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Funyacking, Mountain Biking

You went funyacking in the Rheinschlucht. It's like kayaking but with inflatables. Next you went mountain biking in Schies.


Well in advance of laying plans to go rafting this year, it was clear no one else wanted to come. The frequent rain had turned most fun-loving people into lazy fine-weather friends (at least in the literal sense) and so your invitations to join were outright declined. Of course with this year's unstable weather, this meant that once you got to Versam for Funyacking the sun would come out with full force and make it a nice day. Joke's on everyone else - it did!

Meike had received a Funyacking voucher from her parents as a birthday present. They were on a bike tour along the Rhein, when they passed the boat shed and had ideas. Supposedly if they weren't able to stop her doing dangerous things then they would at least try steering her towards less-dangerous activities. Funyacking is essentially kayaking in a small inflatable raft.

This photo taken from... somewhere [source: to check]
This photo taken from... somewhere [source: to check]

You took the train to Chur and on to the tiny station Versam-Safien. There you met Cicco, your guide - a tanned, or you could say weathered, Swiss fellow of about 40. He was the kinda bloke who chased Summer by doing seasonal work between here and New Zealand. It was just you two and Cicco for Funyacking, so there was absolutely no stress this sunny Sunday.

You started by doing exercises in the friendly water just upstream of the kayaking centre. The water was screamingly cold on your hands while the rest of you was burning up in the thick neoprene. He showed you how to enter the current, steer and get back to shore. He went through the basics of current flow formation in rivers, drawing sketches in the sand and using sticks and rocks as props. You did a few loops and then floated back down to the centre for lunch.

You sat at a wooden table outside in the sunny garden, and talked about calcium buildup on the inside of water boilers. Cicco previously worked as a plumber. The emerging trend to use save water had been causing unforeseen issues; for example: inadequate sewage flushing. His opinion was to "let the water flow" since Switzerland has so much, and charge less per liter in the process. It was an engrossing topic.

This photo taken from... somewhere [source: to check]
This photo taken from... somewhere [source: to check]

Inflatable kayaks don't give much control. They have no edges and are too flexible to manoeuvre effectively. They are still very fun to ride. You rode your funyacks slowly down the river, stopping in each eddi to admire the Ruinulta Rhein canyon. The river snaked its way through the canyon, its walls steep and crumbling. The whole section of river has limited access; the only way to see it is by train or raft. The rafting school actually gets a lot of seniors coming just to see the canyon, who often underestimate the white water.

The river had a steady flow and calm conditions on this particular Sunday. Even so, there were lots of opportunities to try and surf behind rocks — the results were reliably a fantastic failure of immediate inversion and sudden submersion [I like that description]. Honestly, it was pleasant to be in the chilly water — sitting in the sun all day in a tight black suit was like being in a pressure cooker.

The downriver trip lasted about three hours. At the end you loaded a cart with the deflated rafts and pushed it together to the station. The train arrived, you hopped into the luggage wagon with the rafts and headed back to the boathouse. It was a nice day.

Schies Mountain Biking

This week on Wednesday at gymnastics you chatted to people more than normal. After following one fantastic round-off backsault with a really bad one — your knee twisting a lot more this it was happy to do — they gave you ice while a med. student inspected for torn tendons. Everything in your knee was still there luckily, and it was nice to be sociable.

Practicing on rocks along the Schraubach
Practicing on rocks along the Schraubach

Come the weekend you weren't sure how much you knee would take. Rather than do a two-day hike, you opted for mountain biking with Piotr. It sounded safer, at least for knees anyway. You went to Schies and started along the Schraubach river. It wounds up through a valley or dark gray and marbled quarz rocks, bright green plants and a gravel sorting plant of particular precision: the rocks were sorted into piles of 1~2kg, 0.5~1kg, 0.3~0.5kg, 0.2~0.3kg, etc. Swiss, eh?

The weather was intermittent rain but that didn't really matter. You were producing enough heat riding up the valley to steam it off. The trail was wide and easy, and the valley quite pretty. After a few kilometers it turned right over the river and headed up steeply. With all the rain there were lots of puddles and stream crossings. After another half an hour you came out of the forest in a quaint mountain village. The people, working on their gardens and such, were friendly and chatty.

Unexpected, the rest of the ride was on sealed road. It was not quite right for mountain biking; your disc brakes and nobbley tyres made vbbrrrrr sounds along the fast parts, almost as if complaining. Piotr, having suggested the ride, apologised for its civility. The road descended the hill from Gaisschära through some hairpin turns with occasional off-road shortcuts. It was that time of year when all the cows come down the mountain for winter, which just so happened to be today. Consequently, the road was completely plastered with fresh cow poo. There was no avoiding it: you got sprayed from head to toe. Thank goodness you were wearing glasses.

The local cow show
The local cow show

You met a couple of cow herds on their walk down the hill. It was nice to see the farmers in their traditional garb while bells chimed. Eventually you came to a flat section, crossed the Salginatobel historical bridge, and came to Lower Pusserein where a big dairy gathering was underway. It was the day that all the farmers in the area met with their best bovines and biggest bells to pick the "queen" cow. It was a big turn out with (probably) the entire population of neighbouring villages. Everyone was joining in making flower wreathes, discussing various features of the livestock and admiring a deer someone had they had shot.

The last part of the ride had less than five minutes of off-road, which was a little disappointing. You came into Grüsch and rode on to Landquart. There you hung outside the station with a beer like regular bums — you probably smelt like one too — and waited for the train. The train seats were left a little dirtier than you had found them.