Saturday 18 October.
We had breakfast in our room, a hard boiled egg, yoghurt, bread and jam with coffee. We were soon packed up and on our way by 7:30 am it was a long one, about 30km with lots of ups and downs. Moira had her new shoes on, I had convinced her to keep her old ones and carry them just in case it takes a while to break in the new ones and she develops blisters or something. Because she was carrying them and the extra weight I packed the Gaz canister, that she usually carries, in my bag.
It didn't take long to get through the centre of town and pick up the route after the Roman bridge that we had sussed out yesterday. It took us to the main road which we crossed then climbed to a minor road that ran along the side of the hill to the village of St Christopher. After that the route varied from minor tarred roads and lanes to wide forest tracks that ran beside at times more irrigation channels. We didn't really visit any major habitations until we reached Chambave near the end of the day. There were lots of small hamlets with a few houses and farms but nothing you could call a village and there were definitely no shops.
When we left the sky was clear and we could see the sun beginning to rise, it promised to be a nice day and it was. There was hardly a breath of wind and no chance of rain. With such a clear day the mountains stood out magnificently against the vivid blue sky. The scenery was outstanding, I said to Moira that the valley was like Glencoe, just twice the size. We talked about the best walks we had done and what we would include in our top ten. The main feature was walks that we would certainly do again and again. This one would definitely be included. Other certainties were; Kinlochleven to Fort William, to the source of the River Loue that we did a few days ago, the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska, Kepler Trail in New Zealand and,perhaps surprisingly, the Cut walk in Greenock. That's only about half, we will have to think about the others. Anyway, today's route was hard but it was magnificent, we were high up on more or less a contour path all day and could just see the traffic on the busy roads far below. It was along the valley with huge mountains facing us, some with snow others rugged peaks and long jagged ridges. At the head of the valley as we looked back the higher peaks above Aosta were clad in thick snow, brilliant white against the blue background of the sky.
At 10am we reached the Castello di Quart, a lone Castle on the hillside. We stopped and had our mid-morning tea break. When we started again the sign post said it was 3hours 40 minutes to Chiesa de Diemoz, a small hamlet after the town of Nus. It had been fairly easy going so far but now there were some tough hills to climb, short but very steep. The annoying thing was that nearly every time we got to the top of a climb we began a descent on the other side. But there were some nice flat forest paths and when clear of the trees we had the scenery to admire. Early on in the morning there was a hot air balloon coming down the valley. I waited until it was overhead to get a photograph but it was too high. It dropped down on the far side of the valley and landed on what looked like an airfield on the outskirts of Aosta. It was probably an attraction to take tourists on an early morning trip to see the sunrise over the mountains.
Along the route there were information boards with the history, geography and interesting details about the region. The two sides of the valley they informed us were completely different due to their differing climates. The southern facing one that we walked long along got the sun and could successfully cultivate vines, orchards and at even high levels grain crops. The other side in the shade took longer for the winter snows to melt and was mostly wooded with conifers, the habitation mostly centred around the villages and towns on the agricultural side. The grapes that were grown were Muscat and the red wine produced was concentrated and named from the town of Chambave where it is produced. There were various castles in the valley and although originally the stronghold of different fiefdoms they generally stood together when confronted by a common enemy. They sent out warnings of danger by carrier pigeon and most had coops for them. Warnings were also signalled by mirrors, smoke or at night by fires. A lot of the small villages in the region had been abandoned, especially those concerned with grain production, when a downturn in the economy occurred. We passed by one such village with tumble-down deserted buildings. Another aspect of the route was the number of shrines. They were put up by the various villages as either a thanksgiving for a good harvest or at dangerous bends in the road for protection by their favourite or patron Saint. That was about the sum of the info I managed to pick up from the boards and I found them extremely interesting and helpful in appreciating life in the Valle d'Aosta.
When we reached Chiesa de Diemoz we found a bench and had lunch. When we started again it must have been hot as I was forced to take off my fleece, it was like mid-summer. We had more ups and downs, on lanes,forest tracks,narrow paths and through vineyards. The waymarking was by and large OK but there were occasions at junctions where the way to go confused us. Generally we stopped and had a good look around before barging on and found the route but a few times Cicerone had to be consulted. The little map book we picked up at the tourist office in Aosta was helpful and informative. Although we started and finished at about the same altitude our accumulative climbing amounted to 622m and descent 656m. So we were doing a lot of climbing just to come down again.
After the town of Chambave the contours levelled out and after a stretch off-road we regained a tar lane then road to the outskirts of Chatillon. Coming into the town there was a small supermarket and Moira did some shopping. She got the essentials, a couple of beers and a bottle of wine along with bread and yoghurt. The hotel, the Defour, was near the church and we headed for the big steeple above the centre of the town. It only took a couple of enquires to get the right turning to take and we were there. It was a one star place and looked less but the room was quite large and a big bed. There was a bathroom but no shower cubicle just,an attachment in the bath. Moira had a bath but I showered and nearly flooded the place. After our hard and hot walk the cold beer went down well and now we felt clean and refreshed.
The hotel was supposed to have WiFi and we got a network and password. Try and try we couldn't get connected; it wouldn't accept the password, it was another lengthy one and we could have made mistakes, then when we got it right it said 'unable to join network'. We gave up and content ourselves with reading. For dinner Moira made a risotto with the chicken left from last night and the Uncle Ben's rice she had been carrying for about a week. It was very good and the Italian red wine complemented it nicely.
After the washing up was done I tried to do crossword but couldn't concentrate. I was very tired and dozed on and off but the bar downstairs was very noisy. There were playing games and singing but at mid-night it stopped and I managed to get a good night's sleep. Moira said she headed more singing about 1am, it seemed a lively place or was it just a usual Saturday night.