Grignod to Aosta and back to Switzerland to get home. 7km down.

To the cathedral in Aosta for a last tampon/stamp in pilgrim passport.
Pleasantly down past a parish church dedicated to our hero St.Roche patron saint of pilgrims and plague! To catch the bus back up to St Bernard, a final beer while waiting for the bus from the Swiss side. On time of course, and over to Ostiers and then train down to the good campsite in Martigny. Tomorrow a train and flight home from Geneva.
The cathedral in Aosta has an impressive front door and lots of paintings inside.

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Down down deeper and down. Grand St. Bernard to Gignod. 22km. 2473m to 988m.

We had a very peaceful night where thousands have slept safely before after far more trying ascents. We get jam and bread and coffee at 8am and start our descent. The statue of St Bernard who founded the rescue abbey on the pass on the edge of the lake shows against the light of the rising sun on the mountains to the west. We start down there are snow patches even now where the route is tricky in summer shoes and lower down a not easy footpath. But we descend again through the high alpine meadows surrounded by mountains past numerous little streams feeding the rivers in the valley. We are crossed by several local parties of walkers coming up to escape the heat in the valley and eventually end in Etroubles. A place with a name that may resonate with many UK people. We have a pizza there at a reasonable price. No more excess Swiss prices and continue down though forests following irrigation channels on the path 103. These eventually lead us to Gignod and a good café and little store with a campsite that has seen better days but is very welcome.
Tomorrow we head back into expensiveland to go home from Geneva. More posts next Spring.

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No trains lots of flowers. Bourg St Pierre to Grand St Bernard. 12km. 1632m to 2478m with some up and down.

We start with 4 Pain au Raisin delivered to the campsite by the bus driver. Followed by another coffee in the nice café opposite. There is nothing else till the top.
Steep down and up just out of town annoys all. With 800m to ascend, descent is unwanted. Soon though we are up in alpine pastures. Cows with bells, butterflies and lots of different flowers some like the Martagon lilies seen in gardens some alpines sold in garden centres. The way is very well marked and flowers get better as we ascend those gone over at lower altitude are at full flowering further up. We reach a large hydroelectric reservoir, the route after a small descent traverses round it and then heads up again close to the small road to the top. The main road has dived into a tunnel. We have lunch near a curious structure that Tony realises, when it makes a noise and steam issues from it, is a ventilation shaft for the tunnel. The second major tunnel we have had lunch on top of. For those not paying attention, the first was the channel tunnel on the beach near Calais. We start to encounter snow patches but battle on up.
Eventually we reach the top and are greeted by staff of the hospice of St Bernard where we will stay the night. Opposite is the St Bernard dog museum and kennels. This time the Barryland theme park logo is less in evidence, we had declined to pay 12francs per visit down in Martigny. But this time is good a dog is out with a young English speaking handler and in the museum we learn that Barry 3 was an excellent rescue dog who died falling off a cliff on a search. He is immortalised in two ways. The name Barryland for the museum and organisation breeding and presenting St Bernards and he is stuffed in the museum!

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Up Up and up. Orsieres to Bourg St Pierre. 14km 902m to 1670m.

When we leave Martigny with full packs again it is on the little train that nearly ran us over, grandiosely called the St. Bernard Express. It is a different driver who knows nothing of our history.
After an excellent breakfast at the Terminus Hotel. We start up steeply out of town, packs already feeling heavy compared with our minimalist weight of the last three days. After some sweat we sit on a bench with great views over Orsieres.A meadow of butterflies is nearby.Soon we push on shade is ok much of the time and views into and above the valley of the Dranse river are superb we spot an uncommon plant Toothwort a semiparasitic plant on tree roots last seen by us in the Pyrenees.
We go up and up over the Dranse at one point deep below in it’s own gorge.There are some very steep ascents. We emerge into alpine meadows surrounding the village of Liddes with its little church with some fine stained glass dedicated to its patron Saint George and a particularly fine example of alpine raccards or grain stores designed to keep out rats similar to the Gallician Oreos we have seen on Caminos.
The up is a little less steep in the final section to Bourg St Pierre and we spot some wild Martagon lilies as well as a mowing machine worthy of Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the barbarian hero! We arrive hot and sweaty but soon cool and clean on the nice little windy campsite.

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Beaucoup de Papillons. Adventures by train! Martigny to Orsieres 20km 475-900m with some up and down.

