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Report 1021: Switzerland in Slow Motion: 100 Miles on the Alpine Pass Route

By Kaydee from Tennessee, Summer 2005

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Page 12 of 19: Day 9: Golderli to Kandersteg

photo by Kathy Wood

Charley and Al at Golderli

I woke up realizing my knee was almost locked up. There was no way I could walk ten miles or climb 4,500 feet over a giant mountain today. Kelly was still asleep, but I told Charley I couldn’t do it and needed to pursue a Plan B. I studied the maps and the Sherpa information and thought that Kelly and I could walk a couple of miles down the valley to a village called Kiental. From there we could take a train or bus to Kandersteg. That way we could get a bit of exercise and fill our day. Meanwhile, Charley could continue the walk and climb up over Hohtürli.

As expected, Kelly was excited about having an easier day. We shared our plan with Al over breakfast, and he and Charley decided to hike together. In Lauterbrunnen after I fell, Al had mentioned he had a knee brace, but I didn't think I needed it then. He had carried the brace with him to Golderli for me, so today I was happy to take it. I hoped the combination of the easy day and the knee brace would be good for me. Al also gave me some pain relievers. Thank goodness for Al!

I was glad Al was going to walk with Charley, as I thought it was better for Charley to have someone to walk with, especially on such a difficult and maybe dangerous day. Kris and Phil sat with us at breakfast too. They said this was their favorite day of the entire walk. Today is Kris’ birthday, and they had planned their schedule so they could do this particular day on her birthday. We were glad it looked like good weather for Kris' day, and I was sorry I was going to miss this exciting stage of the Alpine Pas walk.

Kelly and I took a photo of Charley and Al in front of the little inn at Golderli, and then they headed up the road while Kelly and I studied a big map posted across the road. We decided to take a trail called the Wildwasserweg (wild water path), then head down the valley past a lake called the Tschingelsee to Kiental. It was actually kind of comforting to have an easy day (with no uphill climb!), and Kelly and I settled into a comfortable companionship. I felt good about this happy mother/daughter day.

We paused to watch the llamas at the llama farm next to the Beggasthaus Golderli. The llamas were cute but very skittish, and they wouldn’t come near us. We had asked the innkeeper about the llamas, and apparently this is a big breeding farm. I wasn’t sure if they were sold for their wool, used as pack animals for mountaineering, or just as pets. It was definitely interesting to see them, a hundred or more llamas grazing in the fields around our little inn.

The Wildwasserweg was a unique route through the woods, passing alongside a stream and several impressive waterfalls. One area of swirling water was called the Hexenkessel or “witches cauldron.” A post bus route ran along the tiny road, and a few buses passed us. This stretch of road apparently has a 28% grade—the steepest in Europe, and they have special buses just for this route. I was glad we were walking instead of riding in the bus. As we came out of the woods, mountains rose up all around us, many topped with snow. We wondered how Charley and Al were doing with their conquest of Hohtürli.

Our path then followed along a dried-up lake called the Tshingelsee, a depressing-looking place, then through the woods and along a stretch of road to Kiental. We walked about two hours. We found the tourist information office at Kiental, and the woman there suggested we take the bus to Reichenbach, where we could then get a bus or train to Kandersteg. The post bus stop was right outside the tourist office, though the posted schedule said it was about an hour and a half until the next bus. I wondered if we could walk to Reichenbach, but Kelly (no surprise!) thought that Kiental was a good place to get a snack. We sat outside at the inn up the street and had drinks and shared a sandwich. Kelly, of course, had a book to read.

We took the bus down the hill to the Reichenbach train station and tried to figure out our next step. The schedule information at the station was confusing, and there didn’t seem to be a ticket office. A bus driver told us that we would need to take a bus to Kandersteg. So we had another wait. I was anxious to be doing something. The brace was helping, and my knee was feeling fine, it just seemed like we were spending most of the day waiting around. The bus driver also told us how to pronounce Kandersteg… more like Konderstaag.

Finally the bus came and we were on our way to Kandersteg. Basically we went down the valley, around the end of the mountain, and then up the next valley to Kandersteg, while Charley just climbed over the mountain.

Kandersteg is a larger village, attractive, with quite a few shops, restaurants and hotels. Our bus dropped us at the train station, and we walked down the main street to the Hotel Bernerhof. It turned out to be a very pretty day, and we hoped Charley was enjoying his walk. There’s a big international scouting center in Kandersteg, and we saw lots of young people in scouting clothes from many different countries. Kelly was quite enthusiastic about all the shops.

We liked our hotel. We were reunited with our bags, and the hotel owner even carried them up to our room. We had a two room corner suite: a sitting room and a bedroom. I found that we often got a really good room because we had a triple. Al, on the other hand, had ended up in a few closets for his single!

There were balconies with chairs off both the rooms, so we could enjoy the mountain views in two directions. Kelly and I showered, and then went out to explore those shops. Kelly wanted to get a birthday gift for Kris, plus she’s always looking out for something to buy for herself, or more likely, something for ME to buy for her! We found a scarf and a birthday card for Kris.

When we got back to the hotel, Charley had arrived. He was pretty pumped up from his walk, an exciting, though very strenuous day. He said that I would have had a difficult time, even without my knee problems, because of the steepness. He and Al had walked most of the way together, and they stopped for a beer at a beautiful mountain lake up above Kandersteg.

We had dinner with Al in the attractive hotel dining room. Kris and Phil sat separately from us tonight since it was Kris’ birthday. They had asked to switch their dinner nights so they could order off the menu tonight for Kris’ birthday and have the set meal tomorrow. Kelly was excited to give Kris her birthday gift, and I think Kris was touched to get a present from our family. Our dinner was very, very good. Although we don’t have to eat here tomorrow night, we all decided we wanted to.

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