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Ciao Italia


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Comfy as I’ve gotten through the years, I had booked one night (Friday – Saturday) at Radisson Blu Sky City (Arlanda) and also due to the unreliable Swedish railways (SJ) that you nowadays can’t trust getting you to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport on time. So, my journey started already yesterday evening by train to Stockholm-Arlanda. And just as predicted, SJ neither disappointed me this time… got to the neighbor-city when a delay occurred. The train didn’t move for 25 minutes before it continued. But it didn’t matter (this time) since I was flying out tomorrow morning.

Woke up in the hotel room in time on Saturday morning, ate my brought-along breakfast and checked-out by 7am. Early morning and it had already built up queues at the check-in desks. There’s always a certain expectation in the air on airports and people are dragging their fully packed suitcases and bags dreaming of a week vacation or two. All people you meet have a destination, an ambition, usually towards more southern latitudes. Standing there in line for Security check I couldn’t help myself looking at people around me trying to figure out where they were traveling. I spotted a couple of people that I thought looked dressed for hiking. Perhaps they were flying the same flight as me, and even to Champoluc?

We boarded the flight just before 9am, a minor Boeing 717. Good to know about this type of airplane model is that both jet engines are mounted at the rear of the fuselage, i.e. not under the wings, which I had considered when I chose my seat. Cause who wants to sit in the rear and louder part of the airplane when you can choose to sit more up front and a little quieter? Even though it was a smaller aircraft (2+3 seats), I got really surprised over the generous leg space. The plane was pushed out from the gate at 9.20am according to schedule, taxed to the runway and soon thereafter we were airborne and, on our way south, to Milan, Italy. During the 2 hour and 20-minute-long flight they served beverages for all passengers and for those who wanted could also buy some food. Surprisingly I discovered that one of the flight attendants wore hearing aids in both (!) ears. That must be a direct challenge having bad hearing and work in such loud noise environment at the same time you need to hear what the passengers say during flight. So courageously done of her!

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During approach to Milan you could see how the city was surrounded by heat haze and it looked terribly warm. At Milan Linate Airport the airplane stopped at a distance from the actual terminal and a transfer bus parked just outside the airplane. Oh, right! Passengers often get transferred by bus to and from the terminal; I should have remembered that from last time I landed here. In the very same moment I sat my foot outside the aircraft, it was like hitting a wall of heat. A +35 °C heat struck me and suddenly the short way downstairs to the transfer bus got tougher. And it was neither cooler in the transfer bus. But it took no more than a minute to get to the terminal and I localized the baggage belt quickly. But I waited and waited. My bag didn’t show up. I got nervous and felt more and more stressed that everyone else got their bags and left. Eventually I recognized my bag on the belt and grabbed on to it and rushed away to the meeting point for all of us booking the hiking trip in Champoluc by the travel agency. I could easily locate the girl (Lina) that held the sign with the travel agency’s name on it. But surprisingly enough, it turned out that I was the first on sight. But it didn’t take long for the remaining 12 people to arrive to the meeting point and we walked together as a group to the minibus waiting just outside. We reluctantly board the bus fearing it would be about +30 °C in there. But it turned out that the air-conditioner was very effective, and the transfer for 2 hours and 30 minutes to Champoluc became comfortable after all. The first 90 minutes was along the highway through the Italian highland, with cornfields and vineyards along the road. We paused for about half an hour for restrooms and optionally buying snacks or food before we continued.

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We took off into Ayas Valley and the road winded itself up towards our goal, Champoluc at 1568 meters above sea level. The minibus conquered one hair pin turn after another uphill and it never seemed to stop. After a while the drive rolled down his window and I immediately felt the familiar scent of eucalyptus coming with the wind.

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Well there in Champoluc, the bus stopped just outside our hotel, Hotel Relais des Glaciers, a beautifully cozy tree house in classic Tyrolean style, with blooming pelargonium hanging on the balconies. In the sun chairs outside the hotel guests rested on the well-managed lawn curiously looking at us pale Swedes. The heated outside pool was just aside and gave an inviting feeling. Checked in at the hotel and according to Italian law the hotel staff must copy all of their guest’s passports to keep during the stay. It felt a little uncomfortable to give away your passport, but we would get them back before the evening dinner. My room was on the first floor and I got a little surprised that they had wooden floor in the room and not the otherwise common and sometimes disgusting wall-to-wall carpet. But wooden floor is so much more hygienic. I unpacked some of my things from my baggage before heading to the village local store Crai.

