Long shadows after another almost sleepless night… thoughts… nightmares I’ve had for months… sadness… heartbreak… a bit of exhaustion… mosquitoes… and an owl which, I swear, was sitting somewhere right next to my ear…
Thankfully, I managed to set up my little camp close to a small and ice cold little mountain creek. That meant a cold and prickly footbath while eating crackers… last night, as well as this morning.
I walked through this enchanting green ocean of dancing grass when the first message reached me that Le Reve, a beautiful show, the beginning of an era, an amazing vision, literally a dream, is being closed down for good in Las Vegas. Another almost 300 of my colleagues and friends are losing their livelyhood for now, not knowing where to turn.
I wish the initiative my friends and I are trying to build was not still in its infancy. Step4Circus is something that needs to come about. A small, yet important contribution to create jobs, hope, and a positive step forward in our circus community. It’s still a work in progress… I’ll keep you updated on all further developments! https://step4circus.com/
Today, as every day, my heart goes out to all my colleagues in the performance arts, to cast and crew, my show family, who put so much passion, soul, and hard work into creating moments of magic. We will find a way. We will be back. What is humanity without storytelling and the collective experience of eloping into our imagination? The show must go on xxx
Looking at the horizon, this is the general direction I’m heading towards at the moment. Through the Rhone valley and then the Massif de la Chartreuse to Grenoble. By now, the trails have already led me away from water again. So I must be in the area of the Massif de la Chartreuse. Can’t wait for the next lake or river (the river Drome).
It’s been cloudy these last 2 days, off and on. And, this morning, I just managed to take shelter underneath a huge oak tree before a rain storm hit. But, overall, it is still hot enough so that a swim in a cold lake will feel like heaven…
The longer I walk, the more I think I won’t follow the exact E4 trail anymore. Well, sometimes I will, sometimes I won’t… As soon as I get close to the Mediterranean Sea (which will be in about 1-2 weeks), I will forge my own trail and rather navigate by instinct and by where I want to be… instead of following that one exact route. There are so many trails, after all…
Chanaz was an idyllic little place to come through. I stayed a few hours, sat at the river and just soaked in the beautiful scenery.
It was also a stop I sorely needed after another cold and humid night in my little tent. Wild camping can be quite stressful. Ticks are everywhere, so are millions of flies and mosquitoes. I want to thank the inventor of the mosquito net!!! Without it, I wouldn’t be able to get any sleep at all. Then there are all the noises in the forest. Seemingly romantic, but not when you are exhausted from a day of walking and really need to sleep and then there is yet another deer crashing through the underbrush just as you are finally falling asleep. I’d love to just go to designated camp sites. But so far, I’ve never seen any.
In Culoz, I saw this map of the French Jura trail. It was only then I realized I have just walked both the entire Swiss and French Jura Crest Trail (only that I started in Brugg, in the German part of Switzerland, not in Mandeure). Around 300 km, all-in-all, give or take. I am a bit proud of myself, I must admit ☺️
I also confirmed something I already knew: I am not a mountain person. As much as I admire the natural beauty all around me, I immediately felt so much happier when I was close to water again. Now, following the Rhone river, smelling the rich scent of river water, seeing the blue ribbon meander through valley after valley, I feel like I can breathe more easily.
To be honest, more than anything, I am looking forward to reaching the Mediterranean Sea. The ocean feels a bit like home.
I miss having a home.
Because, no matter how much I’m trying to stay in the moment and make the most of things, no matter how much I am enjoying this journey, I long to have a place to come home to again. A place to relax and just be. A place with friends, with surprise visits, laughter, BBQs, and kinship. A place with a job I love and am invested in. A place surrounded by ocean if possible… and maybe, if I’m lucky, even, one day again, a family in such a place…
Definite highlight yesterday was when I reached the top of Le Grand Colombier at 1’534 m altitude… and spotted the Rhone river for the first time. Those trails were not made for people with heavy backpacks. As I worked my way up slowly with the help of my hiking sticks, I felt like some extra-terrestrial spider conquering Earth. Totally exhausted, I flopped down in this very spot on the photo after, took off my sweaty t-shirt and settled in for a while. Swallows were hunting all around me, zipping past at insane speeds. With no other sounds to distract me, I realized for the first time that they actually sound like mini jet fighters as they accelerate towards their prey. How they’re even able to spot and grab tiny insects at high speed is a mystery to me…
After a while, I wandered onwards towards Culoz, yet again encountering paths that needed the skill of a mountain goat.
