Alps log: day 11

Final leg of my detour and will be rejoining the main route at Gruben. Another late start at 9. I’m either getting fatigued or cocky.

Stage 11alt-a: Cabane du Bela tola – Bela Tola – Meidpass – Gruben
Dist: 10km
Ht gain: 444m (+600m)
Time: 3.5 hrs (+2.5hrs)

Since the book says today is a “relatively undemanding stage”, i decide to tackle the top of the Bella Tola as a sidetrip (3065m, up an “easy path” to a point “claimed by some to be the best viewpoint in the Alps”). Reach the top a little before noon. As i take the last few steps, the wind picks up and the path of stones shakes underneath me. The viewpoint is worth it. Some of the big boys have cloud veils, but still a sight to see, 360 degrees.

I cross the Meidpass. The meidpass means crossing a linguistic barrier, too; now i’m in the German-speaking Wallis region of the country. I know even less German than French. In fact, my entire German vocabulary consists of words learned while playing realistic WWII shooting games in college. I try saying “Hello” to a passing hiker, but I instead yell “Sniper!”

Descend to Gruben, which is another lovely swiss hamlet. You don’t get a chance to use the word hamlet everyday. Can’t believe people actually live in these villages that consist of 10 buildings or less.

Dormitory space in the attic of the Hotel Schwarzhorn, which is run by a miser of an owner, whose pretty daughter is running reception. The owner denies me access to the wireless, makes me use the payphone cabin to call my next night’s hotel, and looks as if she has hansel and grettal locked downstairs. In revenge, I try openly flirting with her daughter, but instead yell out “Covering fire, left flank”. Dinner: tasteless broth, thick mud-bread, dry pork slice over oily pasta, flan with old whipped cream shot on top.

Paul and Kate, the chatty Brits, appear! I’m happy to see them. We catch up. I tell them about my grimetz detour; and they, their horror story about trying to camp around cabane de moiry, pitching their tent at night, in what apparently was a bull field. Telling the story, they interupt each other– “no he didn’t say we couldn’t camp there”– trying to ensure their viewpoint is represented– “no, the bulls would have left us alone and gone back to sleep”– it’s entertaining. We make plans to meet up in Zermatt. They’re jetting ahead by train tommorrow to gain a few extra days. Bedtime for everyone.

{ Before departing New York, I bumped into an old classmate, one I hadn’t seen since graduation, one whom I had adored from afar since the first day, a sort of crush so consuming and dangerous that it later resulted in some trouble with a local street gang. I ushered her into a pub for a drink– I insisted– what choice did anyone have? I have been trying to bump into her for years. And now it’s happened. She was still button cute, a fair look that belied the fact that she was bursting with brainpower, demonstrated in the intervening years by becoming head research chair at a prestigious thinktank. I engaged her in conversation, pumping for information, exploring her favored topics. When the well ran dry, my hardened infatuation too had evaporated. She had a demeanor of hyper seriousness; she ran a bit haughty and cold.

{Maybe we needed another round? Another round could have tolled a bout of nostalgia– or honesty, ha-ha, I admit that crush, she admits knowing– gosh everyone knew– I mention getting into that fight, she uncoils, surprised and delighted by old heroics, a romantic ellipsis transpires… No, no more rounds. Another time then? No. She was moving. Across the country. Next week. Oh. And that was that. We parted ways with a congenial hug. Lacking regard for my normal level of cowardice, I reached in deeply for a goodbye kiss. And in that kiss, I transferred every sentiment reserved, every what-if thought, every thread of future thinking we could have been together, to her. It was a kiss on the cheek, but she still got all that stuff I just mentioned. She staggered home, assumingly taken aback by such brashness. I never saw her again. }

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