August 24th, 2018
18.5km | ascent 1014m | descent 814m
Dad survived my constant questions making sure he was ok throughout the night, and we were down at breakfast just after it started at 6:30am. Although I didn’t want to rush the final day, we had quite a few bus and train journeys to catch once we arrived at Champex (in order to stay the night in Brig and catch the Glacier Express train tomorrow) so after saying a fond farewell to Roy and Randy, we were on the trail as early as possible. And for the first time, we had to break out our rain gear. It wasn’t raining heavy but we put our ponchos on, and kept them on for about an hour before the rain stopped.
We arrived at the Alp Bovine farmhouse just in time for some freshly made cakes and sat down to have morning tea. I continued trying to persuade dad to let go of the notion of us making the early bus and maybe we could hitchhike if we missed it! We sat eating cake with an Australian couple who were currently walking the Haute Route, and chatted about Aussie trails and their recent trip hiking in Bhutan which they highly recommended.
Realising we’d missed the first bus, dad relaxed a little and enjoyed picking and eating the wild blueberries and raspberries as we walked.
Curiously, just as we entered the town of Champex, an older lady walked up to dad speaking French and started playing with his beard – it was weird, but funny and I’m sure she was saying he looked like Papa Smurf! In the centre of Champex we passed a familiar figure but with a longer beard, it was Sam who we’d walked with on Day 6 and not seen since. He was here with his friends and they all cheered dad on as he ran through a finish line set up for the UTMB – it couldn’t have been a more perfect end to the hike!
Except, the final challenge was for dad to swim in the lake – a challenge he’d accepted as long as it wasn’t raining when we arrived, and it wasn’t! We walked around to the other side of the lake away from the main street, and within minutes dad had laid out his fresh clothes and towel and was jumping in! He didn’t stay in the alpine lake long, but he did do a few strokes before realising it was so cold he couldn’t breathe! Better for him, as I certainly wasn’t getting in – a spray of deodorant would do just fine for my shower! 😉
Now, could I challenge him to one more thing he was adamant he would “never ever do” ??! We picked up our small suitcase that we’d left behind at our accommodation, but we’d missed the bus and would have to wait two hours for the next one. I’d been mentioning the idea of hitchhiking to the train station all morning and considering we now had so long to wait, and maybe also because dad was feeling invincible after his invigorating swim, he agreed to give it a try… on the condition that we would give up if it took longer than 20 minutes.
We stood at the northern end of town hoping to flag down a car heading to Martigny (meaning we would skip the bus and one train journey). But there were no cars on the road! After a few minutes and all of only three passing cars, we decided to switch tactics and stand opposite each other in the hope we might also pick up a ride the opposite direction to Orsieres (meaning we skipped the bus journey). All of a sudden dad became very shy and reluctant to stick his thumb out but with a little coaching, “you need to ooze confidence,” he got into the swing of things.
After almost 20 minutes, a car stopped ahead of us and reversed back. They were three retired Germans and lucky for us, they were heading to Martigny to go shopping and had an empty boot to fit our two backpacks and suitcase in! They were lovely and we chatted all the way for the ~20 minute journey to the train station. We told them how after our Glacier Express train trip tomorrow we were flying to Berlin for a couple of nights and they gave us lots of recommendations of food to eat and things to see – thanks! (Oh and you should’ve seen the smile on dad’s face as they drove off, after his first ever hitch hiking experience) 😉
We caught the train from Martigny to Brig and celebrated finishing the hike with a baguette and beer – bought from the supermarket in Champex.
Although our TMB experience is now over, we continue our European adventure tomorrow by catching the Glacier Express train to Chur where we stay one night before taking a train to Zurich then flying to Berlin for a couple of nights.
Travelling with my dad, just the two of us, for the first time ever as an adult, couldn’t have gone smoother or been more fun. I thought for sure that I would slip into the “daughter” role and dad the “father” and we would end up arguing, but it was more like travelling with a very good friend who was always up for everything. We shared most meals, ordered every cake, talked non-stop and laughed a lot. It was so much more than I ever hoped for.
Sadly, at 69 years old, dad thinks he’s getting “too old” to hike, but hopefully having now completed this challenging hike of the TMB, he’ll realise that he’s anything but. I’m certainly not trying to give him a heart attack on a hike, but I also now don’t want this to be our last hike together. What do you think, Nepal next year?