In April 2013 I had a wonderful time visiting my friend Jim McElwaine in Davos, Switzerland. Of course, we went skiing, which was amazing on numerous counts – the weather (excellent), the views (stunning) and despite not being on skis for seven years I got down those crazy runs without breaking anything. Skiing round the resort with Jim, who knows the area very well, was also wonderful – I could concentrate on the skiing and the scenery and not on whether or not I’d managed to get myself lost.
Davos is a funny place. The town itself is not particularly pretty (though in my opinion it’s more attractive than most French resorts, it’s not as ‘Alpine cute’ as the Austrian ones) but all you have to do is look up and the mountains takes your breath away. What also takes your breath away is the cost of everything, ~ $1.50 for a banana, ~$1500 for a 250 sq ft studio. Switzerland itself is not cheap and Davos is not at the cheaper end of Switzerland.
But at 1,560m it does have one of the longest ski seasons in the Alps – and taken with or without Klosters (in the next valley) – it is home to one of the biggest ski resorts in Europe. It was a real gift to be able to go there.
On my last night, Jim took me to Monstein, a village just outside Davos, which has a small brewery. We were going to eat in Monstein but the restaurants were closed as it was the very end of the ski season and the alpine hiking season does not really get started until June. We did do a small walk around the village before leaving and I took some photos, some of which are posted here.
Davos is a scenic train ride from Zurich’s central train station, with changes at Landquart and at Klosters (onto a rail replacement bus service). It takes about 2.5 hours.
There is a small museum in Davos devoted to the works of the German Expressionist painter, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who lived there from 1918 until his suicide in 1938. It’s well worth a visit and they often have art activities for children.
In the morning of our second full day at La Selva Jungle Lodge we went bird spotting up in the tree canopy. La Selva has built a platform for viewing the tree canopy. The platform is in the jungle about a 30minute walk from the main facilities. After the walk, you access the platform by climbing many, many stairs, built around a giant strangler fig tree.
The platform has two levels at the top. The top level does not extend above the top of the tree tops (else you’d see very little as the leaves would be in the way as you looked down on the branches) but ends among the tree tops themselves. The top platform will accommodate about four people at any one time, the lower platform about twelve.
It was this morning that we were properly introduced to ‘Chappa’, our tracker for the week. Chappa’s proper name was something else – it was Jorge who introduced us to him as Chappa, his nickname (it’s a a slang word for policeman in Ecuadorian Spanish) but as Chappa was easier to say than his real name, it stuck amoung our group. As well as at tracking, Chappa was an extraordinarily good at bird calls. He could do about forty different ones. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, by watching the way he walked and by trying to listen as carefully as I could. He was a man of few words – in contrast to Jorge . They made a great team.
Chappa carried two telescopes as well as binoculars up to the top of the tree canopy. He set one up on the upper platform one on the lower platform. He would find the birds (with Jorge) and those of us without our own binoculars, or with weaker binoculars, were able to view the birds through them. Some birds were close enough to us to photograph. Here are photos of a few of the birds we saw with the naked eye.
And some other things of colourful interest -