Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A beautiful day on Semplon Pass

On Saturday morning we left our campsite on Lake Maggiore and drove the length of the lake then started our climb to the Swiss border. We have had no interest from customs at any border and the border into Switzerland was no different. We even escaped the compulsory 25euro sticker to drive on Swiss motorways.

It was the most perfect day - a cloudless blue sky. Slowly, on a very winding road (avoiding the main highway) we climbed up to the Simplon Pass which was 2005 metres high. Snow became more evident as we got higher and by the top it was alongside the road in large drifts. We made a very icy snowman on the Chev and took the compulsory photo before he melted in the hot sun within minutes. We had all our cold weather gear at the ready but we are getting extremely unseasonal hot weather and remained in shirtsleeves even for the snow shots. Anything is better than rain because of the manner in which we are travelling so we are not complaining.

Despite the temperatures being only in the low 20's all the vehicles overheated on the long climb but only a couple were obliged to have short cooling stops.

We then travelled down the reciprocal side of the pass, testing our brakes severely, north to the Overwald and the Furka Pass which was still closed by snow. Fortunately there is a train that the vehicles are loaded on and this travels 20 minutes through a very dark tunnel to the other side of the mountain. You drive onto the flat bed carriages and sit in your vehicle during the whole trip.

The scenery in Switzerland is picture post card perfect. The lush green grass, snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and the goats and cows with their ringing bells. It is amazing how the different countries change so much. The people have different characteristics as well as the scenery.

We had planned to stay in a camp site at the side of a small lake high in the mountains at Seelisberg but when Lang and I arrived we found that it was a site that only allowed tents and no vehicles.

As there were no other camp sites in the area and, after a long day where a lot of the vehicles had over heating problems and fuel blockages, we needed to pull the rabbit out of the hat. We drove around the town and asked a few locals and ended up at a resturant in the small village, where the owner suggested a flat area (there is nothing flat larger than a tennis court for 50 kilometres!) up the hill behind his place. We waited a half an hour while he tried to contact the owner and, in the meantime, as our group arrived in the usual dribs and drabs there was a welcome cold drink available at the resturant.

We got the all clear with for a free camp with the use of the restaurant's toilet. Most of us also took the opportunity to have a change from camp cooking and dined out in the open looking up to the snow capped peaks.

After dinner we went through our field to a handsome 1896 hotel and were admiring the fabulous views over the lake below when a Swiss man introduced himself as Otto the manager of the building owned by the Maharishi Movement. Switzerland has been their headquarters since the 1970's.

A few of us accepted his invitation to have a look inside the building. He first showed us in the entrance the bell on Invincibility which we all rang. Then he took us to their meeting room that had rows of hundreds of throne like chairs in the shape of an amphitheatre. He did not attempt a hard sell at all but just explained about transendental meditation which they teach and practise and at the end he played us some very soothing Indian style music, after which we all went to bed and slept very soundly.

This is the thing I like most travelling from day to day without a strict itinerary. Out of the blue you meet some very interesting people and have some wonderful unexpected experiences.

On Sunday we headed down to the less mountainous side of Swizerland and travelled mostly on the motorway past Luzerne and Basel to Mulhouse just over the border in France.