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14degrees off the beaten track
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Day 330 - SWITZERLAND: Resting in Fribourg
June 30th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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I spent the majority of today sleeping on the grass in parks around Fribourg.

Fribourg skyscape (Fribourg, Switzerland)

It was a good opportunity for a rest, as I was waiting for my wonderful host, Mirjam, to arrive back from work at 6:30pm. After yesterday’s big effort I was suitibly knackered. My muscles weren’t sore, but I was feeling understandibly stiff. I am much more committed to stretching now; if I didn’t, I think I’d tense up completely.

Energy in Fribourg, Switzerland

So I ate peanuts and watched children expertly dodge each other as they rode bicycles and scooters around the park. At 7pm I met Mirjam - an enthusiastic, open, and well-travelled woman who loves bicycles. Along with some other cycle enthusiasts in the city, she is involved in a new organisation called ‘Pro Velo’. Her organisation promotes the use of bicycles as part of one’s lifestyle.

“Forget the lycra and speedy fasionable bikes,” she says. “Ride your bike to work, to the grocery store. We like to encourage Fribourg to become a more bicycle-friendly place.”

My sentiments precicely. I was more than a little gutted that I wasn’t still riding my bike…

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Days 296 to 306 - SWITZERLAND: Village Camps spring outdoor education camp - Weeks III and IV
May 26th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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Camp life can be hectic. Let me describe a typical day.

0700 - Wake and shower, walk to chalet
0730 - Arrive chalet and help setting up breakfast
0800 - Breakfast with 60 or more very vocal children
0900 - Daily program begins, spend all day with children straight out of an Energizer battery commercial
1800 - Dinner with wired children
2130 - Children go to bed, staff debreifing of the day
2230 - Go to bed

Repeat the above cycle for five days until completely shattered. That was my week this week.

I had the week before off though.

During my week off I played almost obsessively with beer cans. The rest of my ongoing journey’s meals will be cooked on this:

Beer can stoves going strong (handmade in Anzere, Switzerland)

This is a beer can stove, adapted from Scott’s Pepsi can stove idea. It weighs 13 grams. It boils one litre of water in 10 minutes from lighting to boil. It is good.

Beer can stoves going strong (handmade in Anzere, Switzerland)

The stoves run on alcohol. The one on the right in the above photo is made from a Red Bull can.

The stoves are a blast to make. A great way to spend a week off.

Beer can stoves under construction in Anzere, Switzerland

I did manage to get outside during my week off also. Once again the recumbent was put through its paces on the trails around Anzere. The mountains here stare you in the face, the valley floor extending more than a kilometer vertically downwards.

Magic moments above Anzere, Switzerland

The day out cycling was only slightly affected by a broken chain. After more than 15,000km, my chain is on the way out.

Broken chain on the Bisse de Sion, Anzere, Switzerland

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Days 289 to 295 - SWITZERLAND: Village Camps spring outdoor education camp - Week II
May 15th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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It was tough, but my first week as an outdoor education camp counsellor went well. We had about 62 students from Zurich International School (ZIS), and I had 12 members in my counsellor group (ages from 9 to 10 years old). It was a dynamic group to say the least. Some other counsellors reported that their groups were always attentive, and very well behaved.

My camp name is Weka, and by the end of the week, Team Weka was defnintely my favourite group. The kids were outgoing and keen to give all the challenges a go. There were some strong personalities in the group, but with these tamed and directed, the group tackled the team work exercises with gusto.

Working at Village Camps spring ourdoor education camp in Anzere, Switzerland

The photo above, kindly taken by one of the ZIS teachers, shows a particular episode where Team Weka harvested about 40 small tadpoles from a pond. Even the girls were keen to get in there and grab a few tadpoles for the bag.

At first, the general consensus was that everyone would take a few tadpoles home each. However, after discussing the impact of humans on the natural world, we all took a vote on what would be the most caring thing to do. It was an almost unanimous vote to let the tadpoles go.

My specific role this week was to be the overall ‘overseeer’ of my group. Specific skills such as living with nature, map skills, rock climbing etc were instructed by a specialist. I may have a chance to operate in a specialist role next week.

Apart from work, I had the opportunity to do a couple of day rides around the area. There are some great mountian bike tracks on which my recumbent performs remarkably well.

