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High adventure in the Lake Geneva region

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By: Jonathon Reynolds 


The Lake Geneva region boasts more than 3000 km of hiking routes. They run from lakeside to mountain tops and pretty much everywhere in between. Combined with the incredible Swiss rail system these hiking routes make for endless walking options in the region.


We decided to start our hiking in Leysin, a small village high in the mountains. From Lausanne we took a train to Aigle and changed to a small two-car inclined train which slowly worked its way high into the mountains. Pulling itself up impossibly steep slopes, the train finally dropped us at a small station in Leysin. After lunch on top of the mountain at the Klukos restaurant we hiked through the high country till dinner. It was windy, wet and wild and also incredibly beautiful and invigorating, with the clouds streaming out from the peaks in the wind like tattered white streamers.

When we arrived in Château D’Oex in a drizzling rain we already knew that we would not be floating high above the Alps in a balloon – our original plan. The local tourist office had a more active suggestion – hydro-speed with Rivières Aventures. I had no idea what hydro-speed was, but once I found out I could not wait to try it out. Basically instead of floating down through rapids in a kayak you become the kayak. A stiff Styrofoam or plastic mini boat holds your arms and head out of the water and the rest of your body is covered in a reinforced wetsuit. Flippers on your feet and a helmet complete the outfit. A real advantage for us today was the fact that weather makes no difference – it doesn’t matter if it rains since we are going to be totally soaked the whole time anyway!

Soon we are on the bank of the river, our arms thrust inside our floats and we are practicing various movements which will allow us to navigate down the river. The first few minutes in the river are cold, but the water soon warms up inside the wetsuit and I devote all my attention to avoiding rocks and following the guide. As we float further downstream the river gets higher and the drops become both more fun and more challenging. I am amazed at how physical hydro-speed is, and even more amazed at how much fun it is – it is like kayaking, only with your head at water level.

All too soon, and just as I am starting to get a feel for the sport, our trip is over and we climb from the river dripping water and beaming smiles as we sit in the van shuttling back to the old saw mill, which is the base for Rivières Aventures. A cup of hot tea and a change into warm dry clothes and we are ready for a dinner and relaxing evening in the Hotel Bon Accueil, an old 18th century wooden inn. The warm wood walls hold the promise of a good night's sleep with the door slightly ajar to let in the clean mountain air.





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