My life as a travel addict (read blogger) is simple- work hard for a few months to save up enough money to seek out another adventure. I booked my tickets for Geneva in the same spirit for June 3rd. Assuming you’ve never read my blog (welcome to ertsy fam), I’m a part-time Travel in Style blogger who lives, studies, and works in Paris. I like to think of myself as part chic – part quirky. And, I like to share not only my fashion advice but also my stories and spread positivity through holistic experiences. With Geneva, I had similar expectations.
Now, the weekend I chose had a rough beginning with rain on the whole Saturday and even Sunday morning. But I was determined to take a hike on the nearby Mont Salève. For those who don’t know what it is- the Salève is a mountain of the French Prealps. It is also called the “Balcony of Geneva” because you can see all of Geneva from the top. You can hike up/down, drive up or take a cable car, too.
As a devoted travel in style blogger, as soon as the skies cleared on Sunday, I went to the oldest and most beautiful part of Geneva, the old town, for a shoot. I finished my style shoot in the morning and set off to the mountain at about 15:30. (Which was not a good idea to start with)
Now here are a few facts about me- I am 22, fit as a fiddle (even though I don’t look the part), I like exploring and going out of my comfort zone. Additionally, I’m very independent and fearless but sensible, so I can pull through most situations. I speak fluent English, and 8 months of living in Paris has taught me working French, as well. However, I’ve never hiked before and this was my first time.
Everything I know about hiking comes from fellow blogger anecdotes. I had also read that the said hiking trail was ‘easy and doable’. I took a friend with me mainly to not feel lonely and also so that I had someone to bring me back in case I die. In all honesty, this friend took me there since I’m a noob when it comes to adventure sports (assuming hiking is an adventure sport for me).
16:15: I was at the bottom of the mountain with my return cable car tickets, ready to take on the trail. Which is exactly when I got to know that the cable-car shuts down at 19, sharp. Now, it is supposed to be a two & half hour trail up but the paucity made me really reluctant. This friend of mine convinced me that we’ll be all right since he had done something similar (in a different continent) before. However, since he didn’t want to push me, he gave up. Finally, we took the cable car up. The ride was short and the view was stunning.
Finally, we took the cable-car up. The ride was short and the view was stunning. Everything was more beautiful and peaceful than I expected on the top. I could see all of Geneva and more. We were on the top at 14:40.
Now, this is when I could see my friend visibly upset amidst all the beauty since he was promised a hike on the French-Swiss Mountain. Not like he’d hold it against me but well, I’m not heartless. So, I decided that if we couldn’t walk up, we’ll walk back. Since we had time, I set an alarm for 15:45. Deciding that if we can walk easily till that point, we will continue, otherwise, we’ll hike back up and take the cable car. (See, safe and sensible)
And boy was it a beautiful walk! We started with the driveable road and then saw some hikers and followed them. Soon, we were on the ‘advanced’ hiking trail and were descending having all the fun. I was so excited that I even updated my Instagram story with the snippets.
We had walked for about a good hour, the alarm went off and because we were so good, we kept moving. We met some hikers in between, too, exchanged greetings and went our way. I was convinced that I am going to do more of these and trusted my friend completely for navigating the way. It was like a “Stairway to Heaven” (What’s up picture reference)…
All was good till we lost our network in between. We got away from the hiking groups and basically got too indulged in the scenics and nature (seeing Mont Blanc). Only to realize that we were in fact, lost.
Now, here’s the most important thing I learned about hiking- don’t do it if you’re not sure of the way.
Unaware, we were back on the road, confident that we’ll be fine if we follow the road and kept walking. After another hour or so, we found ourselves in a small and beautiful French village. Here’s where we exchanged greetings with an amazing French lady (maybe a little older than my mother), who started chatting with us in French.
I don’t know if we looked lost or was she just bored and wanted a conversation but that conversation made us realize that we are on the absolute opposite way of where we should be.
In fact, instead of descending back to Switzerland, we were on our way to the French cities.
She asked a neighbor to help us with the way. He, again in French, directed us to the nearest bus stations. Which was, by the way, at least 10-12 miles away. At this point, we had no water, food or will to walk that long (since we already had hiked for about 4-5 miles). Nonetheless, we thanked them dearly and took to our way.
It is probably then that a car passed by us and I decided that we need to hitch-hike. Now, if you’re from India (like me) or have ever been to India, you know that hitch-hiking is probably not a good idea from the viewpoint of safety. However, living in Paris has taught me that you can somewhat trust the Europeans. Moreover, the kindness that the Lady and her neighbor had shown us motivated us more to seek help further.
So, we kept walking, and look for potential lift, if possible. The first car we tried for didn’t stop for us. Well, the world isn’t utopian, but the second one did. A family listened to our ordeal despite having young kids with them, decided to help us. We fit ourselves in the car and understood all the instructions well. They drove out of their way to get us to the tram station.
When we reached, they explained us the way back and honestly, for a moment there, I wanted to just cry and hug them. (I send them the best of wishes every moment from the bottom of my heart now).
Finally, we took the bus that our GPS showed us and were on our way to Geneva. Oh, but wait, the bus was going to the other direction. That means we were on our way to France again. I was just kind of in awe of how the whole universe was bent upon taking me to back to France.
This time though, we caught up sooner. We got off at the next stop and walked back to our original station. This time, we also confirmed sooner with fellow passengers and took the right tram back. What surprised me the most was that within nearly 60 minutes of realizing that we were lost in an obscure, enchanting remote area of France, we were back in our apartment, in Switzerland. We basically crossed the border between two countries at least three times in less than four hours, on a tram, in a car.
I obviously never want this to happen to me or anyone (ever again) but the fact that it did, reinstated my whole belief system. You know, being the kind of person who gets upset when you keep reading about war and tragedy and thinks the world has lost hope. Not discounting any of those awful things, the kindness that pure strangers extended to me, beyond my inability to completely reciprocate in their language, culture or race, has me hopeful again.
I’m ecstatic to witness that the world has these amazing people. Yes, in the remotest areas! Far away from the modern education and awareness and yet, are empowered to see and act beyond everything that divides us. I’m honored to have had this adventure. Practical lessons and nature are all good, but this experience has changed me as a person.
Some people may contradict, reminds me of pulp fiction and the question of witnessing a miracle, actually. Although, for me, it will always be a life-lesson. I’ll always remember my Mont Salève adventure as something that made more determined to contribute to the world and people. I’ll forever see it as something that enlightened me and made more thankful than ever.
It’ll remind me of how all the amazing people I met in the way made me forget about the not so amazing ones. It’ll always be the story that’ll mark for the rest of my life.
From this moment on, life will always be seen as the road from Mont Salève.