Snow-shoeing, appendicitis, and roundabouts
So, decadently holidaying and snowshoeing wasn’t actually where I was last week. This was a little jaunt I went on about a month ago at the same time I was watching other people ski while drinking a Bombardino or two. Last week I was actually in hospital with my eldest as he had appendicitis. That’s much less fun than snow-shoeing or drinking hot alcoholic drinks. As they say, ” Life is a series of swings and roundabouts”. Actually, I never thought that saying made a lot of sense, as both swings and roundabouts are fun to go on, but one of them is supposed to be bad…….anyway, I digress. This post IS actually about a hike I did in the snow from Jouvenceaux, a pretty little village a little lower down the mountain than Sauze d’Oulx in Susa Valley, Italy.
Sculptures in the forest
There is a wonderful trail that wanders along beside a burbling brook that gives you a good dose of nature and culture at the same time. In 2007, they had a great idea of holding an art event in which the artists had to carve a sculpture out of a single log of wood. Artists from all over the world rose to the challenge and those works of art can now be admired as you stroll along the path. From experience, I can tell you it’s a great way to get young kids to walk without complaining. When our boys were small, they loved discovering where each piece of art was “hiding”. It’s a shame they’re too old to fall for tricks like that anymore. I especially love this trail in the Winter. When I went for my hike, there was just me and my snowshoes for the whole time I was out there. Oh, and a fat red squirrel, but he doesn’t really count.
A small bit of New Zealand in Italy
The sculpture above is my favourite one on the trail. The photo you can see below is a close-up of the cat and dog sitting on the chairs. Why is this one my favourite? Well, because it’s made by an artist from New Zealand, of course! The artist’s name is Donald Buglass. He organizes a driftwood art festival on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand each year, in which he and other artists sculpt fabulous artworks out of driftwood found on the beach. I am lucky to be able to visit this piece of his called “Push Me Pull You” relatively regularly to admire it.
The best things about snow-shoeing
After an hour, the sculptures ran out and the truly untrod part of the trail began. There were prints of hares, deer and foxes crisscrossing the snow where I was trudging, which showed that no people had been there for a while. I love it when the crunch of the snow under my snowshoes and the birds singing are the only sounds I can hear around me. I also have a childish delight in making tracks in the snow where there are none, and then admiring them. I did some walking sideways, and some backwards steps, just to confuse anyone who might come along.
The feeling of going where no-one has gone before
I finally came across a semi-abandoned village called Mallefossa Bassa. Some adventurous soul had driven through the snow to get to the village. From the tyre tracks it looked as though they drove right through it and left again straight away. Maybe they were too scared to stop in case they got bogged down and had to wait until March for the snow to melt! Almost all the houses in the village are abandoned and falling apart, except for two that look recently renovated.
It must be a tranquil place to stay as there’s only one narrow dirt road snaking through the forest to get there. This place is so small (or so abandoned) that I discovered that it’s not even on Google maps! There are still some un-internetisized places in the world! I know “un-internetisized” is not actually a word, but I think it should be. Google maps suggested I should add this place to their map since it’s not there, but I like the fact that it’s not. It’s nice to have some unexplored places that you can discover for yourself.
I decided to stop my snow-shoeing here and sit in the sun with my back to the warm stone of the church below to have my lunch and contemplate the mountains across the valley in front of me. I imagine that back in the 1700’s, when this church was built, the inhabitants of this tiny village did exactly the same thing.
By Lisa Watson