Friday, June 16, 2006
Friday, June 16: DAY ONE - IN BEAUTIFUL SWITZERLAND
“We always tell all future pilgrims - and it is
written many times on our Web - that the VF
is for Pilgrimage Pioneers - NOT for Sunday
walkers that like to have only pleasure.”
Adelaide Trezzini, President,
Association Internationale Via Francigena (AIVF)
THURSDAY, JUNE 15: DAY ONE - Vevey 8.5km
Sil: We had coffee and hot chocolate with Marion’s daughter Kim and her twin boys who came to see us off at the Johannesburg airport.
Had a comfortable flight to Zurich but we had to gallop with our backpacks on to make the connection to Geneva. No time to sightsee in Geneva after wasting time reporting that our box of ‘weapons’ – sticks, cutlery, scissors etc., - had not arrived. Then a quick run-around trying to find the right bus to the lake. Got confused when we had to buy a ticket from a dispensing machine with all instructions in French. “How on earth will we walk 700 kms to Rome,” I thought, “When we are having trouble finding the right bus to the lake?” And then a woman came along and helped us and we were on the morning bus with all the working people.
Had a wonderful 5-hour trip on the paddleboat across Lac Leman from Geneva to Vevey passing small ‘coastal’ villages, chatteaux and castles along the way. Met Silviene – from Canada – who joined us for lunch on board. It is hot here but a dry heat so its bearable. The scenery is spectacular – and Vevey is a real chocolate box picture. Just picture Victoria Embankment with Durban bay on one side and the Drakensberg mountains a few hundred metres on the other and you will have an idea of what this place looks like! There is still snow on the mountain tops and we were told that it remains that way all year. We can see why people say that the section in Switzerland should not be missed. Our backpackers is on the first floor of an old, gloomy building near the lakeshore. We received a warm welcome from the owner – a Mr Burgle – and once we sorted out our backpacks we went out to explore this quaint place.
The old town is a warren of alleys and arcades with little shops and stalls. We walked to the Nestlé’s world Head Quarters building which is west of the centre. People were picnicking and braaing around the pools and fountains alongside the lake. Just up the hill is the distinctive little village of Corsier. There is a little cemetery on the right of the road with the graves of Oona and Charlie Chaplin, who moved there in the 1950s and never left. We had our photo taken next to a statue of him on the lakeside.
Will we sleep tonight? I doubt it. The adrenaline is pumping and we are full of nervous anticipation, like explorers - ready to take five small steps for women – five giant steps for women kind! We have got 26kms to walk tomorrow mostly alongside the lake, into the Rhone Valley past Montreux and onto Aigle. The high peaks of the pass look a long way off but we know that we have to walk there in the next four days – and climb over the highest part in the footsteps of Hannibal and Napoleon. The pilgrims are tired but well and ready for the challenge that starts tomorrow.
June 16th: Vevey to Aigle 27.4kms
Sil: The box was waiting for us when we got back from walking along the lake. Once we had sorted it out we had a very nice meal at a little street café in the old town.
Woke up this morning feeling very excited! “We are in Switzerland! This is it M – we will take our first steps to Rome today!” I said, hugging Marion. Good breakfast of bread, croissant and coffee and then after a group photo outside the B&B we started on our Groot Trek to Rome taking the first of ± 1m steps.
Wonderful walk along the lake to Montreux. On the way we passed through Clarens and briefly visited “Villa Kruger” the house that was built for Paul Kruger in 1874 when he went into exile and where he died in 1904. The house is now a boutique hotel but the owner allowed us to enter the garden and stand outside the house to take photographs underneath the old Boer Republic flags that still hang from the wall. We also took photos next to statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux, bought some fruit at the street market - then onto Aigle.
We asked for directions at a book shop – the owners knew the Jaccards and exactly how to get to their home, beautiful B&B in a wine growers mansion - next to a vineyard. Kathy and Rayna are sharing a room, Val and Marion another and I am sleeping on the top floor in a large studio room. It has been a good day although Val has lost her stick and her cap. We will try to find another later today. Some of us drank their Co-op wine. Made our own dinner of salad and cheese which we had in their basement dining room.