Switzerland part 2 : Happy hiking Heidi

Situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, my first week in Interlaken consisted of many breathtaking hikes. From peaceful strolls along the Aare River to the painful steep incline of reaching Harder Kulm – a summer to improve my navigational skills!

Iseltwald: Find the goats

After a short walk to the Interlaken Ost station with my visitors card in hand, I simply hopped onto a free bus to Mühle, Iseltwald. Gazing out of the window across Lake Brienz made the 20 minute bus journey fly by. Winding around narrow roads on the mountain-side, I was amused by the bus horn that ensured no head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. 

“Don’t walk onto the highway!!!” – words of warning from Vera, my host in Interlaken.
The journey up the mountain required walking on a busy roadside before a steep hike to the animal sanctuary . Imagine my sense of relief when I heard a goat bell!
It became a running joke to survive traffic on my ventures out of Interlaken.

A dream- the animal sanctuary overlooked the lake of tranquil emerald water.

My legs certainly appreciated the smooth descent into the picturesque village of Iseltwalt. I find goats wherever I go and I had a great selfie opportunity with the ibex (wild goat) statue. I plan to return to Iseltwalt to visit the Giessbach Falls along the Riverside path.

However, I did not anticipate the blazing heat exceeding 30 ºC, I returned with unforgettable memories along with a lovely sunburn. 

Interlaken walking tour

Joining The Interlaken Free Walking Tour one evening was a no brainer! 2 hours with a local expert guide to learn about the history and culture of Interlaken with travellers from around the world. Thunderstorms could not stop us having an educational entertaining exploration of the town.

I was introduced to the ibex, the wild goat with majestic horns to outcompete any Golden Guernsey goat.

Lake Thun: multiple days

Having explored Lake Brienz, Lake Thun was next to tick off the ‘to hike to’ list.

A top tip: walk alongside the meandering Aare River so even incompetent place-finders like myself can never get lost en route to the lakes. Again, I enjoyed spotting some of the local livestock and feeling like Doctor Dolittle. I returned on a few occasions to visit the cattle and sheep.

Maybe I did get a little lost… but you never know what is around the corner.

I stumbled upon Weissenau Castle in Unterseen. Following the gloomy staircase up the ruins was a brilliant decision, I was surprised to find a hidden platform to capture the most incredible view of Lake Thun surrounded by mountains.

Another unexpected moment was when I reached the edge of Lake Thun a tourist was perched taking photographs of the impressive landscape, a photo opportunity for a solo hiker.

Spot the Pyramid of Niesen in the distance. 

Harder Kulm

“Hard” for sure.  The 8 minute funicular ride is often opted by tourists to reach the 1,322m high viewing platform over the 2 hour steep ascent.

Competitive and determined, the 2 things an amateur hiker needs to be to reach the top during a heatwave. A lesson from working on a husky farm in Finland – never underestimate mental strength in comparison to physical strength. I knew that my face would be the colour of my T-shirt by the time I had reached the top.

No surprise that I misunderstood the signs along the trail and hiked too far up the mountain than the viewing point. Always creating additional challenges for myself!

Everything happens for a reason.

After asking hikers for directions we ended up talking about England, our travels, goats, university… we reached the viewing point together. A group photo, drink in the sun, and taking the funicular down the mountain was the ultimate reward. 

 

Lake Thun hike in storm

Thunderstorm! Another hike to Lake Thun. 
Note to self: avoid all trees during lightning.

 After a few days of intense heat, the rapid release of rain was a relief – typical Northern England weather anyway. Walking during the storm was relaxing even with the funny looks from tourists for wearing shorts.

St. Beatus Caves

Another hike to appreciate the wonders of Lake Thun.

I took a more scenic route on the 8km hike to St. Beatus Caves, avoiding the busy traffic and sharp bends of the roads. After following the river to Neuhaus I hiked a section of the picturesque Pilgrims’ Path (Pilgerweg) which was clearly signposted.

An impressive guided tour, a not so impressive 5 CHF coke zero. I will never forget to take my water bottle with me around Switzerland again.

