Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Spoilt for choice

Waking up at seven a.m. on a Saturday and getting into a mild panic because of all the things I could be doing. Then panicking a little more because I can’t decide which of them to do. Having breakfast, looking at a large gathering of pins on a Google Map to try and decide which of them to visit.

Giving up, having a coffee, watching a couple of YouTube videos before abandoning them half-way through due to a lack of focus. My mind is still telling me that I should get out of this room. The room in which I spend all of my working time these days, which has a nice view, but which isn’t a mountainside or a forest track. A room in which my leg muscles atrophy. A room which feeds my bank balance but not always my peace of mind.

Sometimes I settle on a destination after the mild panic recedes and I have a wonderful day. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out and I end up, mid-afternoon, forcing myself not to slap myself around the face for wasting so much time. Sometimes, a mental flagellation occurs late on a Sunday afternoon, when the procrastination and indecision have taken a whole weekend from me.

A couple of weekends ago, when the drive came to enjoy what’s left of the warm weather before the leaves are gone and the roads are closed to snow, I was ready to go at lunchtime. A ridiculous two-and-a-half hours later, after an abortive drive up a steep narrow lane and a five-minute walk up an unsuitable path, I drive into a mountain car-park. The cliffs glow in the late afternoon sunshine, encouraging me to hurry before the large peaks in the west curtail the afternoon.

A short bus ride later, nauseatingly zig-zagging me through the forest towards a high mountain restaurant, I disembark, alone, a couple of stops early and watch the masked grey-hairs head onward in their yellow charabanc. After moments, I am alone on the private road, with nothing but the sound of the breeze in the trees and lengthening shadows views to photograph. The acrid smell of freshly manured pastures may be unwelcome to the casual city visitor, but my familiarity with it, and its mildness, just reminds me that it was a good idea to come up here.

Twelve-thousand footsteps and over 100 photographs later, my mind is calmed. I take a moment to sit, bootless, in a camp chair next to my car, to the amusement of two smokers outside the back door of the adjacent hotel. I watch the last of the golden light fade from the massive, snow-dusted cliffs at the top of the valley, then head for home.

Schwarzwaldalp and Läsisteck
Last post bus of the day on the Rosenlaui-Grindelwald route
Wellhorn with a light dusting of snow
Alpiglen bus stop and Wetterhorn
Farm hand spreading manure at Bidem
Self-portrait with the last of the light in the forest
Oblique light through the trees illuminates the last of the cotton grass
Schwarzwaldalp and the Engelhörner

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