Last night I camped out in the valley of the Tinée near Isola; tonight I’ve found the cheapest accommodation of the entire trip. For just 8 euros one can sleep in the gîte d’étape in the village St Sauveur sur Tinée. It’s self-catered.
This trail was nice, but it disappeared into jungle
Following the highway all day…
All day I followed the valley of the Tinée, as I will do tomorrow. Originally I envisioned the end of my trip being a more triumphant descent down the mountains towards Monaco, and then along the shore to Nice; instead, because of my bad leg I’m having to take the shortest possible route to Nice, which means sneaking in through the valleys to the North. Alas. But I want to finish this trip in one piece, so no more unnecessary ascents and descents; getting there at all on foot is all that counts for me now.
A deep view into the Mercantour National Park
Walking along a highway is no pleasurable experience; indeed it’s quite annoying with all the traffic and the hot asphalt. But today at least for a few kilometres there were some alternatives to the main tarmac. First there was a nice forest track, which however after a while simply disappeared, forcing me into some off-trail bushwhacking for about 1 km. Then for a while there was an old disused stretch of highway, lined with ripening wild blackberries, which was a delightful respite from the main road. Let’s see what tomorrow and the day after will bring.
The disused highway; I was very grateful
Gear review: electronics
A decade or two ago one would hardly have thought of bringing any electronics on a trek; but we’ve gotten so used to our gadgets. In particular we need our mobile phones so much that some people are very surprised to find that large parts of the Alps have no signal at all.
First of all let me point out that, unlike numerous other trekkers I’ve met, I do not own or use a GPS device for navigation. I don’t trust it. I wouldn’t want the battery to fail in a critical moment. So instead, I’ve bought maps along the way and occasionally sent a packet of them home in the mail. Yes, it is still possible to navigate with a map, a compass, an altimeter, and some common sense, even in the age of the GPS satnav.
Navigation brings me to the first digital gadget: my Swiss army knife with altimeter. (This was a gift from my dad a few years ago.) Thermometer, stopwatch, etc. are naturally useful functions, but the air pressure-based altimeter built into this multi-tool knife is an essential navigation device in the mountains. When lost in fog or walking through snow more than once I’ve found the trail again by using the altimeter to determine whether the missing trail must be above me or below. Most people underestimate the value of an altimeter; it can be a life-saver. That aside, the Swiss army knife is also pretty useful for cutting…
Extra battery: smartphones use up battery very quickly, and mine is no exception. I’m writing all my blog entries on the smartphone and uploading them via wifi or mobile internet, listening to music and audiobooks, and communicating. Above all, when tracking my path via GPS, the battery is dead after 10 hours. Luckily the “power bank” provides up to four full charges; essential when sleeping in the tent. However, after about three years of service, and perhaps also caused by the especially intense usage on this trip, it seems to be losing its storing capacity gradually.
Extra phone: for emergencies, and for countries where I had a local SIM card in addition to my German one , I brought a second, “dumb” phone. I think the few grams of extra weight are worth the extra safety and functionality.
Headlamp: forget flashlights; you want your hands to be free for carrying stuff, running, cutting food for dinner, etc. So I spent a fair amount of money on a very good LED headlamp by Black Diamond, which has various nifty functions: a strong main beam, a more diffuse light for reading, a red light which is harder for others to see and which doesn’t attract mosquitoes. It’s dimmable and the batteries should last up to 300 hours, and perhaps they do; but I wouldn’t know, because mine are always empty quickly. The reason is that the manufacturer – stupidly – did not think of adding an on/off-lock! That is, if it is locked “off”, by posting the main button long enough, you only have to press on the main button long enough again, and it will switch on. Therefore it easily switches itself on under any pressure in the rucksack, and has burnt away endless hours of battery life just shining amidst my clothes and stuff during the day. What a waste.
Ebook reader: I love paper, but to carry all that I wanted to read on this trip would have meant carrying a few extra kilos. So I switched over to the digital side, with a reader that’s not a kindle, because I didn’t want to be trapped in the Amazon universe. Very happy so far.
Have a nice day everyone,