Via Alpina, Day 1: Sargans – Glatti

After buying some bread and the necessary ingredients for dinner in the Sargans supermarket, we start our big Via Alpina challenge with two days of delay. First we follow the railway, along which we arrived in the village yesterday. Then we take a paved road, after which an ascending path brings us on higher altitude. Slowly but surely the city sounds fade and a bird orchestra takes over. Here and there a tinkling cowbell indicates the right rhythm.

When the path takes us out of the forest, we get our first view. The typical wooden Swiss cabins are immediately on the scene as well. Outside we see some proof of great national pride: a big red flag, with a white cross in the middle.

After two and a half hours of climbing, we pause on a bench for a moment. We eat an apple and soak our bodies in sunscreen. The weather is splendid out here! After our break, we are sent back into the woods again. Wim fills my water bottle with water that seeps down some rocks. He drinks it without filtering it first. It looks so clean and pure. We feel blessed… Where can one still drink directly from the river these days?

After a green meadow with wild flowers, we enter the village of Weisstannen along a grass path. Before the old post office we eat our picnic. Although Weisstannen is only a small village, we see a lot of activity around us. Almost all the men in the village are working on mowing the grass. With small machines, they tackle their giant, almost vertical alpine meadows. What a job! Swiss are certainly no layabouts. That’s for sure… 

The next kilometers we keep close to a beautiful, turbulent river, called the Seez. We meet an old woman, who’s clearly proud of her blessed age of 91 years. But that’s not the only thing she is proud of. She tells us more than three times that our route runs over her land. Land that she currently leases. But she comes to hike here every day. She supports her old body with a wooden stick that is much too large, as if she is planning on jumping a pole over the snowy Swiss peaks.

She tells a lot about the fact that she never got married, and still fully enjoys the bachelor life. She also tells us so much more, but unfortunately we don’t even understand half of what she’s saying due to her Swiss accent. We say goodbye, thank her that we can walk on her beautiful piece of land and continue.

Just past some impressive rocks we arrive at the refuge of Vorsiez. This mountain hut has a large dormitory with 54 beds. I suspect that the dormitory is in the old cow shed. We sit on a bench against the outside wall. Before we start our last kilometers, we drink something. Wim drinks an alcohol-free beer and I choose a hot chocolate from the drinks menu which shows amazingly high prices. We take two more beers with us, for a nightcap in the tent tonight.

As we are sent over a dark gray gravel road to the foot of the high mountains, we see behind us that the cows are taken to the hut to be milked. The cheese you could buy at the hut has to be of their own making. When I just made use of the toilet in the cabin, I could see that you have a view of the dairy through large windows from the restaurant area. I like that concept.

But speaking about toilet … Nature keeps calling me incessantly today. Fallen by diarrhea, I start sweating horribly, while I have goose bumps all over my body. I don’t feel really bad, but we decide to call it a day for today. We deviate somewhat from the route to find a large mountain meadow with an impressive view of the Foostöckli. Tomorrow we have to walk west of this mountain, to cross over the Foopass. We have read it’s a climb you better don’t underestimate, since it’s one with steps, steep paths and iron cables against the rock wall. A good night’s sleep on our alpine pasture has to prepare us for this promising challenge …

On the other side of the meadow we see a hut, where a Swiss flag triumphantically waves in the wind. I notice a man, so I decide to ask him if it would bother him if we camp here tonight. It doesn’t, he replies, as long as we leave tomorrow morning … He tells us that his sister also hiked the Via Alpina last year. According to her, it was a very difficult but beautiful trip. He wishes me good luck with the continuation of our hike and hands me a bottle of red wine. Wine that he brewed himself. “With grapes that grow just down the road in a vineyard”, he says with his eyes lighting up. He gives me some more information about his vineyard and the Pinot Gris grape that is responsible for his brew. With great gratitude I accept his bottle. How special it is to taste his wine in this enchanting place! The wine goes excellent with the chili con carne and rice, which I prepare as an excelling chef on our gas stove. An alpine marmot poses neatly on a protruding rock in front of the lens. He looks interested at Wim, who is busy setting up the tent. He is obviously not afraid of people. What he proves again during the night, when he honors us with a visit in our awning with some of his friends.

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