Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The hills are alive with the sound of coughing

Morning Sun on the Mont Blanc Massif

Relaxed and refreshed after the holiday - No.

Today is the first day since I came home that I have enough energy to post a blog.

I developed a sore throat and cough just before setting off on a trekking holiday which would take us over passes and through the valleys of the Pays de Mont Blanc. What should have been an action filled, spirits lifting, weight dropping fortnight, turned into a barking trudge up hillsides; sometimes to as high as 2500 meters where I would collapse into hacking, gut ripping, coughing fits.

I had looked forward to meeting fellow travellers of different nationalities. But at the end of each day when I wheezed into the refuges, my fellow walkers eyed me with dread, knowing I would keep them off their well earned sleep. I tried in vain to muffle my coughs by burying my head in my sleeping bag, but the only relief I got was the night an elderly man two spaces down kept the whole valley awake with his apnea.

Despite my disability I managed to enjoy the trip. The refuges were clean and the wardens fed us well and soothed my throat with fresh lemon and honey. The mountains and scenery were stunning and the meadow flowers would make Jeremy Clarkson feel guilty about the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

Chamonix in the shadow of the Mont Blanc Summit

Why I Like Chamonix

The big surprise of the holiday was how much I enjoyed visiting Chamonix. My expectations of this tourist trap was of fat hoards splodging about on dog poo covered streets. There are tourists, but they are there for a reason - the mountains.

The hulk of Mont Blanc follows you round every corner of the village. A cool grey glacial river runs between the pristine streets. Everyone looks healthy, there is no smell of chips, no pubs doors decorated with smokers. Beers are served ice cold in small glasses, coffee comes black in even smaller cups and there is not a drop of mayonnaise in sight. Missing is fat men with bellies on proud display, despite the scorching weather. Men and women with defined muscles eat crepes and appropriately dressed salads while they pour over guide books and maps.

Of course there is the climbing poser brigade who jingle jangle off the Aiguille du Midi cable car, exuberant at their morning's climb, but I am assured by Colin that often these poor alpinists just manage to catch a car and may not have time to take the gear off on the way down.

Above the clouds

When we arrived home to Scotland we finished off the holiday with a meal in a local restaurant. We walked along a litter strewn pathway to reach the pub that was bursting with wobbly bellied bodied, glugging down pints and stuffing their faces with grease and sugar laden muck. It's great to be home.

What a difference 14 days makes

My garden was well tended while I was away, but what a sight met me on my return. The New Zealand Flax, which has been cursed as a waste of space by our household's chief grass cutter (not me) has been busy producing flowers. I took this photo last week, I think it has grown another two feet since then. The flowers are burgundy, almost black and the bees and butterflies are having a nectar feeding frenzy; apparently this plant is packed full of the stuff. I wonder if global warming will bring humming birds to Scotland?

New Zealand Flax - The Grass Cutter's Bane

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