Today, after 45 days walking in France, we crossed the frontier into Switzerland. Two countries done; two countries to go!

Secondly, according to our calculations, Jougne marks the half way point of our total journey from Salisbury to Rome – 1210km of our estimated 2420km total distance to walk! Wow, what a lot of effort to be just half way.

Our hotel in Jougne turned out to be a very fortunate choice. The recommended pilgrim hotel was fully booked and since it’s on the main road, with frequent heavy lorries passing in and out of Switzerland, it would have been noisy. Instead, we had a lovely view of the hills behind the village and an excellent supper of trout a meunière.

Close to the hotel is the Mairie and a memorial to those lost in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars. One family lost 11 members during 1914-18, and one member of the next generation in 1939-45. A, presumably, later addition of a schoolboy reading the list of names from the steps brings the memorial alive.

Dropping down from Jougne we soon arrived at the ancient Chapelle St Maurice: a C12th building built over a C9th crypt. Unbelievably this too was closed and locked, despite apparently huge amounts of money having been spent on its restoration.

The 12th century Chapelle St Maurice, Jougne. Bury your family in its precincts and then lock everyone else out!

Once at the valley bottom, it was a short walk via the hamlet of Les Echampes to the border. The frontier itself was a rather low-key affair with little more than a signpost and a marker stone. There were no border guards, gates or even welcome signs! Just a few stacks of firewood and a derelict looking fence.

The French-Swiss border at Les Echampes

There was no obvious change as we walked up the road into Switzerland and the first village of Ballaigues, save possibly that the condition of the road surface was a little better. Once in Ballaigues the route took us past the church, referred to here as Le Temple, but just as in France it was firmly locked against marauding pilgrims!

We learned from an information board outside the church that the Swiss churches were reformed, leaving the Catholic Church and rule of the Popes, from the 1520s onwards. It was this religious rift which had set the border where it is today because the people of Jougne opted to remain catholic.

Tom checking out the cherries – overripe tasting like jam!

A steep descent by road and then an even steeper woodland path took us down under the impressive road viaduct to the river Orbe at the very bottom of the valley. Adjacent to a fishing club hut we found a lovely picnic spot by the river, evidently well used as there was even a litter bin. This is clean and tidy Switzerland after all!

The next few kilometres of the path followed the true right bank of the river as it tumbled down through a long gorge, the path high above the river, at times supported on balconies or passing through tunnels bored into projecting spurs of rock. It was as spectacular as the Gorges de Nouialles above Mouthier we saw a couple of days ago, but much easier walking on a well defined path through drier mixed deciduous woodland, as opposed to picking our way amongst tree roots and damp ferns.

At Les Clees the river is briefly in more open country, with pastures rolling away each side. It was here that we were excited to see our first chamois, which seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see it, pausing several moments to stare before bounding away.

Back into the gorge on a woodland path beside the river, we had a choice of routes, either to climb gradually up the right bank or cross and climb steeply up the left bank. We opted to cross a bridge to the left bank and then climbed steeply to the top of the gorge to walk alongside the top of the escarpment.

At the end of the gorge there is a hydroelectric power station and, rather than detour to another village – in effect walking three sides of a rectangle – we were able to take a more direct narrow path beside the enormous pipeline which serves the power station.

A little further on, through fields with cows and a couple of donkeys, we came to the edge of Orbe, passing around a sports area – complete with small groups of teenagers bonding whilst each communed with their mobile phone!

Up a final steep hill, and we were into the old town where a brocante market was in full swing. We wound our way through the stalls and people doing lots of looking but no apparent buying, to find our accommodation at the far end of the market, in a first floor apartment located in the old priory.

Highlights of the day? Crossing from our second into our third country. Completing half of the overall walk from Salisbury to Rome. Enjoying the last of the Jura, both the rolling hills and the very beautiful Gorge d’Orbe. Seeing our first chamois. All in all, it has been a significant landmark day!

Thankfully tomorrow is a much-needed rest day, as the last five days walking have been tough and we’re feeling pretty exhausted.

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