Well what a wonderful day. I felt lucky, exhilarated and so happy the whole walk. I thoroughly recommend it. The day started early but I am getting used to it. Jo and Tracey fell about laughing when I said it was good to get up 15 mins early. Double porridge had to be forced down as very hard to eat enough calories with all we walk off. Taxi arrived at 8.00 and we started walking at 8.30 all the way on the coast path. The woodland was superb and aptly called Woody bay ( Woody Wood is tomorrow). The coast path was steeply banked down to the sea at places. We got to the Valley of the Rocks at 11.30 and sat in the sunshine with a great view eating rolls. I had my last chocolate egg. We watched as 4 people carried a plastic rock and placed it carefully near other rocks. Bizarre. Followed by another rock and then moving them about. As a lady walked by with a suitcase I had to ask. They were filming a psychological thriller called Winters Ridge and this is where someone goes over the cliff. We walked through the valley to the toilets and that is where I lost the other three. I asked the way to Lynton on the walk and was directed to the coast path. Thirty minutes later we arrived in Lynton and searched all the cafes but no sign of them and no phone signal. Dave went into the tourist office and discovered the first bus to Porlock was the 25th July. Walk? No too late in the day. At last Jason got through and they had taken vernacular railway down to Lynmouth. We walked down and met them in a 14th century cafe and had hot chocolate and cake. We then sat in the Rising Sun pub for 2 hours waiting for a taxi. What hard work. Just heard about the election after all TM said about not doing this during Brexit negotiations.
After a refreshing breakfast we left for our tour at 9.00 with Uttara. Since 2014 there has been an increase of female guides as before she was on her own before. Khatmandu has quadrupled in size in the last 20 years with the present population of 4.5 million mainly due to unemployment in the countryside. Today, a Sunday, is a working day so the roads were very busy. It is so dusty due to the roadworks so many wear masks.
There were originally three kingdoms in the Khatmandu valley with separate cities, Khatmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. All are now world heritage sites but sadly Bhaktapur isn’t was destroyed in the earthquake. Patan is the city of artists. Uttara informed us that we are now in 2075 with April 14th being New Year. We passed the oldest Stupa which is 4th century bc whereas the Bhouda Stupa close to the hotel is 5th century ad.
A huge amount of restoration work is being undertaken as so much was destroyed in 2015. It is painstaking as using traditional methods.
On our way to Patan the traffic was too much and the traffic police stopped us going the way we wanted so we went to monkey temple first.
After 90 steps instead of the 350 by the main gate we got to the centre.
The surrounding hills were covered in mist due to pollution but we could see the yellow roofs of the Tibetan monasteries.
Uttara’s family were there for an annual prayer to the mother goddess called a punja. They had booked their time with the priest a few months ago and have 45 minutes for 70 family members so Uttara had ten minutes while we looked around. I went back to the shop where we bought our painting of the back of the heads of many Nepalese people and he remembered us and gave me a smaller version as a gift for Dave. That was so touching. We then went to a thangka painting workshop. It takes many years to acquire the skills to become a professor with nine levels to attain. Their paintings take months to complete. The intricate works are amazing.
Patan was superb as well and we had went to the palace which has been a museum since 2008 when they abolished the monarchy.
The brighter gold replaces parts that have been stolen! They now have CCTV. Much needed lunch and back to the hotel to collect our kit bag and down jacket. I was given an XXL but luckily swapped it for a L!
Pizza for dinner and looking forward to our flight to Paro tomorrow.
We arrived at 11.00 local time after an excellent flight on Jet Airways. Excellent as I had four seats to lie on and had five hours kip after eating two meals. Well I was hungry! We checked in at The Tibet International Hotel where we have stayed before to find the hotel front has been demolished to make way for road expansion from 2 to 6 lanes. It was very emotional as three years ago we were here and a week after we left there was an enormous earthquake. The roads and sewers are still in need of repair. The hectic roads with cattle wandering freely is unchanged. After a short rest I went to the world heritage stupa with the others while Dave slept. It was amazing and has been rebuilt by private means. It is such a spiritual place even when invaded by tourists as the monks just carry on.
I bought some trousers for £2 and a necklace for 60p and returned to find Dave rested. The evening was spent at The Flavours restaurant where we had steak and 2 beers for a grand total of £7. Early night needed.
Today’s walk took 2.75 hours with an ascent and descent of 300m so a good relaxing way to end. We had a late breakfast at 9.00 and set off at 10.00 in the dry. That lasted for all of 10 minutes and the rain started, not too bad for the first hour but by the end torrential. We passed the statue of the mountaineers and set off through the town. We went by a striking church spire. We took the Petit Balcon Sud route along the valley and woodland next to the river. I loved it despite the rain as went at a fast pace. Camera packed away.
