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Chamonix and World Physiotherapy Day 8th September 2017

08 September, 2017

September 8th each year is World Physiotherapy Day, so what’s the most important piece of advice I can give you on World Physiotherapy Day?

Start moving and keep moving.

After a week in Chamonix, I have seen what it takes to improve balance as we age; how to obtain the best homuncular refreshment there possibly is and how to stave off the effects of arthritis and obesity. And it all revolves around getting out in the fresh air and hiking.

  

This area is so beautiful and supercharged with visual splendour. It is so easy to want to start moving and keep moving. It is also so easy to use public transport to get around. The car certainly has a lot to answer for with turning us lazy. After scrambling over rocky paths, my ankle proprioceptors have been turned inside out and are buzzing with their new-found energy. Whilst Meg Lowry’s App ClockIt to help with balance and coordination is fabulous, I do think it could become redundant, if we went made a point of going for regular bush walks on very uneven surfaces every weekend.

We have many bushy areas in our local suburbs – even just going to Mt Cootha and clambering over some rocks, up an incline will refresh your balance every week. Taking the kids to the bush is a great way to introduce them to hiking early. Over here in Chamonix, there were many families with young kids in tow with their hiking boots on enjoying the fresh air and the mountain scenery. Of course it was pleasantly cool, and that is one thing that really makes hiking in Australia – well in Brisbane at least much harder. When it can reach 30C in winter in Brisbane, it is hard to hike in the summer months.

But enough of this World Physio Day message- back to my travel memories – because if I don’t write it down, in just a flash I may forget it.

After having spent a frenetic weekend getting the most out of our time with Jimmy and Sophie and our mountain passes, we decided to have a formal rest day on Monday, which meant a late start and a leisurely walk around town. As I said in the previous blog, the festivities of the Ultra Trail Marathon, were still apparent and the town was full of tourists (not in a Venice way) who were very happy and enjoying the fun and frivolity. One of the traditions of Chamonix must be a waiter and waitress race, where they walk briskly along a (quite a long) set course carrying a tray with 2 bottles filled with water and 2 drinks. The winner is not just the first person across the line, but the one with the least spillage. Careful measuring of the fluids left in the bottles and glasses were recorded and then the winner was decided. The crowd cheered and the music gave the town a wonderful buzz.

     

The famous waiter race of Chamonix The official starting car 

    

The houses, restaurants and streets were adorned with flowers

On Tuesday, with brilliant sunshine, we headed off with our mountain pass to the Plan Praz and the Telepherique du Brevent (2523 metres) and sat for a hot chocolate at surely one of the most scenic cafe decks ever. There was extensive glacier education there on the extent of change of the glaciers over time.

Hot chocolate at surely one of the most spectacular cafes ever

We then caught the bus to Argentiere (No2) to the peak Aguile de Grande Montets. We headed to the Telepherique to Les Grandes Montets at 3295 mtrs. The air was thinner there ,just like at Du Midi, but I took it slower and it didn’t seem to bother me as much. I thoroughly recommend this lookout as it is much less busy than Du Midi and again in the extreme category for spectacular beauty. We had a picnic lunch and watched some mountaineering training on the mountain slopes.

The training school for mountaineering

We then caught the bus back to town to a station called Le Praz and caught the Telepherique De La Flegere to Stage one and then further to the top in an open chair lift <insert horror emoji here> to Col L’Index (abbreviated to Index). I sat frozen (with fear not the cold) as we travelled up an enormous distance over a very rocky mountain and I did not move a muscle which made it difficult to get off the moving chairlift. All my family will tell you I am not great with heights and to have achieved this was a milestone. Unfortunately, we were too late this day to finish the walk to the intended destination (Lac Blanc) but instead just walked down from the top back to the Telepherique. We then caught the Number 1 bus (or 2 as well will take you to Chamonix) back to town.

The walk down from the top to the Telepherique

Wednesday was a late start as I was feeling stiff from all the downhill walking from the day before. We bought another 2 day pass and caught the  Telepherique at Du Midi to the mid-station called Plan de L’Aiguille and with the intention of walking to Montenvers and seeing the Ice Cave which was shrouded in cloud on our first day. The cloud cover when we set off was very thick and unfortunately we headed up, instead of down and spent an hour walking and arrived back at the beginning again. But in the process we saw this very pretty small lake.

Detour to Lac Bleu actually went up instead of down as there was a really heavy fog.

This was quite a difficult walk, with narrow paths and lots of rocky ridges. I did manage to put one of my hiking sticks on the edge of a path and into thin air and toppled over the edge, ageing Bob by a decade at the same time. Fortunately there were lots of bushes to cling onto, but I did concentrate even harder after that little slip.

We saw quite a few Marmots on this trip.

    

And there were many cairns – stacked stones along all the trails

We eventually made it to Montenvers- Mer de Glace – the beautiful glacier and mountain area where the Ice Cave is located and which was in total white-out the other day. The misty cloud had cleared by the time we reached it today and it was truly spectacular. I have also made a mental note to add a stay at the Grand Hotel du Montenvers, which has just been recently renovated, to my bucket list. Yes I will be returning to Chamonix!

    

 

 The Montenvers Glacier

Today, Thursday, was the last day of hiking before we head off to Italy. Sadly the day was very, very misty with no view of anything much. We caught Telepherique De La Flegere again and for a second time got on the open ski lift L’Index. I was this time more frozen with cold than fear. We walked for 2 hours to get to Lac Blanc – what was described as a stroll in the park was quite a difficult walk, but I imagine it was truly worth it in full sunshine. We waited and waited hoping the mist would lift, in the process warming up with a delicious hot vegetable soup on a terrace watching a mist float over the lake.

  

Lac Blanc very misty sadly 

There was some wispy gaps in the cloud which allowed some special photos to remember this very beautiful lake. The walk down to the Telepherique was spectacular and interesting, until right at the end where it took a nasty uphill turn. I have worked out I am excellent on the flat and downhill but less so on the ‘ups’ but the thought of missing the last gondola down and having to walk it down got me through to the finish.

Chamonix is one of my favourite places and I am quite sure we will have another visit one year. I thoroughly recommend it to you as a place to hike in summer and I am sure if you are a skier, it would be special for winter pursuits.

To all my Physiotherapy Colleagues – Happy World Physio Day

(And to all my family, patients, staff and friends my foot has been magnificent – allowing me to hike between 15000 -20000 steps each day!)

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