I was a bit worried about today, before we started. Depending upon the route followed by previous pilgrims, the distance between Orbe and Lausanne could be anything from 33 to 51km.
Today, Paul was in charge of navigation, being essentially Swiss, which gave him a superior ability to sniff out Lake Geneva from some distance. But it was his years in Africa which made the difference. At a crucial moment he abandoned the little farm road and set off across a recently harvested field towards railway lines. An express train sped along as we approached.
I looked at my map and was certain that there was no crossing place in either direction as far as the map could see. I gave Paul this information and slowed down expecting the humiliating retreat. Claude & Marie went on, driven by Gallic curiosity more than any expectation of progress.
I arrived just in time to see the three of them by the tracks, Paul on the far side directing operations while Claude & Marie were hopping over the rails. “All clear!” He shouted to me as I looked up and down the tracks and followed suite. The electric cables fizzed overhead as I completed the crossing.
Ahead of us lay woodlands and now Paul was in his element, hacking a path through the undergrowth towards a river which he determined was flowing towards Lake Geneva. He forged a path alongside the river and we bravely followed until daylight glinted through the canopy. A little later we met a Swiss man walking two small Ethiopian dogs unable to bark, our leader said, and then we arrived in Lausanne. Claude’s Apple Watch recorded just 32 gruelling kilometres, beating the previous record.
We start early at a cracking pace
The railway tracks were no obstacle
Into the woods
Swiss dairy milk cows
Deep in the woods
Another contender for the Cats of the Via Francigena calendar