Every tourism brochure for Switzerland screams thrill-seeking adventure.
Glossy advertisements show tall, thin blondes with toothpaste smiles skiing down mountains, rafting in clear waters, abseiling down cliffs with majestic scenery behind them, and riding through greenery looking modelesque, despite the helmets.
They make it look easy, they make it look fun, and they make it look hot.
As someone who took up surfing after watching Kate Bosworth ride waves in the movie, Blue Crush, it is only natural that I wanted a piece of that Swiss gold, so my partner and I headed to the country's Jungfrau region, with a solid set of outdoor adventure plans.
We signed up for rockclimbing, abseiling, paragliding, canyoning and scootering down a mountain. I was eager, I was pumped.
We were greeted in the town of Interlaken by an appropriately crisp, clean air that had eluded us during several months travelling around Europe. This was the Switzerland I'd expected.
Knowing things would kick into high gear soon, we spent that day shopping, sampling a comprehensive variety of Swiss Chocolate and trying to figure out the best place to get cheese fondue for dinner.
Returning to the hostel, I was replete, at peace and relaxed.
Things changed at 8.17am (Swiss precision is all it's cracked up to be) the following day when a van picked us up to take us canyoning. The group consisted of me and my boyfriend, two male guides and six other guys aged between 18 and 25. As we headed into the clouds, the driver casually asked if anyone had a problem with heights, to which he received a chorus of nahs, and snorts. I began to feel nervous.
The entrance into the Grimsel Canyon we were to planning to conquer was a 50-metre abseil. Cool! Not seeing anyway out, I harnessed up, scrambled over the railing and on to the cliff face. Generously, I kept my fellow adventurers entertained with my lack of coordination; they seemed particularly to enjoy my faceplant on the wall, and my elegant finish, seated in the pool of icy water we had been warned to avoid.
For the next few hours, we made our way through the valley, jumping into narrow pools of water, swinging from high ropes and flinging ourselves down concrete slides. Everyone shrieked with joy (or fear, laced with fear, in my case), then everyone climbed back up 10-metre walls for another jump. (I stayed below, feeling I had nothing left to prove).
The end was worth the terror; by the time we got out I felt like I had conquered Everest - and the next day, my body seemed to agree.
As I struggled against cramping muscles to sit up in bed, my other half, not fully grasping the seriousness of my injuries, rushed off at the break of dawn to figure out whether the weather would allow for paragliding.
The adventure theme continued in full throttle over the next few days.
Among the other highlights was a trottibike ride from Grindelwald, which involved me clinging desperately to a scooter hoping not to be thrown off the mountain. Meanwhile, my partner took on the guide's challenge to get to the bottom in record time, making sure I knew there was a clear expectation we would be trying again if the first run was not successful.
I also broke new ground tackling the Murren to Gimmelwald via ferrata - a 2.2km climb with a particularly frightening moment where I clung to the vertical rock face looking at a 400m drop below me.
As I sat with a glass of wine in a restaurant atop Mt Jungfraujoch, also known as the Top of Europe, looking out over the glacier below me, thinking how pleasant and comfortable the moment was, I looked out the window and thought "Oh God, I suppose I've agreed to ride a husky down that mountainside".
By the end of the week squatting was no longer possible. To sit, I simply slumped against the nearest support and let gravity do the rest. If I wanted to drink, I grasped the cup with my teeth and threw my head back, my arms had done their dash.
I had done as instructed by the many brochures, and had pushed myself to the limits. I must admit, I was confused that I came out looking madly dishevelled and sweaty, not really all that much like the toothpaste ad girls.
Looking back, I have memories of unbelievable scenery, and one-of-a-kind adventure enjoyed albeit to the beat of heart palpitations.
Without a doubt, I'm heading back to Switzerland, but perhaps with more spas, shopping and restaurants on the itinerary next time. I'm sure the toothpaste girls would approve.
The writer was a guest of Switzerland Tourism.
More at myswitzerland.com
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