By the end of Day Two, we had decided that there was no point in trying to postpone a trip up the mountains. Tomorrow (day four), we would need to be ready to pack up early and then do whatever sightseeing we could, come back to pick up our stuff and leave for Zurich in the afternoon (latest by evening). Besides, the Meiringen area was planned to have sunny weather for at least a couple of hours while the weather was still forecast to be dicey in Lauterbrunnen. That did not leave us with much of a choice, i.e., we got Hobson’s choice!
With that in mind, we (parents) planned to wake up early to get prepared; as it was, we got up too early – I believe it was somewhere around 5ish. There was not much to do that early, so we took a walk in the empty streets to get to Staubbach Falls. At the entrance, a sign said that the hours were from 8 am to … pm (I forget what). Like law-abiding folks, we decided against going further though I couldn’t think of a reason why the place needed to be closed during this time of the year – the rule would make perfect sense for Autumn and Winter! We just hung around to take a few photos and returned to the Valley Hostel; on our way back, we saw some other folks going right up to the falls (maybe we should have done so as well – it was light enough).
Once we got back, we had breakfast and got ready by about 9 am or so. Looking up, we saw light clouds getting slightly heavier at the top. It appeared that there was no point in either a) going to Schilthorn because there would be no views (influenced by a friend’s experiences) as a result of the clouds or b) going all the way up to Jungfraujoch (notwithstanding the fact that there were other things to do here besides the views). So, we decided to go up to Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen and return. In all the excitement, I had forgotten whether there was a discussion on the forums here about a preferred direction, i.e., Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg or the other way around.
Anyway, we walked over to the station and I got the tickets – when I asked the agent, he said that it would be the same either way, so I requested him to give us a ticket going up one direction and returning the other direction. We got on the first available train and went up the slope. It was pretty crowded and as we started ascending the sky grew grayer. By the time we reached Wengen, the valley was still clearly visible; above us, visibility was pretty limited. As we climbed the slope, out of the right side, we could see the mountainside covered with snow, but that was about it – we could not see anything that was much higher than where our train was.
Soon, we were in Kleine Scheidegg, and as we stepped out of the train, we encountered a slight drizzle. OK, it is just a passing shower, we are in Switzerland not in India, we told ourselves 🙂 especially because (I do not remember whether or not I had looked at the forecast that morning) the last time I had looked at the weather forecast, I remembered that it called for 0-2 mm of rain.
We walked around a bit – checked out the artificial lake (Fallbodensee) and took photos of the trains descending to Grindelwald and Wengen, and climbing to Jungfraujoch. I felt bad for the folks on the tours – at least, we had made our own decision, but they were more like captive travellers, rain or shine!
Talking of rain, it started pouring on us right about this time. We were already wearing our ponchos but were still caught unawares, as we had not expected the skies to open up like they do in Mumbai during he monsoon. We walked/ran as quickly as we could back to the shelter of the train station area.
When we got there, we saw a tourist party entering the restaurant – we did the same thing and got ourselves seated. It turned out that the seating area was reserved for a tour group, but our hostess was nice enough to let us sit in the same area as well. We were there for the next 30-45 minutes waiting for the rain to stop (it did not). While waiting, we had our only sit-down meal of our trip. We shared a plate of Rosti and Raclette, which was sufficient for us as we had not yet started feeling hungry.
Finally, we were ready for our walk/trek/hike to Mannlichen in the gloom. The rain had by now lessened to a drizzle, but it was enough for us to definitely need to wearing our ponchos.
We walked for a while, my family a troika of colour – I had a blue poncho, Mrs. Porcupyn and Baab had yellow ones and Katya wore one in pink (Hello to anyone who saw us 🙂
We thought we would encounter a few people. It turned out the conditions had made many change their minds – we saw only a handful of groups (and based on what happened when we got to the other end, probably even fewer followed behind us in our direction). There was a family from South India (Tamil Nadu to be precise) with two sons, a young Oriental couple followed by an older one, two ladies from Canada who were nice enough to take a group photo for us (and we did the same with their smartphone), and then – like I mentioned on another thread – the Swiss version of Buddy Backpacker. This was a five-year old kid who was with his father. They live in Wengen and apparently father and son go for hikes all the time up and down the mountainside. This time they had walked all the way up from Wengen to Mannlichen … and now to Kleine Scheidegg, and were planning to take the train down from there,
When we met the father-son pair, we could see what we thought was the gondola station just around the corner (relatively speaking). So, I asked the father whether that was it. No, he said, we were only at about the half-way point – bummer! It turned out that what I saw was the chairlift (??) for the winter sportsfolk. By this time, it had started to get really dark indeed. Not knowing what would be the indication of the weather changing to a thunderstorm, I got worried (though the forecasts had not called for thunderstorms) because we were on the open space at the top.
I started walking faster, leaving family behind, to see if I could get to someone quickly in case of any emergency. I would walk for five minutes and wait for a couple for everyone to catch up. Along the way, we encountered piles of snow – especially at one spot it appeared that the snow had been recently cleared to open up the path as there was snow right above and right below. We rested (literally sat/leaned against it) on the snow for some photo ops 🙂 There were also a couple of spots where it was pretty obvious that there had been landslides (don’t know how recently) which was a bit worrisome.
Anyway, we reached Mannlichen without any incidents and were glad to get back in shelter and remove the ponchos. Needless to say, visibility was pretty poor. It was so bad that we could barely see four gondola(?) cars on the Mannlichen-Grindelwald stretch before they disappeared. In the few minutes that I observed it, not one person stepped off that station. In fact, no one came out of the Wengen-Mannlichen cablecar either. As we waited, we had some snacks and wondered if we would have the cablecar all to ourselves. That did not happen as one couple showed up just as we were getting ready to board.
While going down the hill, everything was white around us. It was like being in a plane as it approaches the airport and gets into a thick cloud bank. And just as suddenly as it sometimes happens with the planes, the cloud cover broke when we were quite close to the ground.
Upon reaching Wengen, Baab and Katya spotted some rabbits in a pen close by. They joined other kids who were feeding grass to the rabbits. From the rabbits’ viewpoint, greener or not, the grass definitely was tastier on the other side of the fence and they hungrily munched the grass being offered by the kids.
After this slight detour, we walked over to Wengen station for some photos, then headed to the COOP for some munchies as the walking had made us all hungry (and me grumpy a bit).
Finally, we took the train down to Lauterbrunnen. We took off our wet socks and shoes. I crashed on the bed for a while, to relieve that feeling of frustration; besides, none of us was not wanting to go out yet again.
After some time, however, Baab decided that he wanted to go check out Staubbach Falls. As no one else was keen on going, he went by himself and came back after a while. At this point, I decided to check it out as well.
I had assumed that it was an easy walk up to it, but the climb to the viewing platform would not be trivial for folks who are not used to climbing stairs, especially older folks. It was not an issue for me and so, in a few minutes, I was at the platform and took a photo of the valley from behind the veil of water. The flow was not as large in volume as I had assumed (not that I thought it would rival Niagara Falls, where we have been behind the Falls and the sound was deafening).
And that, folks, was our third day in Switzerland. The wettest one we encountered. For the rest of the trip, though we encountered drizzles, it was thankfully not anywhere close to disrupting our plans. But then, we had already decided that tomorrow we would be going to Meiringen and on the day after, from Zurich, we would be heading towards – and through – the Gotthard Pass.
Photos for today are in this album (Photo Credit: Baab)