3000 meters up with nowhere to go but down, my friends and I find ourselves in the heart of the Swiss Alps surrounded by dandelion fields, snow-kissed mountain peaks and towering pine trees overlooking the valleys.
“I just wanted some fondue,” whines a friend as we walk towards the dirt trails. The sound of rocks crunching beneath our feet is music to my ears.
As we begin our downward trek, fog creeps in steadily from the mountaintops. In mere moments, a blanket of mist covers the once inviting fields and the last bits of sunlight disappear in the thick, gray haze. I feel a cool sensation on my face, realizing the mist quickly evolving into a drizzle. I notice red flashes from the corners of my eyes and see my friends hastily reaching for their umbrellas.
“Ve ‘ave to move fast!” yells our guide in her thick French accent. At this point, we‘re barely halfway down and the clouds are quickly approaching.
“We’ll go zees way. It’ll be faster,” she says as she points to an entrance amongst the trees. We follow obediently.
I find some refuge in the forest and look to the leaves for shelter against the downpour. The drops that manage to weave themselves past the trees make their way on my damp clothes. The cool mountain air, which once offered a refreshing touch, now presented its sharp icy sting. Suddenly, thunder cracks and lightning illuminates the gray skies. I wait for the sound of crackling whip before I start to count the seconds, but lightning strikes as quickly as the thunder booms. What was supposed to be a sunny day in the Swiss Alps quickly turned into a battle with Mother Nature. Trails became mudslides with water streams violently rushing past our feet. One slip or misstep meant a terrifying fall down the muddy slope.
Heavy pounding reverberated throughout my chest, the adrenaline rush giving me the energy to push through what seemed like hours in the wooden maze. Suddenly, I hear a muffled yell from a friend who managed to battle his way across the overgrown bushes and fallen branches. I wipe the raindrops from my face and glance at his direction to find an opening. I run, completely forgetting all instincts of caution. I smile and celebrate upon seeing traffic on the road for most likely the only time in my life. I turn back around to see our tour guide come into view.
Composing herself, she looks at us and says, “At least ve burned off ze fondue, oui?”