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There were two major roads running through Champoluc, one-ways in each direction. Huge flowerboxes separated the car lane and the footpath for pedestrians and walking among the Tyrolean houses gave an exotic feeling. I bought bananas, bread and some salted potato chips to bring with me for the hikes during the week in the local food store. It was warm now in the village, so I walked along Torrente Évançon (alpine river running through Ayas Valley and Champoluc) and back to the hotel again. It was peaceful walking along the turquoise water.

Included in this trip was 5-course dinner every evening at the hotel, which was served at 7.30pm. We who had booked through the same travel agency had our own corner in the hotel dining area, where we were seated. There were 7 other people flying from Malmoe and Gothenburg besides us 13 people flying from Arlanda. Entree for the night was salad that you selected on your own at the salad table. Ordered in a local bottle of wine; Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle. Recommended highly! Thereafter you got served the remaining courses at your table. The first starter was smoked raw ham and baked potatoes and the second starter was potato gnocchi with veal ragù. Main course was delicious roasted pork on pastry with mustard and lemon and then ice cream as dessert. The courses were definitely not adjusted to a 5-course dinner, more like a whole army. But one thing was for sure, you did not have to go to bed hungry.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Ru Courtod


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Woke up after a night in a way to soft, worn down and uncomfortable bed (for my back) – ow, ow, ow. But my back straightened out soon after I got out of bed. Drew away the window curtains and watched the seemingly chilly weather outside. Not that it was raining, but all cloudy, grey and probably cool temperature. Breakfast at Hotel Relais des Glaciers (and probably the majority of the hotels in the area) was served rather late then what you might be used to, from 7.30am and consisted of a basic breakfast. You stilled your hunger.

The travel agency held morning meetings every hiking day in the conference room, today at 9am, and at that time we were expected to be ready for hiking. This week we were 18 people (out of 20) that had booked the Alpine hiking package. Our hiking guides Lina and Rebecka held the meeting and our mountaineering guide for today Marin (read with French accent). It should be mentioned that many names for people, villages, Rifugios and so on, have French accent here in Ayas Valley, a part of Aosta Valley. Aosta Valley was actually the first authoritarian rule to accept French as its official language in 1536, which was 3 years before France itself did it! Official languages in the region are now both Italian and French which are used for the laws and ruling the region. In school they teach just as much Italian as French to the students. The native language is called Valdotain (locally Patois), an accent of Franco-Provençal and are spoken by 58% of the population as their second language. It is a mix of French, Italian and Portuguese.

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After the morning meeting, going through the arrangement and trail for today and questions, there was an opportunity for those who wanted to buy a hiking map and rent hiking poles. Then we gathered outside the hotel at 9.45am for joint walk to the bus stop and waited for the local bus that would take us to the neighbor-village Magnéaz at altitude 1710 meters. In one group we started hiking uphill a steep ascent to Mandriou at 1849 altitude meters, and further along mountain ridge Pian Pera we were supposed to have a nice view over the Monte Rosa Massif. But the weather had decided to grudge us that opportunity with low clouds and fog. Even though the wind wasn’t that strong it felt chilly and cold which made it difficult to dress for the hike. After a while we reached La Tschavana, a Rifugio (mountain restaurant) situated at 2012 altitude meters. Here we stopped for snacks, coffee break and technical pause (i.e. restroom visit). And just as we were about to get on with our hike heavy fog and some rain showed up. Then it was just to dress up in the newly bought waterproof function jacket and pants and put on the rain proof cover on the backpack.

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We visited a nearby building where they produced cheese and we visited the basement where they stored the cheese.

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We courageously continued along the hand-dug canal Ru Courtod at approximately 2000 meters above sea level. Yes, you read it right. In beginning of 16th Century it was decided to dig a 25 km canal (by hand with pick and shovel – there was no machines at that time) from the nearest glacier Ventina in the Monte Rosa Massif to Saint-Vincent in Emarèse, to meet up the need from an increasing population. Today the canal has no function, since water today is led in pipes from surrounding mountains in Saint-Vincent. But the canal has been preserved and is today a nice element along the hiking trail for local residents and tourists.

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The trail took us through wide open meadows and pastures with gazing cows. The classic sound of bell orchestra from the cows was sometimes deafening, but it somehow belongs up in the Alps. Eventually, after many hours of hiking, we arrived at Restaurant Braconnier and a well-tasted Penne alla Bolognese. Time was probably close to 1.30pm when the food finally was served and you were so hungry. While eating inside the heavy grey clouds suddenly dispersed and the sun shined through.

