“Treno kaput.” Now what?

I planned ahead. Train ticket bought. Researched the town of Aosta online. Arrived 15 minutes early at the station to be greeted by the conductor with “Treno kaput.”  I didn’t need a translator to understand that one.  Now what?

Three Italians waved their arms and yelled at each other to try to find me an alternative route.  They suggested I get on the train to Milan and change at Chevassa to take an electric train to somewhere close to Aosta. I thought of the Marx electric train I had as a kid. It wasn’t very big.  Time was short.  They all hustled me onto the train and it soon started moving. Unfortunately they had put me on the wrong train heading in the opposite direction.

Whistle stop at Chiomontre.

Whistle stop at Chiomonte.

There were no signs or announcements on the train. I had no idea where was going.  When the conductor arrived he spoke no English.  I tried to explain but he just looked at me like I was stupid (maybe I was) then wondered if it was Chiomonte where I was wanted to get off. It sounded vaguely similar so I said OK rather than provoke him further. He handed me a little paper on which was scribbled “Chiomonte 9:17”

When the train stopped briefly in Chiomonte I was the only one to disembark.  I soon understood why. The station was deserted. Doors locked. Ticket machine broken. No one in sight.  I really didn’t know where I was but it was certainly a beautiful setting. I considered just waiting for a train back to Torino, but I knew I was already heading into the Alps and I wanted to see the mountains.   An hour later a train arrived heading in the direction of the mountains.  I got on.

imageThe last stop as a little town called Bardonecchia.  It is the most westerly town in Italy and about 5 km from the French border.  In 2006 it hosted the snowboarding events for the Winter Olympics.

I meandered up the Main Street and at the end of it found a path that appeared to be heading up. I remembered an old slogan, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

imageFor the next two hours I headed up, and up, and up, until I was at the snow line in the mountains.  There was no one else around.  It was absolutely silent except a few birds chirping.  The air was fresh.  I lay down in the sun in a field of crocuses, thinking that if I had a heart attack and died there, no one would find me for a while.  But what a great place to go!  And obviously I did not succumb to the exertion.

imageThe day turned out to be a complete surprise and exactly the experience I had hoped to find in a day in the Alps.  My legs were tired and I welcomed a soak in the sauna in my hotel in Turin when I got back abound 6 o’clock.


Sometimes it is best just to go with the flow.



On my way to Kenya …

Saturday January 12, 2013. Noon.

Well I am on my way … Again. This is my tenth trip with The McGill Canadian Field Studies in Africa Programme (CFSIA) and an even dozen to East Africa in total. It is hard to believe. Firstly that so much time has passed and secondly that Africa has become such a big part of my life. For the ten years prior it was Bosnia. Things change and I imagine that ten years from now…I will be a lot older…things will be different again. However, carpe diem will be my mantra for now.

20130112-130600.jpg I am on the train on the way to the airport at Dorval. Via rail has change it’s luggage policies so I have to take a long route via Ottawa to get to the airport so I could take my bags with me. I have one large bag of “stuff” that will be left in Kenya. I have been good about my personal luggage this time, with about 15 pounds less than what I took last year. And even that may be too much. This Via-rail trip may sound like a lousy diversion but, in fact, I have a business class ticket, will still arrive in lots of time for my flight tonight and am being feted with wine and beer and food and free wifi as I travel. So the bottom line is that this is a more reasonable way to spend the day, getting ready for the long two flights to Nairobi than sitting on a bench in the airport in Dorval, guarding my luggage and waiting for the ticket counter to open. I am always glad to get the trip started – no more wondering what I have forgotten or might forget. Too late for that and nothing I can do about it now.

It is barely past noon and I have already had a beer and a glass of wine and lasagna. The steward has told me that there will be a second meal service between Ottawa and Montreal. I will gain weight before I even get off the ground.

I will keep a journal as I travel and probably post in my blog this year as well – something new. I am all set. Twende! (Swahili for Let’s go.)