THURS JUNE 22: DAY EIGHT - St Vincent to Pont St Martin 32.2km
Kathy: Talk about fauna and flora! We have seen domestic animals such as cows, sheep and goats. Cows and bulls with enormous leather straps and bells around their necks. A herd of goats being herded by a 'shepherd' and smart dog not far out of town, woolly sheep, lots of dogs, cats, kittens as well as ducks and ducklings, chickens etc. There are all varieties of dogs, Cairn terriers, Collies, St Bernard’s, St Charles spaniels etc. We have also seen two foxes - one near La Douay and one near Bard. We have seen some strange looking furry critters that could be ferrets or perhaps raccoons. We have seen raptors, crows, thrush-like birds, sparrows, swallows, kites, woodpeckers and many others. Silvia talks to the animals (and they talk back!) and has been nose to nose with a goat.
But today we also had the flies! Compliments of a yard behind our B&B that is home to a family of goats - this in the equivalent of West Street mind you! We are watching Val, as she is lethal with her pepper spray, having nearly killed us all in Aosta spraying it at a fly in our room!
Marion: Woke up this morning to the sound of WOOF-WOOF - which is Val's alarm sound! Sil and Val told me that my watch had woken them at midnight when the alarm went off. I was so tired that I didn't hear it. After getting dressed this morning I walked outside to a magnificent view, we were surrounded by mountains and across the valley there was a castle on a hill. It was so peacefull – the sun had just come up, birds were singing and I felt like I was in the middle of a dream. I felt so good for most of today, the backpack feeling like a part of me, (must be getting fitter) but as the day went on I really knew that I had a backpack on my back! Was very relieved to find our B&B.
Sil: Serve us right for being so clever yesterday and counting our sightseeing kilometres as part of our mileage and catching a bus. It's like Ride Now - Pay Later!!. 32kms might not sound like a lot but with over 150kms in your legs and much of that climbing up and down a 2 500m mountain, it took its toll on all of us today.
So, is the Via F what I expected? Yes and no. Yes - the scenery is spectacular - straight out of a Disney movie. High mountains, green meadows, acres of wild flowers - each small pasture like a country bunch! We have walked through medieval villages with stone buildings pressing in from each side. Sometimes we feel as though we are intruding when we walk right past someone’s barn or front door. Village fountains and water troughs keep us supplied with water. We walked through Montjovet, a village famous for its wine and then passed by two castles and a fortess on the way to Pont St Martin - St Germaine, Isogne and the stunning fortress of Bard. Walking along an old Roman Road with the ruts of chariot and cart wheels still visible in the large stones. We climbed high above terraced vineyards that look like pictures of South American terraced agriculture. It has been a visual and sensory overload.
NO?? Well, because I did not expect it to be so difficult - the terrain is much harder than the Camino. There are very few signs. We have had to find our own way every step of the way. The weather. It has been extremely hot. No snow, no cold winds, very little rain. Hotter at times than Durban in the summer.. So yes, and no - it is more than I expected and I am really looking forward to the next few weeks when we start walking through Tuscany.
Arriving in Pont St Martin we stopped at a police station to ask for directions to the B&B. A tall, dark and handsome policeman came out to point the way and I think Kathy was instantly smitten – tall, young, dark, handsome and in a uniform with knee high boots nog al! She seemed to get her 2nd wind while the rest of us were wilting so she offerd to make us all dinner. The accommodation has been wonderful. Most B&B's – like this one, the Al Castel - are apartments with kitchen, stove, fridge and we have even had use of the odd washing machine. And they only cost ± E25 each with breakfast.