On the advice of the very helpful receptionist at the Grund campsite, we decide to take the van on the train under the Bernese Alps . . . 20 minutes in the 14.6 km Lotschberg Tunnel saves a 100km drive round! She checked out the height restrictions for us, and yes, we’re OK! Packed up at Grund, went shopping in Interlaken then set off to stay overnight at a great little site at Kandersteg, just before the tunnel. Overshot the turning and had to reverse back into the traffic to get up to the campsite. Our plan was to join the tunnel queue in the morning.
The tunnel was started in 1907 and took six years to build as there were several serious accidents. It cuts under the mountain from Kandersteg to Goppenstein and is single bore twin track. Vehicles queue and are loaded onto the open wagons in single file. Just put on the handbrake and off we go . . . a very strange sensation, and the other train passes similarly loaded with vehicles.
We pick our route towards Arolla and find the amazing natural pyramids of Euseigne and stop to marvel at the strange landscape with individual ‘towers’ reaching up to 15 metres. After the last ice age, approx.100,000 years ago, the glacier of Val d’Hérens retreated leaving a compact moraine. Erosion has carved this out under large boulders which compress and protect it, forming fantastic cones topped with imposing caps. After winding our way up, up and up again we finally reach the campsite at Arolla, claiming to be the highest in Europe at just under 2,000 metres. The weather is beautiful, blue skies if a bit chilly and we’re right up in the snow-capped mountains. The campsite is fantastic, arranged on terraces with flat areas for campers and even some quite big motorhomes! There’s groups of tents, a little shop and toilet/shower block. We walk up a bit further to the hotel and village for a beer on the balcony and to buy a local map to plan our route for the morning.
We take a hike up into the mountains on Sunday, following well-marked paths high above the village in beautiful weather. It’s long and quite steep, but with amazing views and lots of lovely flowers it’s a great day out. We return via a hotel, where we enquire about winter accommodation for ski-ing . . . all quite exclusive and expensive, but maybe an idea for a future winter adventure? By the end of the day, the weather’s clouded over and we return to the campsite, glad to be in the van as it’s getting quite chilly as the sun goes down.