It’s Thursday morning in Courmayeur, Italy. I just arrived yesterday evening after a very hard day of walking. I was so tired and my legs hurt so much last night, I couldn’t go up and down the stairs at the “dortoir” (a hotel where many people stay in one room… everything is expensive here so I have to be very careful with money. Luckily I am the only person here! Though it is a bit lonely) I am staying at.
Today is the fifth day of the walk, but I am resting for the day. So far the walk has been absolutely wonderful. I can’t express how beautiful the mountains here are and how BIG they are! Mont Blanc, which I saw yesterday, is 4800 meters tall, 1000 meters taller than Mt. Fuji, and when you look at it you feel very very small. Yesterday when I took a lunch break above the valley I sat for an hour just looking at the whole range while eating French bread with “Tombe” cheese (it’s like Blue Cheese, but I like it much more) and Haute Savoie sausage (salami).
I’ve met a lot of interesting people, especially every night at the mountain huts. Yesterday I walked with a French man named Sebastien who took me to see one of the biggest glaciers in Europe, the Glacier de la Miage. The rocks at the end of the glacier (called “morraine”) took a half hour to climb! We sat talking at the top of the morraine where it was very quiet and we could see the whole valley below. Right along the outside edge of the morraine nestled the ruins of an old Roman settlement. Sebastien commented on how quiet the area was. We strolled through it and just didn’t have words for both the enormousness of the elements and the sheer sense of peace. I also met a big group of French elderly people who, though we couldn’t understand each other, laughed a lot and invited me to drink some local specialty liquor with them. Whenever we met on the trail everyone would raise their walking sticks and shout, “The German-Filipino from Japan!”
People here are walkers, real walkers. Some of them have legs so rippling with walking muscles that it is a bit intimidating, but also inspiring to get myself to be out in the mountains a lot more than I have been. The walking times listed on the trail signs always seem too enthusiastic and I can never quite finish the trails at the same times, though that probably has a lot to do with all the times I stop to take photos. A German family, whom I met at Refugio Elisabetta, laughed when they saw me taking my photos, “Ah, what can you expect, he’s Japanese!”
The weather has been very sunny and hot. My sun tan is dark like chocolate now and I’m sure when I get to Japan many people will think I come from Pakistan or India. I entered my first town in Italy yesterday and it is very strange to be here with everyone speaking Italian. Everything looks Italian, even the grasshoppers, which move slowly and have many bright colors. I wonder why Japanese grasshoppers move more quickly than Italian grasshoppers? Kicking through the grass along the side of the trail and smelling the great variety of herbs that grew there, I wondered if the grasshoppers themselves had developed a philosophy of “Hasta Maniana”?
Strangely I haven’t seen any Japanese at all on the trail, very unusual, for Europe at this time of year. I wonder where they all went? The only Japanese I’ve seen so far during this whole trip was a bus load of them getting off to enter a Japanese restaurant in Chamonix. Though I know how homesick one can sometimes get from eating strange food every day, I just can’t understand how you can specifically organize your travels to a foreign country just so that you can eat the same food you eat at home all the time.
It is raining here in Courmayeur and I will walk downtown to look at the stores and maybe get something to eat. Tomorrow I will start walking again.