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When everyone had made their technical pause and taken off their rain clothes, we started our descent to the end for today, the village Antagnod (French accent). Stone houses were close together along the narrow alleys and flowerboxes lit up of blooming pelargonium. If you paid a little attention you noticed that all buildings here in Ayas Valley have slate roofs. Earlier in the days it was the law to use slate roof on top of all buildings, but that’s not a law today. Despite that I couldn’t see a single building that didn’t have slate roof during the entire week, probably because it’s such deep habitual tradition. The village Antagnod counts as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and is one of the most characteristic resorts in Monte Rosa Ski Area. The village is situated at 1710 altitude meters at the west side of Ayas Valley which contributes to the enviable sunny location that Antagnod has and makes it an ideal village for family vacation. We had time for a visit in the historic St Martin’s Parish Church in central Antagnod, which dates from 12th Century. The most distinguished future inside the church were amount of alters and unique windows with colored glass.

Then we decided for a quick walk back to Champoluc, along the alpine river Torrente Évançon, and After Walk for those who wanted. Further at the hotel a well-needed shower, foot care and shoe care. Because feet well taken care of and well-managed shoes are the best you can have during intense hiking. While waiting for dinner at 7.30pm it started to pour. According to the weather report that rain should have started earlier during the day, but you have to thank someone up there that it started during the evening instead. Dinner entrée was salad buffet, followed by local raw ham with fig as first starter. The wine bottle from yesterday was already beside the table in an ice bucket. As second starter I chose vegetables cream soup with bread croutons. As main course I chose Aosta Valley stuffed chicken (with ham and cheese) and strawberry ice cream had to do as dessert. After the first day of hiking you fell asleep pretty un-rocked.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking Comments (0)

La Mandria


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Woke up to yet another cloudy and chilly morning at Hotel Relais des Glaciers in Champoluc. The clouds were really heavy and lay like a cap over the Ayas Valley this morning. Breakfast was served at 7.30am and the morning meeting scheduled at 8.45am with plans for today’s hike. Today the group split up into a red and a blue group, where the red group would hike faster and climb more altitude meters than the blue. Psyched to a thousand and trained prior to this trip I chose the red group – now I would certainly be hiking! We became totally 8 people, plus hiking guide Rebecka from the travel agency and the local mountaineering guide Patrick. Now some of you readers might wonder – and what’s the different between a hiking guide and a mountaineering guide? Well, a hiking guide only requires 10 days of education while a mountaineering guide has 5 years. A mountaineering guide also has first-aid training and insurance that covers helicopter ride down the mountain in any case of emergency. So, if something would happen during a hike, say a heart attack or broken leg, the guide makes a phone call for a helicopter that takes the injured to the hospital. Another thing is regarding the hiking boots or shoes. With a hiking guide you must have hiking boots with high legs, if you hike with a mountaineering guide that’s only a recommendation.

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With packed backpacks we, in the red group, started walking north through the village to the Crest Lift taking us up to 2000 altitude meters. The very second leaving the lift we experienced a magnificent view over Ayas Valley and Champoluc, despite clouds lay low like a quilt above us. First hour of hiking went steadily uphill and you got really warm in your clothes. We stopped at Rifugio Belvedere at 2303 meters above sea level for a break. After changing clothes and a technical pause we continued our hike along the dirt road that eventually became a rocky path, where you sometimes wondered if you even followed a path or not. The higher we got the foggier it became and the view over the surroundings was limited. Sometimes it felt like you walked into a wall of fog, and seconds later it dispersed and you could see hundreds of meters around you. Well above the tree-limit, the wind made itself reminded and it got chilly.

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After passing Lago di Saler Dessusand right up to the highest point of today at 2549 altitude meters we passed alpine steppes with marmots. Even though we couldn’t see any we could hear their warning sounds (to each other) that it now indeed was dangerously hikers on their territory. Marmots dig complex tunnel systems down to 10 meters depths, which could get up to 70 meters long or even longer. The marmots are very cleanly animals using specific tunnels to sleep, birthing, fleeing, restroom and to clean themselves etc. I tried to look out for them as much as I could to, if possible, get a vision of a marmot. But the path was so rocky that you stumbled right away if you took your eyes of the ground in front of you, so it was almost risky. Suddenly mountaineering guide Patrick spotted mountain goats and pointed towards the massif further ahead. It was far away and it took a while before you could focus your eyes to localize them. They fled pretty much vertically uphill the mountain and the discussion started immediately within the group what special muscles those mountain goats have and how their muscle fibers are built up. Apparently, there are research going on in this subject where they’re trying to map down the muscle composition and genes of the mountain goats.

