My last update finished in Merligen – Ralligen where I stayed a second night in order to wait for my husband to join me for two weeks of walking. If you are interested to read his point of view have a look at his blog posts here. Oh, and before I forget it again, if you want to read some short, but more frequent, updates about where I am, you can befriend or follow my husband here on Facebook. He posts regularly about where his “pilgrim wife” has got to and how she is doing based on my SMS updates to him. That way you don’t have to wait for weeks until I post my next update here on this website … Now back to my and our pilgrim’s progress.
Obviously Rick had reassured me that he joining me for two weeks of my pilgrimage wouldn’t make a difference to it and he wouldn’t interfere with my plans. Equally obviously I was doubtful if it would work out like he thought. He arrived the evening of Thursday 7th August, and yes, I am aware that this date is already nearly two months ago – tempus fugit. The first thing I checked with him was if he had managed to borrow a tent – no. The second, if he had done some training before joining me – not much. Obviously there would be some changes to the style of my pilgrimage. Kilometres down, careful selection of daily stages and making sure that there were beds waiting for us at the end of the day. Also, as I am the one with more languages, reading the guide, which is in German and phoning ahead for accommodation, mostly in German, but also in French, would be my task. Things would change for me as I was now responsible for the both of us, each mistake and decision made would not only affect me, but also him. Suddenly I was responsible for somebody else than just me for the first time in two months. Yes, my pilgrimage would change during the coming weeks – no matter Rick’s good intentions.
For those of you that follow me, and now us, on the map, here the stages we did until Geneva and then some of the more special events. Merligen > Einigen > Wattenwil > Schwarzenburg > Tafers > Froideville > Orsonnens > Curtilles > Epalinges > Ecublens > Perroy> Gland > Tannay > Bardonnex.
To start things off easy, we decided to leave the brothers at Merligen – Ralligen after a leisurely breakfast and take the flat route directly alongside the lake, which meant also tarmac but also less ups and downs than the inland route. This day brought a real novelty for me, sunshine, something what I hadn’t experienced in quite some time. But the next novelty was just around the corner, completely unexpected it turned out that I walked faster than my husband. Normally when we go for a walk it is me, shorter legs!, that struggles to keep up with him. Now the two months of walking paid off and I was nearly always ahead of him, but as the sun was continuing to shine and the scenery was beautiful, there were a lot of opportunities for photo stops, so no harm done.
Originally we had planned an easy fifteen km stage to the picturesque town of Thun, but due to a festival, all beds that were in our budget range were taken. And Swiss hotel prices – lets talk about them later. Finally I managed to find a B and B, a bit off the beaten track, settled my husband in a nearby bar to have a much needed cool glass of something and set off on the last kilometre or so alone, to actually find the place, which wasn’t too easy. After paying and registering us and dropping my backpack, I went back to pick him up and show him where we would sleep and explain to him that we would share the room with three beautifully blue coloured poisonous dart frogs, albeit safely contained in a terrarium. To cut a long day short, we had dinner and then I had a new task added to my daily pilgrim routine, patching up my husbands blisters. I was very happy that I hadn’t got rid of my blister first aid kit yet!
The next day, and many of the following, had rain in it, so I will not bore you with complaining about it. After getting Rick’s blisters “road-ready”, we set off towards Wattenwil and the first of many different styles of accommodation I would introduce my husband to – sleeping in the straw!
The next highlight came two days later as we arrived in Tafers. The chapel beside the church there has an incredibly detailed fresco of the “chicken miracle”. I had long looked forward to seeing it and compare this version with the one from Spain. To his credit, Rick waited patiently whilst I took umpteen photos and investigated every detail. Then we proceeded to the church itself where we found another curiosity. A letter from the bishop to the local priest encouraging him to firmly tell the local St.James Confraternity off for partying too much on the 25th July! As the letter was already a few hundred years old and no newer one displayed, it must have worked …
Over the next few days I mentioned to Rick that I missed the little surprises of the way when it comes to hospitality, the adventure of “where will I sleep tonight” that was so much more frequent in ye olde days of pilgrimage some 15 years ago when I did The Way for the first time. Somebody “upstairs” must have heard me and I had my lovely surprise in Curtilles as the accommodation we had planned to stay at turned out to be closed to pilgrims for the moment and we were referred to a lovely lady that gladly took us in. But not only us, but also a small group of four that were from a German parish, minister and leading lay people included. The evening ended with all of us sitting at the table and singing Taize songs!
Strengthened by that experience we decided to take it easy the next day and see what kind of lovely surprise would be in store for us and without planning too much ahead, we trotted stubbornly through the rain towards Lausanne. Unfortunately my guardian angel must have taken a day off, due to exhaustion?, and after a long day and around 30km walk up and downhill, there wasn’t a pilgrims refuge to find anywhere. So we booked ourselves in what the Swiss think of as a reasonably priced hotel – 145 Swiss Frances for a double room, including breakfast… No doubt Swiss hotelerie standards are high, but from my limited experience so far, I guess that doesn’t apply to the budget range. As we came down to breakfast, more than an hour before it was meant to stop being served, we found the buffet close to empty and had a hard time to even find crockery to eat it from. Pilgrims shouldn’t complain, I know, but for that price I really had expected to get a decent breakfast and not having to chase a bowl for Rick so that he could have his cereal! But now to some nicer highlights of the rest of our walk.
Weather improved slowly and, after an extended visit of the fascinating cathedral of Lausanne, we walked towards Ecublens, another lakeside stroll that we enjoyed very much until the afternoon thunderstorm hit. It is funny to walk amongst all these people in swimming costumes that are sunning themselves at the border of a lake when you are carrying a big backpack, you kind of feel out of place. In the evening we were hosted by a lovely family and to our biggest surprise, despite of having had a huge room to ourselves and being well fed both for dinner and breakfast, they completely refused our donation for the stay! The only thing they would accept was the promise of a postcard from Santiago.
In Gland we stayed in the official pilgrims refuge and took full advantage of the information for the way ahead provided, the washing machine and the kitchen. I was also able to buy a new pilgrims passport, my third one, as the other two were nearly full, and a guide for the route between Geneva and Le Puy. Two days later I kissed my husband goodbye at the railway station in Geneva, shouldered my backpack and headed towards the French border. At seven o’clock that evening, I pitched up my tent, with permission, on a local sports field and enjoyed a glorious sunset and the view of the remarkable Church of Bardonnex. It was a good experience to walk these days with Rick, but frankly, I also enjoyed being able again to just “risk it”, walk to wherever my feet would be willing to carry me to and just pitch up my small one woman tent and go to sleep wherever I happened to be. Curiously also, that both the first and the last night in Switzerland I slept in it. The next morning, I said “Adieu Suisse, Bonjour La France” and headed over the border towards Neydens but, as the saying goes, that is a tale for another time …
Finally, for those of you that want to know where I am in “real time”: I am now in the lovely town of Cahors, using the terrible rain of this morning as a excuse to take a rest day and write this blog post. It has been a really successful day so far as I’ve got a lot of things done that I keep putting off like charging all electronics, getting my clothes in a washing machine and dryer, putting more money on my phone, de-cluttering my backpack and sending guides and papers home that I don’t need any more and so on. All these small things that take a bit of time and somehow never seem to fit all at once in a normal pilgrims day. If there is such a thing like a normal pilgrims day. Yesterday, I managed, quite involuntary, to walk for the first time more than 40km in one day, so all things going well, I should be in around two weeks time, in Spain …