Saturday, 23 October 2010

Day 12 - Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d'Usciolu

Another long day, with ascents at the beginning and end and a scrambly, bouldery ridge walk but good varied scenery and lots of mountain cows too (don't know what breed they are but they have long eyelashes and look like they're about to take part in a cow beauty pageant). We stopped to chat to most of the English people along the way and bought a loaf of bread from Prati for lunch. We passed the first person we've seen who was really struggling with the terrain - a French speaking woman in her 60s who had to be helped up a scramble by two Germans. She was on her own and proceeding very slowly but not asking for help, we slowed down though to check she got over the first ridge section ok before moving on when we realised there were plenty of people behind us who would find her if she got into difficulty.

There was a bit of an incident going on at the refuge when we arrived; a misunderstanding between Andy and the older gardien which had resulted in the gardien throwing Andy's stuff out of the tent he thought he'd hired. Neither spoke the other's language so Steve was called in to help translate, but the gardien didn't seem to want to discuss the issue with him either. After both had calmed down the gardien decided that the refuge wasn't fully booked after all and Andy was told to move to one of the permanent tents further down the hill. Meanwhile I went to see the gardien's son who was very nice and helpful to me, I returned and was later discussing the incident with Juan Carlos, the Quebecan and Steve who assured me that his kindness was just because I was female. A second visit to buy food comfirmed that this was true as the guy was being so flirtatious he even complimented me on my French, ha ha. The major plus point of this refuge was that they baked excellent wholemeal multiseed loaves of bread, which we bought two of with a whole jar of jam and round of cheese!

We asked if anyone had seen the old lady and it turned out there was an interesting story behind her. She had arrived at Prati the evening before and said that her husband would be joining her. When her husband arrived she was a female, and she later decided to go off for an evening stroll, yodeling in flemmish as she left (I kid not). When she didn't return her partner became anxious and people assured her that she would be back before nightfall. When night came and she still hadn't arrived someone managed to contact her by phone and it materialised that she had got lost (how!?) and wouldn't be returning. So the old lady decided to carry on alone having only walked two low level routes so far and against the advice of others. Steve said he would go out and look for her if she didn't arrive before dark, but she eventually did having had to walk through the evening rain. It was decided she was a liability to others and she was sent off the mountains via a link to one of the villages. Martin said that during his first few days he'd also seen gardiens send people home who'd come with too little experience or brought way more stuff than they could carry.

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