Steep single track near St Romain, Switzerland

A fasctinating feature of the Valais region in Switzerland is the abundance of irrigation channels dug into the mountain side. These are called ‘bisse’ and in the immediate vicinity of Anzere, there are three important bisse. The Bisse de Sion, Bisse de Ayant, and Bisse de Clavant.

These irrigation channels take water from high up in the mountains down to the many vineyards in the region. All along the bisse are walking and mountain biking tracks. On Saturday I went out for a ride with Dee, an Irish lass who was only here for the first two weeks of camp before returning to Ireland.

Vineyards near St Leonard, Switzerland

To the right of the track in the photo above, there is a channel of water. This is one of the bisse that runs from below Anzere all the way down to Sion. An altitude drop of about 700m.

A novelty was seeing a steep vineyard cart in action.

A hairy ride up the vineyards near Sion, Switzerland

Not for the squeamish for hights.

A hairy ride up the vineyards near Sion, Switzerland

Today I went on another ride, this time up the valley to Lake Tzeuzier, with Simon and Eric, two others involved in Village Camps. We followed the Bisse de Sion up the valley, and the Bisse de Ayant back down to Anzere.

Riding along side Bisse de Sion near Anzere, Switzerland

The track is quite rocky in places, and exposed tree roots posed a problem at times. All in all however, 8 months on the recumbent meant that I handled the terrain with much more ease compared to my companions on their mountain bikes. The recumbent still ceases to amaze me.

Bisse de Ayant tunnel, near Anzere, Switzerland

Here we have Simon navigating the new tunnel to take the Bisse de Ayant past a cliff face. Below is how they used to do it. This wooden bisse counstruction was made at the turn of the 20th century, using fairly basic tools. Apparently prisoners were the construction workers of the time.

100 year old Bisse de Ayant, near Anzere, Switzerland

So that’s the first week of serious work here at Village Camps. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem all that bad…

Vineyards near St Leonard, Switzerland

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Days 280 to 288 - SWITZERLAND: Spring outdoor education camp - WEEK 1
May 7th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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My brain is fried.

I need sleep.

I am in over my head.

Rob practising abseiling at Village Camps spring outdoor education camp staff orientation in Anzere, Switzerland

This week has been staff orientation week for the staff working at the Village Camps spring outdoor education programmes in Anzere, Switzerland. I am one of those staff, and without a doubt the most inexperienced when it comes to leading in the outdoors. It has been a massive learning curve for me.

There are about 14 camp counsellors this year, with about 9 attending the pre-camp orientation week. After 8 months on the road alone, it is great being with other people. It is also a challenge, as I now have to think not only about what I need, but the needs of others around me also.

The other camp counsellors are from diverse backgrounds. Countries include Poland, France, Canada, England, Ireland. There are professional teachers, snowboard instructors, mountaineers. All with a lot of experience.

Village Camps has a strong emphasis on environmental awareness. Their programmes actively encourage the participants to connect with their physical environment, and become active in understanding their part in being a responsible citizen of earth.

And here I was breaking off a dead branch of a pine tree to make a pole for my makeshift shelter. It is as much a course in awareness for me as it is for the participants.

Day one of orientation - Navigation skills

‘If a member of your group had a serious accident on the trail, and you had to tell the emergency services to come and pick them up, how would they know where to come to, if you don’t know where you are?’

That was the point behind reviewing our map reading and navigation skills. We learned about scale, guestimating distance, giving grid references, and estimating times to and from set locations.

Forest fire remains near Anzere, Switzerland

All along the trail, our instructor and program coodinator, Anthony, was giving us eco-nuggets. Small pockets of information about the surrounding area.

At one stage we walked through an area of bush that had recently been destroyed by forest fire. The air was still pugnet with the smell of scorched earth and wood.

Day Two - Rock climbing

A crash course on group management at a rock climbing site. There is a specialist who does the actual instructing, but as a group counsellor, I am responsible for ensuring that the group is controlled and safe around the climbing site.

Climbing instructor 'Stoat' at Village Camps orientation, Anzere, Switzerland

Day Three - Living with nature

Outdoor living skills and map making were the name of the game today. Another hard day of learning.

'Earthworks' activity at Village Camps spring outdoor education programme in Anzere, Switzerland

The photo above shows a simple activity whereby a group member makes a ‘landscape’, hides some treasure somewhere in it (a drawing pin), and then makes a map representing the landscape, showing the location of the treasure.

