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Today, Norm Goldman Editor of Sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guest Virginia Van der Veer, Hiking Director, Tanque Verde Ranch.Virginia will be sharing with us the 15 day walking/hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps that she leads with her husband and is offered through the Tanque Verde Ranch.

 

 


Good day Virginia and thank you for participating in our interview.

 

Norm:

 

Virginia, as the Hiking Director of the Tanque Verde Ranch, please tell us something about yourself, how you became interested in hiking? What is the Tanque Verde Ranch?

 

Virginia:

 

 I was fortunate to live in Europe for 20 years, mainly in the alpine regions of Switzerland and Germany. The Europeans are great hikers. It seems to be a natural part of life there to experience the many wonderful hiking trails on week-ends, so we joined them!

 

Tanque Verde Ranch is one of America's old-time cattle and guest ranches, founded in 1868. The casual old West atmosphere is ideal for couples, singles and families alike. Facilities include a stable of over 150 horses, guided hiking, nature walks, birding, indoor and outdoor pools and Jacuzzis, five tennis courts plus tennis pro, trail biking, fishing or just walking alone in the fantastic desert scenery. Our La Sonora Spa will pamper you following an active day at the Ranch.

 

 

Norm:

 

I understand you will be leading a 15 day walking/hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps. How many people participate in this adventure? What level of expertise is it necessary to have before embarking on these adventures? How difficult or easy are these adventures and how many hours per day do the participants walk or hike?

 

Virginia:

 

We take a small group of no more than 15 people. The hikes are geared to the intermediate hiker, with opportunities for easy walks or more advanced hiking. My husband I lead the hikes, so we can offer hikes at different levels each day, depending on the group. We leave the hotel after breakfast, and usually reach a mountain hut for lunch.  We return to the hotel between 3:30 and 5pm.

 

Norm:

 

How much planning goes into these adventure tours and can you tell us something about the planning?

 

Virginia:

 

The planning involves setting the itinerary, making all hotel reservations, designing the brochure (which is on our Tanque Verde Ranch web-site), sending each participant a packet of information about the hiking areas, arranging transportation and luggage handling by Swiss Rail, and finally meeting everyone at the Zurich airport!

 

Norm:

 

Are you the only leader of the Swiss Alps adventure or are there others? What qualifications are necessary to lead these adventure tours?

 

Virginia:

 

 My husband and I are the leaders of the Swiss Alps adventure. I speak German, the language of our areas in Switzerland and have lived there, so I am at home there. We are both very experienced hiking leaders, trained in emergency procedures (which we fortunately have not needed). We are both well-versed in the Swiss culture and know the trails.

 

Norm:

 

Could you tell us something about the sleeping and dining accommodations during the 15 day adventure? What can participants expect?

 

Virginia:

 

Participants may expect to experience the high standards of Swiss Accommodations and cuisine. Except for the 4-star Swissotel in Zurich at the beginning and end of our trip, we stay in charming, boutique hotels, family-run, with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

 

Norm:

 

What can hikers or walkers expect to see and explore during these hikes? Do you recommend that they do some research before setting out on these hikes or walks?

 

Virginia:

 

We provide a list of our hikes and their descriptions to each participant.  Each evening, we choose our next day's hike from that list, depending on weather and how people are feeling. We let everyone know what they will experience the following day, so no research is really necessary. Our people may expect to walk through flower-filled meadows, see Swiss cows with bells on, walk below snow-capped peaks of the Matterhorn, Eiger and Jungfrau, buy Swiss cheese directly from the farmer who made it, ride a variety of cable cars and funiculars, have lunch at mountain huts with the most spectacular views in the world. Somewhere we always encounter the cows returning from the high alpine meadows, their head traditionally decorated with flowers and wearing their huge parade bells. It is a photographer's paradise!

 

Norm:

 

What equipment should one have before signing up for these adventures and do you supply any of the equipment?

 

Virginia:

 

We give everyone a list of what to bring in the initial information packet. We don't supply equipment, though we always carry first-aid items in case of need.

 

Norm:

 

What is the cost for these adventures and do the participants meet in Switzerland or the USA before commencing the adventures?

 

Virginia:

 

We meet everyone at the Zurich airport upon arrival. For 2006, the tour price is $3195, with a single supplement of $225, if required. This includes all hotels (15 nights), breakfast buffets, 3 or 4 course dinners, travel by SwissRail Pass and guided hiking. Not included are lunches and the occasional use of cable cars. Our SwissRail Pass offers discounts on all cable cars and is also valid on the Swiss lake steamers, Post buses and city transport.  If someone prefers to take a day off from hiking and go elsewhere for the day, that's perfectly OK too.

 

Norm:

 

As a romantic destination, would you suggest the Swiss Alps adventure? Why?

 

Virginia:

 

Absolutely! The mountains of Switzerland are so beautiful. There is nothing quite like watching the sunset on the mountains while enjoying a gourmet meal.  Walking where Heidi lived is a special experience.

 

 

Norm:

 

What is your favorite venue(s) during these hikes and why?

 

Virginia:

 

It would be difficult to choose one there are so many wonderful places.  We have led these trips for 12 years and never tire of the beauty of the Swiss Alps.

 

Norm:

 

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

 

Virginia. Thank you for asking about our Swiss Hiking trip!

 

Thanks once again for participating in our interview.

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