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A shorter hike down to Lago Ciarcierio at 2371 meters above sea level and a short break long enough for people wishing to take a swim could do so. But I can tell you it was definitely not weather for swimming today. So, we kept on hiking down to Rifugio La Mandria at 2271 altitude meters and we could finally warm up and enjoy Tartiflette, lunch for today. Considering that time was close to 2pm and you were starving you could have eaten pretty much anything. But this Tartiflette was well-tasting; gratinated sliced potatoes with bacon and crème fraiche. After clothe change and a technical pause we were all ready for the relatively steep descent to the mountain train Frachey at 1976 altitude meters. We boarded the train that took us down to the village Frachey at 1610 meters above sea level. From here it was optional to wait for the bus or walk back to Champoluc, which would take about half an hour. We decided pretty fast and unanimous for the walk back – we were here to hike!

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Along the way we passed a park with wooden sculptures. A few years earlier a thunder storm had gotten along the valley resulting in several broken trees. Artists got as a project to carve the tree stumps into art. I have to say it was very beautiful sculptures and art! Upon arrival in Champoluc it was After Walk for those who wanted. At the hotel it was time for a well-needed shower, foot- and shoe-care. Dinner was served at 7.30pm. Brought the salad with me before sitting down at my table. First starter was Mocetta (local cold meat) with cherry tomatoes, celery and nuts, and as starter number two was homemade pasta with asparagus and smoked ham served and tasted really nice. But the portion was gigantic and not adjusted for a 5-course. The main course was veal and sausage stew with polenta. I finished the dinner with a strawberry ice cream dessert. You had no trouble falling asleep later in the evening.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking Comments (0)

Lago Blu


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It was forecasted to be great weather today and as promised I woke up to a clear blue sky, even though the sun hadn’t made it over the mountain peaks yet. But in time for breakfast at 7.30am the first rays of morning-tired sunshine illuminated the snow-covered alpine peaks in the Monte Rosa Massif, which I actually could see from my hotel room. During the morning meeting at 8.45am we found out that the red group was getting another mountaineering guide, Rudy, today since Patrick had the day off. Normally the travel agency requests the same mountaineering guide during a week for each group, but this week was difficult to meet up to that request according to the mountaineering guide Rental Company. Though Rudy hadn’t showed up in time for the morning meeting but apparently it wasn’t that uncommon according to our hiking guides Lina and Rebecka.

At the gathering outside the hotel, for joint walk to the bus stop, Rudy showed up and he turned out to be a nice social guy with a lot of humor as well. I almost dare to say that he was the best at English of the totally three mountaineering guides my group had during the week. Said and done, we embarked the bus to neighbor-village Saint-Jacques at 1697 altitude meters. Well in Saint-Jacques my group started to hike with Rudy in the lead. The sun broiled efficiently up in the almost clear blue sky and it was really nice that the first part of the hike took place in shadows of trees, though steep uphill. This sieved the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and one of the hikers in my group decided to discontinue and hike with the blue group for the rest of the week. After a while we came to an abandoned hotel (Alberga Pension Bella Vista), where we took a technical pause and ate some of our packed snacks. Rudy told us that this was the first hotel built in this valley, but due to its inconvenient location it wasn’t reachable by car which led to loss of guests that sought more easily accessible hotels, which was built down in the villages.

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We continued for about an hour more and reached the Pian di Verra, a meadow plateau at 2069 altitude meters, with an amazing look over Monte Rosa Massif. We gathered here for the first group picture during the week for the red group. The Meadow plateau was surrounded by bragging alpine peaks like Due Denti (2723 m.) and Monte Rosso di Verra (3022 m.) and of course the snow-covered peaks in Monte Rosa Massif. We could hear the tolling bells of the gazing cows at a distance while we followed the purling alpine creek Torrente di Verra.

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We made a longer break at “the lemon”, simply a small kiosk on wheels really. The kiosk was designed and painted just like a lemon and opened and closed by opening/closing the upper half of “the lemon”. Since there was no electricity here what so ever the kiosk was driven by a small diesel generator that ran behind.

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After the break we had a relatively easy ascend left before reaching Lago Blu, an alpine lake at 2220 meters above sea level. And that thanks to the constantly supplied melting water from Rocca di Verra (3137 m.) among others, the water was completely clear blue. For those sporting winners who wished, could take a swim in the lake but they had to prepare for a temperature at +8 °C in the clear blue water. I held myself at a safe distance from the water, but couldn’t help myself smile a little at the brave souls who dared to dive into the water. It ended up only me and Rudy who didn’t bathe today. There was a competition between red and blue group today of which group who had the most people swimming. I can reveal that my group won easily with 7 peoples bathing over the blue group that had 4 bathing, and they encountered York the dog as a person as well. So, I really didn’t have to feel bad for “not taking a swim for the team” as you say. And who is York? It is Lina and Patrick who owns York together and let York come along during the hikes, in his training of becoming a Rescue Dog.

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When all sporting winners had dressed in dry clothes again and stopped shivering, we hiked along the mountain ridge Comba di Verra before turning in direction towards Rifugio Ferraro and our lunch. Along the way we passed wild growing thyme and raspberries. We got to the Rifugio by 2-ish and you were really starving at that time. The blue group arrived a while later and sat down at the table next to us. Sallad alla Valdostana with Salsicca sausage and blueberry pie as dessert, tasted really great after a long and warm day of hiking. Up here at Rifugio Ferraro at 2066 altitude meters we got (thanks to a cloud-free day) a fantastic view over Champoluc and Ayas Valley.

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After lunch when we in the red group gathered and were ready, we missed Rudy. It turned out he was on the other side of the house playing with the dog York (who was with the blue group today). When he eventually realized “Oh, are you waiting for me?” he sped up. Now we had a steep descent back to Saint-Jacques again. In the beginning you could at least see that it was a path we followed, but it rapidly became rockier and partially difficult seeing whether it was a path or not. But trained as I was, I tagged along with Rudy and had a long nice chat with him.
During summers Rudy works as mountaineering guide and as ski instructor in the winter. In the winter it is very popular with heli-skiing here in Monte Rosa Ski Area, which means you fly helicopter up to otherwise inaccessible peaks and ski down into the valley again. In that way you get really long pistes for several kilometers, even up 40 kilometers if I remember it correctly. Besides that, Rudy works as a Rescue Worker all year around and rescue people in need up in the mountains, summer as winter. Totally they have about 850 rescue operations per year in this area alone, which means average 2,5 operations per day. But it is high seasons during summer and winter when they have about 4-5 rescue operations per day and the rest of the year is much calmer. He told that he had been called out just yesterday to search for a mushroom hunter, who had been found at 8.30 pm in the evening by him and a Rescue Dog. And I can tell you that it is really dark here at that time. So, at their disposal they have Rescue Dogs and helicopters to get them fast up in the mountains.

Well down in Saint-Jacques we waited for the bus and rode back to Champoluc again. After Walk before a shower, foot- and shoe-care. At the hotel they had Aosta Valley typical dinner at 7.30pm, which started with salad entree and Aosta Valley typical cold cuts with honey chestnuts as first starter. Thereafter Risotto with Blanc de Morgex white wine, Corugettes and Cheese Fondue was served as second starter. As main course we got veal cheek stew with mashed potatoes and finished off with an apple tart with vanilla sauce as dessert.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking Comments (0)

Lago Perrin


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Woke up yet again to a clear morning and just in time for breakfast at 7.30am the sunshine managed to conquer the alpine peaks and illuminate Ayas Valley. I was supposed to go to Aosta today and spend the day there, but there wasn’t enough people registered so it got cancelled. So instead I decided to head out on my own and getting high up for some view. I got early to the local store Crai, further down in the village and bought a sandwich with ham and cheese. Continued on to the Crest Lift and rode up to 1952 meters above sea level. It was still chilly in the shadows, but where the sun shined it was warm.

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Hiked along alpine creek Torrente di Cunéaz and got eventually to the village Cunéaz at 2062 altitude meters. Well, village and village… it probably weren’t more than seven houses there. The classic stone houses with slate roofs were in variable conditions, everything from ruins to newly build houses. The longer into Cunéaz Valley I got the more indistinct the path became, which seemed to be the standard for all paths here in Ayas Valley. And neither well-posted signs so sometimes you almost had to go with your gut feeling; should I take left or right here? But to calm some of you readers down, I can tell that I never got lost or chose the wrong path during the day. I had map, compass and the sun added to that helping me orienting myself.

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After the village Cunéaz it was a comfortable ascent, partially in the shadow, crossing alpine creeks and over bridges up to Pian Long at 2179 altitude meters. I stopped here for snacks and pause. There was a small stone house here that probably hadn’t been inhabited for very many years. Started to get above the tree-limit now and since the sun broiled intensively you just had to deal with it. From now on it would get warm and very few shadows to stop and rest in. From here and up to Lago Perrin at 2633 meters of height would be an ascent out of the ordinary. Now you had to decide; bite the bullet or break down. The only option for me was to bite the bullet. You can break down later at the hotel. So, it was 100% focus forward and start hiking. The first two hundred altitude meters were relatively comfortable, but the rest up to Colle Perrin at 2649 meters above sea level there were moments when I thought to myself; what have I gotten myself into really? But as it usually is, it’s all worth the pain. Finally, up at Colle Perrin I had an extreme beautiful view over Monte Rosa Massif and its snow-covered alpine peaks. Up here I even got a clear view towards Mont Blanc (Monte Blanco) that wasn’t surrounded by clouds for a change.