Mürren

Interlaken Ost – Wilderswil – Lauterbrunnen – Grütschalp – Mürren – Gimmelwald – Stechelberg – Interlaken

Whilst the cable car to Grütschalp was not the idyllic mode of transport I envisioned, the hike to Mürren was an incredible day of walking. An alternative to the expensive ticket for Jungfrau is viewing Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau from Mürren.

Shout out to Sarah from New Zealand… after asking Sarah to take a photo of me in Grütschalp,  we hiked to Mürren together and had the best time!

“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.” – LAWRENCE K. FISH

I advise other solo travellers to speak to strangers to make new friends even if you are a fellow introvert.

LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!

 

 

 

 

Switzerland part 1: Becoming the real life “Heidi”

“Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.”

img_0830

With a summer of working as a husky guide at Hetta Huskies in Finland behind me, I decided to spend 6 weeks in summer 2018 visiting another European country for the first time.

Switzerland… the home of Heidi … and many goats.
I began my workaway search “switzerland goats” and I found Vera, Bruno and Florian in the beautiful Interlaken.

A lovely farmhouse described by Vera:

  • listening to the wind whispering in the trees, in the roof beams and to the goats ruminating dreamily in their stable

  • the view out of the bed to the starry or cloudy sky, the snowy mountains, the forests, the trees, …

  • the fresh air from the glaciers coming into your room with a ray of sunlight, which wakes you up in your bed

  • listening to the patter of raindrops on the roof and the trickle of water into the rain barrel

  • listening to songbirds whistle in the morning and the hedgehog rustling around during night

An opportunity to have a break, care for 2 *very special* goats, hike in the mountains, meet new people and experience a different way of life… an opportunity I could not turn down. I had a crazy-goat-lady connection with Vera so I could not wait to finally meet the trio.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

img_0823

Before I headed to Manchester Airport on 28th June I had to give my dogs one last hug so the journey could begin.

After a short flight to Basel and a swift bus transfer to Basel station, I had a 2 hour scenic train journey to Interlaken Ost. Straightforward! 

“and so the adventure begins!”

img_0890

For the past 4 months I followed #interlaken on instagram, no filters needed. I was astounded by the picturesque views, the emerald Aare river, the breathtaking mountains.

Spotting the ibex (wild goat) coat of arms on my short walk to Vera’s farmhouse, I was confident I would feel at home. Some people like to sunbathe with a cocktail in their hand on a beach in Barbados, I knew that having the responsibility of Florian and Bruno the goats whilst having time to embrace the wonders of nature here in Interlaken was the ultimate way to relax. 

Florian and Bruno would like to share a day in the life of a goat… watch this space for Switzerland updates 🙂

 

Morten’s story: Animal Furrapy

Morten

mortenblog

ANIMAL FURRAPY

ANIMALS REDUCE ANXIETY

Anxiety is an absolute abomination, a haunting twisted apparition! A vindictive sneering wight, which loomed over us no matter what, never letting go and which has an unparalleled appetite for our discomfort and displeasure. Something has to be done… talking about it helps and in turn the eradication of that twisted apparition begins. anxiety can reappear and wreak havoc, but each time we talk about it, anxiety that resides within us receives a devastating mighty kick in the spectral backside.  Talking to people can be fantastic, however talking to animals can be even better.

A SEA OF BLISSFUL TRANQUILITY 

morten blog

Animal Furrapy is a truly fantastic thing and something that I would be absolutely lost without. I am not from a farming or agricultural background however growing up in the countryside meant that one could enjoy roaming the marvellous wild and rugged landscapes. Being in outside is all very well and good for anxiety however, being with animals in the great outdoors… now that is even better. I started working at a riding stable as a freelance groom many years ago and although the stress of being a freelance didn’t help placate my anxiety, the interaction with the horses did.

However I moved county and soon work started to dwindle, this slowly started to get to me and my Animal Furrapy fix started to fade away, something had to be done and fast. There is nothing as relaxing as giving a horse a good groom, it is calming and helps keep negative thoughts at bay. Tacking up a horse to be ridden out where it’s just you, the horse and the open countryside helps lose you in a sea of blissful tranquility. The sounds and smells of the horse walking along an empty country lane with nothing for miles around is additive, intoxicating and tremendously healthy.

LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE

img_0673

After much deliberation and after weeks of perseverance I managed to get a taste of what it is like to work on a dairy farm. I swapped jodhpurs and riding gear for rubber boots, DeLaval overalls and (occasionally heavy duty waterproofs) and set off into the unknown for an adventure. I turned up for my first morning on the farm, feeling a bundle of nerves. Trying something new in a strange environment where skills I had yet to master was hard and yes, anxiety emerged and played havoc with me. However, just by sitting in a barn while giving a baby calf a hug and a scratch I started to relax a little bit. It’s wonderful to be outside in all weather and stopping to give the odd friendly moo cow a cuddle or a tickle behind her ear and have a bit of a chat to them as I walk through the herd.

HUG COWS!

img_0674-1

During the milking it is also nice to show some affection to the moos waiting to be milked and have a bit of a chat with them as well. It has been about a month to two months since I started to get into dairy farming and trying my hand at milking… and hugging cows! It is so inconceivably different from the world of equitation which I am from and it is without doubt a bit of a learning curve. However, every minute of it and it is having nothing but positive effects on my anxiety.

THREE CHEERS FOR ANIMALS

img_0672

Never let your anxiety become your compass and steer you down a path you do not wish to walk. It is always hard trying new things and learning new skills and anxiety will get in the way, but if you keep at it, stay positive and things really will get better, even if it doesn’t seem so straight away. Working with animals big and small will always put a smile on your face. Three cheers for animals and the amazing powers of happiness in which they can bestow upon us all.

MORTEN

Blog: https://arctictundrafox.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArcticTundraFox

Courtney’s story: The road to my heart is paved with paw prints

COURTNEY

courtney blog 1

THE ROAD TO MY HEART IS PAVED WITH PAW PRINTS

PETS – A GREAT WAY TO REDUCE STRESS + ANXIETY

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.  Mental health illnesses are becoming more common within people both older and younger.

I myself am a 17 year old who has suffered with mental health issues for a number of years (recently diagnosed with depression & anxiety) and have found this particularly hard. I am on medication for this and currently in talking therapy, however, sometimes even the professional help does not actually help and not all people find that therapy or medication works for them.

One of the things that I have benefited from massively is having a pet and it is proven that pets can have a positive impact on a person’s physical health, as well as mental health. A pet can offer an individual companionship, and this is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. I have a dog and have found him a massive help whilst experiencing mental health issues.

ROUTINE. WALKS. FRESH AIR.

courtney blog 2

Since suffering with depression and anxiety I have found that there are so many benefits having a dog has had. My dog has made a huge difference, there are days I don’t want to even get out of bed, never mind leave the house. However, dogs get into a routine, they know when it’s time for their food, they know when they want to go out and they know when it’s time for them to go for a walk. Having a dog means that they want to go on walks on a regular basis, this is not only good for them, but it is good for the owner too. At times, when I have had a low day, I find it hard to get out of bed and motivate myself to do every day things, but my dog likes routine as he likes to be walked regularly. When taking the dog for a walk, it means I’m getting out in the fresh air and walking sometimes helps you to ‘clear’ your head.

A SELF-HELP COMPANION

courtney blog 3

Having a dog means that you have a companion and I certainly see my dog as my companion. Taking care of my dog gives me a sense of purpose, it means I have to get out of bed to make sure he gets what he needs and that a routine is kept. My dog is a huge help to me and has been all the way throughout my mental health problems, he gives me a reason to get out of bed each day. My dog is what I describe as a ‘needy’ dog, he constantly wants cuddles and to be stroked, which at times can be very annoying but sometimes after a bad day having a cuddle off the dog is all I need.

My dog provides me with unconditional love and brings so much happiness into my life.

I am not saying pets can make your mental illness vanish because they can’t, however, they can really help – Self-help is an essential part of trying to overcome difficulties in your mental health. 

COURTNEY

Blog: http://allthingsmental-health.blogspot.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtmcdonaldxx/
Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Court_MH

Amy’s story: Four Legged Lifeline

AMY

FOUR LEGGED LIFELINE

“SHE SAVES MY LIFE EVERY SINGLE DAY”

I have a rescue dog named Tally. As many of you will have seen she frequently makes appearances on all forms of my social media accounts. She is there so much that many of you may say I am obsessed.

