A promenade pour trois jours

Which is probably very bad French, but that’s the standard I’m at.

Best laid plans and all that. Delphine had arranged a gîte (hostel in the mountains) for us to stay at in a place called Saint Dalmas. I thought it was called Sandalmass until I saw a sign. Oops. It’s around two hours from Nice on the bus and from where we would begin a 3-day hiking trek in the mountains. Lovely.

Thing is we found out at the last minute that the bus only goes as far as Saint Dalmas if you catch it at 8am and we were going to get the 17:00 one. Ah. Always adaptable, we dug out maps and checked the route from St Martin Vesubie. It seemed straighforward enough if a little steep so we decided that would be the plan – go as far as the bus would take us and walk from there. The alternative would be to cancel the gîte and get the early bus the next morning.

We did a quick shop (I needed more cola bottles) and we jumped on the psycho coach from hell for 90 minutes of rollercoaster fun and games. I swear the ride from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang in Laos wasn’t so rough. And the driver wasn’t as mental as the French one we had today. Amazingly we survived unscathed and disembarked at St Martin. A man and his son (carrying boules sets – how French!) pointed us in the direction of the hiking trail with a friendly “good luck” and a muttered “better you than me”.

As we set off, things were very Disney. A little squirrel even kept pace with us along a wall, stopping every metre or two as if to say “come on, come on – your friend who’s fallen down the well is this way!” This didn’t last. Within half an hour we were enacting scenes from a reality documentary about joining the Paras. Legs ached, sweat dribbled everywhere, gasps turned to aging hacking coughs and we started to wonder what we’d let ourselved in for. Insects, sweat and gravelly 1:2 gradient hills while carrying two rucksacks totalling around 30% of your bodyweight are not something an untrained computer nerd should be tackling.

Somehow we made it up to a glorious little lake at the foot of what is seasonally a ski run. Here we hopped hiking trails to another one and the route now was more steeply downhill. The gîte was just at the bottom of the trail next to an old church as we entered Saint Dalmas. A few people were sat in the kitchen as we arrived and a soppy labrador rolled on its back and refused to move out of our way until we tickled him.

There was one pub restaurant open nearby where we had pizza, ice cream and a lovely cold beer. I’ve noticed something in a lot of places now – France, Romania, Spain, Hungary… – people can take their dogs seemingly anywhere, while this isn’t “allowed” in the UK where the poot creatures have to stay outside. In Spain I saw people with their dogs in supermarkets. I mean, why not? Banning them is like assuming that every dog isn’t housetrained.

Strange how dogs have been barred from everywhere indoors in the UK for as long as I can remember but we’ve only recently banned smoking in public places. Nice to see we’ve got our priorities right again.

Anyway, it was about 11pm by the time we finished dinner and we were both wrecked. Two very comfortable bunks with our names on awaited and I wanted to get a chapter of Harry Potter read before I zonked out completely.

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