Sunday, 3 July 2011
Saturday 2 July 2011 - An Alpi Marittime Trek, Day 1, Sant' Anna di Valdieri (1000m) to Rifugio Livio Bianco (1910m)
After a good breakfast at the excellent Albergo Nazionale recommended in Gillian's book, we pottered off to the cash machine (the next five nights will be cash only at mountain huts), and then to the station for the 9.47 train to Borgo S. Dalmazzo, a 15 minute journey down the valley towards Cuneo.
Sadly, the sky was overcast, with slight moisture in the air, but still t-shirt weather down at 850 metres.
At Borgo, after admiring a rally of classic Citroën cars, a call to a local taxi firm advertised outside the station bore fruit, and a few minutes and €30 later we were happily ensconced in a café at Sant' Anna, watching a loudly hooting wedding cortège pass by.
"You must use the path that goes up by the cemetery and contours back above the village" said the friendly lady who served us in the café. We had plenty of time, so we took her advice.
After a 'start of trek' photo we set off past the church towards the cemetery, then up to the ruined village of Bartola, finally abandoned by its last occupant in the 1960s. Various information boards related the history and other information about the area. Terraced fields had reverted to flower meadows after their previous use for crops and medicinal herbs had come to an end.
From a balcony at 1200 metres, with fine views both up and down the Valle di Gesso, we gently descended 100 metres to the main path from Sant' Anna, where we joined the route described in Gillian's book. Not that a description was required for the straightforward walk up the valley to this Rifugio. First through shady woodland, then up an open valley on a well graded path, one of the paved royal hunting tracks constructed at King Emanuele's behest in the 1860s.
There were plenty of people about on this cloudy Saturday, including a large group of families with children who as I write are livening the Rifugio, albeit deafening the other occupants.
There were also lots of animals about, with brave marmots posing dutifully beside the track, chamois prancing daintily on the snow slopes opposite, and ibex obliviously going about their business in steep rocky gullies.
Alpine flowers of many varieties adorned the hillsides and filled the meadows as we ascended today - wonderful.
We've not had any rain, but here at the Rifugio, pictured above, we are about the height of the cloud base. It is definitely best to be inside; beers on the terrace will have to wait. "A litre of boiling water, please", was our first request. We have no stove on this trip (in deference to my role as packhorse - Sue is in 'bum bag mode') but we do have mugs, tea bags and milk, as well as Austrian Alpine Club membership which gives discounts in certain mountain huts.
We are in a dormitory for 12, in the roof, so it promises to be a hot night.
Dinner was in two sittings. Luckily we were allocated to the first, at 7 o'clock. It would have been tedious to have to wait until 8.30. We were accompanied at our table for five by '2 Germans', who turned out to be James and Helen from the Hereford area, with whom we spent a very pleasant evening, with pasta > meat and mash > cheese/cake, all with red wine.
We are, of course, thanks to our AAC membership, '3 Austrians'.
Amazing, isn't it: Germans and Austrians speak such good English these days that Italians (and the guardians here speak quite good English themselves) cannot identify us as being English!
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange