I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 17 October 2014

Day 40: Martigny To Orsières (1)

Sign pointing to my day's destination: Orsières via Bovernier and Sembrancher. The length of time suggested on these guideposts was always optimistic — though Orsières may be as little as five hours away for the super-fit alpine walker who is not in the habit of taking photographs, lunch stops and meditative breaks . . .   

Before hitting the trail, I diverted into Martigny Bourg (a suburb of Martigny) in search of a coffee and Danish for breakfast and some bread and cheese for lunch. In the café I was struck once more by how unfailingly polite and friendly, how utterly clean and smart and efficient were the Swiss (dare I say they are less awkward than the French?).  

It was incredibly early in the morning, but several cafés and a boulangerie were already open.

Old postcards and photographs in a shop window show how Martigny Bourg used to be. 

Setting off in earnest, the first thing that happened was that Alison Raju had made one of her common guidebook errors: it's turn RIGHT not LEFT before the train track, Alison! I climbed steeply through shady woods, paralleling river, road and railway. At a fork I had a choice of routes, and thank goodness I took the easier alternative down to the bridge  — later I read in a text from Peter that he had chosen the strenuous option, which zigzagged high up the mountain and involved handrails and scary drops. 

The turbulent river Dranse . . .

. . . and the bridge over it, which shook and swung as I went across . . .

After the village of Bovernier I walked through a long stretch of conifer woodland which sloped precipitously to the river. The path was clear but uneven, and strewn with tree roots, rocks and mossy boulders. It was also undulating — no sooner had you gained height than you were forced to descend.

A yellow lozenge confirms the way.

After a challenging couple of hours I arrived in Sembrancher. Here, for the first time, I saw raccards: wooden granaries constructed on stilts to keep out the mice and rats. Many of these old barns have been turned into houses. I was also massively impressed with the knife-edge ridge you can see in the photo.

Sembrancher (pictured above) clusters at the junction of two valleys. I turned up the right-hand one and was soon climbing. After a few short deviations (a signpost on the ground conflicted with my guidebook), I reached the delightful, typically-Swiss hamlet of La Garde, situated high above the river Dranse.  

 In La Garde I found one of those raccards I mentioned earlier . . .

Winter firewood becomes art-and-design: just look at these shapes, colours and textures. 
Sweet balcony in La Garde.

8 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Keep 'em coming Robert.

The Solitary Walker said...

Sadly there are only a few days left, Pat.

Ruth said...

Lovely .. especially the verbena!

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, is that what it was :)

am said...

Verbena! That's the kind of tea my neighbor brought me from Switzerland!

The Solitary Walker said...

Check out this — it's fascinating:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbena

Verbena was known as 'Tears of Isis' in ancient Egypt. Also, in Christian times, 'holy herb', as it was supposed to have staunched the wounds of Jesus after His descent from the Cross. It has long been associated with magic, divinity and the supernatural. It has healing properties and protects against vampires (a lot sweeter smelling than garlic!)

When I was in Le Puy-en-Veley the last time I drank a local liqueur called verveine, and did not realise until now that it was flavoured with verbena (verbena = vervain).

Ruth said...

I knew it was used in tea, but I didn't know the historical significance. It's also the pink flower in your second photo, of the fountain.

dritanje said...

Oh wonderful wonderful mountains! I could happily live for a while in one of those raccards too (was that the word?) wooden grain houses anyway. A delight to view them.