DAY FOUR: LES CONTAMINES TO LES CHAPIEUX

July 4, Tuesday:
So we started off from the Grizzli in the morning. Kind of confused. I was going to walk the first 45 minutes or so with them to this old church, Notre Dames de la Gorges, which was flat and I’d always wanted to see that place. It’s on what was an old Roman road.
As we were getting ready and milling around checking out, we got our first taste of these groups of Brit and American trekkers who hire these “guides” who basically drive vans around that said “Mountain Guides.” and schlepp these people giant bags of shit around. And yet these groups are entirely conceited and arrogant, will not speak to anyone else. More on them later. This was the first encounter. One of the “guides,” a scrawny dude with a goatee, was sitting on the curb when I was strapping my pack on, looked down and saw I still had my sandals on. I gasped and laughed, and he also laughed and then pulled his chin to pretend he hadn’t seen and laughed. So I ran upstairs and got my boots, came back down and the goatee dude was telling his “trekkers” and the hotel manager that I had lost “my head,” or was crazy or something. I told him in French that I understood him. He looked slightly embarrassed. I didn’t care. Thought it was a pretty good joke on me.
So we walked down the road to Notre Dame de la Gorges, along a road the Roman legions covered as they crossed the Alps into Gaul. Pretty cool, along a beautiful little river.

Left them at the church and had a coffee in a lovely cafe next to the church, waiting for the bus which came at 10 a.m. I paid up and left and only then realized the bus didn’t stop right there but about a quarter mile down the road and of course, I missed it. It wasn’t a big deal. I walked back, not having any distress from the pack or the slight uphill climb back into time. The day before it had been like a tight band across my chest. Not just out of breath but in pain.
So I got to the tourism bureau and with some difficulty they finally found a cab willing to take me to Les Chapieux, which turned out to be pretty much one of those you can’t get there from here places.
Two hour cab, $200 cab ride. I will say no more on that. But absolutely, unbelievably beautiful up and up and up and then down to Les Chapieux, which is not a town at all but a little group of a couple of houses and the Auberge, which is a dortoir, where everyone sleeps in bunks together.
But what a spot! Wild, isolated, vertical, a river running through it, cows, dogs, a herd of goats taken up and up onto the side of the mountain opposite, where the goatherd stayed with them all the long afternoon.
I only was there about 45 minutes when Jeff and Gus came marching down the mountain.
They’d had a very hard day up over the Col de Croix du Bonhomme, but spectacular. Gus again proving himself to be the total rubber billy goat.
But the trip over the mountain in the cab had proved that I had no choice. It was over the Col de la Siegne into Italy the next day for me or die. And that night I was more than a bit scared that it might be the latter.

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