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Sat down next to Lago Perrin and unpacked my lunch. It was peaceful and quiet up here and the lake was beautifully surrounded by Monte Perrin and Monte Castello. Only the purling melting water from Monte Perrin right behind me sounded. The water in the lake was all turquoise and looked very inviting to me. But I only dipped my feet into the water for some coolness. The temperature was probably not more than +10 °C. At a distance I could see fishes, but they never got so close that I could see what kind of fish it was.

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Full and satisfied I started to hike down towards Champoluc again and now in the Mascognaz Valley. Followed the alpine creek Torrente Perrin for a while, which gets its water from Lago Perrin. Some parts were very steep and slippery, so you had to be very careful. Suddenly I spotted three people ahead hiking towards me and I soon would meet along the path. It seemed to go very slowly and I stopped and looked at my watch. I had now been walking for about 40 minutes from Lago Perrin and in their pace, it would take them up to an hour before reaching the lake. And very much so, when we met, they wanted to know how much longer it would take them to get up to Lago Perrin. So, I answered them about an hour. The dad looked really tired and supported his whole weight on his hiking pole. My thoughts went; Oh, oh, how will that end? Had been fun to know if they ever made it up there, or not.

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I kept on downhill and passed herds with gazing cows and calves, which inappropriately enough stood blocking on my path. With respect I tried passing around the calves, but it was a little creepy being so close up to them while they stared at me like that. Yet again the path vaporized into nothing and you had to go on pure conjecture. I guess the path is about here. Passed some lonely abandoned stone houses on my way down to Chavannes (2016 m.), where “the path” suddenly reappears as a dirt track. The dirt track led through Mascognaz Valley and passed through the woods (giving well-needed shadows) and down to Mascognaz at 1820 altitude meters. Here you could feel you were getting back to civilization again and met more and more people. From here it took about additional 45 minutes in steep descent before I got back to the hotel in Champoluc again.

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Made a detour to the village Pharmacy buying additional plasters for sore heels and even found products from the Avéne series that I haven’t seen back home in Sweden. I arrived at the hotel for shower, shoe- and foot-care and later dinner at 7.30pm. Started the dinner with salad entree, thereafter the first starter being spelt salad with shrimp and Courgettes. As second starter I chose Valpellinentse Lasagna (vegetable lasagna) and Roasted Rabbit with white wine as main course. Dessert was a delicious Cheese Cake.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking Comments (0)

Monte Croce


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Woke up in time for breakfast at 7.30am and yet another day with sun had been promised, at least down here in Champoluc, in Ayas Valley. It looked less promising at high altitude and that mountain peak we would climb during the hike today, and then it looked very cloudy and foggy. After morning meeting at 8.45am we gathered outside the hotel for joint jeep taxi up to the starting point for today. Again, the red group would have Patrick as mountaineering guide. With the help of three Land Rover Defender jeeps the red and blue group was driven through Saint-Jacques and up to Nana Desouss at 2062 meters above sea level. York (Lina and Patrick’s dog) would be with the red group today. York, who was being trained to be a Rescue Dog, was only 6-month-old and had just as much energy as any. He was high and low at the same time and ran back and forth. So, the gist must have been that York had run at least 3 times as much as the rest of us. And he loved carrying sticks around. Now we’re not talking about sticks at 30 centimeters but more like branches close to 1,5 – 2 meters. He didn’t seem to apprehend how long they really were, but dragged proudly the branches around.

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In the beginning the path was free from rocks and roots and pretty comfortable to hike along. But the higher we got the rockier it became and the sun did its best to shine I could tell you. It got so hot that York decided to lie down in a mud hole and cool himself down. And he really thought he lay well there having a nice time. And then he went up starting to shake off all the mud… less fun for the rest of us. We followed the alpine creek Torrente di Nana for a while before the path took off up towards Tournalin Dessous at 2544 altitude meters. At this point we started to get into the clouds and after hiking in the sun for about an hour at least I thought it was quite nice. Unfortunately, the view got limited then.

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Just before arriving at Tournalin Dessous we passed two Haflinger Horses calmly gazing in their pasture. Then we stopped at Rifugio Grand Tournalin for a technical pause, eating some snacks and refilling our water bottles.

