Right Place, Wrong Time / by Frederik van den Berg

Last weekend on the drive back from a hiking trip in the Swiss Canton of Glarus, my faithful Saab 900 and I were to get on the wrong side of an Alpine thunderstorm.

I'd been hiking a short loop from the village of Elm to Firstboden and was well aware of the weather forecast for the evening, so had opted for a shorter route to ensure I’d be back before the storm hit (I’ve spent enough time hiking in the rain).

Looking down the valley from Firstboden

Looking down the valley from Firstboden

Although confident that my timing was accurate, the heavens opened just as I was within sight of the parking lot, and I watched as huge curtains of rain closed in from either side as I hurried along the river leading in to town.

The rain and hail hammered down, forcing me to take cover under the roof of a nearby garden shed.

While photographing the highest power lines in Europe, the storm clouds roll in

While photographing the highest power lines in Europe, the storm clouds roll in

After waiting a good twenty minutes for the heaviest of the weather to pass, I sprinted to the car to change into some dry clothes. After replying to a few phone messages, checking the weather for the following day and letting the group chat know that I’m leaving the mountain and won’t be in town until later, I warmed up with a cup of hot thermos coffee (fast becoming my favorite piece of hiking equipment).

Dry, refuelled and caffeinated, I hit the road back towards Zurich.

The rain had picked up again. Thunder was echoing through the valleys and the wind was blowing a gale. Nothing too out of the ordinary for a summer thunderstorm in the Alps.

A small branch fell onto the road in front of the car. Then another. And another.

Before I'd worked out what was happening it was seemingly raining trees, and the sky went dark. A heavy wave of earthy green and brown had swallowed me, dragging me with it. I thought it was a landslide.

There's a car in that tree

There's a car in that tree

It felt like the beginning of a rollercoaster ride, the slow and uncomfortable build up just before the drop. When the window cleared enough to see out of, I realized I was sliding dangerously towards the edge of the road.

I’ve fallen off of enough cliffs in Elm to know that that was not where I wanted to go. 

As far as I saw it, I had two options. To brace for the inevitable rollercoaster into the river, or to pull off an action movie-like escape out of a car imminently about disappear over a cliff..

I didn’t like my chances rolling into the river in a soft-top Saab from 1993.

Thankfully, the car stopped at the edge of the road.

I initially tried to force open the driver's side door but found the car was positioned firmly on its side. It seems the Hollywoodesque-escape-from-a-moving-car may not have been an option.

Still dazed and confused, I unbuckled, snatched my phone from the floor, and clambered out of the car, pausing to grab my backpack and camera before looking for shelter from the rain and falling trees.

My phone was too wet to call the police, and I still wasn't sure exactly what had happened.

What. The. Franz.

The tree(s) that fell over my head

The tree(s) that fell over my head

A car appeared from around the bend and I flagged it down, climbing into the back seat to get out of the rain. They were already on the phone to the police and asked if I knew if the people in the car needed help. I told them it was in fact my car and that I was in fact unscathed.

They looked at me blankly, at the car, back to me. Utterly confused.

The car was on its side wedged between two large branches of a very large tree. A few meters ahead or a few meters behind, I would've been flattened.

So I was technically in the right place, just at the wrong time.

Miraculously, there isn't a scratch on me. My camera still works. My phone has recovered. Even the collection of hilarious sunglasses and novelty cabriolet headwear survived.

The car, however, is kaput.

Unfortunately, this poses rather a large problem for how I make a living. The car was my access to the mountains on weekends, to clients during the week, and to friends in faraway places.

Accidents happen, and they happen often to me. I try my best to learn from mistakes. Losing the car has once again fueled that silly dream of owning an overlanding vehicle. I could travel, spend the night while photographing the stars above the mountains, and be able to take the somewhat longer, unconventional trips I’ve had in mind.

This was running through my mind while walking down the mountain, but just dreaming up grand plans doesn’t set them in motion.

So, I’m on the hunt for new opportunities, projects, and clients to help finance 'Adventuremobil Nr.2'. 

Coincidentally I’m also in the market for a Land Rover Defender LWB or Toyota Land Cruiser.

I've found that the creative industry I work in relies on word of mouth and recommendations, and that good relationships are vital to a successful project. If you have any connections to anyone that might be interested in working with me, any and all tips would be greatly appreciated.

Specifically, I’m interested in working more with tourism destinations, editorial clients, architects or interior designers, and real estate companies. I’d also love to work with charities or organizations that deal with garbage/recycling/cleanup - I have a personal mission against ugly things (garbage) in pretty places (Earth). 

I also work with The Gipfeli Collective, who deal in websites, graphic design, and corporate photography needs.

I also live close to a famous chocolate factory and am happy to send rewards for any tips, referrals and contacts you may have.

Thanks for stopping by,
-FVDB