Day 41: Aosta via Etroubles

Number of kilometres today: 16.1

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,052.0

Total steps since Canterbury:  1,490,740

I woke at 6.40am this morning and for once was quick to get out of bed, eager to look out my window and check the weather conditions.  It was still dark but I could see that it was not snowing.

I proceeded with my usual morning routine; meditation, dressing, packing but skipped my morning pages as I ran out of time then went downstairs for breakfast eager to talk to the owner of the hotel to check his opinion on the weather forecast again.  A bus load of around twenty French people had recently arrived and he was busy making all the coffees. I sat down at my reserved table and started to eat my breakfast; croissant, rye bread with butter and apricot jam, a pot of freshly brewed coffee with hot milk.  I tried to eat slowly, to savour it but I was anxious to find out if I could walk up to the Pass or not.

Thirty centimetres of snow.  Better to take bus.

I don't mind walking through snow but I am worried that the weather might change. A snow storm and I  can't see.

He shrugs and shakes his head side to side.  He goes outside and looks.

Might be okay on the road.  The path, no.  MIght miss a sign. But lots of traffic.  Closed gallery.  (There is a 4 kilometre enclosed avalance gallery that does not cater for pedestrians.)

Maybe I can try and if it is too hard I can come back and catch the bus tomorrow.

I go upstairs and ring the Hospice at the Great Saint Bernard Pass to enquire about the weather conditions up there.

Lots of snow.  Very difficult.  Better on bus.

I hang up, lie down on my bed and cry.

Some describe disappointment as bitter.  For me it was just the sad weeping release, letting go of a dream, after disappointment's swift sword severed my final rope of hope.  I had been looking forward to walking up to the Pass for the last week.  It would be the halfway point of my pilgrimage.  A celebration.  The highest point.  The beginning of the return.  Following the ancient steps of pilgrims and armies as far back as 390BC. A once in a lifetime experience.  Now it would forever be the missing piece in the middle of this magnificent jigsaw I am putting together.

I was so close.  Only 11.6 kilometres away but it was a kilometre higher in altitude and another world away.  It wasn't to be.

Feel. Cry.  Release.  Let it go.  Acceptance comes eventually.

After travelling in the warmth and comfort of the bus through 6 kilometres of the Greast Saint Bernard Tunnel and emerging in Italy, I felt like I had timewarped.  Gone were the overast skies crying snow and the blankets of white covering the roads, the trees, the cars, the houses.  In its place, blue skies, sunshine, no snow other than on the highest distant peaks.

The maybes tormented me for a while.  Maybe I could have walked up to the pass.  Maybe it would have been on the road.  Maybe I should have just tried.  Maybe I should have just waited until tomorrow.

I got off the bus at Etroubles. The Pass was already past.

With only 16 kilometres to walk today, I strolled from Etroubles to Aosta, pausing often to absorb the beauty of the snow-capped mountain peaks rising all around me.  I ate my lunch, sitting in the sun, facing the sweeping mountain range, listening to the fountain bubble behind me, the birds chirp, the hum of a car engine as it wound its way down the hill behind me.

I am back in one of my favourite countries.  My path is still leading me to Rome.  Acceptance crept in quietly.  My walk was one peaceful step after the other.  My mind unusually quiet except to sing this song over and over:

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed to be a witness.

Ben Harper

Winter wonderland in Bourg-Saint-Pierre this morning.

Piazza in Etroubles only 14 kilometres away from Bourg-Saint-Pierre as the crow flies.

Chappelle on the way out of Etroubles.


Bella Vista.

A little shrine in a grotto near Pre de Bois Damon.

Natural engravings on a tree.

The pathway next to the aqueduct.

Chruch in Gignod.

Approaching Aosta.

Avenue Conseil-des-Commis  in Aosta.  Snow-capped mountain in the background.

Door of the day goes to Bank d'Italia.

Porta Pretoria

Roman Teatro.

Piazza Emile Chanoux

Hotel de Ville.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

Shrine inside Cattedrawl di Santa Maria Assunta. I did find the old porcelain doll of Jesus enclosed in a wood and glass box to be a little spooky (sorry).