Monday, 16 July 2007
Pilgrimage from Orsieres to St Bernard 12/07/07
It was a 6am alarm this morning, as we wanted to be at the St Bernard pass early so we could relax and enjoy it. The weather had also turned good, so it looked like it would be a great day.
We left Orsières by 07:30 and lost the track within 500m. The Father at the abbey had lent us a map so I was pretty sure I knew where to go but Dan was a bit skeptical. There are heaps of different walking tracks around here so it is easy to take the wrong one.
All ended up Ok. Once we were on the right path the views were amazing but once again it was a bit of a climb.
After about 10kms the road split, one path going up over the ridge and the other going down into the valley. Dan wanted to take the higher one but after yesterdays effort I wasn’t keen. So he took the map and we split up.
I had a great walk through the forest next to the river. It was stunning.
There were two meals that we were meant to try while in Switzerland but we hadn’t got around to trying either. One is fondue and the other is rösti. When I spotted a village up above me I had to go have a look…
I was in luck. This wonderful little restaurant was situated up on a steep hill with views of the valley and snow capped mountains. And it sold fondue. I didn’t know what to expect as I had never tried it, but it was awesome! The Swiss get everything right! Funnily enough I use to melt cheese myself as a kid in the frying pan, but I had always just eaten it as is. What a great meal. I could just imagine coming in off the ski fields to sit down to warm up over this.
The walk then took me past a big dam and then towards the pass.
When I left Dan I figured there was only one place I could really go wrong without a map and I just hoped it was sign-posted. It wasn’t and yes, I got it wrong :)
It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as knowing there was a chance I could go wrong I soon realized my mistake. I still thought I could walk around the ridge and meet back up with the path but it wasn’t to be. A raging river of snowmelt soon blocked my path.
Backtracking turned out to be a bonus as a pair of mammut started running around in front of me. Cool little creatures.
So after reuniting with my path it was straight up to the pass.
Because of the recent bad weather everyone had told us that there would be snow on the pass but today was hot. I was lucky to find a few patches but I don’t think it will last the next couple of days.
The summit is really beautiful. The hotels are situated around a lake ringed in by snow-capped mountains.
Everyone who knows this route has told us that we have to spend the night at the hospice on the St Bernard pass. When we have asked if we need to book the reply was always the same, “they always have room for pilgrims”. The father who we stayed with last night, who had worked there for twelve years, even confirmed this when we asked if we should book. But it seemed like tonight was the exception :(
A whole group of school kids had taken too long to walk up he valley and when I went to check in I was told it was full and to go next-door to the restaurant, as they had rooms.
I was expecting it to be emergency pilgrim quarters but it was just a hotel! I didn’t understand so I went back to make sure they knew I was a pilgrim. The woman did, but hearing that I had stayed with the father from Orsières the night before she made room :) The only condition was that I had to eat at one of the restaurants as they already had too many people for dinner.
This suited me fine as it gave me a chance to try the rösti. This meal has a bed of potatoes covered with ham and melted cheese. Absolutely awesome!
I was sharing a room with three kids from Macedonia who all spoke great English and kept me entertained for the night. It was lucky because Dan was nowhere to be seen. I figured it would take him a few more hours than I took but when it started to get dark I was wondering what had happened. Luckily he found a village and managed to borrow someone’s phone to give me a call. He was still three hours away!
There is a chance he will walk all the way to Aosta tomorrow but I have the feeling that I may not see him for a while. He has been considering walking straight to Jerusalem, as Rome has no meaning for him. It will be interesting to read his next email.
And Italy tomorrow!!!