To be honest, yesterday I almost gave up. These last two days were tough. Water was the biggest problem. All small mountain restaurants were closed because of Covid19, and all river and creek beds were dried out. There was simply nowhere to re-fill. Also, the day before, I had walked a good 20 km. Not because I wanted to, but because there was nowhere to set up my tent. Either the trail went through an extreme slope, or it went through a cow pasture. I finally found a spot at 8pm at night, after 9 hours of walking. My water was almost gone and I had to force myself to keep some of it for the next day.
Then, yesterday morning, I set off at 8 am, feeling quite cold after a humid night in the forest.
I had a little less than half a liter of water left. Almost immediately, the ascent to Le Grand Colombier began.
Resting on top, from where I was sitting here in this picture, I could see lots of cars and a few huts, and I thought, “Yay, finally, a place to refill my water.” I was parched, so I drank what I had left. When I arrived at the huts, I could see that they were all closed, too. Nothing to do but hope for the best and keep on walking. My saliva was growing so thick, I began to understand how Mr. Anderson must have felt in The Matrix when the agents were gluing his mouth shut. With every minute, I felt more like exactly the same was happening to me, too.
Luckily, about an hour later, I came upon an open restaurant. I ate a real meal and drank 2 liters of water. Took another two liters with me. By then, I had already been 6 hours on the trail. Only 3 more hours to Culoz. With a freshly filled stomach, I felt optimistic. Plus, there was nowhere else to go if I wanted to refill my water supply again at the end of the day. Everything else was just forests and the dried out Jura mountain range.
So, I pressed on. The trail began to go downhill and was horrible. Have I told you how much I’ve come to hate gravel? Almost every hiking trail is fortified with gravel. Not the small pebbly kind either, but large, sharp pieces of rock. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I always watch my step. But still, these trails are killing my feet. After about the 8th hour of walking I felt like crying. “Who had this great idea of going hiking? Oh yeah, me.”
Thankfully, I could see Culoz from above. A trail sign told me it was only 1 1/2 hours more. At that moment though, 1 1/2 hours felt like an eternity. All my water was gone again and I was completely exhausted. I pep-talked myself all the way down, running a constant string of dialogue with myself (with the intermittent “ouch” and a lot of swearing). Finally, after an insane 10 hours of ascents and descents, and approx. 25 km, I reached Culoz. Where I found a fountain to refill my water supply and found a secluded spot to set up my tent.
This morning I feel a lot better again. Heading out towards Chanaz along the Rhone river.
Every day, I am amazed with the regenerative powers of sleep. My body feels a hundred years old when I go to bed. Everything hurts. In the morning, a little ache here and there but I’m good to go again.
This adventure happened yesterday. I fell asleep before I was able to share it with you. But here it is. I’m still chuckling just thinking about it:
Mid-afternoon, I needed to take a break. I was on a beautiful plateau and spotted shade underneath some trees. I took off all my gear, put my towel as a blanket on the ground, and then took off my sweaty t-shirt as well. Shoes, socks, and pants followed. I spread everything out so it could dry a bit, relaxed, had some water, and a snack.
All of a sudden, I heard a noise. I looked up to see twenty large cows coming through the trees. They looked utterly surprised and shocked to see me. The feeling was mutual.
I got up slowly and carefully, my mind quickly going through all the options. There weren’t many. All my stuff was spread out on the ground, and I stood there barefoot in my underpants. This was when the cows began stomping their hooves and moved towards me.
Could I quickly gather all my things and make a run for it? Too late. As several cows began charging towards me, I grabbed my phone and my walking sticks and moved slowly backwards. I began singing to the cows since I had heard grizzly bears calm down when they hear singing. Maybe it is the same for cows? It isn’t. If anything, they seemed to double their speed. I doubled mine, too.