We discover the little Co-op Pronto petrol station at the end of the campsite bakes its own bread and pastries and is selling by 6am. After breakfast we start walking up the Dranse. This is a tributary of the Rhone which disappears over to the east somewhere in another valley. Our route is tortuous and we marvel at the determination of Hannibal’s army in getting elephants and troops up what was unknown territory. There are two right angle bends in our route both look far from the obvious way forward.A few km from the site we are following both road rail and river and the valley is narrow. We end up on a path that points us at the railway line with no crossing. We had missed the signpost hidden by the tourist information board! We scramble across the line looking for a way up to the path above us. Tim slips, a train is coming’ Tony hurts his hand helping Betsy down a wall. Ray always the fall guy gets told by the train driver to go back to the station to cross.
We retrace our steps licking our wounds wondering if the police will be sent to pick us up.
An hour or so later there is no pursuit we are high on the walls of the valley deep in steep woodland with many butterflies.
Towards a village we see a sign Pedibus, this seems to be a system of supervised walking to school of small children. What a good idea!
After dropping back to the road in Semirancher we get coffee or beer or both in the case of Betsy. She is trying avoid repeating yesterday’s nap by taking coffee with her beer. To be fair she has tried this before but usually been thwarted by the bar staff who know better than stupid foreigners how many people are in the group. Or by whoever is ordering who cannot quite bring himself to order both. This seems to work and she and Tony race ahead up the route Napoleon took on the way to Austerlitz. Ray and Tim are again distracted by a meadow of dozens of butterflies including at least 3 possibly 4 species of frittilaries.
As eventually get together in the Hotel Terminus opposite the station in Orsieres. This place should do us breakfast about 7am tomorrow ready for the push up to advanced Basecamp with all gear tomorrow An excellent walk today up a lovely alpine valley. Gy

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Cows urination and Humid Forest. St. Maurice to Montigny 16-17km opinions differ, Ray and Tim got a little off route. 420m to 480m.

Today we arrive in Montigny where we have been sleeping on the convenient campsite for the last two nights! It is a pleasant walk up the Rhone in the rain and would be shady if the sun was out. Before leaving St.Maurice we have a croissant and coffee with Mme.Lafarge at Café de la Gare. Also spotted in a shop window the book we should have bought as we entered Switzerland.
We wander up unfrequented lanes in intermittent showers. Ray has learnt his lesson in our battle with the rain god. Tim tries to bluff him but soon retires, there is low cloud and light near continuous rain but it’s warm, no problems. We reach various small towns independently having become separated and note the notices of Fermé en vacances in the windows of at least three cafés. We guess this is holiday prior to coming back for high season.
Shortly after reuniting in the Relais des Copains a good truck stop charging primarily in euros and with a well priced menu de jour,we get to the fine waterfall we have noted from the train, Cascade de Pisse-vache we then enter the woods at the side of the valley which described on signs as forêt humid and are a last stronghold of the Crappaud Sonneur variously translated as the firebellied toad or the bellringing toad. Sadly we fail to find one but get a few mosquito bites.
Near by the waterfall we meet a fantastic beetle on a purple water hydrant! a bit Lewis Carrol this.
We finally ease our way back into Montigny over an ancient wooden bridge well looked after with modern bolts and braces. In town Tony leads the way to The Brit Pub. This is not misplaced patriotism though England is still in the world cup. We have BOGOFF coupons from the campsite. Betsy drops off over her beer and her second is drunk by the rest.
The rain has stopped time for quiet washing and resting back on the campsite.
Betsy says we have walked 1001.9km since starting so she is entitled to a quick nap!

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Rainbows and showers. Villeneuve to Saint Maurice. 26km 380m to 420m

We pile out of the tents at 6.30 to be greeted by a double rainbow up the valley towards the GT St Bernard Pass. It must be raining somewhere, it is in Villeneuve when we get there. A good Petit Dejuner in a café near the station. Bread jam croissants coffee OJ. Much better value than yesterday in Montreux
The walking is flat and easy alongside the super Swiss trains and then up the bank of the swift full flowing Rhone. There are lots of industrial units but they are not obtrusive and we progress quickly to Aigle.
We decline the route up through the vineyards and stay on the valley bottom. Apart from cafes and bars Aigle has a weird little park of moving sculptures and old railway stock. Strange mixture with eagles thrown in for good measure. Tony nearly gets a haircut from his namesake but thinks his usual one back home offers be better deal. (Jane)
After cool cloudy comfortable walking we get rain just as we restart after lunch. All don waterproofs it is expected. It stops after a few hundred metres! Waterproofs off Water proofs on it’s started again. Ray rebels it rains harder he looses. We have a few km in nice cool rain.It stops just before we reach St Maurice with it’s 600CE abbey. We get pilgrim stamps for our collections and admire the glass, mosaics and paintings in the church
The swift efficient Swiss train whisks us up the valley to Martigny. Where quite obviously we have not arrived yet.