Day Four and Five - Overnight trek

Us 9 counsellors were split into three groups, and given instructions to make our way to Lake Tzeuzier. We were to be sure to keep practising our map reading skills. Each group would be called at least twice during the day to report on our exact location.

On trail leading up to Lake Tzeuzier, Switzerland

Once at the lake, the next challenge was to construct a shelter. My group chose a tall rock to make a lean-to shelter against.

Nothing I wasn’t used to, but at 1,850m in altitude, it was a cold night.

Chilly bivy shelter as part of staff training for Village Camps spring outdoor education programme at head of Lake Tzeuzier, Switzerland

The first group of students arrive tomorrow. Sixty 9 to 10 year old students from Zurich International School for their five day program.

It has been an intense and full orientation and training week, but I feel prepared.

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Day 248 - CROATIA: Prizna to Rijeka
April 28th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー, Croatia

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Thanks to Nenad once again for contacting one of his cycling contacts in Rijeka. I was met in Rijeka by Aleksandar Popovic, president of Roberta Bicycle Club in Rijeka. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met someone so keen on mountain biking. His study at his home was filled with memorabilia from mountain bike races all over Europe. Thank you so much Aleksander for putting me up for the night.

A drink with Aleksandar Popovic, president of Roberta Bicycle Club, Rijeka, Croatia

Aleksander Popvic and a cook in Rijeka, Croatia

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Day 247 - CROATIA: Zadar to just past Prizna
April 27th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー, Croatia

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The name of the game today was wind. The fabled ‘bura’ north wind was doing it’s thing in the grandest fashion today, stopping me in my tracks just after I got off the island Pag.

Scary (near Zadar, Croatia)

This donkey farm’s icon was in danger of being blown off it’s frame. In more danger were the many snails I saw on the road, making a slow beeline for the other side.

Snail in danger near Zadar, Croatia

I wonder if this fella was happy that I picked him up and threw him to safety on the side of the road. Or perhaps he was mad that I didn’t think to throw him to the side of the road to which he was headed, rather than the other way…

In any case, I managed to make it to the island Pag safely, and was sheltered somewhat from the strong wind, despite the barren surroundings, just as Nenad from Makarska had promised.

Rocky landscape on Pag Island, Croatia

The wind did have it’s effect on me however, and I was shouted at by the ferry’s cafe owner as we approached the mainland. I had drifted off to sleep on the ferry that runs between the island and the mainland at the northern end of the island. At the southern end, the island is connected by a bridge.

Once on the mainland, I could hardly walk, let alone cycle, because of the strong ‘bura’ wind. I sought shelter in some ruins for the night, hoping that the remaining corner of roof wouldn’t collapse on me.

Sleeping spot near Prizna, Croatia

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Day 277 - SWITZERLAND: Mountain crib in Daillon
April 26th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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They don’t do things by halves when it comes to holiday homes in the mountains here in Switzerland. Many of these mountain ‘cribs’ as they are called in southern New Zealand, are renovated places.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting my host Dominique’s sister’s crib up past a little village called Daillon.

View from crib near Daillon, Switzerland

The crib is located at an altitude of 1,700m, and it is one of the highest locations in the surrounding area. On a good day you can see Matterhorn. Yesterday I had to be content with only having panoramic views of the valley far below and towering mountains behind.

Binoculars at crib near Daillon, Switzerland

The crib is a renovated cow shed dating back to 1850. Heating and cooking is done on the massive wood-powered Stanley stove, electricity for lighting is by solar, and water heating is by gas.

Interior of crib near Daillon, Switzerland

We went for a short walk up the hill with Attila. He was more interested in the small things than getting anywhere in particular. He reminded me of the importance of the journey, rather than the destination.

Simple things arouse such curiosity (near Daillon, Switzerland)

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Day 275 - SWITZERLAND: A jaunt up to Col du Sanetsch
April 25th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 72.95km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.9km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 5h 37m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2177.7km (plus 9700km)
Ascent / 上り: +1935m
Descent / 下り: -1880m

You’d think that with all the cycling I do, I’d be sick of it now. But who can resist a good steep climb in the Swiss alps on an unloaded bike. I borrowed some good maps from Jean-Richard and headed up to Col du Sanetsch (2252m).

