Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Monday 18 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 55 - The Last Map

Monte Rosa from Rifugio F Pastore

Plan: Day 56 - Alagna Valsesia to Macugnaga - 20 km, 1800 metres ascent, 8.5 hours.

Actual: Camping Alagna at Alagna Valsesia to Camping Sporting in Macugnaga:
24 km, 1600 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including 1.9 hours breaks.

Best bit: The wonderful path over Col di Turlo.

I was rude to a German man yesterday. I'm sorry about that. It was just that he was insisting we get the free bus up the valley to start today's walk.
'You must get the bus.' He said.
'But we've walked all the way from the Mediterranean' I replied, 'getting the bus is not on our agenda.'
'You must get the bus.' He replied.
I apologise for being rude to this obstinate opinionated man (that makes two of us!).

Sue told the camp site lady where we were going.
'It's a long way, you must get the bus' she said.
Sue replied as I had done to the German.
'It's still a long way, you should get the bus' the lady asserted.
Sue wasn't rude to her.

Today the Last Map - I think we started with 11 - was carefully inserted into the map case. A sad moment really, but care was needed because this map will have the honour of returning with us, perhaps for a couple of weeks next year, when we continue our quest to reach Trieste via 'An Italian Border Route'.

It has been a brilliant route, even today's stroll along the Tour of Monte Rosa (TMR) that I have been so maligning was excellent - one of the best paths we have encountered.

Knowing it would be a longish day, we were up and away from our grassy hard core pitch by 8 am. This, like Lac Lexert, was an excellent site, but would be improved for campers like us by a layer of topsoil. Tonight's site is similar. Bob and Rose's titanium spikes are very useful in such places, though their 'heavy duty' titanium vee shaped pegs are of little use. Luckily, we have just the right combination and can keep the 'vees' in reserve for stormy wild camps (just one this trip).

It's worth noting that Alagna Valsesia could be an excellent venue for a rest day. It's also worth noting that camp sites such as the one there often have cabins available for rent, for those who prefer not to camp.

So, we have two days to go but only one (long) day on our planned itinerary. What shall we do tomorrow? Rain is forecast for the afternoon. We shall try a avoiding tactic, we have a cunning plan up our sleeves. One that Nick knows about and that I may already have disclosed in these pages.

This morning's TMR road walk was a lot nicer than the ski pistes the TMR follows. Especially as the free buses are the only vehicles allowed up the road. A sort of mini version of the system used in Zion National Park. (Been there? No? Go!)

Had we been day walkers we would have used the bus and saved an hour. But anyway, after passing the site of some old gold mines our path left the road under a buzzing helicopter and headed up to Rif Pastore, where the coffees were almost up to the expected standard.

Entering the Alta Valsesia National Park along path 7a, we were not short of the company of chattering Italian families for the first part of the Col di Turlo crossing on a lovely mule track reminiscent of those old hunters' paths we had so enjoyed in the Maritime Alps.

Sue commented on the large number of bare-chested men out on the hill this morning, but my t-shirt remained firmly in place.

Red campion, meadow cranesbill and bladder campion returned to join the more alpine species alongside the path. We also saw heather (ling) in flower for the first time. Autumn must be on the way.

Sadly the early morning sun and the brilliant blue skies over peaks capped by glaciers was short lived. Cloud cover slowly increased and settled at around the height of our pass (2738 metres).

Our memory cards breathed a sigh of relief, as mountain views - even sunny ones like today's - aren't quite the same without summits. We have room left for about 20 more images between us (phew!).

Lunch was taken early - we had learnt from yesterday that the cloud would be lower on the other (north) side. Harebells and bumblebees kept us company whilst all my porter's supplies were consumed. Here's the message I sent whilst waiting for my lunch to be prepared.

Hmmm, perhaps I have a raw deal here. On days when copious provisions aren't needed, my porter just has the tent, and a few items for lunch, for which I carry the butter and milk, whilst I'm trailing along carrying the cooking equipment, library, first aid kit, spare batteries and chargers for cameras and 'phones, solar panels, toilet digging kit, washing line and pegs, a full wardrobe, binoculars, etc, etc, not to mention tent pegs and poles.

No wonder my back hurts!

On the way down we passed a bivouac shelter, Bivacco Lanti, about which more later. Here, and here.

The path from the plaque adorned pass had been empty for the first couple of hours, but then occasional encounters beside a river washing over smooth white rocks and down small falls signified a return to civilisation.

We encountered red and white path markers for the first time in ages as we passed through a scenic hamlet and approached the final descent through sunlit beech woods to another friendly camp site (the warden is telling all the other residents where we have walked from - we are famous!).

Macugnaga, which is a conglomeration of several small villages, does indeed seem very civilised. The Walser influence is less here, with houses more of the 'Swiss chalet' sort of style. But there is still lots of interest to us, and we wish we had more time here.

As it was, a 2 km round trip to the local alimentari, and possibly the last meal in the tent for a while, was just about all we could manage.

Finally, a few messages.

Hello to Alberto and Alessandra from Le Rêve, the B+B where the front door opens into the dining area, from which most of Hermes' rooms with their murals radiate. You should have joined us for a chat - the wine was flowing nicely, as was Hermes's genepy.

Notchy, we last heard from you somewhere near Southport Boating Lake, then the line went dead. Hope you are ok and the Dinosaur passed its MOT.

Gayle, Alan, we are sorry to be finishing this walk (for the time being) as well, but we will try to keep you entertained as best we can. Actually, we could do with someone else setting off on a month's blogging trip for our own entertainment - it's so much more fun when in 'real time' isn't it?

And congratulations to Diana (Sue's mum) on being the first to congratulate us on finishing - when we still had three days to go!

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