We’re in Switzerland - YODEL-AY-EE-OOOO

Day 45 – Grand St. Bernard Pass – Liddes

Morning view from our window at Hotel Italia, Grand St. Bernard Pass

Morning view from our window at Hotel Italia, Grand St. Bernard Pass

When we woke up in the morning after a poor night’s sleep (altitude maybe, though we were only at 8,000’), we were still in Italy, steps away from the Swiss border. It was cold out … 32ºF (0ºC) and we bundled up before leaving the hotel. The lake is still frozen and though it’s nearly summer below, it’s still winter at the Grand Saint Bernard Pass.

Grand St. Bernard Pass altitude marker

Grand St. Bernard Pass altitude marker

We walked the 1km to Grand St. Bernard Hospice crossing into Switzerland as we walked. Crossing from Italy into Switzerland is a non-event. Though Switzerland is not part of the European Union, there is no official border control, just the old Swiss Customs/Immigration hut which remains unattended.

Hospice de Grande Saint Bernard

Hospice de Grande Saint Bernard

We stopped at the Hospice for a ‘timbre’ for our pilgrim’s passport. We could have stayed here when we arrived, but we wimped out after a tough day climbing to the top. We opted for the luxury of a private room and bath. Though we enjoy socializing with others, a dormitory and shared bath were not on our preferred accommodations list.

No St. Bernards at the Pass, but several barked at us on the way up.

No St. Bernards at the Pass, but several barked at us on the way up.

We were disappointed that the St. Bernard dogs were not available to view. Everything at the top opens on June 1st and throughout much of June, the dogs are only in residence on the Pass on the weekends. Luckily, we’d seen a couple of St. Bernard’s barking at us on the way up.

The Via Francigena path is under there somewhere!

The Via Francigena path is under there somewhere!

We tried to find the trailhead for our descent down the Pass, but it was snow-laden. It was under all that snow somewhere, but we just couldn’t figure out where. We walked the switchbacked road for a couple of miles until we spotted the path and joined it. The path here was mostly down, as you’d expect, on narrow forested paths. The vistas were breathtaking.

Once the snow disappeared, the path was glorious!

Once the snow disappeared, the path was glorious!

The path was narrow and high, but wonderful for walking.

The path was narrow and high, but wonderful for walking.

I gave up singing Sound of Music greatest hits at my partner’s request and decided to give yodeling a try. David, the killjoy that he is, discouraged this behavior as well. I yodeled silently in my mind... and I was pretty good as far as yodelers go, but soon tired of the exercise … silent yodeling just doesn’t cut it. By the way, if you want to learn how to yodel, here’s a fun YouTube..

We stopped in Bourg de St. Pierre for a coffee and got our first shock at Swiss prices… CHF 9 for two cups of coffee. The Swiss will sometimes accept Euros, but prefer Swiss Francs (pretty much on par with the US$). When they do accept Euros, it’s at a very disadvantageous rate to the Euro holder.

It’s hard to pay attention to the path when the view are so phenomenal. That’s yellow diamond, by the way, is the Via marker in this area.

It’s hard to pay attention to the path when the view are so phenomenal. That’s yellow diamond, by the way, is the Via marker in this area.

We stayed the night atl Auberge des Alpes in Liddes. Dinner prices were exorbitant (CHF 20-30/meal). David made a quick run (up a steep hill (God bless him) to a small market for in-room dinner picnic supplies. Expensive, but nothing like the cost of two dinners. Internet was spotty and television was French or Italian, so we opted for reading and writing for about 8 nanoseconds before falling asleep.

Auberge des Alpes … basic and expensive! We’re in Switzerland.

Auberge des Alpes … basic and expensive! We’re in Switzerland.

We met eight pilgrims today along the path, two from California who had started in Canterbury. This makes three pilgrims in the last few days that have started in Canterbury and none that have started in Rome and are headed to England.

Day 45 – Grand St. Bernard Pass – Liddes

13.02 miles walked / 30, 290 steps

Leg distance: 10.5 miles / 646 miles to Canterbury


Day 46 – Liddes – Bovernier

This was a tough, tough day, but interesting and very satisfying... with no yodeling involved. The trail was steep, narrow and rough. In the forest, we clambered over and around humongous, moss and lichen covered, granite boulders. We climbed up and scrambled down, dodging tree roots and fallen rocks along the precarious path.

Liddes-Bovernier_tough trail.JPG
Huge boulders, ruts, roots and uenven terrain kept the walk very, very interesting.

Huge boulders, ruts, roots and uenven terrain kept the walk very, very interesting.

A Bavarian alpine squirrel watched our slow progress carefully. He had no trouble negotiating the forest paths and marveled at our clumsiness.

A Bavarian alpine squirrel … check out the those great ear tufts!

A Bavarian alpine squirrel … check out the those great ear tufts!

The fields were burgeoning with so many different wildflowers in such an array of color, I doubt there was room for many more.

alpine flowers.jpg

In the distance, we could hear bells ringing… a cacophony of bells... cow bells… a herd of cow bells, all ringing discordantly. There were massive big bells on leather collars around their hefty cow necks that must deafen them after awhile.

A cow bell duo ringing out bovine greatest hits.

A cow bell duo ringing out bovine greatest hits.

We had planned to walk all the way to Martigny, but we were exhausted when we arrived in Bovernier, and the path to Martigny was more of the same only purportedly more intense. Instead, we called it a day at 16 miles and took a train the last couple of miles, got a hotel in Martigny with plans to return to Bovernier the next morning to walk the unwalked miles. More about that next time.

We got a chuckle out of the train car images of the regional St. Bernard Express.

We got a chuckle out of the train car images of the regional St. Bernard Express.

We met only one pilgrim on the trail today AND it’s half way day. Yup, we’re half way to Canterbury!

Day 46 – Liddes – Bovernier

16.32 miles walked / 37,966 steps

Leg distance: 14.7 miles / 631 miles to Canterbury