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And now we faced a pretty intense hike up to Colle Croce at 2801 altitude meters. And once again the path was hard to distinguish and it felt pretty good having a mountaineering guide who knew the mountains in his sleep. During the ascent hike we once again spotted some mountain goats, but far away at a distance. When we finally fought our way up to Colle Croce, we were supposed to have an amazing view towards Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, but the clouds had decided otherwise. Well, well, you can’t have it all. Here we left our backpacks to climb up the very last altitude meters to the top of Monte Croce at 2894 meters above sea level. I can promise you those were the most challenging and daring altitude meters I experienced during this week. Here was barely any path but you had to get over boulders that lay on top of each other, sometimes loose stones. A part of the path we hiked along a steeply leaning mountain side (close to 70° angle) with only a very narrow path to walk on. And that path was neither exactly horizontal; it had probably a 20° angle sideways itself. And since we were up in the clouds, we had no natural horizon to refer to, which will make anyone dizzy and loose orientation. I will admit that it got dizzy for me a couple of times during that part of the climb but I wasn’t alone experiencing that in the group.

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But we all in the red group made it through and up to the peak of Monte Croce and got a group picture at the cross. Unfortunately, it was cloudy; otherwise we would have had a groovy picture if the view had been clear all the way to Monte Rosa Massif. We chose another path down to our backpacks again at Colle Croce. It was surprisingly how well York made it through all boulders and steeps, but on the other hand he has four legs to allocate his weight on, apart from us humans. We got down safe and sound to Rifugio Grand Tournalin again and the awaiting lunch. Polentas with beef stew (Carbonada), which tasted darn well after a tough hike. Polenta is the Italian word for corn and the coarse yellow flour manufactured by corn grain and is gluten free. Polenta is prepared by crushing the corn and contains a lot of fibers, proteins, amino acids and vitamins among other things. This is boiled into a solid porridge which solidifies. The Polenta is often boiled in a large copper kettle, called “paiolo” in Italian, and is all about a true slow cooking dish. The boiled cold polenta is then ready to cook. Polenta is often used in porridge, puddings and bread, but also as it is in shapes of pucks with cheese gratin, grilled or fried.

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When time for descent to Nana Dessous where the jeep taxi would pick us up, the sun started to shine again. We hiked together red and blue group, along the dirt track. At one point we could hear the marmots warning sounds, but shy as they were, we didn’t see any. We gathered by the jeeps and packed our backpacks onto the jeep roofs and rode down and back to Champoluc again. Dinner was served at 7.30pm and started as earlier during the week with a salad entree. Then there was Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese sauce as starter number one. As starter number two Aosta Valley Crèpes with ham and cheese was served. Main course was veal escalope with mushrooms and finishing off with a strawberry ice cream as dessert.

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Colle Valnera


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Opened up my eyes and saw a clear blue sky outside the window. Last hiking day and the weather would show its best with temperature up to +25 °C. Hurried up to check in on the flight back to Stockholm-Arlanda to get a window seat but also to get a seat as far forward as possible to avoid sitting next to the jet engines (which are mounted at the rear of the fuselage and not underneath the wings on a Boeing 717). Breakfast was served at 7.30am and the last morning meeting of the week was held at 8.45am. Our guide for today in the red group was Patrick and we were going to test out a trail they hadn’t been hiking earlier this summer.

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The travel agency had rented a min bus that drove us from the hotel in Champoluc to the village Brusson, and then the bus turned off and started driving uphill and after many hair pin turns, we got to the parking lot at Estoul at 1871 altitude meters. The hiking started here through the Mosçerela Forest (Bosco di Mosçerela) which gave a well-needed shadow. The sun warmed us pretty good, so all shadows were welcomed. But as we got close to the tree-limit (about 2200 altitude meters) and it wouldn’t be much more shadows along the way, we slowed down the pace and made a lot of extra water drinking pauses. According to Rebecka, our hiking guide, it was an unusually cloud-free day today and we therefore had a great view over the surrounding mountain massifs, including Mont Blanc (4810 meters) and of course Monte Rosa Massif.

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After a couple of hours, we arrived at Lago Chamen at 2451 meters of height, where we stopped for a break, technical pause and a swim for those who wanted. I passed this time as well, since the temperature obviously wouldn’t be any different from the other lakes we had stopped at before.