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Vevey to Villeneuve 17km Flat! No really

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We are up as light starts to creep down the mountains on the south of the lake. Several hundred cormorants and grebes sweep past a hundred metres off shore. We are camped 20m from the water and it was a pleasure to cool off in it yesterday. A group of cyclists arrived and camped around us like a flock of birds alighting. They filled a lot of spaces and the team felt quite at home. Just like Glastonbury.
Walking through Vevey we spot Charlie Chaplin’s statue and a sculpture of a fork in the lake courtesy of a food museum. Just some of the random bits of public art around the lake, some better than others, but all providing a photo opportunity with an awesome backdrop.
We wander happily around the lake. Amazingly the route stays at lake level. Walking though Montreux where the Jazz Festival is in full swing we pass the food and drink tents that will be swinging tonight! We are heading for Villeneuve at the end of the lake. On the way we see Freddie Mercury, Igor Stravinsky and a host of other people associated in one way or another with Montreux,well their statues anyway. We also met a lady whose husband makes mechanical sculptures that we see later as we progress.
The lake ends at Villeneuve and just before it there is the Château de Chillon, the ultimate fairy tale castle built out to into the lake. Betsy wonders which turret she should let her hair down from!
It is now midday, we eat some lunch by the lake and try to work out what to do next. A grebe sitting on it’s mother’s back gets a huge ah! And many electrons are inconvenienced to achieve a good shot.There are problems with campsites up the valley . Too many in wrong places and big gaps. We decide that more train journeys are needed to shuttle back and forth and so get a train up to Martigny. First we have to go back to Montreux both the trains leave from Platform 3B ,given previous experience we are very careful! We say goodbye to lovely Lake Geneva.
As we hurtle up the valley on a Swiss supertrain we feel we could but shouldn’t get used to the efficiency of Swiss public transport. The campsite in Martigny is very pleasant and we need to remember that we are not here yet, as we need to walk it over the next two days.
It’s getting confusing again!

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stroll around the lake. Green on left blue on right. Lausanne to Vevey.21km Flat Ha! Ha! This is a coastal route.

The gods got fed up last night there was a thunderstorm and it was still raining at 6am. We got up after digging Ray out of bed. He was quietly assuming that we would be sensible and wait. No chance.
An easy stroll for petit dejuner next to Château Ouchy. This is next door to the Olympic headquarters and given aches suffered by most athletes seems appropriate. It has stopped raining now and the Olympic spirit is blowing across the lake. So we start the training along the coastal path. As most will know a body of water must be level but the path around it never is. We soon enter vineyards on steep slopes and get some sort of fellow feeling for those tending the vine although there are some labour saving devices attached to the steep lakeside.
The cog version of the Stannah stairlift heads up amongst the vines where green bunches of grapes are starting to swell. At every corner a new view across the vines to the lake and the mountains tempts the camera. Our route takes to the hills as some expensive lakeside properties impede our progress.
The morning clouds clear and the heat builds with a blue sky and high clouds. An occasional lake paddle steamer fills the foreground of the distant glaciers and high tech trains glide by.
We stop for lunch by an old church and then walk on through the vineyards to arrive at our campsite on the lake to find many tents belonging to people staffing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. As Tony remarks if you have made your money, why would ayou stay in Rochdale.

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The Olympic spirit blows on the lake! Orbe to Lausanne or maybe, Penthalez to Lausanne. 15km. Lac Léman or Lake Geneva is at 375m current hieght 450m.

Either way the confusion should be finished and a sequential order of walking resumed after the bus and train rides to Penthalez. It’s hard leaving a nice site we have enjoyed the town and over the weekend while we learnt the ropes of Switzerland it has been a refuge from the heat.
The way from the station into Lausanne is not too long but it gets hot quickly. It is enlivened by meeting two Swiss down a quiet country road practicing on Alpenhorns. And making a quite delightful sound.
We get to the campsite by midday and settle in. We get free bus and metro passed for a day and learn that Lausanne is the headquarters of the Olympic games. Started in 1894 reinvented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin may his spirit blow wind across the lake in an Olympic manner. As it says in very flowery language in the free city tourist information Ray got from the campsite.
We find the lake we are maybe 100m from the edge but after a bit of a rest set off via bus and metro to the centre of town.
A paddle steamer described as belle epoque in the fanciful guidebook scatters the bikini clad pedaloists on the lake as we look across the lake in trepidation to the Alps.
Lausanne cathedral is at the top of the hill via an ancient wooden roofed set of steep stairs. We emerge sweating from the heat under a carved doorway of saints and into the cool of arched stained window quiet. The lady in the office gives us a stamp in our pilgrim passport and advises us to cool off in the lake.
Back down the hill by metro,past the clock counting down into the next olympics and into a bar for a bierre blonde.
After a confusing episode of shopping in which we win a packet of peanuts with a scratch card , we head for the lake which is beautifully limpid blue and cooling.
Back by our tents as the heat subsides we drink wine ,eat crisps and feel the Olympic spirit infusing into us for tomorrow.

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