That’s because I am. I am obsessively thankful to this four legged fur ball. Thankful for how she saves my life every single day.

Tally’s story started off a sad one. She was rescued from the streets of rural Athens, Ohio, terrified of people, sickeningly thin and suffering badly from mange. It soon became apparent that, at only one years old (still a puppy herself), Tally had recently given birth. Not one puppy was found, despite kindly volunteers searching the area for days after her rescue. I can’t remember how long Tally had been at the shelter, the only thing I remember is that she was days from death. She was going to be euthanised to make space for other strays. This, unfortunately, was not a No-Kill shelter. There was only one thing to do.

TALLY LOVES WITHOUT HESITATION

tally 1

The day I took Tally home, she was so weak I had to carry her up the stairs to my apartment. She could not even make it up 5 stairs without stopping and crying. It became clear that Tally must have been abused as she was terrified of any hand held object and petrified of men.

This start in life could not have been fun. And yet every single day Tally greets those she meets, with what I can only describe as a dog smile. She gently rubs against your legs and snuggles into your hugs. She loves without hesitation and especially enjoys the company of children. She is the most gentle dog you will ever meet. She never makes a sound, only to cry occasionally when her loved ones leave. She has now learned that I will always come back for her.

Tally’s compassion for people, after all they put her through inspires me everyday to forgive. And the quote by Thorn Jones “dogs have a way of finding the people who need them most, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had” has never been truer in the case of Tally and I. She is well and truly a member of my family.

WHEN YOU FALL DOWN, GET BACK UP AND SHAKE IT OFF

Tally has taught me everything I need to know to help me get better. It’s ok to have a day of just sleeping and eating. Be brave, no matter how big you are. Entertain yourself and make your own fun. Learn new tricks despite your age. Make new friends and sniff out new opportunities. When a loved one comes home always run to greet them. When you fall down, get back up and shake it off.

Most importantly Tally helps me to embrace everyday as a new day to just be happy and go from there.

 

Katie’s story: The 2 sides of farming with mental illness

Katie

Katie1

THE 2 SIDES OF FARMING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU 

I have a historic battle with anxiety and depression, my depression started when I was in my mid-teens and my anxiety started in my early twenties. I do not allow either of my mental illnesses to define me however, and I prefer to see them as an inconvenient illness, than part of my identity. I know I am one of the lucky ones because I do not continually experience either, I just have episodes, usually triggered by stress. Unfortunately, stress is part of life and whatever you try to do to limit it, it will always be present therefore I know I am never really going to be completely free of either. 

ANIMALS LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY

Katie4

 In January 2017 I started my own business, running an educational smallholding in Essex with goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. The new project gave me something to focus on, away from my mental health, it did however also bring with it a whole heap of stress and uncertainty, the two biggest triggers for my issues. My enthusiasm for the business to work, combined with my very hectic schedule getting the farm set up, meant I did not have time to worry about the uncertainty of its future and I thrived on the pressure of getting everything ready for my first open day. It was also fantastic for my mental health to be working outdoors, especially as I find my depression is heavily influenced by the amount of time I spend in the sunshine. Working with the animals, who love unconditionally and give you a reason to get up and out of bed every morning was superb therapy for me.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Katie3

 It wasn’t until my first year had ended that I had time to sit back and reflect on what had been such a busy, rewarding and chaotic time. I felt so proud of how far I had come and was impressed at all the targets I had managed to complete in just my first 12 months. Suddenly however, I was constantly being asked ‘what’s next?’, ‘where now?’ and it brought on my anxiety. I had spent so long setting the business up, running the sessions and keeping the animals healthy and happy, that I hadn’t thought of my next steps. Before I knew it, Winter was upon me and with it returned the depression. Add on the huge amount of personal change I was experiencing at the time and my sudden hike in financial outlay (winter feeding for my livestock), I felt awash with responsibilities. I couldn’t see a way out of the constant demands of the animals and hated the hold they had over me to be at home. Isolating myself is not good for my mental health, and with it already being quite fragile, having to be at home to care for the animals just worsened the situation. Although the animals had once brought me such joy and focus suddenly it felt like they were dragging me down and wearing me out. I hid away from the problems and decided to bury my head rather than face reality, that I really needed to downsize and focus on the quality of my smallholding rather than the quantity of animals that I owner.