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Patrick enlighten us that next stage, went uphill the mountain in front of us. Since we now were above the tree-limit and you couldn’t refer to anything else it didn’t seem to be so tough, sure anyone could see that it was steep, but it didn’t seem to be that high. But once we had started our way up, we more and more realized how high it was. From Lago Chamen (2451 meters above sea level), It took us almost an hour to get up to Colle Valnera at 2684 altitude meters. But as mentioned before, the view was totally worth the pain. A magnificent view over the mountains and valleys in front of us resulted in a group picture of course. We had a wide outlook from up here and we could even see Rifugio Arp (2431 m.) where we would have our lunch for today. Pasta with speck and fonduta, it all tasted well. Fonduta is a typical starter common in Aosta Valley, where Fontina Cheese mixes with yolk, flour and milk and the finished cream spread on top of roasted white or brown bread. Fontina Cheese, Aosta’s pride, has been an origin protected brand within European Union since 1995, which means the cheese can only be produced in Aosta Valley. Fontina is made of only unpasteurized milk from a special breed of cows that only exists in Aosta.

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After lunch both red and blue group gathered for a joined photo, before hiking downhill to the waiting bus in Estoul. After about 25 minutes we were back in Champoluc and Hotel Relais des Glaciers. After a well-needed shower and foot- and shoe-care it was time to start packing for returning home tomorrow morning. We who would fly back to Stockholm Arlanda did not have check out as early as the travelers to Malmoe and Gothenburg.

A closing meeting was held in the conference room at 7pm where we have had all morning meetings during the week. Now we were offered free champagne, an image show and opportunity to buy a USB stick with all information (maps, lunches at Rifugios and much more) including all the pictures that Lina and Rebecka had taken of red and blue group during the week. Later on, there was Gala Dinner at the hotel for us who had booked through the travel agency. Salad as entrée, first starter was raw ham with fresh fruits and as second starter was stuffed ravioli with aubergines and tomatoes. Main course was roast beef with potatoes in papillote and courgettes sweet and sour. A final dessert with stuffed chou bun with chantilly cream and chocolate sauce. After dinner it was time to pay your debts on your hotel bill you “incurred” during the week, which for me was wine and water. They charged high fees for the water and the charge for water alone was half the bill… well. You just had to come up with that money.

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Arrivederci Italia


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Up in time for breakfast at 6am. It wasn’t the ordinary restaurant staff who worked that early, no no. I would bet my money on someone in the cleaning staff who had to get up extra early, because when I later checked out from the hotel I saw the original staff on site at 7.30am, when the breakfast normally opened up. I waited at the village church where the bus would pick us up for transfer to Milan Linate Airport. I think we got a little bigger bus than we needed for the 13 people getting along. We got an almost full-sized bus with parquet floor and leather seats that you could adjust leg rests and tilt down your backrest way back. But you shouldn’t complain ;)

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Therefore, the bus ride was pretty comfortable. But due to its size the bus had huge problems making it through all hair pin turns we had to pass to get out of Ayas Valley. The bus got stuck in one of all the curves. The entire undercarriage scraped in the asphalt and normally most people wouldn’t have reacted that much. But since we were high up and the curve was surrounded by cliffs, it wasn’t that funny anymore. After a few minutes of fussing the driver managed to run the bus loose and continue on. Apparently, this happened every time they used this bus. That’s why they were broadening the way so the bus traffic could function and handle the increasing number of tourists to Ayas Valley.

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The closer to Milan we got the warmer it became, both inside and outside the bus. Well at the airport, after disembarking the bus the chocking heat came over you and was guaranteed around +35 °C outside and bright sunshine. But we rushed inside the terminal and checked in. Time was already about 11.30am and you just got something to eat and ate it before it was time to board the flight at 12.20pm. All passengers were crowded at a transfer bus at the gate that took us to the actual aircraft. The short way from the transfer bus and upstairs into the aircraft became almost like race because no one wanted to stay outside the airplane more than necessarily due to the heat. A thought struck me that it might not be that much cooler inside the aircraft. But it was actually. They had managed to cool down the air in the airplane so it was cool and comfortable. All credit to the crew for pulling that off. Just before one o’clock the aircraft took off from Linate and about 2 hours and 30 minutes later landed at Stockholm-Arlanda. In peace, I went to the luggage belt knowing my train didn’t departure until 2 hours later. So, I didn’t mind if my bag came out late on the belt or not. We who had walked together during the week said goodbye to each other and once my bag came, I walked off towards Sky City to order some food. One McWrap & Co had to do. That’s becoming more and more of a habit. But it’s so darn yummy, really ;) And the train ride back home went smoothly without delays.

Yet again a fantastic hiking trip though this time in the Dolomites. I met fantastic people and had a lot of fun. Even though you traveled alone you were on in the group. Unfortunately, the travel agency hasn’t promoted the trip to Champoluc well enough and the number of travelers hasn’t met up expectations. The travel agency will organize travels to Champoluc next summer (2016) as well, but then it looks uncertain. So, if you want to try out something different, I can recommend you to take the chance next summer.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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