Day 6 (37 days ago). Somewhere between Nice and Lyon, I lost my voice. When I arrived in Annecy, I sounded like Voldemort.
I thought, Hey, it doesn’t matter! I can play it like Liz in Eat, Pray, Love and make it a silent week.
Right. I have never received so many Skype calls in two days, nor have I ever met so many chatty people.
To get to Annecy, none of my trains was on time. (It’s France.) I made it there considerably late, and I was staying for only one night and one day. So I woke up early, ignored the coughing that was starting to show on top of the voice extinction, and followed the plan I had meticulously conceived.
The plan was clear and beautiful.
A: Morning walk around lovely bridges/take wonderful pictures of Little Venice of the Alps.
B: Climb up to castle and enjoy breath-taking view.
C: Lunch comfortably at hostel. (Great hostel)
D: Go to Gorges du Fier to make up for never-seen Gorges du Verdon. (Day 4)
The reality was harsh and unrelenting.
A: Walk around misty rain. Try to take average-looking pictures without my camera’s lens getting wet.
B: Climb up the castle. Realize it’s not the right road. Hyperventilate. (My coughing was getting bad, and the drugstores were closed because Aug 15 is a holiday, apparently.) Go down. Go up the right way. Double-hyperventilate. Find the castle. Be kind of deceived. Go down another way. Find hidden spot where the view is great. Feel happy.
C: Go back to hostel. Eat. Go to reception to ask about Gorges du Fier. Have to wait because two girls from Spain are asking about a mountain. It’s okay: Google said it’s 15 minutes by car; I can take a taxi if I miss the bus.
Finally ask about Gorges du Fier. Be told there’s no way there because A, it’s a freaking holiday, and B, GOOGLE LIED. It’s a two-hour drive. (!$%?&#.)
D: Decide to go to the top of Semnoz Mountain by bus. Meet the two girls from before at station and get to know. Júlia and Anna, Barcelona. Get in the bus. Driver tells us we won’t see shit at the top because of the weather.
Decide to go anyway.
Drive to the top.
Don’t see shit.
Walk around. See sheep in the fog. Hear cowbells further in the fog. See cow poop appear from nowhere in the fog. Have lunch in little rustic restaurant and ask about the way down by foot. If we follow the car’s lane, three hours. If we take the hikers’ tracks, we’re doomed to get lost. Begin to walk in the car’s lane.
Julia talks a lot.
It’s great; she’s so interesting, but I still don’t have any voice and she’s the polite kind of talker. The kind that asks questions to the listener. Manage to talk. Pee in the woods. Joke around: I sing Canada’s National Anthem and stop after two sentences because I don’t know the rest. They laugh. I say, “Please, don’t tell the Queen.” We laugh. We’re already friends. We’re walking through the mist in the middle of nowhere and we’re making fun of the whole world.
It’s been 2h30 and we’re still not half way through. I forgot my water bottle at the restaurant. I want to make a joke: I’ll go get it, be right back. But I don’t. Too thirsty. We drop the idea of walking to Annecy. We’ll walk to the next bus station, Puisots, and ride for the rest of the way.
We haven’t talked in half an hour.
Silently, we panic that we took a wrong turn.
Aloud, we recall ourselves there’s just one road.
It’s been three hours.
We’re not there yet.
Always the same road.
The same fog.
We see a woman get in her car and run. “Ma’am? Have we missed Puisots?”
She laughs. “In front of you.”
Then we all laugh. We made it. We are invincible. We were scared like shit three seconds ago and now we’re invincible. It’s 5:15, the bus is due in an hour, and there’s a fifteen-minute walk on the left that leads to a view of Lake Annecy. We’re invincible badasses, of course we do it.
Several roads split in the woods. Wisely, we don’t follow those with a red X. Fifteen minutes go by. Meet a family. Ask them the way. Father says we have to follow the red Xs.
What the hell?
He shows us where to get back on the right path. Narrow. Slippery. Leads nowhere. Family eventually joins us. At the next intersection, father tells us the way right isn’t safe, we should go left. Left is opposite the lake. Opposite Puisots.
With my hoarse voice, I say, “…s beerh th…t min…s. You …r…tim…gbck?” (Translation: It’s been 30 minutes. You sure we’ll have time to go back?)
“Yeah, yeah,” he retorts. “Don’t worry. It’ll lead you back to Puisots.”
I look at the girls and see what I must look like.
We thank him, but decide to head back where we came from. We have to hurry. The girls curse in Catalan. I’m not the only one who thought that was creepy. We almost run. We would if we weren’t so tired. I’m scared I’ll miss the bus. I’m scared I’ll faint because I’m so thirsty. I don’t tell the girls I see a freaking big dung on the ground. It’s not cow shit like from the top of Semnoz. It’s bigger. I bite my tongue as I realize I forgot the whistle, again.
It’s so slippery. We just focus on our steps. I imagine myself twisting my ankle and being unable to walk. I imagine I’m in the Hunger Games and I have to fight giant bear mutts while I’m injured. I imagine all this as Puisots looms before me. We’re five minutes early. We laugh.
What a great day!
Let’s never do that again!
Fail Count: 8
***Dear Júlia and Anna, I was honoured to walk that crazy way down with you. Even though we didn’t get to see the renowned sceneries of the lake/mountains, and we were potentially eaten by imaginary bear mutts, by the end of the day, I felt more alive than ever.