Ski on!

There is something very inviting about quaint old mountain towns, threaded by small cobbled streets and story-book like brick houses, where an old cathedral and mystic graveyards speak volumes of history in their silence. There is something so beautiful about bustling lanes filled with the contented chatter of happy people. img_1617

The clock tower that perpetually chimes in the background, and the picturesque  backdrop of the majestic mountain range that seems to shelter the town in it’s lap, all of this seems like an artificial setting picked out from a dreamy novel.

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However, this is just a modest description of Zermatt, a small town in Switzerland. Sheltered by the iconic “Toblerone” peak Matterhorn, this town boasts of rare, breathtaking views. Besides the post-card perfect beauty of the town, Zermatt is also the destination of choice for world-reknown skiers.

I did the 6 day personal coaching for skiing, and words may never do justice to  the incredible experience. To begin with, I had the most amazing instructor who was warm, funny, friendly and a superb skier at the same time. This was complimented by the fortunately co-operative weather and the gorgeous slopes.

After I learnt the basics, my coach took me to the higher slopes by a chairlift. There is a point when the chairlift moves over the slope, crossing a cliff and the entire view opens up. This is simply breathtaking. It is something like 360 degrees of purest white untouched snow as far as you can see. It is one of those moments that you don’t even feel like clicking a picture because you can’t tear your eyes away from the paradise.

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Of course, skiing itself as an experience cannot be discounted. As you zig-zag down the slopes, feel the wind blowing at your face, and look at the beautiful landscapes that keep surprising you every time you cross a slope, only then can you experience the immense elation that comes from the freedom. It is as close to flying as you can get!

Following are a few tips before you plan your vacation.

Getting there: Zermatt is one of the few cities, where cars are still not permitted. You can reach by helicopter, train or taxi. The train from Tasch is the most popular and scenic option.

Food: There are lots and lots of amazing restaurants along every street, don’t miss the traditional swiss cheese fondue and swiss chocolate desserts.

Staying there: Unique Post Hotel is one of the best ones, small rooms but great food and great service. The Matterhorn suite in this hotel offers an attached terrace with a panoramic view of the entire town and of course, the great Matterhorn peak.

Sight-seeing: If skiing is not your thing, there are a lot of hiking, trekking and biking tours in the nearby mountains, which take your through scenic trails through the fir trees.

One major attraction is the Matterhorn glacier paradise, where you can go via the summit lift to the highest viewing platform in the Alps. It is situated atop a real glacier, and offers panoramic views of many of the iconic peaks, including Mont Blanc and Jung Frau.

Best time: Our stay in Zermatt was in the first weak of June, and the weather was just perfect!! The winter snow definitely enhances the beauty of the town, but only try that if you have good tolerance for cold.

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A jump to remember 

“Jump”, he said. 

I looked down at the frothing waves 140 feet under me that swirled and raged against the jagged cliffs on either side. 

The weather that day mirrored my nerves, the chilly New Zealand air bit my skin and a cold drizzle mingled with the beads of sweat on my forehead.

“Jump”, he repeated, more insistent this time. “Just close your eyes and jump”.

I knew that if I hesitated any more, I would never be able to do it. I took one last glance at the narrow ledge on which I was standing and the panoramic view that stretched out in front of me.

Taking a deep breath of the cold winter wind, I stretched out my arms like the wings of a bird, bent my knees to leverage my jump , and with a sudden rush of adrenaline leaped as high and far as I could.
The free fall seemed to continue till eternity.

For the first time, my mind felt absolutely blank. In spite of the excitement, the nerves , the heartbeat that seemed to resonate through my entire body, I felt strangely relaxed. Those eight seconds, when I was falling headlong towards the waters that could swallow me instantly, at the speed of a stone released from a catapult, were the calmest eight seconds of my life.

This pull of gravity was suddenly halted by the sharp tug of the bungee cord on my legs. 

The adventure wasn’t over though. The cord swung me wildly between the mountains on either side of Kawarau bridge. I was shrieking in exhilaration, as my body cut through the air, to and fro like a pendulum.

After my swing slowed down gently, two men from the staff came in a small raft, and lowered me into it with the help of a pole . “Wohooooo”, I laughed , “that was awesome, amazing , superb “. I could tell from their expressions that I was blabbering incomprehensibly , but they gave me an amused thumbs-up as they helped me out on the shore.