The weather was brilliant, with magnificent views of mountains on both sides of the valley. Curve mirrors placed just right so that you can see the other side of the valley without even turning your head.

Only in Switzerland (near Dallion, Switzerland)

The road passes though incomprehensibly steep vineyards. I was expecting more green fields of grass, but in the Valais region, it’s all about the wine.

Towards the end of the steep valley that leads up to Sanetsch Pass, the road zig zigs up the steep valley head walls.

Zig zags and mountains near La Crete on way up to Col du Sanetsch, Switzerland

It is peaceful here. Just the sound of the wind and gushing rivers. A great place for a mountain crib.

Mountain crib in Visse, Switzerland

From about altitude 1900m, there was still snow and uncleared rocks that the snow had left behind when it melted. The 800m long tunnel at about 2000m had a lot of fallen rock inside.

800m tunnel leading to Col du Sanetsch, Switzerland

I ditched the bike just past the tunnel and walked through the snow up to the pass Col du Sanetsch. I had no socks on so snow that fell into my boots numbed my feet.

Massive mountains were dwarfed by massive clouds.

Big clouds over Tsanfleuron Glacier, Switzerland

In summer, you can take the bus up here.

Closed due to unforseen circumstances - Col du Sanetsch bus stop, Switzerland

I think I could get used to these mountains…

A hole in the wall in tunnel leading up to Col du Sanetsch, Switzerland

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Day 274 - SWITZERLAND: In Saint Leonard
April 24th, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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Right, so yesterday I was innocently eating lunch in a small park in a small village called Saint Leonard. This kid wanders over, watching me and my strange looking bike from a distance. He looked cautious, as if at any moment the tramp might pounce and devour him along with the pasta the tramp was cooking.

“Bonjour.” They speak French here.

“Bonjour. ” I replied.

The kid scarpered, running over to where his grandmother was sitting in her garden.

Later I learned that Attila, the kid, had told his grandmother, Dominique, that I was French. I guess I should take that as a compiment on my French pronounciation.

Dominique walked over the small park I had set my kitchen up in and introduced herself in good English. When she learned that I was going to be working in Anzere, she said I should stay at her place until I start.


So that was yesterday. I met Dominique’s husband, Jean-Richard. I met their daughter (mother of Attila), Vanina. Jean-Richard is a keen cyclist.

Today I spent the morning while Dominique was at work updating the blog, and in the afternoon we went with little Attila to Europe’s biggest underground lake, just 20m from where they live.

As Dominique promised last night, tonight’s dinner was a Swiss delight. Grilled cheese fondu.

Swiss 'grilled fondu' in Saint Leonard, Switzerland

It was a regular family and friends affair, with four generations of the Gilloiz family present, plus some friends who had travelled in New Zealand.

Evening meal with the Gillioz family and friends in Saint Leonard, Switzerland

Dominique’s father, Remy (age 82, though you wouldn’t know it), did the melted cheese scraping.

Swiss 'grilled fondu' in Saint Leonard, Switzerland

This stuff is such good cheesy goodness. Served with taters.

Swiss 'grilled fondu' in Saint Leonard, Switzerland

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Day 273 - SWITZERLAND: From Brigabad to Saint Leonard
April 23rd, 2007 | categorizilation: 全カテゴリー

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Surprise surprise. I am here. This is the region in which I will be spending the next two months or more.

Mountains up the valley as seen from Visp, Switzerland

I was always under the impression that I would be closer to Lake Geneva. But I took another look at the map, and Anzere, the place where I will be located with Village Camps, is here in the Valais region of Switzerland.

But I am getting ahead of myself. On the way to Saint Leonard, I met a snake.

Friendly snake near Saint Leonard, Switzerland

Being from New Zealand, the country with no snakes or any other nasty creatures that could bite you and poison you to death, I fearlessly poked it with a stick till it was tired enough for me to capture this shot. It didn’t look poisonous. I wasn’t game enough to touch it, but it looked friendly enough. Brown in colour, and about 20cm long, with a 1cm or so thickness. I mistoook it for a very large worm at first. After asking locals about it, it appears that this is a harmless garden snake.

And speaking of locals, I met Lukas today. He is from up north in Switzerland, and rides a Swiss-made recumbent. The maker is FATEBA, and it is a long wheelbase recumbent.

He was on his way up a hill to climb some mountains.

Lukas rides a FATEBA recumbent, made in Switzerland

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