Stripy cows, scary masks and serene beauty...

Imagine a place where glacier-encroached mountains reach for the sky, where the air is crystal clear and the cows are... stripy! That is the Loetschental in the Valais, a relatively unknown region of Switzerland (in fact, I know all about it now having reviewed a Valais guide book at work.. but that's irrelevant). Kandersteg is the golden gate to the Valais.. at least, it is the point where mountains block the road and the only way to pass from one region to the other is to drive your car onto a train, which then takes you through the wall of mountains. We emerged at the other side into a tranquil valley of impossibly high mountains dotted with tiny hamlets of log-cabin style huts.

Our residence for the night was a mountain hut at Leuchernalp above the village of Wiler, reached by a short cable car ride and then a climb up a ladder to the hut - well, not really a ladder, but it was steep! The hut, though basic, was super cosy and we were lucky to have a 16 plank bed room to the four of us - I should mention, we went with my editor and her husband. All wood panels, cave-like bathroom and a heavenly view. The sign outside the hut tells you in 7 hours you can cross the high mountain pass to reach the valley above Kandersteg!

Our first day took us on a 10km walk along the valley, but high up in the mountains. Apparently, this is in the top ten epic walks to do in the Valais. We wound through fields and forest, accompanied the whole way by breathtaking scenery. We even treated ourselves to a slice of apricot pie.. oh yum! Back at the hut, we watched the sun set over the mountains. Some of them were draped in cloud and the sun cast a golden shimmer across them, lending them a volcano image.

I'll mention two strange things about the Valais right now: the cows there are black, with a wide white stripe around their bellies. And they're fluffy, so they look really soft and gorgeous. Point two: the people put scary masks and sometimes full size models of monsters outside their houses to ward off winter. These resemble the Tirolean Krampus, are crafted using real animal hair and teeth, and man the balconies of fancy ski chalets, terrifying more than just the winter weather.

On our second day, we awoke to the sound of cow bells and breathed in fresh air sitting on the sun terrasse, our gaze mesmerised by the Weisshorn, a huge snow-topped mountain visible from the hut. After a hearty breakfast, we journeyed towards winter. Well, it felt like that and again, was incomparably beautiful. We walked further down the valley and up towards the glacier. The river in the valley bottom was gushing aggressively with ice blue melt water, and looked so refreshing compared to the blazing heat we were walking in. Patches of shade were few and far between. After a few hours walking up the valley, we reached the Anenhutte, a very smart mountain hut that served delicious traditional food such as bread with mountain cheese. Tim and I shared an apricot tiramisu, which was delicious. Unfortunately at the end of the day we had to head home, but I can say with all honesty, the Valais is one of the most beautiful parts of the world I have ever seen...
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