Chateau D'Oex; International Balloon Festival + snowshoeing

This was our first weekend together back in Switzerland. The temperature outside was forty degrees (celsius) colder than the one we were experiencing a week or two ago as we walked the sands of our Pacific Ocean home and buried our bodies in amazing waves, that set after set propelled us towards the shore, rejuvenating the salt in our veins.

I'd struggled to adapt the first few days after I got back here. Outside of going to the asylum seekers centre to work with the children, I failed to venture outside, too focused on the good times Jo and I had experienced when we were home unexpectedly over Christmas. Friday night Jo coerced me to the movies to see the new version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Even though all the reviews I'd read  were four star plus, I was still skeptical as to the Hollywood version stacking up to the original. But it did. The attention to detail, the focus on the relationships, the direction and acting were all class. Rooney Mara somehow outpointed Naomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and now we're eagerly awaiting the release of the next two movies.

Saturday we did our food run to France and stocked up a severely depleted pantry including smuggling in a big bag of our favourite king prawns (crevette). Even managed to find real sausage rolls that actually taste like sausage rolls, so that is something else to add to the Tim Tams on our homestyle delicacies list.

Ruth Philippa Giles and sam aboard the Goldenpass Express

For the first time in four weeks Jo and I actually slept in on Sunday morning. The only problem was that we needed to be on the 9:20 am train from Lausanne to Montreux to catch the Goldenpass Panoramic Express up the mountainside to Chateau D'Oex to do a spot of snowshoeing and hot air balloon spotting with our good mates Giles, Ruth, Sam and Philippa. Thankfully Giles had brought his organizational skills to the fore the previous day and reserved seats for us all on each part of the journey.

Outside the train, the weather looked bleak at best. The windows of the Goldenpass wept  under the strain of the almost snow laden clouds as we zig-zagged towards the heavens and the view of Lake Geneva and the surrounding terrain was typically Swiss storybook. By the time we reached D'Oex the intermittent patches of blue confirmed the snowshoeing adventure was on and the local tourism office lady, amidst cursing God, made the International Ballooning Festival look at worst, hopeful.
Okay Giles, I admit that this is a fake!!
Dressed accordingly, we strapped the tennis racquets onto our feet, co-ordinated our compasses, ate our donuts then headed off in the general direction of Les Moulins which was somewhere over there near the ski slopes. The only excitement on the way was when Sam thought he'd discovered a wild wolf which, after taking the covers off his binoculars, he downgraded to a savage mountain lion. Eventually, we all agreed that it was a fox licking snow. We had lunch halfway up the lower ski slopes above Les Moulins and by two pm, after Sam had spotted what looked like a balloon basket below a church in the far distance of Chateau D'Oex we thought it time to turn around. While ducking and dodging the skiers that hurtled by us where we stood in the middle of the piste, we admired the beauty that surrounded us and then headed back towards where we had started our trek earlier that day.

Everyone felt much safer with Sam's binoculars at the ready
Wolf wolf

Spot the cat in this photo
Chateau D'Oex

Cows in  a barn
Chateau D'Oex cemetery in winter
We made it back to D'Oex in time to see the first giant balloon come to life, followed by another and another, a few smaller random ones and that was it. Then after a prolonged section of very little going on, they began deflating them, making an announcement  that they would race tomorrow morning at ten am, weather permitting.

First glimpse
The local Swiss entrant
A giant Swiss ice cream
A contrast in colour inspired by Giles 
This was my first international balloon festival, that I'd snowshoed for hours to get to and now they weren't even going to get airborne? This would have to be the worst International Balloon festival I'd ever been to and I certainly wouldn't be making my way back up here for another one without some sort of written guarantee that there would be a better than a ninety percent chance of a 'game on' occurring.

The organizers obviously had no idea of the power and readership of my blog or they would have at least let the French team strut their stuff against the local Swiss entrant. Sam (a Frenchman who still reads Tintin every night before he goes to sleep) thought that that may have been the problem. The French team, after consuming several bottles of champagne while waiting for the Swiss team to actually blow enough hot air into their wristwatch special to get it off the ground, may have been just a little too aggressive for the mountain boys. There was a enough swearing and fist shaking coming from the French basket to do justice to a game of Rugby and I'm pretty sure I did see a Swiss crew member slip an envelope to one of the judges before the cancellation announcement.

The competition heating up
The Australian and Swedish entries
The New Zealand entries... north and south islands
Jo and Ruth hogging the camera as usual
And I'm not really sure which was the front end of this little guy

But he seemed to enjoy showing off his new winter coat

But I'm not complaining. Jo and I had a fun day out with our good mates, the scenery was exquisite and the hot drinks and train ride back down the mountain enough to let us know that our cabin-fevered bodies had had a good workout.


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