Sierre-Zinal weekend

Posted on: 30 Sep 2018

3 days after my birthday trip saw me heading in the same direction again. True to my word, I was off to support my Smiley Paces friends in their assault on the Sierre-Zinal mountain race: 31 kms, 2100m of ascent, and one of the hottest summers ever. After a trio of trains (the second one of which was so crowded, I had to sit on the floor for a while), I stepped out onto the platform at Chateauneuf-Conthey, consulted my Google map, and set off in search of my airbnb accommodation in Pont-de-la-Morge. Hmm, not as straightforward as it looked........ but I found it in the end. 'Basic but adequate' probably describes it best: a bachelor establishment, sparsely furnished, but littered with DIY stuff, tools, mysterious electric gadgetry, cardboard boxes, cat paraphernalia for the two cats, sundry junk (as in fleamarket), a hideous sculpture (maybe he made it at primary school when he was 6) - oh, and a plastic bat stuck to the bathroom mirror! The kitchen was somewhat under-equipped (I could not find a bowl anywhere, and had to eat my breakfast muesli out of a cup), but it had a kettle, and when I expressed my desperation for tea, he did produce the aforementioned cup. I shouldn't be unkind, he was friendly enough, if a bit chaotic. Airbnb is always an adventure, and it's interesting to get a glimpse into someone else's life. (In Ghent, I narrowly escaped having to share a room with a skeleton! - the property of the occupier's medical student sister. He was moved into another room for the duration of our stay, but we still had to walk past him on the way to the kitchen, and it was a bit unsettling to see him grinning at us out of the darkness!) We sat together at the kitchen table while I ate my sandwiches, he ate pasta off what seemed to be the only plate, we chatted a bit in a mixture of French and English, then I left him watching television while I went for a short walk to explore the surroundings. He had told me the easiest way to/from the station was the path alongside the little river, so after investigating the other direction as far as a main road, I checked it out - et voilà! Back in the dusk; another tea; then I adjourned to my room, fiddled with the window (eventually propping it open with a towel to stop it slamming shut), read for a while, then slept really well. Very comfortable bed, I must say, and the location was as peaceful as promised.

The next morning, back to the station, and the train to Sion. It was already hot, and getting hotter. (The wildly inaccurate Garmin pictogram shows 20° and cloudy: lies and damned lies!) Registration for the runners was in the afternoon, from 1 o'clock, in  Sierre. I didn't know what time they would be there, and had the vague idea of turning up then and just lurking around in the hopes of spotting them. Meanwhile, though, I wanted to do another Suonen walk (Suonen, or bisses as they are called in the French-speaking part, are the irrigation channels so characteristic of this very dry part of Switzerland, and the paths alongside them make great walks): specifically the Bisse de Clavau, between Sion  and St-Léonard. Picking up a leaflet at the tourist office, I set off in search of it....... only to slink back half an hour later, having totally failed to locate the start.  Equipped with a proper map (and the route drawn on it in dayglo pink by the helpful lady at the desk), I set off again, and this time found the way without trouble. I had actually been frustratingly near, but had chosen the wrong one of two possible roads. Anyway........ I was on my way. Up some steps, then a steep, stony path; at last I heard the sound of water, and there was the Suone, stretching away across endless expanses of south-facing vineyard, baking hot under the late morning sun. Lots of lizards scuttling across the path, resulting in 'lizard hopscotch' once or twice! The water ran mostly noiselessly in its narrow channel, rippling cheerfully now and then when it encountered a small obstacle or slight change of gradient. In one of these 'ripply' places, in the scrappy shade of a stunted oak, I sat on a terrace wall for a few minutes and ate some lunch (some semi-liquid cheese, nuts, a bit of apple) and took a couple of photos.