 

“AN EXTENDED PART OF MY FAMILY”

Katie2

It wasn’t until the land owners mentioned that they felt I could not cope with the farm anymore that I realised how much I wanted to keep my business running and keep it as my own. I used that conversation to spur myself into action, I cut down the number of animals that I had on the farm – selling some of my sheep and pigs to fellow smallholders. Although that didn’t change the fate of the land that my farm is based on, it has given me the confidence to rebuild my business elsewhere but this time in a way that I can completely control and focusing on quality rather than quantity. My positive attitude towards the farm has returned, the panic attacks I would experience daily before going to feed the animals have gone and I feel I can clearly see my future plan and what I can do to work towards it. Being around my animals once again brings me joy and I do not see them as a financial and physical burden but instead as an extended part of my family. I live alone and my boyfriend often works away so to have their company and the responsibility of their care is great for me and my mental health. I find my sheep in particular so relaxing to be around and their placid natures and undemanding characters are perfect for bringing me out of a panic during anxiety or for cheering me up during a depressive episode.

Although I have had my ups and downs during the past 18 months of having my animals, I know that as long as i do not let the farm get too big for me again that they will provide me with something to focus on and raise my spirits during my down times. I have an uncertain and stressful few months ahead of me as I move the farm and set up the business once again but this time I have a short-term and long-term plan to base my actions on and I know exactly what situations to avoid in the future. I just have to keep reminding myself of ‘quality over quantity’ and to also be honest when I have reached my limit, not to bury my head in the sand because that will only ever make things worse.

KATIE

Blog: https://femalefarmeruk.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FemaleFarmerUK

Nicole’s Story: Lambs at the end of the tunnel

Nicole

Lambs

LAMBS AT THE THE END OF THE TUNNEL

THERAPY LAMBS

Lamb

When you think of an animal bettering your mental health you often think of a therapy dog or perhaps a pet cat, but you do not often think of a lamb, right? Well, at least I didn’t until I realised how much joy they gave me.

I have very fond memories of visiting my great grandfather’s farm as a child, from seeing pumpkins grow in October to lambs born in March, each season gave me a chance to see something I would not normally see, a chance to learn new things, be outdoors and explore the farm with my sister and brother.

“IT’S TIME TO SEE THE LAMBS”

Visiting the new born lambs, in particular, always gave me such a lovely feeling, being able to bottle feed the lambs, seeing how they were looked after and brought to health, if for some reason something was wrong with their mother, taught me so much. I learnt how to show compassion and love to another.

Over time, with growing up, we visited the farm less and less but we continued to make sure we visited around Spring time, a kind of “it’s time to see the lambs“-like family tradition. Of course growing up and learning more about animal welfare came into place but even if for a short amount of time, seeing the love and care the lambs received from my family and their mothers, continued to comfort me.

COMFORT

Lambs all

When ill with Anorexia, these visits became harder and I remember one year being far too ill to leave my home, I did not make it to the farm with the rest of my family, I did not get to see the lambs.

The following Spring came and I was in a much better place, both physically and mentally. I was out walking with my mother when I found myself seeing the first of the Spring lambs. I stopped and just looked at them, groups jumping through grass, some snuggled up to their mothers and others quite happily eating their way through the fields.

I looked back and remembered the time I could not see this, the time I was too ill and although it was difficult for me to look back on, I found comfort in where I was, right there.

“THERE IS LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS”

Over the last few years, with my recovery going well, seeing the lambs has continued to bring me comfort. I know to some, it sounds silly but it is like seeing the lambs makes me believe better days are still to come, that there is light after darkness and I guess in a way they continue to show me hope.

A few weeks ago, my mother, aunty and I, were driving through the country, views all around the car filled with fields of sheep and lambs, just seeing and watching these beautiful animals made us all feel present and calm.

Thank you for reading,

NICOLE

Blog: https://nicolesjourneysite.wordpress.com
Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/nicolesjourney/
Twitter:https://twitter.com/_nicolesjourney