Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Scenes from Switzerland

The Grottes de Vallorbe

where the fairies keep their treasure, supposedly



The River Orbe begins near the Lac des Rousses in France, just over the Col de la Givrine from St Cergue in Switzerland, and flows northeastward some 30km along the Swiss frontier to the Lac de Joux. Then, near Le Pont under the Dent de Vaulion at the northeastern end of the lake, it just disappears down into the bowels of the, er, depths of the limestone mountain . . .

. . . and, having tumbled and roared through whacking great caverns, it pops out, 250 meters lower down, just near here (whereafter it carries on past the town of Vallorbe and turns eastward out past the town of Orbe to the Plaines de . . . [guess] . . . l'Orbe, where by this time thoroughly channeled into irrigation systems it reaches Lac de Neuchâtel at Yverdon).

This is the ticket-taker's cabin, where you can also buy ice cream(!) and rent a jacket to wear if you want to into the caves -- the temperature remains about 8-10°C all year. An artificial tunnel walks you about 80 meters back to where the real caverns take over.

The Grottes de Vallorbe were apparently discovered in 1962 when some cave divers were exploring a "siphon" at the sources of the river. Excellent and safe walkways, stairways, catwalks, and lighting have been laid on and the caves were opened to the public in 1974.

The Grottes have got the full array of great cave stuff, like stalactites and stalagmites, of course, and long scrolly things and things like organ pipes and spiraly sheets of tissue paper, along with lots of towering ceilings and pits into hell, etc.

The narrator called in on the Grottes in early October 2003 with visiting daughter Alison . . .

. . . who is here trying to photograph the River Orbe about 60 meters below this catwalk (though a sign on the wall somewhat above her head shows the river's high water mark during a rainy season in about 1977).

The walk through the public parts of the caves takes about an hour, and a map shows how little of the cave systems have even been explored, let alone improved for the public.

Alison posing with displays of the equipment the caves' first explorers used. Before leaving the caves, you also pass through four hollowed-out chambers, opened in 1992, which display the "Trésor des Fées" or fairies' treasure, a couple of hundred jewel-like and sometimes weird pieces of mountain crystal, quartz and what not, from all over the world. It's an acquired taste.

That's not all the cave-exploring to be done round here, though.

Entrance to the Grottes de Vallorbe sets you back a rather burdensome 12 Swiss francs or so, but before walking the 10 minutes back towards your automobile you can cross the famous River Orbe itself, climb up the forest hillside for a while and see, absolutely free . . .

. . . another Fairies' Cave.

Fewer amenities here, and you can't go far inside without lights, even when . . .

. . . you try to light your way along with the camera flash.

Alison with her very nice Sony digital in a little cave not far from the Grottes de Vallorbe, October 2003.

The Grottes de Vallorbe's Web site can be seen at http://www.vallorbe.ch/tourisme/visites/grottes.html.


Back again, three years later, 15 April 2006

We've sped through the Grottes de Vallorbe (see above), determined to discover what's really going on at the back of the Fairies' Cave, a few hundred meters up the hill from the Grottes de Vallorbe.

Joe and Teny on a scoping mission into the Grottes des Fées . . .

. . . and reporting back from behind the photographer's exhalations.

The way leads onward, despite the photographer's breath condensations.

The narrator, breathing heavily from all the exertion, photographs Kristin in his own fog.

The narrator holds his breath and lets Kristin take the next photo.

On our way out again. We didn't get very far into it, but perhaps next time.

Time to brave the mud on the way out.

Spectators peaking (or peeking) down into the cave through the roof.

Well, that's enough of that for one day! On to Romainmôtier.


And again, 5 May 2013

See that here.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 11 December 2003, revised 8 March 2008 and 4 October 2013.


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