After the last 25 days of hiking on primarily asphalt, the first day of hiking from Thonon-les-Bains was great. With the exception of the first 45 minutes or so of heading out of town, this was true hiking, off the road. The first five hours was a steady climb but then after that was a very steep climb. Altogether it was an over 1000 m climb to my destination for the night. It was extremely hot. I had started at 6 am and realized that I needed to start even earlier because after 12 noon it was just too hot to hike. Also, a lot of bugs. Got bitten all over my arms and neck.
I had kinda expected to run into other hikers in Thonon but had seen none. I had trouble finding the Topo-Guides and some of the stores I asked seemed vaguely familiar with the GR 5. It was very odd. Also, didn’t see a single hiker on the trail.
About a couple of hours before getting to my intended destination of Bernex, I saw a gite (varies by location but can be anything between a hostel and a B&B) and decided to stop here. It was just too hot. Although there was a car parked, it looked deserted. I called out a couple of times and finally the next door neighbors came out. A retired couple. They said that it wasn’t quite the season and the gite next door, like most other sites, wouldn’t be open every day of the week until July. This one was open only during the weekends in June and was actually sold out for the next two weekends. That’s also why I hadn’t seen any hikers. They would show up in July and August.
Sure enough; when I got to Bernex, two other gites were closed. That was the last straw. Mentally, I just couldn’t do 20 more days of more strenuous hiking and then scramble at the end of the day to find a place to spend the night. I was done. It was now close to 4 pm and really hot. I was done. I stopped and stuck a thumb out. I hitched a ride to Evian-les-Bains, the closest town with a train station.
In retrospect, I should have skipped the hiking in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg and just done the 30 day hike in the French Alps from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) to Nice.