Elaisha Jade reviews her experience at Floyd’s Pelican Bar in Saint Elizabeth Jamaica!
I didn’t die! Mountain biking in Switzerland was possibly one of the most fun activities I did while out there. I admit, there were moments when I bounded down hills and felt my stomach flop like I was on a roller coaster. I white knuckled my way through many of the trails but in the end, I was so proud of myself. Keep reading for why I crashed my bike and what I would have done differently.
Our guides Travis and Florian from Neige Aventure shepherded us through the tough terrain. Sticks, rocks and even the mountains edge were all hazards of the high octane activity. We rode a Teli-Cabine up Tracouet TDN station. We then biked our way through the trails and I felt like I was in one of those extreme GoPro videos.
The e-bike assist only took me a few tries to get used to. We used it to climb hills that ranged from mid to extremely steep. I would not have made it up those hills without the boost the assist gave me. The trick was to just roll with it and not think about it too much.
I loved the experience of taking the ski lift all the way up the mountain with our bikes. It was cool to think that in a few months people would be on the same lift ready to ski down powdery snow. That the lush greenery we were surrounded by would be covered in just a few months.
We had a delicious lunch at a cute restaurant. It sat at the top of the second ski lift we took. By the time we got there we were rained on, shivering a little and ready for a feast. However we got some sound advice from Travis our guide who recommended we not stuff our faces too much. We had a pretty long stretch ahead of us either back to Nendaz or on to another town through the mountain. We had steaming fondue and a classic Swiss cheese board.
I crashed my bike when I was overthinking and not doing. At the start of the trip I was pretty nervous as we rounded tight corners over mountain edges. We quickly biked over tree roots and huge dents in the mud. Towards the end of our trip, I didn’t trust myself because it was slippery in the rain as we bounded down mountainous roads. I rounded a corner I should have leaned into a bit more. But I was scared and ended up plastered on a dirt mountain. It was definitely a lesson for the final leg of the bike trip to trust myself more! I left with a small scrape on my knee, nothing some hot chocolate and a warm shower at our Chalet couldn't fix.
Plan on doing this excursion? I put together a few tips that I wish I knew before I did this activity.
Dress for the occasion: It rained then it was sunny. It was hot then it was chilly. Since we biked to different cities and altitudes we experienced about 3 seasons at once. I recommend wearing a hat when you mountain bike in Switzerland
Go with the flow: Give your guides the flexibility and time to pick routes that will challenge you so you can really experience this journey.
Know your limits If you aren’t an experienced biker or you just don’t feel comfortable on a bike, then try a different activity. Or ask your guide for an easy route along the way with frequent stops to take in the view.
I recommend this activity for anyone who is an experienced biker so they can really experience the incredible views. There were basic trails available but I was happy we took some hard routes. Our 4-5 hour adventure ended with an incredibly long shower and hearty meal. Would you try mountain biking in Nendaz? Let me know in the comments below. And be sure to check out Travelopo.
"Our 6:30am call time had better be worth it," I thought as we left our comfy chalet.
It was. As I hopped out of our van, the chime of cowbells echoed through the mountain in Balavaux, Switzerland. A slight fog covered the view early in the morning as we stood at 2100 metres high.
Wrapped in my scarf I walked into the cheese workshop. It was a bit funky in there and I had to stand outside for most of the introduction. The cheesemaker went through the process how he crafted three cheeses. I finally understood why cheese was so expensive. Cheese making in Switzerland was no joke.
First we learned about the Tomme cheese. Our guide explained, it it gets warmed to 35° after which it sat 1 hour and 30 minutes in salty water. It was then aged for a full 20-25 days in the cellar.
Next was the famous Raclette cheese which gets heated to 39° and rested for 24 hours in salty water. It was then aged 2 months in the cellar before it was ready to be served.
Finally, my favourite, the Serac. That cheese gets heated to 90° and is available the next day. We watched as he prepared a vat of 150 litres of milk for 13 tommes and 9 raclette cheese. A cheese lover would swoon.
While we waited for the cream to curdle for a batch of Serac cheese, we strolled about the grounds. First we went to the aging room where rounds of marked cheese sat on wooden shelves. The floor to ceiling shelves displayed either Tomme or Raclette cheese. I had no idea cheese making in Switzerland would be so interesting.
We then reentered the workshop where the cheese had started to lump up in the vat. I got used to the smell at that point. He lifted and strained the cheese in a cheese cloth and placed it into another station. It was then strained again, then portioned. The cheesemaker allowed us to try the fresh cheese. It was creamy and warm. The smooth texture and plain flavour reminded me of cottage cheese. We also tried the aged version of the cheese which was saltier.
We then took a long dirt road towards the sound of the cowbells where about 130 cows spent the summer. The bells chimed out of time, but made an incredible song as we approached. An electrical wire separated us from the cows in the field in front of us. But I still reached out a hand in case one of them wanted a cuddle. It was one of the most peaceful spots we visited on our 6-day Swiss adventure.
The group journeyed up a steep hill for the end of the tour where we finally got to eat a Swiss breakfast. Sophie served us that day and paired ham with fresh cheese and jam in the Balavaux mountain Cabin. I enjoyed my plate with a side of tea to warm me up from the crisp mountain air.
Those looking for an activity that’s out of the ordinary, add cheese making in Switzerland to your list! If you don't mind waking up early...
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When I visited the Great Wall I felt so privileged to be a part of something so big! Keep reading for my guide on the Great Wall of China.
When to Go
As early as you can especially on the weekend. Beijing traffic was no joke. We luckily left at a great time (8am from Qianmen) and even then we ran into traffic. I took a little nap while on the drive up and listened to an audiobook.
We got there at about 9am and people were already on their way down as we headed up! They avoided the humidity and crowds.
Where to Go
Did you know that the great wall wasn't just one huge wall? I learned a few years ago in my Chinese studies course that the Great Wall was several sections built over many centuries.
According to our guide, we visited the prettiest and most quiet part of the Great Wall. The Mutianyu (or Mu Tian Yu) section was further out than the most popular part of the wall. So, we beat the crowds when we got in early and got some amazing pictures. As well that part of the wall was restored beautifully!
What to Do
Take the Cable Car
A nice warm up to the grandeur of the Great Wall was when we took the cable cars up. We viewed lush greenery below us as we ascended to the top.
Hike the watch towers
If you won't have a guide, before you go, ensure that you check out which area of the wall you'd like to explore most then prioritize it. The humidity was intense as we trekked up the steep steps between each watch tower. It made each step hard as brick path wove into each check point. I loved it!
Take the Slide Down
The most fun part about the Great Wall for me wasn't actually the wall. It was when we left and took the slide down the Great Wall to the bottom. It was an absolute blast and I would do it again. The loops, hills and turns in the middle of the green landscape felt like a dream. On some parts we moved so fast it felt like a roller coaster. It went by pretty fast but I was happy we did it. *Tip: get on the slide before 11:30. The line up got pretty full as everyone was ready to trek down the wall for lunch.
What to Eat
After our descent down the slide, we were super hungry. Our lovely guide called ahead and ordered us an amazing lunch. We drove for 10 minutes to Xiao Long Pu a
She ordered us a spread of sweet and sour pork tomatoes, greens, cod and fried rice.
I was beyond excited to have crossed the great wall off of my bucket list.