Day 1 (St. Gingolph to Novel)
It is time to say goodbye to the charms of the European cities and start the trek.
Jill arrived yesterday in Geneva and we had a nice time walking around In Geneva. It took us a while to find dinner that wouldn’t break the bank – everything in Switzerland is super expensive – but in the end, we found a small pizza place run by an Italian family in the old city and had some beers and an awesome Neopolitan pizza. Later that night, we discovered a fabulous Lebanese kebab place very close to our hotel and had another meal of Soujouk (spicy Lebanese sausage) sandwich, which was super delicious.
This morning, we checked out of our hotel and walked to a park near the train station and relaxed. We were meeting Douglas at the train station at 2, so we had enough time to go back to the Lebanese place for another Soujouk sandwich.
We hooked up with Doug and boarded the train to St. Gingolph, our starting point for the GR5. It was a beautiful ride through the Swiss countryside with gorgeous views of Lac Leman and the Alps.
Finally, we were at St. Gingolph, a tiny village on the southern shore of Lac Leman, divided between Switzerland and France. In WW2, many Jews escaped to Switzerland across the border here.
We crossed into France by going over a little bridge on tiny stream and began our journey.
Today, we just had a two hour walk to the village of Novel. We arrived there around 6 pm. It was a cute little village, population 50.
Day 2 (Novel to Chapelle d’Abondance)
We left early because this was going to be one of those long days, with lots of climbing. “Unfortunately, it isn’t a gentle introduction to the GR 5”, said Douglas. It was a warm, sunny day. We started the day with a long climb to Col du Bis, where we are the picnic we got from our Gîte.
Finally, after a long and tiring descent, we arrived at the village of Chapelle d’Abondance. The owner of our Gîte was missing, so we had beers in a cafe until she returned and we settled in. For dinner, We had local raclet cheese melting on the table in an electric device, on steamed potatoes with bread and shaved ham.
Day 3 (Chapelle d’Abondace to Refuge d’Chesery)
It was going to be another long day, so we left early again. The weather had turned and it was cloudy with rain forecast in the afternoon.
Jill and I fell behind again. We rendezvous-ed with Douglas and Rohan for lunch. With the rain approaching and our destination 2 hr 45 min away according to the guidebook, we agreed to let Diuglas and Rohan go ahead, confident of our ability to find our way. Unfortunately, we missed a critical turn and ended up lost in an Alpage or a pasture with a small collection of houses but no people. To make thing worse, we read a sign wrong and climbed to a col that was way off track. By now, it was raining. We called Douglas on the phone and after talking to him, decided to go back down to the Alpage. There, we huddled under the eaves of an empty house and called Douglas again. By now, Douglas and Rohan had reached the Refuge and had access to proper maps. After much discussion, we decided to backtrack. after 15 mins of backtracking we found the turn we had missed. Now, back on track, we still had 2 hrs more to go, including a climb to Col du Bassachaux. By the time we reached the Col, we were pretty beat. We had some dried fruits, some water and joined some hikers from Wales, to our final destination, a mountain hut on the Swiss side. There was another anxious moment after climbing the final Col, where the signs became scarce. Finally, with fog-reduced visibility and rain coming down, we credted a ridge and saw a red hut with a Swiss flag. Jill looked like she had fired a rocket booster and was flying to the hut. Finally, it was nice to open the door and step inside the warm hut filled with hikers, including a party of 17 Welshies) drinking beer and to smell like the cooking in the kitchen.
Day 4 (Refuge d’Chesery to Somens)
We slept in a bit to let the noisy party of Welshies clear out. The weather had cleared up a bit. Lac Vert right outside the Refuge:
It was mostly downhill, but there were a couple of “bumps” to go over, as Douglas said.
We stopped at a little Swiss farmhouse to have coffee and tea.
Eventually, we descended through a forest to the lovely little town of Samoens.
We had some nice Belgian beer called Leffe in the central plaza.