All too soon it was over and we were back where we started at the Hotel du Bois. Mont Blanc circumnavigated. I felt a real sense of achievement as it has been such a varied walk and very challenging indeed in parts. The views have been outstanding and although the weather terrible at the end overall we have been so lucky with hot and sunny days. The unexpected snow fall was magical too. An afternoon confined to the hotel catching up, packing and looking forward to dinner. I thoroughly recommend this adventure.
I got up at 6.30 and down for breakfast at 7.15. There were only half the places at tables and the rest eating on sofas balancing plates on laps which was unusual. I took the last table but was asked to move by two women who were keeping places for a group of 8. I moved! Another good breakfast and then catching a bus at 8.36 that dropped us off close to the start at Tre-Le-Champ. I was going the famous ladders way while Dave was walking the alternative route. It started with a collection of wooden statues, a smaller version of Easter Island. Then it was straight up for 800m. It was super with a clear view of the Mont Blanc range. It was very rocky and scrambly in places and I was soon above the tree line. There was an impressive rock feature, the monolithic Aiguillette d’Argentiere at 1,893m. Soon after this I came to the first of a series of metal ladders and handrails that enable the sheer rock face to be negotiated. It was fantastic as I felt quite brave especially on a pointed cliff edge where you had to pull yourself along with the handrail. It took quite some time as there were so many and I was pleased Dave did not come this way. As I got to the top the wind blew up and it started to drizzle so the view was patchy. It was here at Tete aux Vents that we were supposed to meet Dave but decided to walk the hour to La Flegere instead. Luckily we could communicate by text. It was a super walk to the refuge but the view was almost gone so there was no point in going to Lac Blanc sadly. We arrived about 12.00 and the weather really closed in. Dave arrived dripping wet at 1.00 so we aborted the idea of walking to Le Brevant as it was two hours away. Dave had had a good walk and was thrilled to have seen three Ibex very close. Sensibly after lunch and a hot drink we took the cable car to Chamonix and walked 40 mins to our hotel in the centre. Chamonix is the world’s greatest mountaineering centre with Mont Blanc as a backdrop. The first Winter Olympics was held here in 1924. After settling in we went for a wander. The sun came out and the views were superb. We joined a group of Canadians on a terrace overlooking the main square for a drink and celebration of the day. They had done the walk but in terrible conditions. Back to the hotel to change dinner. The hotel recommended a traditional savoy restaurant, the best in town. It was just round the corner and was wonderful with a great atmosphere and full of old clogs and shoes for decoration. I had onion soup topped with a thick crust of cheese and you guessed it, the best one I have ever tasted. The beef stew was so tender but I wasn’t keen on the polenta. A Mont Blanc meringue desert was so good. We booked for tomorrow night.
I liked my silk liner as the bed was covered in a red flanelett sheet, disgusting. The breakfast was enhanced by fresh banana. I made a cheese sandwich just incase we couldn’t get lunch. All ready to leave at 8.15. With spectacular views of the mountain range. We went past more Highland cattle with huge bells and climbed steadily for a few hours to Col de Balme at 2,200m nearly a thousand metre climb. As we left the trees I was bowled over by the vast snow covered mountain range. It was significantly colder and recent snow covered the path. Time to put my fleece and jacket on. It was a fantastic gentle climb around the hillside to the refuge at the top. Just before I got there the cloud descended and the view was obliterated. The refuge straddles the border between France and Switzerland and has been the centre of many disputes. It has been burnt down and rebuilt several times. It has been run by the same couple who are very elderly now. Orders take forever as she listens then goes to make the drinks and brings them back on a tray shakily and can hardly reach the counter. She then takes the money and starts the next order. Her memory often fails her so it takes a few attempts to get the right number of drinks! I was fourth in the queue for 20 mins next to a huge wood burning stove. It was quite something. Sandra, Rob and I had our drinks before Dave arrived so we had another long wait. Thank goodness for the cheese sandwich as there was no food. We left at 1.15 in a complete whiteout so had no view of Mont Blanc which was back in sight. The way down was tricky and then another climb to Aig. des Posettes in snow. It was hard to see anything at all so no idea of path. I waited for Dave at a junction and we went on slowly together. After reaching the top we were confused as to the way as signpost not saying where we wanted to be! We looked at the map shivering with cold and went the right way. It was very steep but all of a sudden the mist cleared and the sun came out and we got down safely. Sadly the panoramic view at the top wasn’t in sight as we were soon in woodland again. We got to Tre-Le-Champ just after three but had another 2 km to walk to Argentiere to our hotel. It was a lovely walk in warm sunshine. What a day of contrasts. The hotel is fine.