A lot of adventures, a lot of mishaps, a lot of gelato
Next stop on the Top Chicks on Topdeck Tour: Laüterbrunnen, Switzerland.
Switzerland was one of the stops on our trip that I was most looking forward too, mainly because I was very tempted to partake in one of the possible extras offered by Topdeck: Skydiving! I am a bit of a thrill seeker, I love anything with a bit of an adrenaline rush, and I am fairly certain that skydiving falls under this category.
I spent most of our long drive from Paris to Laüterbrunnen weighing up the pros and cons of skydiving.
Pros: Seeing the Swiss Alps from the air, the adrenaline, serious bragging rights, ticking another thing off my bucket list, an amazing life experience.
Cons: Serious injury and/or death.
As you can see, the pros list is longer than the cons list so I decided to face my fears and just do it. The skydive was planned for the next day, so I had a lovely twenty-four hours to contemplate my decision over and over.
We arrived in the lovely city of Laüterbrunnen late in the afternoon to the most breathtaking and stunning view of the Swiss Alps, and the surrounding countryside. It was such a charming little town, with spired churches, small taverns and waterfalls and mountains to be seen from every angle. Our campsite was comprised of small cabins right next to a famous waterfall, Staubbach Falls, and a fresh water lake with water directly flowing from the Alps. It is true what they say, Swiss water is definitely the freshest and most delicious.
We arrived to a freshly cooked, authentic Swiss dinner from the Topdeck chefs, comprising chicken with potato rosti and vegetables, and an apple strudel with berries and vanilla custard for dessert. It was absolutely delicious. I definitely did not anticipate this standard of food, to the Swiss Topdeck Chefs, I take my hat off to you!
The girls and I then went for a run (aka running for two minutes followed by relaxed walking) around the town and Staubbach Falls, which is lit up at night. The town was so tranquil and peaceful, it was so relaxing to just explore it and take it all in. It was picture perfect, almost like a movie setting. It is just such a fresh place to be, that is the one word I think that describes this town to a tee. Photos do not do this town justice, you need to see it for yourself to believe it.
Once we got back we decided to take care of some of the domestic duties and finally do some washing. This is really dull, I know, and the washing machines were very temperamental, deciding to just randomly stop, or just do two washes, or do something completely different from what was selected. Travel tip for washing in campsites and hostels: Do not trust the washing machine!
The next day after breakfast, the girls left early to go for a train ride up to Jungfraujoch, the highest point in Europe. They said it was absolutely beautiful and they had a lot of fun seeing the scenery, playing in the snow and visiting the museums. I had to stick around the campsite for another couple of hours to wait for my skydive. I was pretty anxious by the time I got to the skydiving centre.
They drove us out to the helicopter pad, where we would be strapped into our gear and loaded onto a helicopter, to eventually jump out of it. I was strapped into my lovely pink and blue outfit and picked to be part of the third group to jump out. There were about twelve of us and the helicopter could only fit two people at a time, so I had the pleasure (or pain) of having to watch four other people skydive before me.
My turn finally arrived and I was introduced to the guy who I would be attached to for my jump, Stefano, who told me straight off the bat that this was the second day on the job and that he had an 80% success rate. Yes, that is exactly what a first time skydiver wants to hear! He then laughed and told me he was joking, he actually started the company.
We hopped onto the helicopter and when it took off into the air my stomach completely dropped. It is such a weird feeling, I have never been on a helicopter before and I am not sure after this ride whether I like it or not. The higher we climbed the more beautiful the scenery got. I was flying over the top of the Swiss Alps, among the clouds and it was so amazing.
I spent most of the time in the helicopter chatting away to Stefano about how stunning the the views were. Then he opened the door and it was then I realised just exactly how high we were, and I freaked out big time. It was just so high up and I could not believe that I was about to jump out into the abyss.
Skydiving out of a helicopter is the most surreal, most crazy, and most terrifying thing I have ever done. I don’t really know how to describe the moment when I first fell out of the helicopter. It is like falling forwards and anticipating falling face first onto the ground, but there is no ground to meet you, you just keep falling. I fell and just started screaming my lungs out, all the pent up anxiousness and terror from earlier was just let out in my screaming. During the freefall I felt like everything was moving so slowly, like I was barely moving. The wind was rushing past my face, it was so cold and I felt so much adrenaline coursing through me.
Stefano then pulled the parachute and it was quite painful, so don’t be stupid like I was and wear jeans, wear thick pants or shorts. Once the parachute was up I was able to calm down and actually take in my surroundings. It was so incredible, I could see the top of the snow-capped mountains, waterfalls gushing down the mountains and green fields for miles.
Stefano began flying me around in spirals, and brought me right next to Staubbach Falls, I could almost touch the water. The sun was shining through the cascades of water, creating water rainbows everywhere. It took my breath away, it was that beautiful.
Stefano was great fun and we had some funny conversations up in the air, including the following right after he pulled the parachute:
Stefano: Oh my gosh Shauna, you have some scream on you girl, you crazy redhead!
Me: Yeah, I am a ginger ninja!
Stefano: Yes…a ginger…what? Whatever, you be what you want to be crazy redhead!
It was hands down the greatest experience of my life so far, and the second I got down I just wanted to go straight back up and jump out of the helicopter again and again and again. After I got back down on the ground I started dancing and jumping around like an idiot, I was so proud of myself. I conquered my fear and skydived over the Swiss Alps!
After I did my jump I walked back to the town with my helicopter partner, and it was such a tranquil walk. We walked along the river and it was so lovely that I had to stop and take pictures every two minutes.
I met up with the girls after and we celebrated our respective awesome days by spending our night in the campsite bar drinking Swiss cider and dancing until we couldn’t dance anymore. We stayed up until we got kicked out of the bar at 3am, dancing to the Nutbush, Wannabe and Gold Digger, and teaching guys from the other Topdeck group the Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance. Free shots were also awarded from the bar after the bell behind the bar was rung. It was really great to meet other people from other Topdeck groups and get to know other wandering travellers. It was a really fun night and a great way for me to blow off steam after my exciting day.
Laüterbrunnen was my favourite stop on the whole trip, which was not what I was expecting at all, but it was a very pleasant surprise. I was so proud of myself for finally conquering my fears and skydiving, and it made me feel so alive! The town is so stunning, a picturesque beauty, a photographers dream. It was this stop that really made me realise how lucky I am to be on this adventure, seeing amazing places in Europe, experiencing so much I never thought possible.
So, to sum up, life is fabulous!