Jesus Christ. Nothing like a wee bit of mountain climbing to make you feel like an incompetent weakling.
Speaking of different cultural expectations, when someone invites you on a picnic and a walk in the mountains, that DOES NOT in my mind equal a 7 mile (one way) hike up and down several summits BEFORE the picnic starts. Thank god my host mom let me borrow a pair of her hiking boots and a backpack and a ginormous water bottle T_T
I literally thought I was going to die by passing out from exhaustion and falling over the sheer edge of the mountain. Check out this picture if you don’t believe me:
But luckily for me, and all of you, I survived.
This time I brought my nice camera (Nikon D5300) with me, so except for a 30 minute stretch near the end where I put away my camera because I was so tired, I got some great pictures! (Scroll to the bottom for a picture mosaic!)
Let me go back to the beginning of the story first.
I had planned to go to Chamonix with IFALPES (the school I am studying with), but not enough students signed up for the trip and it was cancelled. Sometime between that being cancelled and my previous walk/hike with other members of my host family, my host mom decided to invite me on a walk/picnic with her and some of her friends on Sunday. This was perfect for me because Sunday is really a day of rest here in France (or at least here in Annecy) so there are way fewer busses and nearly everything is closed. I probably would have just stayed at home studying or maybe I would have taken a walk around the neighborhood–but either way it had not promised to be an exciting day and I jumped at the chance to get out.
There was some concern Saturday afternoon about my shoe size and my lack of brining the proper shoes and clothing to France with me, and though for a few hours it seemed like I would have to borrow sneakers from a friend at IFALPES or even go out and buy some, I ended up fitting into a pair of my host mom’s shoes just fine and was able to borrow those.
On Sunday, we left the house around 9:00, and drove through the countryside for a bit over an hour before reaching Seyssel. Seyssel, where my host mom’s friends spend their weekends, is a little town on the Rhone River, to the west of Annecy. After a bit of coffee, we jumped in their car, and drove across the river and up into the mountains.
As I now expect from driving in the mountains, you seem to go up forever, twisting and turning on narrow roads, and crossing your fingers every time a car comes in the other direction. Its not like we would all fall to our deaths if there weren’t enough room or if one car was being too stupid T_T
Anyway, we kept driving until we were very high up, and we parked alongside a road near a field and a handful of other cars. I could really only see the field and one summit sort of nearby, so (its about 11:00am at this point) I assumed that that was our picnic destination.
When will I learn?
Never, is probably the answer.
So I walk along, taking pictures of flowers, thinking I am excited for our “walk” and our picnic.
We walked up a little hill after walking for about 20 minutes, and we came to a sign. There were arrows pointing in several directions, each with times and distances. It was at this point–well past the point of no return–when I was told for the first time that we would be walking to Col du Grand Colombier, which was supposed to be 1h30m away walking at a good pace.
I literally almost said there was no way I could do that, but there was a language barrier, a part of my still didn’t actually believe that we were going to do that…and also I’m stupid.
So we continued up the first summit. One of the people I was with told me that would be the hardest part. Thank God, I thought. Again, when will I learn?
Nope. While that was a challenge, the real challenge came after we had climbed up and down several summits, and I literally had to count my steps and stare at the ground just to keep myself going.
I also thought I was lost for like 30 minutes, because I couldn’t see anyone in my group. So thinking that they went on a different path, I walked back to where I had last seen them, and then continued on my original path, thinking I would turn back after another half hour of walking if I didn’t find them still. Turns out they were just super far ahead of me, and my back tracking was completely unnecessary >_<
After that point, my body basically just wanted to give up. I am not athletic in any way, and I had probably been walking for nearly two hours, in the direct sunlight, on the top of a mountain, having only eaten a piece of toast with jam for breakfast (because thats how the French roll).
BUT I did make it to the end!
And then we FINALLY got to eat lunch ^_^ And even though it was just a baguette with ham, tomatoes, water and shortbread cookies, it was absolutely perfect. We sat there on the grass in the sun with the cool breeze, snacking on our food, and looking out over the valley below us with the Rhone River, and Annecy, Geneva, and Montblanc in the distance.
It was perfect, even though it was completely miserable. I am so happy I went, and *this is going to get sappy* it really showed me that I can get through anything. It seemed like hours that I stood on the side of a mountain, heart racing, breathing heavily, contemplating walking even just another 10 steps–but I kept taking 10 or 20 or 30 steps, pausing when I had to, and I kept going until I reached the end. So even though I am not sporty or athletic or physically capable, I am going to try not to let that–or anything else–stop me from doing things, because clearly I can do it if I try. (Also, nerd alert, I totally felt like I was racing across Middle Earth with the Fellowship….though if I am being completely honest while I like to pretend I would have been Legolas, I was totally Gimli LOL).
Thanks for reading ^_^ Come back soon for more adventures! I may be going to Lyon this Saturday, and I also have a lot to say about language and culture, so it should be interesting!