Stardate 1.24 Chief Bellringer Glockl ringing in the report of the week:
Sleeping and hiking, two mutually exclusive entities. When one stays at mountain huts, there is often a lack of bathing facilities, forcing one to wash ones pits, nooks, and crannies, by splashing cold water on dry, soap-rubbed skin, in a communal bathroom. This duty is often performed by numerous other sweaty men in close proximity, spreading the liquids and what they contain far and wide and mutually. Who knows how many weeks or years it has been since some of these fellow hikers have washed. Thus the effluent is particularly nasty, and to be avoided if at all possible. This leads one to neglect the whole filthy process, thereby increasing one's own future nasty contributions.That is, if one can ever pluck up the courage to brave the daunting trough. I say trough as there is often not a sink, just something that obviously could be construed as both a multiperson urinal as well as a sink as I have seen it used for both purposes. Composed of stainless steel, these troughs can, and probably have been used for a variety of farm projects such as sheep dipping, animal birthing, and cheese making. Though these bathrooms with their troughs are communal, one never sees a woman enter such rooms. Women are obviously too smart to ever consider utilizing the trough-rooms, given that numerous plagues and communicable ailments can be traced back to their usage.
Inadequately abluted, one enters the,if one is lucky, three to six bed communal sleeping room. If one is unlucky, the room sleeps forty to sixty people. Sleep is out of the question for a variety of reasons which I would like to outline for you here. This is not meant to dissuade the future Swiss hiking-oriented visitor; rather, to prepare you for the viscissitudes that await. Forewarned is fore-prepared - sleep is not to be your lot.
Firstly, all animals in Switzerland, both large and small, come equipped with their own low-tech location chip known as die Glocke, the bell. With every movement of the head the bell rings, creating that "Sound of Music"-like atmosphere that we who live elsewhere all secretly yearn for. Initially the rustic charm of the bells captivates, as one hikes the trails of the Alps. It is only at night that this sound turns into the Swiss version of fingernails scraping across blackboards. The sound is incessant, penetrating, and irregular. You will not sleep because of these diabolical animal-powered bells and the lack of sleep will eventually cause you to adopt various methods to promote sleep, none of which will work. You might try ear plugs, benadryl, any number of benzodiazepines, ethanol, exhaustion, and overeating, but the noise is ubiquitous, not to be diminished, and leads to a permanent state of disgruntled hyperawareness, a million miles from the land of restfulness. Herds of sheep, goats, and cows commune right underneath your bedroom window, obviously all nocturnal species. The term herd should be changed. An orchestra of sheep, a tympany of goats, a cacophony of cows would be more appropriate.
The bell is sadly not just given to the dumb animals (ludicrous to call them dumb in this context) for your obvious torture. No, the bells also have been created in maximature and placed in every building with over two stories on every street corner, in every village, near every Hut, Lo ! even in the vast wildernesses of the Hinterlands on mountain tops, and these church bells fill the gaps that the animal bells occasionally leave. Nearing airport decibel levels, the ringing of these church bells bears no relationship to telling the time of day or night. These bells can ring out in uneven intervals, separated by minutes or hours, with no rhyme or reason. It's 0523am ring the bells for twenty two minutes! Seventeen minutes later - let's do that again! There is no recognizable musical consideration directing the bell playing, or perhaps the bellringers all have stutters and tremorous palsies. Why they seem so caffeinated in the middle of the night escapes my comprehension. Sadly, my bedroom is always directly facing the bell tower, and I must constantly experience this altered state of time reckoning. My watch has started to make small chiming noises and I fear it too has been subverted.
As you listen to the interrupting bells, the room begins to fill up with fellow hikers. They bring in all their equipment, which smells, if possible, worse than they do, and set it in the aisles between the beds, artfully arranged to trip you up, should you need to relieve yourself at night. You are tired and in bed by often 2130, but the room doesn't get quiet until usually around midnight due to ubiquitous alcohol-fueled revelers. The early mountain scalers are often up by 0200am for peak peak summiting conditions, which by my calculations gives you a good thirty minutes of possible sleeping time. Sadly, forty to sixty people in a room leads to a constant cacophony of night noises that provides off-pitch counterpoint to the church and animal bells. All senses are assaulted in an overwhelming attack, and sleep is no where to be found. The itchy scratch of the hairy furry sheets, Schnarchen (snoring), noxious gaseous hinter-expulsions fueled by goat cheese, head lamps and automatic lights powered by the movement of bodies and doors, the taste of your gorge as it rises in complaint, or perhaps the mossiness of your teeth because you forgot to brush, all contribute to yet another night in the wonderful Alps of Insomnia.
At least there is breakfast to look forward too - pork in aspic. Did I mention I fell asleep while hiking a few days ago? Thus elusive sleep is found in bed with injurious agony.
Bradley's rule of hiking # 24 Do not sing while hiking uphill.
Bradley's rules of hiking #173 Combat chafe prior to it's inception by planning non-movement oriented ventures.
Quote of the day: " You know how I know your gay? You're hiking in the Alps"
Quote of the trip so far: " So what are you going to do for exercise en route?"