As fast as I could, I hopped over some rocks and scrambled up the hill in my underpants. Then, I wiggled underneath some bushes.
The cow herd arrived at my stuff and, stomped their hooves. They circled my backpack and clothes suspiciously. Some of them gazed towards where I was hiding, but soon they were preoccupied with my stuff. I was scared. What if they trampled my backpack? What if they chewed on my shoes?? Should I run out and charge at them, screaming my head off? I followed my instincts and opted for keeping quiet instead, hoping they would soon lose interest.
One by one the cows checked out my belongings. They circled, sniffed, probed. Then, finally, one by one, they got bored and the herd slowly walked off into the distance.
It took about an hour, but then, finally, I was able to carefully approach my stuff at the bottom of the hill. All things considered, I was lucky. The cows hadn’t chewed anything. However, everything was covered in cow slobber. I took a couple minutes doing my best to quickly clean my clothes, shoes, and backpack and get rid of all the gooey slobber… always keeping an eye out in case the herd decided to double back.
Then, I quickly got dressed, worked some more on the slobber on my socks, put on my shoes, shouldered my backpack and snuck away.
This probably was one of my scariest and most hilarious experiences to date. For the rest of the day, I kept laughing every time I thought about it.
Of course, I had been way too busy running around in my underpants to take any pictures. So this one is just in the spirit of cows, showing some peaceful and curious bovines I met further on along the way.
My favorite spot today. Even though there wasn’t any shade, I couldn’t resist sitting on that chair for a while and letting my thoughts roam.
So many things going through my head… the present moment, cows, my growling stomach, memories, happiness, pain, the rich scent of the french jura meadows, a wasp landing on my face, cows coming closer, missing my work backstage, enjoying the physical exercise, blisters building on my left foot now (grrr), wondering where all this will lead, and telling myself to not wonder too much.
Signage was much better today. So strange after not seeing anything yesterday.
5 hours per day seems to be my limit for the moment. Longer than that and my feet start screaming.
I found out that heavy hiking boots don’t work for me on a long distance hike. With the lighter trekking shoes, it feels so much better. I am becoming a foot whisperer, noticing every little signal those two rebels are sending me. Never ever paid so much attention to my feet before.
French hikers are very polite, too. Bonjour-ing all over the place. One hiker shared his water with me today on the trail when I was out.
Beautiful landscape. Mont Blanc often shining like a diamond on the horizon.
Great! Bonjour! But, oh boy, where have all the trail signs gone?
In hindsight, I realize, even when it comes to marking their hiking trails, the Swiss are meticulous. There is a sign at every fork of the road. You literally have to be braindead to get lost. And, it’s not just the signs that make life easier. Little restaurants are everywhere. Apart from painful feet, hiking on the Jura Crest Trail was insanely comfortable.
Now, I’m on another planet. Trail signs seem to be almost in the endangered species list around here… and, most of the time, I just hope for the best…
Today, I made it to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. From there, I ambitiously hoped to walk five hours to Les Plans d’Hotonnes.
However, my confusion already began in Bellegarde. No signs anywhere. After 1 hour of searching and asking people, finally the village’s little tourist office opened and I discovered I had to follow the Rue de l’Industrie to find the Grand Randonnee trail GR9.
Off I went, into the scorching heat, passing quite a few cats who disagreed with any form of movement.
At some point, I saw a couple of red and white stickers marking my way… and then… nothing. I followed the road for a while and all of a sudden ended up in a village far away from my trail. Then, I followed my nose… along roads and fields with no shade… until I realized the trails I was taking were leading me back towards Bellegarde. I tried a couple of those expensive hiking apps I had installed. Useless. Finally, I had enough reception for wireless. Et voila, good old Google maps told me I was only 30 walking minutes away from the village of Ochiaz.
I burst out laughing, because it turned out I had spent 5 hours hiking in circles. By car, Ochiaz is only 10 min away from Bellegarde.
