Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cabane dex Dix to Arolla August 28th, 2006
Kev says its 2 1/2 to 3 hours to Arolla. In order to get there you have to walk across a glacier and then you have two choices: the Col de Reidmatten or the Pas du Chevres. The Pass has three ladders you have to climb while the Col is suppose to be 'rocky underfoot.' We had our sucky breakfast of dense bread and cold oatmeal/yogurt. I keep seeing that guy on Simpsons saying 'worst breakfast ever.' Anyway, we didn't buy lunch since we would be in Arolla by noon. The Brits had to get to a buss in Arolla to get their car in Martigny to catch their plane in Geneva. Geez. Time pressure.

They left a half hour before us but we knew we'd catch up. We bought some chocolate for the road and said goodbye to our whistling innkeeper--he was nice. Outside it was cold and windy. Again I lemented my failure to bring gloves. Crossing the glacier was so cool and so strange. A lot of the glacier was covered with rocks so you couldn't tell you were walking on a giant block of ice then wow, you'd see a break - one slab of ice two feet higher then the other. Other times you could tell you were walking on it but it just felt like walking on thick ice (what, I'm suppose to be impressed it's hundreds or thousands of years old?) When we got to the end of the glacier we saw a crevasse or a hole, I guess (see picture above). It looked like a tube slide made of ice and it went so far down we couldn't see the end. I let Shawn take a picture but I had to hold on to him for fear he'd slip in!

Then we ascended the rocks. We had decided to use the Pas de Chevres because being on vertical ladders in the middle of the Alps sounds cool. Jo at one point --yes, we caught up-- turned around and said 'I hope you two aren't thinking of using the ladders. Tut, tut. The Col is much better.' I was really floored actually to hear the term 'tut, tut' sincerely used. I got a laugh out of Shawn when I replied 'you've seen one Col, you've seen 'em all.'

Turns out Chris wanted to do the ladders too (traitor) so we seperated. Jo and Sara to the Col and Chris, Shawn, and I to the ladders. A bit of a rock hop up but nothing painful. The ladders were indeed your industrial strength ladders going up the edge of he mountain side for about, oh, I don't know, say, 100 feet! No security features. Just you and a ladder and your 25 pound backpack making life interesting. Chris went up first, then me, then Shawn. I didn't look down once. I was scared but exhilarated. I yelled up to Chris to tell me how far I was to the top (when I knew I was definite bone breaking height) but he was too high up to hear me. When we had all arrived the weather was too cloudy to see the Matterhorn (a possibility Kev says). The Pas was definitely a better choice, sorry Jo, because we were way faster getting to the main Arolla trail then Jo & Sara. We waited for fiveteen minutes, I think.

The five of us walked up the valley. Soon just the four of us because Jo outpaced us so far we couldn't see him anymore. There were many peaks on the way but the most impressive was the Pigne d'Arolla and the long Tsijiure Nouve glacier (if you've seen one you HAVEN'T seen them all, trust me). There were spots of blue ice on the glacier (or glass-E-A as the Brits call it). Beautiful. We finally met up with Jo at a prime view of the Cabane des Vignettes where he and Sara had stayed for their excursion the previous year. Sara pointed it out before we actually got to where Jo was waiting and I think he was a little disappointed to not be the one. Regardless we all took turns looking through the binocs at the Cabane and peak way up there. I'm glad they pointed it out because I never would have seen the cabane on my own. Wow. I was impressed.

The rest of the way to Arolla was downhill with various path choices all leading to the town center--or village because Arolla was too small to be a town. We shook hands with the Brits and said goodbye (Chris returned the knee stuff, just in case you're worried). There was a sign pointing farther down the hill for Hotel Mont Collon, our hotel. We turned around a bend and saw this huge, old, run down hotel with Hotel Mont Collon printed in big letters. When we got to it Shawn saw two stars printed by the door. Now, if you've only got two stars, why would you advertise it?

The hotel was indeed old. Probably over 130 years (some letters and picture on the lobby wall dated 1873). At the time Shawn put a 'brave face' on it, as he says, but he really felt it was run down and haunted, frankly. I kinda liked it. The manager was a lovely and nice woman who spoke English really well and during our stay was very gracious. She gave us a key to our third floor room and we went up. Up four flights of stone stairs (the first floor is NOT the main floor) to our 1970's rustic decorated room. Pretty ugly but in a isn't-it-great-it's-so-ugly way.

Why I love it? Hot water. I practically cried when I took a shower. Washed twice. And the conditioner? No regrets. We were actually quite early. I think it was noon. We went up the hill to get some lunch. In hindsight we probably could have eaten at the restaurant in our hotel but it didn't occur to us. Instead we went to the Hotel du Glaciers restaurant because it had a giant sign that said 'OUVERT.' Again most things are closed between 12 and 3. We had a ham sandwich and a ham and cheese omlet. Delicious. The waitress did not know a lot of English. Perfect. The only confusion came when she thought we were staying at the hotel (you don't get your bill until you check out). We waited a while for a bill until we realized that's what she thought. We sat at the wrong section of tables apparently. It's pretty structured this hotel system. In the restaurant of a hotel there are guest tables and walk-in tables. For breakfast and dinner you sit at the same table (usually with your room number on it). Anyway, dumb Americans.

Afterward we went back to the other hotel for a food coma nap. Why? Because we could. Then we went to the living room of the hotel with all its stuffed animals (literally animals that were stuffed--they were everywhere in these hotels) and old old furniture. We plotted out our journey for the next couple of days and -MUSIC- folded up our Mont Blanc map. We would now be travelling on the Matterhorn map. Yeah!

Soon it was time for dinner. One of the great things on this trip is that I haven't been around a lot of smokers. I've seen them from a distance but in general and to my surprise, no smoking is allowed in most of the restuarants we've eaten at. Until Arolla. Smoker during our lunch and smokers during our dinner. Because I've been fortunate I sucked it up. Dinner was an up and down affair (remember it's an event). The soup was absolutely great. Some green vegetable thing. Really brilliant actually. But the salad was weird. White lettuce (Shawn said it wasn't cabbage) and cubes of gruyere cheese. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. Main course? Would you believe steak and fries again? The waitress asked if we wanted our steak medium or well. We said medium and they came out so rare I don't think it would be legal in the States. Shawn didn't want to waste the steaks so we sent them back to be recooked. New steaks arrived same rare. Oh well. The fires were good and the apricot surprise for dessert was ok. See, emotional rollercoaster. Sigh.

So Mont Collon was a bust, I guess. After dinner, bed. Nice to have a bathroom in such close proximity. The view was lovely too even if it was rainy. I made a concentrated effort to not be haunted while I was sleeping.

Forgotten memory: We were telling the Brits about NOISE (play we did at Furious) and that it took place in England, in the Black Country. They had never heard of it. Chris actually asked if it was where a lot of blacks lived. It's a mining area.


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