It’s not every day that you get the chance to herd cows in Switzerland right up in the Swiss Alps!
What a treat it was when one of my friends invited me to join her and the group! I had to be up bright and early at a decent time, where we all drove in our vehicles about 45 minutes to Alps in Gigerwald located somewhere near Bad Ragaz. It wasn’t a clear day outside… Clouds and mist crowded around the high Alps, and despite not being able to see all of them and their majestic countenance, I still found my surroundings quite breathtaking.
We met together at the small “Berggasthaus” (mountain guest house), and after waiting for the others to arrive, we all shared a couple of vehicles and continued yet again about another half hour up the winding road, arriving to the Sardona Alp. We were at quite a high elevation, and it was chillier up there, but so beautiful. I could see cows grazing in the distance… This was the herd that we would lead down to the next Alp.
We each possessed a tall staff that we were to use on the cows to help guide them on the way down, or to make sure they wouldn’t try anything silly (as cows can do from time to time). I was slightly anxious in the beginning, for my friend had been concerned that I would be afraid of cows, and perhaps be a bit timid. And though I didn’t think myself to be so, the cows were portrayed as being more aggressive than they actually were.
In fact, I can say firsthand that herding cows was a piece of cake! Never had I had so much fun in my life! And I just couldn’t help but think of how, if I were a regular American tourist, I would’ve never gotten the chance for having such a unique opportunity in Switzerland.
Half walking, half running, trying to keep up with the cows, it was quite vigorous work to keep them in line, while trying to avoid stepping in the constant cow patties that were appearing, (a few splattered on my clothes). The stench was STRONG. But still, I was not complaining.
Instead, I found myself laughing at times just from sheer joy. 😀
This was something the traditional Swiss had been doing for years… Cow herding in the Alps …. And here I was, an American getting first-hand experience of the Swiss culture.
The girl that stayed beside me told me she had been helping herd cows down the Alps since she was 10 years old, and had done a much longer and further trip. She said it would take them all day to reach the village all the way at the bottom of the Alps.
My friend that I had arrived with had grown up herding cows as well. She recounted the tale of when, once upon a time, there had been someone (who I suppose was the ‘master’ of the cows), who was not careful enough once, when the time came to move the cows near or around the highway at night… It was quite an unfortunate tragedy for many cows were killed due to being hit by cars. Thankfully, no person had died, but there were a few cars that I’ve gone up into flames and others that were completely wrecked… But this was a long time ago and since then they have gotten a new master herder. Police are informed ahead of time to ensure further safety precautions.
The trek took a total of about three hours down the Alp. We wandered in and out down the valleys, even passing by a beautiful, blue lake. I was thankful that it never did rain, and due to all the running around we did, I was no longer cold 😀
When we finally reached the end point, all of us were laughing and smiling. We were at the Berggasthaus by then where we had first met together. Together we shared drinks (I had the Swiss “Rivella”) and ice cream!
It was a wonderful way to end the day… We sat around and socialized for the next 2 to 3 hours while the cows continued to be loaded up on these transport trucks, before heading back home. I showered and immediately threw myself on the bed… But I was happy. It was a good day’s work 😀
I like being able to join in the every day life and get deep into the Swiss culture, harvesting grapes, picking Blackberries, helping on the farm, etc. for me this is what traveling is all about…
For me, traveling isn’t necessarily running from city to city, or place to place only to see the famous sites where tourists gather and check them off my list; it’s about becoming one with the land, and understanding another culture and their ways of life.