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Drum Concert and Skiing

As an Xmas present you got tickets to see the Yamato Japanese Drummers live in Zürich, and it was pretty cool. The following weekend everyone went via Ofenpass to Val Müstair for ski touring, and you went up Piz Daint (ca. 3000m). Since the snow wasn't getting any better, the next weekend you went cross country skiing in Einsiedeln.

Yamato Drummers

Your Xmas present, which you almost ruined by going to India, were tickets to the Yamato Japanese Drummers' last show in Zürich. Their concert was in Theater 11, mere minutes walk from your door - kinda convenient. You don't really go to many live shows, so it was kinda exciting.

The hall was huge, full and bright red. The stage was draped with hanging tassels, upon which some images were being projected. Behind stood some enormous Japanese drums. After a few minutes a bloke walked on stage up to the biggest drum and whacked it. The deep booming bass could be felt vibrating through the audience. It was not going to be a quiet concert.

Before the curtains were drawn
Before the curtains were drawn

The group consisted about about ten members, equal parts men and women, dressed in sleeveless black robes. They beat small drums, big drums, drums on wheels, drums on shoulder straps and even cymbals. They beat them with hands, sticks and the biggest one with a massive club. The wallop booming outa' that thing was incredible.

About half the show's focus was the music, while just as much attention was paid to putting on a show. The group danced about with their drums, hitting the beat back and forth between each other. One song was made as battle of who had the biggest drum - the girls and guys adding bigger instruments to their team, while actually making it musically interesting. By the end the main man and woman drummers were going nuts. Even the cymbal sections were quite good.

Drum battle: men vs. women
Drum battle: men vs. women

The main bloke, a leader of sorts, tried getting people to clap along. It wasn't the simplest of feats, trying to get a crowd of idiots to keep time, but somehow he managed it while acting it into a semi-comedy. It was a shame the rest of the cast didn't have a similarly big role but he was really good. Overall: 10/10, would bang.

Ski Tour Piz Daint

This year the snow was just not falling in convenient places. All the nearby skiing area were kept alive by snow cannons, and were just looking like a slushy mess. South of the Alps, however, was being blanketed by record snow falls, so you joined Andreas for ski touring in the Swiss National Park.

You waited for Andreas at Hardbrücke at stupid-early in the morning. Some kids were hanging out nearby until two suddenly sprinted off, and the rest followed yelling about a wallet. After a scuffle the they had one bloke pinned to the ground shouting while one called the police. If you going to steal someone's wallet, make sure you can run faster then them.

The drive there took about four hours. Heavy snowfall meant many mountain passes were closed, so you took the car-train from Klosters. It caused a bit of a delay but gave you a nice half-hour nap in the dark tunnel. It was almost romantic, had your driver not been Andreas. On the other side the roads were slippery, meaning everything was moving slow. Even more delay was encountered when some bloke directed you off the road into a waiting area for the Munt la Schera tunnel, which you didn't wanna use anyway. Andreas got stampy when he realised his car was stuck in a queue for no reason, but with the help of his mates blocking incoming traffic you all escaped back the way you came.

Slippery Winter roads on the Ofenpass
Slippery Winter roads on the Ofenpass

Getting closer to your destination the group tried to contact Lisa, who'd been waiting for over an hour after arriving by bus. She'd been hiding from the cold in a nearby resturant. The beginning of the ski tour still wasn't all that clear, so decided to park one car on a roadside shoulder nearby. Andreas car not having 4x4 meant he needed several runs to make it, sliding backwards down the hill after each failed attempt. You were having fun int he passenger seat.

Starting out, figuring out where to go
Starting out, figuring out where to go

Before starting you tested each other's avalanche safety devices. Michael successfully using his to locate Célia, who'd just ducked behind the car for a pee... Hehe. The tour started mostly flat with no wind and clear skies. The snow was beautiful and fresh; a nice change from shitty city-snow. The guys took turns to lay a path up the first hill, taking it zigzag near the top where it got steep.

Windy, steep mountain ascent
Windy, steep mountain ascent

Over the first ridge the wind picked up, so you at tried to keep moving after a quick tea break. After about the half way point you were starting to fall behind; you felt like your cold may be dragging you down, but maybe everyone else was just super-fit. Either way, near the top where the wind-swept top layer had hardened and slipping sideways was becoming a problem, so maybe it was time to head back. Since there were clouds rolling in, you turned around with two of the ladies and headed back down. A bit sad to give up so close, but was probably for the best.

Near the top, the surrounding view
Near the top, the surrounding view

After removing the furs from your skis you started back down. It's such a shame the down bit is so much quicker than the up, especially with near-perfect snow conditions. The three of you followed your tracks back the way you came, floating on a blanket of soft snow. Even on wobbly legs, after a few minutes you were all back at the bottom.

That night the whole group met up in Hotel Chavalatsch: a lovely little place in Müstair near the border to Italy. The lady in charge spoke with a strong Retro Romansch / Italian accent but everyone got the gist of what she said. In the end the group got more rooms than needed and even a discount. She was so accommodating and friendly, everyone was happy to tip generously and make plans to come again. Dinner was kinda Italian in nature and the wine - the selection taking a good half an hour with the help of the host - wasn't too bad either.

Waiting in Müstair for the bus
Waiting in Müstair for the bus

Most of the group left early the next day for a second tour. You decided to have a sleep in, watch the Olympics after breakfast, and head home early. Nice weekend. Shame Müstair is so far away.

Cross Country Skiing

You felt crappy all week. By Wednesday you your cold was winning and you gave up, went to bed and drank tea all day. It wasn't until Meike made you some lemon, blood-orange, ginger and honey tea that you perked up and felt energetic enough for action. That stuff worked wonders! You drank a good two litres of the stuff at work on Friday.

Gearing up for cross country skiing
Gearing up for cross country skiing

By Saturday you were ready to go cross-country skiing. The Swiss had won a gold medal at Sochi during the week for cross country, so everyone and his dog was out doing it. You all took the train to Einsiedeln, about an hour from Zürich, and joined the crowd of classic- and skating skiers. The other two took their classic skis and set out along the loipe grooves, while you and Meike skated down the middle.

Skating has a bit of technique to it. You have very long poles which you have to coordinate beside the ultra-light skis to push, while trying to use the narrow ski edge to dig in. This was only your second attempt at skating and only fell over twice, so that's a success.

So sunny it felt like 25°C
So sunny it felt like 25°C

It was quite a few degrees above zero, and very blindingly sunny all day. The snow conditions weren't the best but enough for skating; your classic friends were not having much fun through the slushy grooves. You did the 12km loipe loop over rolling hills, passing lakes and dairy farms. It was a really nice day to be outside. The good thing about cross country skiing is you don't need all day, and it's significantly cheaper than downhill. After two hours you were through and took the train back to Zürich.

That night during fondu at a friend's house, you finally learnt the secret to middle-eastern bum washing - aka: how to use a water jug in place of paper. Apparently you need to apply the water stream to your superior nether regions, and the rest takes care of itself. Keep a towel handy.