I don’t have a company vehicle and I’d originally intended to hitch elsewhere for the weekend. However, the director told me to just borrow one of the vehicles. So I did. And I had a very nice, gently, careful drive through the hills on Saturday afternoon. Now, those who know me also know that “gently” and “careful” are not words that go together with my driving. However, when the vehicle you’re driving is a new-model Toyota Hilux HX2… in bright red… right hand drive, in a left hand drive country… and belongs to the man who owns the company you work for sometimes exceptions can be made.
So off I set around midday. Window rolled down, nice high view, surprisingly easily adapting to the gear stick being on what’s now my “wrong” side, and with Brian Johnson screaming at me that he’s a “Heatseeker” and “don’t need no life preserver”. Very loudly indeed. Nice stereos in those Hilux’s.
It’s only about an hour to Martigny from Chamonix if you drive at a moderate speed. It’s also gorgeous. I stopped at a few places to take photos, including off the windy road above Martigny as I could see the town stretching out in the distance beneath me. The mountains in the area are fantastic and still snow-capped, and there are definitely some lovely hiking trails in the area if such takes your fancy.
On I drove, meandering up and down the windy roads. No bad traffic in the way, no camper vans or ageing Sunday drivers. It’s days like that when everything just seems all right in the world (even though we all know it isn’t – the incidents in Burma / Myanmar are weighing very heavily on my mind). All I needed was a very attractive driving companion with a good taste in music and loose morals and I’d have been on cloud nine. Ah well, if we had everything then we’d strive for nothing.
As I approached Martigny, I spotted one of the large road signs telling me that part of my planned day out would have to be cancelled. The Col de Grande St-Bernard was still shut, I assume due to weather reasons, so heading that way would only take me through the tunnel into Italy. A pity as I only spent a paltry few minutes up there the last time I passed through and I’d have liked to have seen more. Another time!
I’d already made sandwiches for the trip, so I drove around a bit to find a nice place to park up. On the edge of town is a small fort perched on a hill. Below it, an old wooden bridge (closed for refurbishment) crosses a beautiful clean river. And right next to it, under some carefully-arranged trees was a nice empty bench. Lunch break.
And then there’s the scenery. You walk out of Migros into the car park and facing you is a mountainside completely covered with bright green trees. It stretched both directions as far as you can see. Look over your shoulder and there are grey mountains topped with snow. Lower down on their foothills, grapes are being grown although it’s early in the season so they look a little bare right now.
Oh, and being Switzerland it’s very clean!
After my lunch, I packed up and drove back the way I came. At the border I was stopped by one of the French guards and told that my front numberplate was damaged. News to me – when I collected the van it had been parked nose-first towards the hotel wall. It later transpired that “we” already knew about this and a replacement plate is in the van. Somewhere. Thing is, virtually every French speed camera catches you from the front, so they’re bound to be picky about front license plates.
Ah well. All the more encouragement to come back another time, perhaps as a full time tourist!