As sure-footed as a mountain goat
We haven't been able to update this blog in a while because we have been trekking through the beautiful Alps. Over the past ten days, we hiked around (and sometimes up!) the tallest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc. For this segment of our trip, we decided to go with a real tour operator so we could just enjoy the trip. Almost everything was arranged for us ahead of time, from the route to the accomodations. Most importantly, though, our big backpacker sacks were delivered for us everyday, so we didn't have to lug them around the mountains with us.
We started in the resort town of Chamonix, France and hiked all the way around the mountain, passing through Italy and Switzerland along the way.
We had some difficulties with these cheeky cows
Our daily hike usually involved about 15-18 km of horizontal distance and about 1 km of ascent and descent, which took between 5 and 7 hours. We often stayed in gites
, small refuges in the mountains, sharing dormitory bunks with other hikers. As part of our tour package, we were provided with tasty regional dishes every night for dinner, ranging from polenta and scalloped potatoes in France, lasagna and gelato in Italy, and cheese fondue in Switzerland. These dinners were excellent and just what you needed after a long day of hiking. After dinner (around 8pm), everyone shuttered the windows and went off to an early sleep. Because we shared our rooms, we got used to this schedule too. Occassionally I would wake up and go to the bathroom and be surprised that it was still light outside!
In the mornings, our breakfasts were also provided, but they were most often inadequate.
A few slices of stale bread and some jam is definitely not enough to survive a morning of hiking! Fortunately, we packed our own lunches and we always had a chocolate or granola bar to snack on during the hike. Often the older hikers would get a very early start and we would just be rolling out of bed when they were starting their hike. In the end, our youth prevailed and we always caught up and passed them during the day, much to their disappointment. We were so quick on the trails, they even gave me the nickname 'TGV Toronto', after the very-high speed trains in Europe.
One day, while hiking in Italy (day 5 I think), we were getting very close to the end of that day's hike. We could even see our refuge for the night ahead, about 5 minutes left to go. We were hiking along a steep hill and came around a corner to find the path was full of cows! We had seen cows up in the fields many times before during our hiking, but never so close.
The alpine flowers were in full bloom
These cows had big scary horns too. I was also wearing a red shirt and bandana, and many cartoons have taught me that cows hate the colour red. A little worried, I tried to shoo the cows away, but they just stared at us stupidly. Being from the city, we had no idea what to expect from these large beasts, so we just stood before them, at an impasse. Just then I noticed a herdsman up ahead telling me to go through, so, with his implied protection, I climbed a bit up the hill and tip-toed around the bovine barriers. As we passed him, he asked, confusion evident in his voice, 'vous avez peur des vaches
??? (you're afraid of cows?),' to which we both confessed, 'Oui
!' It turns out cows are fairly harmless.
There's so much more to share about our time in the alps, but I'll limit my writing to the short summary above. We took many beautiful pictures in the mountains and I will post many of them here. I think they are the best way to describe our time on Mont Blanc, so enjoy!