Dear Diary – Page 69 (Late 1960’s – Italy)

We were woken up at some ridiculous time (probably around 6:00am) by the sound of cattle, and they were obviously really close!

On looking through a tent flap, we saw that we were surrounded by cows which were being herded around us because we had camped in front of the gate into the field! That farmer still has my admiration for deciding to work around us rather than simply waking us up and telling us to move everything.

We learned very fast that a 4-man tent was very questionably sized for the two “men” that were trying to sleep near the tent sides. Our tent had an amazing knack of retaining over night moisture. and releasing it immediately on contact with a “man”! First rule of tenting: Never touch the tent sides in the morning!

Later that day, as we worked our way through France, Pete decided to stop in a small market town to rest for a while. That was our introduction to mixed toilets! From our perspective, it was quite disconcerting standing, facing a wall, and urinating into an open length of pipe, while women were walking behind us and going into “cubicles”. Given the options ….. we adapted!

Our route was not precisely defined in advance, so we just consulted maps as necessary. Our most direct route into Switzerland was via (if I remember correctly) the St. Bernard Pass. What we didn’t notice on the map was that it was also one of the highest passes!

Pete started off enjoying driving around the hairpin turns as we wound our way up and up. He started to get a little concerned when we noticed accumulations of ice and snow on the side of the road and it was starting to get dark. He was also starting to get a little tired, but there was no obvious place to pitch the tent so he kept driving until we heard a bang, and felt the car lurch to one side. He pulled off the road at the next “hairpin” (they all had areas to allow for cars to cool off and drivers to rest) and inspected his car. He must have taken the last corner too close to the cliff (we surmised) because something had destroyed the jack point (where the jack fits for wheel changes). We decided to give Pete some rest time as we contemplated what we would do should we need to change either of the right side wheels!

It was a fascinating experience because we were well up the pass and so looking over the edge of the road, we could see tiny pairs of lights as cars weaved below us backwards and forwards as they climbed up towards us. The lights would grow larger and larger until a car would come around the turn near to us, and go roaring passed as it continued on its climb. After a short break, we continued on into Switzerland and I think that night was spent with all four of us in the car (and no doubt hoping that if we did get a flat tire, it would be on the left side!).

On our way through Switzerland, I noticed a signpost pointing to Merligan* so I asked Pete to take us there as I would love to see it again. The first sign that things had changed was the traffic jam as we approached the town (it was rural back in 1961). We passed the Hotel Des Alpes, and a modern multi-story hotel had been built right in front of it, effectively blocking its view of the lake. Things had certainly changed.

We continued in the general direction of where Italy was supposed to be and eventually found the border. It was very different to what we were expecting as it was not only very small, but we were the only car in the area. We felt sure that the road between Switzerland and Italy should be a very busy road but, here we were, and it was clearly a border post into Italy.

*See “Dear Diary – Page 44” – Sept 4, 2015

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