled in the mountains, on a railway that is an impressive feat of engineering, up to Jungfraujoch… 3454 metres above sea level.




While I’m busy taking photos, EB is powering up the slope…

Here the scenery is epic – but there’s no time to get comfortable. EB has spotted a snowy trail disappearing off in the distance.

So off we go, slipping and sliding in the snow. Apparently there’s a café up there somewhere, but it’s way out of sight right now.

This reminds me of our trek in Nepal where the sherpas would smile and say ‘bistaarai, bistaarai’ (slowly, slowly).

With the altitude affecting us a little, we’re taking that advice here… and we definitely lap up the beer and soup in the café that really is there (that’s what I love about Switzerland – you can get food just about anywhere).

As we head back down the slippery slope towards the impressive station at the top of Europe, it’s hard to believe that just a couple of days ago we were bathed in sweat as we walked the streets of Tokyo – and that two countries we never had on our bucket list have managed to capture our hearts.


Walk on the wild side – at Binna Burra

Copyright: Louise Creely

Crisp air, sweeping views, birdsong and a nice red… you can just feel the serenity. We’ve arrived at Binna Burra Sky Lodges, in the heart of the Lamington National Park, for some post-wedding R&R.

Copyright: Louise Creely

But it’s not long before EB is scanning the Binna Burra map to find a long, challenging walk for us to do. Clearly ‘relaxation’ is all in the interpretation.

The Sky Lodges are the newest edition to the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, a nature-based resort founded in 1933, which still has that retro feel.

The beautiful, self-contained lodges are designed to capture the spectacular views across Queensland’s Scenic Rim, stretching all the way to the Gold Coast and the ocean.

EB may have his walking agenda, but I also have mine. So late in the afternoon we emerge, feeling very Zen, from the aptly-named Bliss Massage, to a mountain shrouded in mist – which soon unwraps a stunning sunset. Copyright: Louise Creely

The next morning, we tackle the Ship’s Stern. To say I’m a little anxious is a major understatement. I haven’t done any serious bush walking since we climbed Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island in 2011 and, unlike EB who’s always exercising and has an active job, I spend most days firmly planted at an office desk.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The Ship’s Stern walk descends into the Kurraragin Valley, past towering red cedar, eucalypts and piccabeen palms, and natural viewing spots where looking down makes your legs tingle.

Along the way, dense rainforest gives way to open forest, with sudden transitions to open heathland. In places, the narrow track clings to the mountain edge and the drop-offs are breathtaking.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Pops of bushland colour…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Go fig-ure

When I’m certain we’re nearing the end of the 19km walk, we come across a sign that proves EB right (again). We’ve just passed the halfway point. Ugh.

But surprisingly, my bushwalking legs are back and I’m ready to take on the 9.4km uphill stretch.

Negotiating massive fallen trees and debris on the edge of the precipice along this section of the track soon makes me forget uphill battles and fatigued legs. There’s nothing like the occasional adrenalin rush to keep your energy levels up.

Nature's hieroglyphics

Nature’s hieroglyphics

By the time we reach the end of the walk, I’m skipping – in an exhilarated, kind-of exhausted and lumbering way. I made it – and with far more ease than I expected.

Yes, EB would definitely have arrived at the finish line sooner, but he was very relaxed and accommodating of my slower pace (what a great husband!).

He wasn’t even phased by my constant oo-ah moments, when I stopped to take photos with my iPhone camera (because I wasn’t about to lug my real one on a walk like this!). Copyright: Louise Creely

This was yet another reminder in my life (how many do I need?!) that when you think you can’t do something, you’re often underestimating your abilities because, most times, you can.

Somewhere along the Ship’s Stern, I decided there are so many things in life I can’t not do…

Which leads me to the ‘real’ honeymoon we’ll be taking sometime soonish.

It may involve some serious cycling training… but that’s another story.

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

A wedding postscript: The rain gods cast their blessing on our beach wedding. But, as some wise person once said, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, then (our addition) splash in the gin and hand it around.

So we took the ceremony indoors, and nothing could dampen our spirits as the night turned into one huge party. It really was one of the best days of our life, shared with our fabulous family and friends.

After 19 years together, raising our blended family, we didn’t expect to feel any different. But we do. We’re primed and ready for getting on with this next phase of our lives… on the flight path.

Copyright: Louise Creely

And he walks in fields of gold…

Postcard from Nepal

We’re planning a house move at the moment, so it’s time to dust off more of those travel memories…until we can hit the road again (and not in a removalist van).

Copyright: Louise Ralph

October 2008: We’ve just emerged from the clouds. Trekking the Annapurnas was both surreal and an absolute blast – and the pace was surprisingly civilized (an added bonus).

Of course, EB was hopping from one foot to the other the whole time.

We had a great group…all young-at-heart and, thank god, not out to prove they were super star trekkers.

As always, EB was the social lubricant – possibly because the rest of us were actually gasping for breath most of the time.

Copyright: Louise RalphAt one of the villages, we found some open space and challenged ‘the boys’ (sherpas and guides) to a game of cricket… with a bit of wood and a ball made of something wrapped in plastic bags and held together with string!

The only problem was that a ‘six’ required a jungle safari and sharp eyes to retrieve the ball.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Our sherpas…

On the last night, we rocked the (tea) house ’til the wee hours with our sherpas. It’s amazing what fun you can have with one drum, some dodgy whisky, and a bunch of crazy people.

One bloke in our group said ‘Louise wants to take three of you boys home for her daughters’…which guaranteed I was never short of dancing partners. We had people from the village turning up to see what was going on and joining the party…

Nepal’s scenery is spectacular, the people are delightful, and there’s something magical about sharing rickety rope-strung bridges with a passing parade of donkeys laden with goods. Oh and the food? Delicious and mostly vegetarian. What more can I say?

The contrast with Bangkok, our stopover on the way to Nepal, was another story. A huge, humid, smelly city were a tuk tuk ride is a journey to anywhere – except where you want to go.

…mostly to tailors who ‘make you suit for cheap-cheap price’ or out-of-the-way boat sheds where a business associate (aka cousin) was ready and waiting to take you on a special charter boat with bonus snake park visit.

The adventure continued at the night markets where we had fun bargaining with the locals. Lots of laughs. The market was in the red light district, and every few steps I got asked to go to a ping pong show (note to self: dress like a girl next time).

They take pole dancing to whole new levels in Bangkok… the bars are lined with poles (every couple of feet) with a very gorgeous and very bored girl (or lady-boy) on each, gyrating half-heartedly for the slavering tourists.

Apart from the markets, Bangkok’s shopping centres are mega-huge. One Aussie shopping centre would fit on one floor, and there are seven!

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…walking the streets of Pokara

Back in Nepal, and we’re hanging out in Pokara while some lovely people wash our clothes. I could get used to this!

Tonight is our end-of-trip party (another one). Tomorrow we head into the jungle to look for four-legged wild life in Chitwan, and then we’re off to India…