According to my research, the GR9 is supposed to cut straight through this picturesque little village. Yet, once more, the trail signs were either well hidden or non-existent. As I was standing by the side of the road, scratching my head, a lady in a silver Mercedes stopped next to me and asked if I was lost. Oui, I definitely was.
We chatted a bit and it turned out her family has an auberge (guest house) for hikers. I wonder how many geographically handicapped idiots she picks up at the side of the road each week.
I spontaneously decided to call it a day. Once at the auberge, I was surprised by an ice-cold pool with a view (my feet loved it 🥶). But, after dipping in for just a few minutes, I got distracted by a large number of insects who had come to drink from the pool and were in the process of drowning themselves. I spent the next half hour rescuing about 50 of them out of the water.
A couple hours later, the auberge owner cooked a cheese fondue dinner 🧀 (I looove cheese fondue!!!). Seeing Mont Blanc turn first golden, then orange, then pink on the horizon made it even more delicious.
All things considered, my clumsiness seems to have led me to the right place today, after all. And France isn’t all that bad so far 😉.
Yayyyy, my toe is finally getting better! It went on for weeks, and turned out to be an ingrown toe nail which got more and more infected and hurt like hell. I tried every ointment known to man. Nothing worked. It just kept feeling like someone stuck a knife in my toe. I got seriously worried that maybe I might have to stop hiking. But, since yesterday, I am trying yet another cream. This time an antibiotics cream and, now, the pain is already gone and the toe doesn’t look like a cherry anymore!
I am so happy and relieved. A few more days to let it heal just a bit more, then I will finally be back on the trail again.
In the meantime it’s wonderful to spend time with my friends here in Geneva. I’ll always remember the relaxed, fun, and uncomplicated time we had together. Thank you for sharing your home with me!
Time flies. It’s my 5th day in Geneva already. The idea was to only stay for two days and continue on, but it’s all about the journey and the moment, isn’t it? To appreciate it, and enjoy it…
I feel so comfortable here with my friend Jonathan. Geneva seen through his eyes is surprising me in many ways. And the little toe on my right foot is still infected. So, I have extended my stay a bit more every day…
Yup, that damn toe is still acting up. It’s been two weeks now and I’m frankly a bit worried. I have tried a lot, and put so many creams and ointments on it… Currently, I am trying a new tip I just received yesterday: bathing the toe in camomile tea and then putting Betadine on it afterwards. If this won’t help either, I’ll go and see a doctor on Monday to get some antibiotics.
At least those toes are now getting a lot of freedom and sunshine in Geneva, as I am slowly walking through town in my flip flops.
It’s wonderful to see Jonathan again. We met while we worked for a circus show in Macau ten years ago. Even back then, his boundless positive energy blew me away. And his easy, relaxed smile often made my day. Especially, since we went through often hard times back then. He left after a year, I stayed a few years longer, and since then we’ve always tried to get together for a beer in Geneva, but it took me a whole decade to finally make it there ☀️.
He lives right next to CERN and it is ominous as well as exciting to think that the large Hadron Collider is operating underneath us as we sit on the couch watching Netflix. Who knows, one evening we just might end up in another dimension…
Yesterday, I had a chance to go sailing for the first time in my life. Like all good things, it was over way too quickly. But, ahhh, what a moment!!!
Other than that, I have spent a lot of time in the Bains des Paquis, Geneva’s favorite outdoor bath at the lake. I have watched Mont Blanc turn a soft pink at sunset whilst sitting at the pier and have enjoyed the uncomplicated international atmosphere of this special place.
I have picnicked on the banks of the river Arve. In the middle of the city. And it felt as if I was far away from any metropolis. In general, I keep getting surprised by just how much nature there is in Geneva. So much water. And so much green.
At the end of the day though, it’s never really the place, isn’t it? It’s all about the people you meet. And, so far, I’ve met wonderful people here in Geneva.
Oh, and I am shoe hunting… again. It turns out regular hiking boots, no matter how good, just don’t work for my feet on a long distance hike. They are too heavy and rigid. I will aim to find some comfortable trekking shoes before I continue on the trail beginning of next week.
For now, happy weekend to you all! Seize the day ☀️⛰🇨🇭