I’m in France! 🇫🇷
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 😉.