Sunday, October 22, 2006

August 29th, 2006 Arolla to Grimentz

The weather forecast was suppose to be bad again today. Arolla to Grimentz is actually a two stage walk in Kev's book which could take us up to 12 hours. So we decided to forego the boring valley stuff that hiked criss cross along the main road and just hike from Ville to Grimentz doing the 2919 meter high (Col de Torrent with the great views, etc). When we left Hotel Mont Collon the skies were pretty overcast but it wasn't raining (by the way, CROISSANTS for breakfast). We took the 8:27am bus (stop right outside our hotel) to Les Hauderes.

The busses are really nice. Like long travel Greyhound busses. The driver put our packs in the bin underneath and we hopped on. Using those Swiss Passes finally. Yee haw! The ride was an adventure. First of all, Swiss Alps roads are like one way streets in America only they're not one way and it's not like these busses are small. Greyhound, ok? So everytime he went around of those u-bends I felt like clapping because he stayed on the road. The views were great but the death defying ride had all my focus. We also went INTO the mountain a couple of times where the sides were so obviously carved rock.

Les Hauderes is a bigger village then Arolla. We had to take our next bus from there. While we waited we purchased two sandwiches for lunch at the boulangerie (bakery). We have decided that buying sandwiches at bakeries is the way to go (as opposed to buying from the hotels). The bus to Ville was quicker. Before we knew it we were dropped off in the town square at 1714 meters and ready to go up and up.

Ville is a small place so we managed to be above the town in minutes. We were always passing stragler chalets or huts - thinking about what it would be like to own one ourselves. About halfway up we enjoyed our lunch. The best sandwiches yet. They had hard boiled egg on them! Genius. Then we're off. I walked so close to a bull (remembering the murduring cows in England) I almost reached out and touched him. Shawn took a picture but you can't really tell how close we are.

Up and up we go and it's snowing. Then it's snowing really really hard. We are coming up and we can't see the path we're walking on only the three people's footprints ahead of us (Swiss French we let them pass us earlier). And it was so windy, it was the first time I felt like the wind could knock us off the mountain. We got to the top--the Col de Torrent--and saw the Swiss people and we kind of looked at each other and were like 'that was crazy, right?'

I said a prayer at the cross and then we started our descent (see picture above). I thought we would be taking it real slow since there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground, incredibly windy and snow was still coming down profusely but I was wrong. We were in the midst of a strong storm and we shoe skied most of the way down (at least 300 meters worth). I think what would take an hour for a normal weather day took us twenty minutes. We did pause at one point to put on rain gear but it was total military style. No sitting, resting sticks, anything. He held my pack while I put my jacket on and vice versa. I don't even think he said 'be careful', it was just 'let's go'.

Eventually we looked around us and realized we were at a civilized elevation and slowed down our pace. In the distance we saw a chamois (like a deer) running along a ridge. Our first siting we realized. Lac de Moiry was clear and boy, was it blue and kinda hour glass shaped. On the rest of our descent it just kept getting bigger.

From the bottom of the valley you could hear people calling to the cows. I thought they were mocking them at first until I saw a whole heard move as one farther up the hill. Who knew they could be so obedient? Throughout our walk downhill Shawn and I discussed whether or not we would take a buss to Grimentz from the dam of the Lac de Moiry or not. It was about an hour's walk from the dam but the weather could break any minute again.

The dam looked so cool. On the west side was our trail (we were coming from the west) but the east side was where the bus stopped. I said, whatever we do we have to cross the dam and that decided it, buss it is.

The dam is a modern miracle. I can't begin to describe how high it is-Shawn says about 300 feet. Its north side faced a valley that got lower and lower. Its south side was the lake and you could see how deep the lake must be. We had coffee and hot chocolate while we waited for our buss. This bus was on the Apline ligne so our Swiss Pass wasn't good for it --so we learned. Still only 4 francs each. Again with the u-bends and the are-we-gonna-die on the edge of the road driving. We went by a construction site and I felt like the bus on Harry Potter magically getting thinner to squeeze thru. How are we not hitting other cars? Or the walls of the tunnel?

The bus drove us almost to the front of our hotel. We were glad we took it (despite the danger) because the weather had really turned wet, cold, and really rainy. Not even fun rainy anymore. Our hotel looked like every other lodge hotel on the street. Dark wood and ski resortish. But the inside was warm and comfortable. The manager was extremely pleasant and welcoming. Walked us to our room, a corner chambre. Beautiful room complete with TV (oh good, I'll be able to see French Survivor) and a balcony. Dinner is at 7pm. Shawn loved the room. He was so thrilled he did all the laundry. Wow. I flipped channels to see which one was the one for Survivor. Ah yes, the one that had French Wheel of Fortune on it (I think you can really learn a lot of a language by watching that show).

Dinner was on par with Hotel Belvedere. Wallis plate of meats, buffet salad, veal slices with apple, fresh pasta, cheese plate (you could choose your cheese from a board), and then creme brulee. Awesome. Shawn especially was really excited about the whole experience. The room is just so cozy, he says. The beds were comfortable too.

(Skip this part if you don't watch Survivor). We watched French Survivor as much as we could but we kept falling asleep. It's the same but different. They had a narrator and they had this thing that focused on one Survivor called 'Portrait of....(the person's name)'. Strange. The host did look European but no similarities to Probst (the host of Survivor in America). Everyone also seemed nicer to one another on the show. Oh, and they had cameras on the Jury House. What they were talking about and little tifs they were having amongst one another. Interesting. But that's all we stayed awake for. Just couldn't hack it past 9:30pm.

During our vacation we haven't used an alarm clock or wake-up call once. We were surprised then the next morning that we slept in until 7:30am. Ooops.


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