Sunday, July 22, 2018

Destinations: Switzerland (1987): Vallorbe

Curing my visit to Switzerland with my family in 1987 we had several outings from Versoix where we were staying at my elder brother's place. A visit to Vallorbe was one such outing

Long years ago, perhaps in mid 1970s, I happened to be in Bastar – a district that was till then not fully explored. This land prehistoric as it is, is inhabited by the members of the ancient Gond tribe. During that trip I had occasion to visit the Kutumsar cave known for its stalactites and stalagmites. Only 38 kilometres from the district headquarters of Jagdalpur, the caves are pretty long and are underground – about 30-odd metres below the ground level. It was quite forbidding as the caves had not till then been illuminated. But what I saw was amazing – parts of rocks streaming downwards and, likewise, others that were climbing up from the cave floor with accretion of minerals from water dripping down from the protrusions of the former. Taught to us in Geography lessons in the college, Kutumsar presented to me the first glimpse of stalactites and stalagmites – and that too deep within the bowels of the earth.

The Vallorbe caves are, however, overground in the Jura Mountains which is a sub-Alpine mountain range located north of Alps. It stands between the Rhone and the Rhine valleys forming watersheds for each. The mountain range extends from France to Switzerland and to parts of (south-western) Germany. In Switzerland it covers several cantons. The name Jura is derived from Celtic term for forests and it has lent its name to a “department” in France, a “canton” in Switzerland and to the Jurassic period of the geological timescale.

Situated about 100 kilometres away from Geneva, Vallorbe caves were discovered about fifty years ago and were opened for public viewing in 1970s. Later, they were also electrically illuminated making the insides more inviting in a constantly maintained temperature that is comfortable for the visitors. The caves have been the outcome of actions of River Orbe that originates in France and after entering Switzerland disappears underground only to come up on surface near Vallorbe. It was fascinating to see the stalactites and stalagmites in brilliant illumination. The authorities have done a wonderful job of providing viewing points and galleries for visitors. Similar provisions in Kutumsar are needed to make it more tourist-friendly.

We also had a day trip to Signal de Bougy, a park with some stunning views. It is supposed to be a great place for walks. Another day trip was to a place called Le Pont that is situated between two Swiss lakes and is supposed to be a starting point for hikers.

About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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