Walking to Iserables

“What’s that over there daddy?” asks John. The closest view from our window is of the golden larch forests above Iserables. Each evening we see the lights of the small town, with buildings scattered in the forest. So we decide the next day we’ll go there.

Leaving La Tzoumaz, Andrew admires the lawns of the chalets below our route, especially the best looking one which isn’t real grass. We pass the wood cutter cutting wood, and the road winds into the forest below the Vallon d’Arby. The road descends, sometimes steeply, sometimes gently, becoming more of a track than a road. Streams cross it, we hear birds in the trees. The colours of the trees are magical. As we walk round the head of the valley we feel the coolness of pockets of cold air, then warmth as we come back into the sun. To our left we see more and more spectacular views of La Tzoumaz, perched under the Savoleyers and the Pierre-Avoir. We pass trails joining from both sides and wonder where they go. Crossing another bridge we reach the Iserables side of the valley. We’re out of the forests into the open fields we’ve been looking at from our windows. We pass a sign telling us about roman artefacts found here, and see strange houses, built of wood and raised from the ground one stilts. We pass a mountain torrent bubbling under the road. John and Andrew stop to play pooh sticks, but the stream is flowing so fast the sticks vanish in an instant. We end up working as a team, with one person dropping the stick and the others trying to see it as it flashes down the mountain.

As we come into Iserables, it’s clear it is a unique town. Road access to the town was only opened in the 1960’s; before that the only route was via the cable-car (built in 1940) or on foot. Being there feels like stepping back in time, to how small mountain towns really were 70 years ago. The houses are so close to each other there’s barely space for a single car on the road. In the centre of the town, the closeness of the old buildings and the dark windows feels almost oppressive. Coming to the church we see roads angling up and roads angling down. From here we’re back in the sunlight and can see the town of Riddes and the Rhone Valley opening up below us. The boys are clearly tired after the 5km walk, Andrew is on my shoulders. We’re all happy to reach the top station of the cable car from where we’ll get the local bus back to La Tzoumaz. Back home, we watch the lights of Iserables that evening. “We were there”, says Andrew proudly.

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