Generally I’m pretty good at planning things, particularly if I’m planning something on someone else’s behalf or I’m planning something where I have to be somewhere at a particular time. In these instances I tend to over-plan, I’ll check and recheck the necessary route to get there, I’ll print maps and write down contact numbers in case the maps are outdated and my phone’s battery suddenly dies.
However, with activities that don’t have specified timings, and particularly with people that I’m not so worried will judge me if I get things wrong, my planning tends to be a little more on the slap-dash side.
For example on Saturday I decided I would take a friend visiting from the UK to the Salève, the nearest mountain to Geneva, that I’d been meaning to visit for a while but needed the motivation of a visitor to put me into toursim mode.
I did check which bus we were meant to get but other than that decided it would be fairly easy to figure out where to go once we arrived at the right stop. We boarded the number eight bus and, thanks to my chum, managed to take it in the right direction all the way to the end of the line at Veyrier-Douane.
As expected, the mountain range was clearly visible and there were a few other Salève sightseers on the bus so we trundled after our fellow mountaineers and towards the mountain range, which seemed pretty hard to miss.
What was easier to miss, it turned out, was the path up to the top of the mountain. Or rather it was easy to miss if you didn’t really pay attention to numerous sign posts along the way. We started following the signs to the Téléphérique, the cable car that can take lazy types up to the top of the mountain without the inconvenience of climbing (I fully planned to take the cable car back down again). The signs we followed were clearly labeled ‘téléphérique’ and had a picture of the cable car and little footsteps. I quickly decided that the little footsteps sign meant this was the footpath to the cable car but not the footpath to climb the mountain.
As we got nearer to the cable car we discovered another sign pointing in three directions in an upside down ‘T’, the trunk of the ‘T’ pointed to the téléphérique and as I was quite convinced this wasn’t the walking path happily started stomping off in the opposite direction to the way we’d come. Without reading the rest of the sign.
Considering I know I don’t have the best sense of direction, I’m really not sure why I felt quite so confident as we strode away from the town and the other tourists and tramped along an increasingly industrialized path running parallelish to the mountain.
After about 45 minutes and a few false starts of traversing up paths, which were nothing more than throughways to other roads and caused us to upset quite a few local dogs, we thought perhaps we should head back to the cable car and check directions from there. Another 45 minutes back, so that’s 1.5 hours of walking around aimlessly, we found our way back to the cable car.
There was a bit of chaos at the téléphérique embarkment point as it turned out that all cable cars had had to be suspended because of strong winds, so when I found someone to ask him where the walking path was he seemed confused. He probably thought 1) why do they want to climb the mountain and 2) why are they so thick they cant follow the obvious signs? (They really were obvious when you actually read them.)
Proud of myself for not asking in English I checked that my understanding of his directions were correct by backing up our exchange with some general arm waving to be sure he was just saying ‘back and right’. Heading back we encountered the same upside-down ‘T’ sign post we’d seen before and, this time stopping to actually read it properly, it seemed evident that the way we should have gone was in the opposite direction from the path we’d initially taken.
Again we confidently commenced our path and soon found ourselves cutting through a car park and looking at a steep path that seemed to be closed. It said accès interdit (which means access forbidden) but I was still unconvinced that this wasn’t just forbidden access for cars and that people, who could easily squeeze around the barrier, could go that way. Fortunately my friend, with marginally more directional sense than me, wasn’t persuaded so we thought we’d go back to the téléphérique and check again. Walking back we noted a bridge across the main road to what looked decidedly like an open footpath and thought perhaps this was the way we were supposed to go.
As we walked back out of the carpark we noted that in fact there were some quite clear signs pointing us in the direction of the proper path, but it turns out you not only need to look for signs you need to read them too!
A mere two hours after getting off the bus we finally reached the beginnings of the mountain path and began our ascent. Luckily the friend who was co-adventuring with me had been as happy to amble about as I’d been. Pretty sure the fiancé would have been somewhat more peeved as I determinedly strode off, refusing to stop and ask for directions until we’d passed the last outpost of humanity…
Fortunately it was pretty hard to go wrong on the actual mountain path, without tumbling over the edge and as I’m not typing this from a hospital bed you can be relieved that we found our way eventually!