On our 2nd night in Wengen, after our exhilarating day visiting the Jungfraujoch, my sister and my husband had the brilliant idea of going white water rafting in Interlaken the next day. The 2 of them are adrenaline junkies whereas I am a different breed altogether. Give them roller coasters and they go wild. Give them bungee jumping and they will say yes. For me, I will politely decline.
For white water rafting, I have this vision of myself being slammed, into a million pieces, against a huge rock and dying in Switzerland – even though ‘staying’ there is not such a bad idea.
Well, to put it simply, they convinced me and I decided to hell with it, I am going!
It is not everyday that you are in such beautiful surroundings and weather.
I have read about this adventure company (Alpin Raft) in Interlaken while I was doing research in Singapore before we came. I had the email address and the number. So we asked Ursula (the daughter of the owner of the hotel) from Alpenrose Hotel to call them for us. Alpin Raft said they would be sending a van to Lauterbrunnen to pick us up. We booked the 12pm trip for the next day and so after breakfast, off we went to Lauterbrunnen, with our swim gear and slippers!
A lot more tourists choose to stay in Lauterbrunnen as cars are allowed here but not in Wengen. It is also easily accessible from other parts of Switzerland.
As my mum has a bad back, she preferred to sit at this café and enjoy the snacks, her coffee and her books.
Soon after, at about 1130am, the van from Alpin Raft came to the pickup point at Lauterbrunnen to bring us to their compound in Interlaken. Interlaken has numerous backpacker-friendly hostels and companies providing guided services in skydiving, canyoning, hang gliding, paragliding, and skiing. To our surprise, there were many Singaporeans there at Alpin Raft who were on their school vacations. We recognised them because most of them wore their Singapore university T-shirts.
Before we started, we had to go choose our gear for the rafting. The shoes and the wet suits were all displayed in rows, according to sizes. There would be a guide who would stand in the middle of the room to assign you your ‘area’ depending on your body size. That was scary and all the girls would pretend not to hear what the other girls get assigned to..
The wet suits were super difficult to get into and needless to say, all the girls struggled to get into them and we helped each other and others as well. It was very heavy, slippery and it all smells of rubber. It was like a massive changing room and everyone was conscious at first but when you start sweating and huffing away, I didn’t care so much anymore and everyone felt the same.
Getting into the wet suit was super tedious and I have concluded we all look odd in them. I was already tired before I have even started the rafting!
Funny how the mind takes over the body – once you get into the wet suit, you feel like you have won half the battle. HA!
I can do this!
We learnt all the essential commands on land first and even had a few trial runs while sitting on the raft. Our instructor was Sven who is from England and he has been all over the world teaching white water rafting. He goes where summer is. He was extremely professional and assertive and with him, we felt safe. He pairs you up with someone of the same weight so that the raft is kept stable as much as it can. He said that once we are all out there, we are each other’s buddy and there is no time to learn any commands and you learn ‘on the move’! It all sounds very exciting and I could not wait to get started.
If you notice the rope that goes along the side of the raft, that is the safety line. He will let you know when to hold onto that. Even if you capsize, you have to hold onto that line if you can!
My hand was ALWAYS on the line.
After that we sat the bus back to the compound, ate free cheese, wine and bread and were very pleased with ourselves. The tour guide, Sven really took care of us out there throughout the whole 3.5 hours trip.
After the trip, we felt extremely tired but satisfied. To me, I did something that I did not dare to before, and that feeling of overcoming your fear was priceless.
After that, we took the van back to Lauterbrunnen and as it was still early, we went to the Staubbach Falls, which is located just above Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland. The waterfall drops about 300 metres (1000 ft) from a hanging valley that ends in overhanging cliffs above the Lütschine River. There were lambs below grazing as well.
I even bought a great pair of NorthFace shoes, from Lauterbrunnen, that I wear till this day:
We took the train back to Wengen and we ate a great Italian dinner with pizza & pasta. Beer was involved as well naturally.
I am so glad we added Wengen to our Europe trip.
Without coming here, we would not have ventured to the ‘Top of Europe‘ where we enjoyed the alpine scenery, went to Europe’s highest railway station and had the best kind of ‘silence’ as each of us walked in the snow in search of the dog sleds.
We would not have stayed in one of Switzerland’s best hotels, in a car-less town where you truly walk everywhere and everyone knows everyone else. Gosh, we met the oldest person in Wengen on our 1st day there!
I would not have had one of the best adventures of my life on the white water rafting trip. The initial fear and worry dissolved as soon as we brought the raft down to the river and you realised that this is it, for better or for worse!
And you are in awe when it is over because you are stronger than you think you are.
The peace, the tranquillity, the silence is one that will remain in our hearts till our next trip back there.