The weather looked miserable and cold. Like minus sixteen degrees Celsius cold. And neither of us were keen to spend four to five hours in that kind of cold. We had had enough of that the previous weekend snowshoeing to Dreibündenstein. Ticino looked a lot warmer, so we decided to head in that direction. We looked at a few options then decided on a walk to the ponte Tibetano ‘Carasc’, or Tibetan bridge – following the Giro del ponte Tibetano.
Described as one of Switzerland’s longest suspension (Tibetan) bridges, the ponte Tibetano Carasc is two-hundred-and-seventy metres long, with a hundred-and-thirty metre drop below it. At just over half the length of the longest suspension bridge, the 494m long Charles Kuonen suspension bridge, it is a long way from being the longest. But it is definitely one of the most spectacular! The bridge itself, when viewed from above, looks spectacular. The views from the bridge looks spectacular. Walking across it is quite a spectacular experience, too! Suspended mid-air one-hundred-and-thirty metres above the Sementina river below.
We started our walk from the ‘Via Locarno’ bus stop in Sementina, a fifteen-minute bus-ride from Bellinzona. A short walk back in the direction we’ve just come from, we found a white smallish sign with Ponte Tibetano / Tibetan bridge printed on it. Through a gate in the ancient city wall, and then on a relatively easy path, following a path approximately parallel with the gorge on our right.
As we climbed higher, the gorge next to us appeared to be getting deeper. Forming a perfect backdrop to the barren-looking trees, devoid of leaves and looking desperately dry, were the white-cladded peaks of the Alps above Sementina. Higher up we catch our first glimpses of the ponte Tibetano – suspended across the river. Even from a distance, and seeing only part of it, it looks spectacular. A short while later, we start dropping down towards the river, and before long we’re looking at the ponte Tibetano below us. Suspended across the river – with people walking across it in both directions.
The first thing I notice is the tensioning cables attached to both sides of the bridge. Arranged in an arc they would serve to stabilise the bridge. I’m guessing if these weren’t here that this bridge would have been a lot less stable. And far fewer people would have been crossing this bridge. As we crossed I watched the faces of some of the more apprehensive pedestrians. Not fully trusting this engineering feat. The hands close to the handrail-cable. I gave them as much space as possible as they were passing. In the middle of the bridge I did a quick tree pose, and then Barbara did the same. Barbara wouldn’t let me straddle the bridge – one foot on either side’s handrail-cables…
Deciding that it was too busy around the bridge for a lunch stop, we continued on the giro del ponte Tibetano. A little further we come across ‘la carbonaia’ – reconstruction of a traditional charcoal firing-pit.
According to the information sign next to ‘la carbonaia’, a typical charcoal pile would consist of a conically stacked pile of logs roughly five metres in diameter and two metres tall. In this traditional method a hollow centre is left, and a ‘chimney’ protrudes from the top of the pile. The pile is covered in leaves, straw, and finally clay or earth, sealing it so that no air can flow into the pile. Fire is then introduced by dropping it down the chimney. The lack of oxygen in the hollow centre means that the fire burns very slowly, transforming the wood into what we know as charcoal. The firing process takes about ten days to complete.
The advantages of charcoal were that they give of a much higher heat without the resultant fumes associated with a wood fire. The disadvantage was that during the firing process the pile gave off harmful unburnt methane emissions.
The average yield in a traditional charcoal pit was between fifty and sixty percent. In modern kilns, the escaping gas is combusted to provide heat which converts the wood into charcoal. Efficiency rates are in the order of ninety percent.
The church at San Bernardo
We continued towards Curzútt, stopping at the Romanesque church of San Bernardo. Standing in a clearing in the woods, it was apparently once a part of the hillside-village life. Dating back to the eleventh century, it contains several frescoes dating back to the fourteenth century. Quite a few people were milling around the church entrance, waiting for others to come out, so they can go inside, so we walked past and found ourselves a little spot on the terrace where we brewed a cup of coffee, and made our avocado sandwich with Grana Padano cheese on the side.
A short way from the church we walked through the picturesque little village of Curzútt. At a junction we took the path leading back to Monte Carasso. Here the signs marking the giro del ponte Tibetano became less clear. And we ended picking a path that was probably not part of the main route… It nevertheless brought us back to the main road through Monte Carasso and the bus stop.
Our route and more information about the giro del ponte Tibetano
See the Ticino tourist website for more information about the giro.
Very informative article about charcoal on Wikipedia.
Our route map
Max elevation: 795 m
Min elevation: 246 m
Total climbing: 669 m
Total descent: -675 m