The Unexpected Surprise
The last 3 weeks here in Nimes has been magical, rejuvenating and very eventful. My good friend has gone above and beyond to make sure I had a good time and have the best experience he can give me. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than what he has already shown me, he pulled something even wilder out. My plan was to head to Switzerland from Nimes and he wanted to visit his shepherd friend in the French Alps. Since it was “on the way”, he really wanted me to meet him and check out what he was doing.
Savoie, the French Alps
Early 5am in the morning, after drinking with my newly made friends to bid farewell the night before, we sulkily made our way towards the Alps. After 4 hours of gruelling twists and turns on the winding roads up the mountain ranges, we finally got to Savoie. This area is so beautiful. It reminded me so much of Norway and Scandinavia with magnificent snow-capped mountains and fantastic blue hued lakes/fjords. It’s great being back in the mountains, I love it here.
Once at the base of where we were to start, we carried our packs of at least 15kg, filled with cheese, 2kg breads, vegetables, provisions and sleeping gear, uphill for 30mins. By the time we got there, we were sweating profusely and tired from the lack of sleep and probable out-of-shape state we were in. The shepherd’s house was truly in the middle of no where. The next house was a couple of hours away and the nearest town was an hour drive.
The Simple Shepherd Life
This was as back to basic as it got. We chopped our own wood for cooking, there was no refrigeration, candles for light at night, boiled our own water for showering and dogs for security. It was great beingÂ out of cell range and away from technology for a few days, get our hands dirty and really immerse into nature.
Every morning for the next few days, we packed lunch and hiked for a couple of hours to where the sheep were grazing. We would meet up with our shepherd friend, find a nice flat spot that overlooked the mountain ranges and sheep, and have one of the most scenic picnic lunches ever. When it got dark, we would head back and start preparing dinner while the shepherd took the sheep back to huts. It was simple life. Good life.
If you have never seen shepherds doing their thing and using the sheep dogs to help them in their jobs, now is your chance. It’s really quite incredible to see them in action. Saying that the dogs are impressively smart is such a big understatement.Â
The Mountain Diet and Way of Life
Needless to say, when I was there, every night I took on the role of cooking for everyone. It was fun and challenging cooking on wood, yet making everything taste great. I had to get use to cooking at such a high altitude as water takes longer to boil and it does at a lower temperature. For example,Â cooking hard-boiled eggs usually takes 7 minutes, but took 10 minutes instead. We also tried some really delicious alpine Savoie cheese and regional liqueur. Even though it was simple, doesn’t mean we couldn’t feast well!
After dinner, we would have some musical entertainment by the shepherd. He played a range of instruments from his time spent travelling and shepherding in several places. We also drank a typical French Liqueur, Chartreuse. There is a special tradition that you have to do when you drink it and it’s called “Statue of Liberty”. Any guesses? check out the video below. Â
Coupled with much laughter and great conversations, this was yet another incredible experience, thanks to my good friend. I can’t believe 3 weeks have passed by so quickly and I’m moving on already. Till next time France! I will miss you dearly.