And the body begins to change

Day Three – Aigle to Saint-Maurice – 17.4 km (10.8 miles)

The weather and the scenery were the stars of today’s walk. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful day, and with a short distance on the itinerary I had an opportunity to pause and take inventory of how I’m doing on this walk.

After about nearly 70 km, my body is starting to show some changes. I can already tell that it is adjusting to the distances. Most of the time my legs feel good. As I walked down a hill today I realized they feel very strong. Thank you yoga. My skin is turning dark as usual and the mild rashes on my legs are familiar walking companions. On hot days I almost always develop Golfers Vasculitis. On the first day’s walk I developed an odd rash on my mid-upper thighs, but it is slowly disappearing. I’ve been wrapping my toes and applying HikeGoo to my feet each morning before walking. No blisters. Knock on wood. My appetite is changing too. In the first days I would ravenously eat anything in sight. Today I left the B&B with just a pastry and a bottle of iced tea. That turned out to be plenty of food until my midmorning break when I downed another pastry. I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Masengex, to get something more healthy, and then had just a handful of peanuts for an afternoon snack. Even after three days I can tell my clothes are getting a little looser. All the changes are welcome and they all feel to be a natural part of adjusting to walking these long distances.

This is a good thing. Over the coming days the altitude gradually increases to about 2,469m (8,100 feet) elevation at the crossing of the Great Saint Bernard Pass. I’m currently at 414m (1,358 ft). So there’s a lot of elevation to gain over the next three days.

Today’s walk was mostly level, with the last 3km in the hot sun. The white waters of the mighty Rhône River share the valley with the highway and the railroad tracks, which gets a little tricky as the valley narrows to just a couple hundred meters before opening up again at the pleasant village of Saint-Maurice. The town is home to an Abbey that has been in continuous use since the year 515 AD.

Hiking Notes: Again the official route goes for greenery and solitude which means mountain paths. Bikers have the easy route on the valley floor, so Alison Raju earns the award today for smartest route.

Leaving Aigle.

Uh oh. I have to climb THOSE mountains?

Looking down into Ollon.

Bike path.

Bake at 350 for two hours until done.

Saint Maurice.

Main square, Saint Maurice as I look for my hotel.

Pedestrian promenade, Saint Maurice.

 

Abbey door.

Abbey interior.

One of the relics from 1500 years of uninterrupted abbey-ism.

Returning to the scene of the crime

Delicious.

Day Two: Vevey to Aigle 25.4 km (15.8 miles)

I need to get something off my chest. About ten years ago while visiting this same area in Switzerland I jumped over the turnstiles at Chateau Chillon and toured the castle without paying the entry fee.

I know. There’s no excuse. It shouldn’t matter that the castle had closed early, before its posted closing time. It shouldn’t matter that I was certain I’d never come this way again and I felt like they’d robbed me of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a carefully restored 12th century castle. It should matter that I knew that French (or French speaking) tourist sites post as their closing times the point as which the final visitors must leave, rather than the time the final visitors must arrive. I had frustratingly arrived in between those two times. Slightly outraged at the custom that had once also cost me a view of the Bayeux Tapestry, I hopped the gate when no one was looking and took a self-guided tour of the castle’s musty but fascinating interior.

Beautiful but unforgiving.

Turned out it hadn’t been a one-in-a-lifetime visit after all. The official Via Francigena leads right past this fairy tale pile and as I walked by it today I was smugly and (mostly) unrepentantly satisfied I didn’t need to pay the admission. I’d already seen the inside.

My return to the scene of the crime took place after I’d rolled out of bed in my stifling room across from the noisy bell tower in Lausanne. It was after I stopped for breakfast at what I’m sure will be my last Starbucks in two months. It was after my train ride to Vevey where I’d finished yesterday and certainly was after the gorgeous 10 km walk on the lakeside trail through Vevey and then Montreux. But it was before I finally made it to the end of the lake, before I had lunch on a pier and before I said a sad goodbye to the gorgeous lake and turned left for the first part of the days long climb up the Rhône River Valley toward Italy.

Seeing me go by, I now believe the Castle called upon the Universe to pay me back for my crime by getting me lost for half an hour, by making the sun exceptionally hot, by making the air humid, and by making the trail straight, flat, paved and dreary. Except the beauty of the mountains on both sides could not be spoiled by the Castle’s revenge.

As an aspiring pipe organist, I couldn’t believe my good fortune in stumbling, right there on the trail, upon the Museum of the Swiss Organ. Sadly it was closed and locked. No entry even for turnstile jumpers like me.

After arriving at my destination at 4:00 I showered and fell asleep on the bed until 9:00, my best sleep so far, but a jet lagged one coming at the wrong time of day. Aigle has a nice, central commercial district complete with shops and restaurants. I caught a pizza there before returning to my room for a hopefully long and restful snooze.

Hiker’s notes: Vevey to Villaneuve, except for a couple of km on the road, is a lakefront promenade paradise. Enjoy it while you can. After the turn up the valley the stage is mostly alongside either a small canal or the train track, so pray for a cool day. Before Rôche the GPS tracks keep you to the left of the canal and forsake the well marked bridge crossing to the other side. Believe the signs, not the GPS tracks. The GPS way was literally impossible due to the inadvertent presence of a giant mountain and clearly must’ve been drawn from someone’s desktop rather than by a real walker. After Rôche, stick to the road alongside the tracks all the way to the Aigle (pronounced “EGG-luh”) station. It’s dreary, yes, but far shorter than the wandering track to the left that adds little but distance to the stage. Note that the price at Hotel le Suisse has increased from cf70 to cf100. Though I had a reservation there I cancelled it at checkin and opted for a nearby B&B at cf60 where the kind owner is thoughtfully doing my laundry.

Leaving Vevey.

Outdoor market in Montreux.

Elegance of past years in Montreux.

Realizing now that the VF is marked as route 70 here.

Lunch on a pier on the lake in Villaneuve.

Ferme.

Rails, sun, corn and asphalt for miles.