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Canyoning in Interlaken, Switzerland

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Smack! Crash! Bang! My first time canyoning started with a 50-meter (164-foot) rappel down into the Grimsel Canyon. Suspended in the air, I wanted to jump back and gracefully plant my feet against the cliff again. Instead, my body slammed flat against the rock face. To my dismay, I didn’t progress any farther down. After three attempts, I gave up and walked backwards the rest of the way.

At the bottom of the gorge, I unhooked my harness and joined Sexy and Star, a cool couple Sexy and Starfrom Saudi Arabia. I forgot their real names because we all went by the names on our helmets. My name was Spank, and my husband was Chum. I felt lucky to have Sexy and Star along on this trip since they were both physicians. Before becoming a surgeon, Sexy was a Mix Martial Arts fighter and noted that he had experience putting his own joints back into place during a fight. I was worried that skill could come in handy.

Interlaken: Adventure Capital of Switzerland
Interlaken has a lot to offer for adventurists. It is small town surrounded by the Swiss Alps and situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The lakes are a beautiful turquoise color due to mountain sediments flowing in from tributary rivers. Colorful paragliders dot the sky, and the rhythmic “wop-wop” sound of the helicopters can be heard as they take skydivers up for their daring leap. Others go for a bungee jump and canyon diving. I chose adventures closer to the ground; canyoning and white water rafting.

So What is Canyoning?
Canyoning is a trip through mountain gorges flowing with water where you climb, rappel, jump, swim, and slide down waterfalls. Think white water rafting without the boat. There are several areas in the world where you can go canyoning, but Interlaken is one of the most beautiful. It offers stunning views of the Alps and unique rock formations. Since the glacier waters are extremely cold, canyoning is only offered from April to October. All you need is a wetsuit, life jacket, helmet, some climbing gear, and someone who knows what they are doing. Oh, and some courage too, especially if you are afraid of heights.

Speaking of Being Afraid of Heights…
The rappel down wasn’t scary since I was facing up and couldn’t see how high I was from the bottom of the gorge. I only felt nervous when it was my husband’s turn. Chum is terrified of heights. I wasn’t sure he would jump, but then I saw him leap backwards. My heart was full of pride, but then it sank down to the pit of my stomach…

I watched in horror as his legs went backwards over his head. His back slammed against the rock wall as he was hanging completely upside down. I was sure that he got a glimpse of high he was and hated me for making him do this trip. He was all smiles though when he made it safely to the ground and explained that the life jacket and helmet cushioned his fall.

Alpin Raft

Our friends recommended booking our trip through Alpin Raft, a company specializing in adventure sports in Interlaken. I am glad we did because our guides, Andu and Nebi, were very experienced and a lot of fun to hang out with.
Tatiana, our photographer, was like a magician. She would disappear from the group and resurface somewhere above us with her camera. I have no idea how she was able to climb throughout the canyon with her equipment. Her climbing skills were impressive and she took great photos.

I overheard her tell our guides that she couldn’t believe the extreme pictures she got of Chum. It was this moment that I started to get annoyed because I was the fearless one, not him! I had to remind myself that he was afraid of heights and that I would have plenty of other opportunities to get the better of him later.

The High Jump

After a couple slides and jumps into the glacier pools, I felt even more confident, that is until we arrived to a spot with an 8-meter (26-feet) jump. We could choose a smaller jump, but I saw it as my chance show-up my husband. Suddenly, our guides became very serious which caught my attention because of the stark contrast to their easy-going attitudes. Nebi’s voice got a little deeper, and he spoke slow and very deliberate, It almost sounded like they were trying to talk us out of it, but Andu gave us a demonstration on how to climb up the cliff and jump off. Of course he made it look easy. Star opted for the smaller jump. Sexy volunteered to go first on the high jump. As he stood above us, he did the unexpected…he climbed back down.

Grimsel also had two ziplines. The first line went under a huge boulder and then eased into the water below. I gently glided down this zipline where Andu unhooked my hardness at the bottom. Chum, however, ended up going sideways. I couldn’t help wondering if he was doing it on purpose to show off. He swears that it was an accident though.
The second zipline was even better as it went over a huge waterfall. This time, Nebi tied a slip knot through our harnesses so that we had to hold on tight with both hands only letting go to drop into the pool below. Andu went first to show us how to do it and finished with an awesome backflip.

The Back Flip
We all discussed whether we would also attempt the flip, but my husband said that he wasn’t interested in trying it. At first, I wasn’t going to attempt it either, especially after seeing Sexy do a belly flop. Soaring across the line, however, I changed my mind. It would be my last chance to do something more daring than Chum. Once I heard the signal to drop, I kicked my legs as hard as I could over my head. I just about made it all the way around except I didn’t have enough time to pull my head up after my feet hit the water. As a result, I basically did a face flop too! I didn’t care though because I proved that I was more extreme and fearless than Chum, or so I thought…

I watched as my husband sailed down the zipline, but he wasn’t smiling or laughing. Instead, he looked determined. I knew then that he was going to do the flip too. Not only did he attempt the backflip, he also landed it perfectly. Ugh! I have never been more jealous of him than that instant.

So what gave him the courage to conquer his fear?
He described his anxiety over heights as a rational fear; therefore, he could justify doing this activity as it was relatively safe. Andu and Nebi would be pleased to hear of Chum’s faith in them. Hence, I must think of more daring adventures to scare…uh, I mean… challenge my husband in the future. Meanwhile, I am going to practice some backflips on our bed. Wish me luck, and let me know of any other adventure ideas you may have!

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