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From Geneva to the End of the World.....

2020 Camino Guides

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Hi all, I hope this is the right place for this.

From April 6th to September 25th 2015 I walked from Geneva to Finisterre, but I got a little carried away. I started in Geneva, walked to Le Puy and then on to St. Jean Pied de Port. From there I walked down the Camino Frances as far as Leon where I turned off up the Camino San Salvador, then the Primitivo to Santiago arriving on July 27th. I didn't stay in Santiago however, I carried on that day towards Finisterre.

However, I got as far as Negreira and stopped. I got depressed that my Camino was coming to an end. I didn't want to finish. I knew when I got to Finisterre it was over for me. A passing pilgrim who I knew said "If you don't want to finish, then don't finish". So I caught the bus back to Santiago and an overnight bus back to St. Jean Pied de Port, turned around and carried on walking (straight down the Frances this time). I finally arrived in Finisterra on September 7th.

Then I turned around and walked back to Leon, where I caught a coach back to the UK.

I have been writing about my experiences, and I took over 4000 photographs.

I thought I would share the first part of my journey here with you, the 350km of the Via Gebenessis, Geneva to Le Puy. If you are interested I could add further sections too later.

But first here is a few notes of the whole journey, the introduction to the whole story.

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
An overview of the whole journey....


‘Can someone tell me again why we are doing this?’


Walking through the Spanish city of Burgos a priest walked up and stopped me. “Son,” he said, “why do you walk?” Without even thinking I replied “I have no idea anymore”. He laughed and said “yes, you are truly on The Way”. I had given the correct answer.


I set off from Geneva, Switzerland on April 6th 2015. I was walking the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, known in Spain as the Camino de Santiago. I was a pilgrim. I walked 3,153 kilometres or 1,959 miles to Santiago de Compostela and then on to the pagan ‘End of the World’ at Finisterre on the west coast of Spain. I walked for 173 days, or five and a half months. I carried 16 kilos (equal to 16 litres of water) in my rucksack the whole way. I walked every step and a lot of it more than once. I walked across the whole of France once and across Spain over two times. I walked to Santiago twice but somehow managed to walk into León three times. I even managed to walk into the Spanish town of Melide three times from three different directions. And I didn’t speak any French or Spanish at all.


In total I was attacked by seven dogs, nearly bitten by a horse, was bitten by a parrot, nearly run over by a pack of wild boar, and was run over by a cow. I was bitten by many horseflies and by countless mosquitoes. I swallowed three flies and accidently killed a baby bird (sorry). I had five live snake encounters, one bear encounter (it was dead though) and was stung by a wasp. I got lost many times, including once up a mountain. I got food or water poisoning three times and soiled myself twice. I got kidnapped by locals three times and they proceeded to get me drunk. I DJ’d in a bar once and fell asleep while walking three times. I lost over ten kilo’s in weight and one of my teeth fell out. I found an angel on a mountain, got drunk with gypsies and I popped many a strangers blisters. I got electrocuted by a vending machine and I got scrutinised by a shrink (but the verdict on that is still out).


We walked in temperatures of 40 degrees with no shade, and for days on end in storms, rain, mist and mud. We walked before dawn in the dark and freezing cold without having had breakfast or even a coffee. We walked when tired, hungry, hungover, ill, injured and in pain. We walked across mountains, valleys, moors and high sierras. We walked along tracks that stretched to infinity into the distance. Most days we did not know where we were going to sleep that night. Sometimes we got to a village worn out and starving to be told there were no beds available and so we had to just keep walking or sleep outside. We laughed and we cried. And most of us didn’t even know why we were doing this anymore. Oh, and we had a great time!


Feel free to ask questions about any of the strange incidents above for more clarification! What follows is Geneva to Le Puy, 350km on the Via Gebenesis, with a few pics.

Buen Camino

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 0 – Easter Sunday – April 5th 2015
To Geneva, Switzerland

‘An unfortunate death and lots of brandy’

A good thing about starting my Camino from Geneva is that it is easy and cheap to get to from where I was living in Brighton, England. I caught the train from Brighton at 1pm and it was due to arrive in Geneva at 8.16pm, with changes only in London and Lille. Quick and painless for only £80! That was the theory anyway. As my friends can vouch, I’m pretty unlucky with trains. First of all I missed the very first train from Brighton! However I did manage to get to London in time for the train to Lille. And I got through customs without being arrested (that’s for another book maybe). There were no problems at Lille, I got on the right train ok, but I did manage to soak half a dozen of my fellow passengers in water. While stuffing my huge rucksack into the overhead luggage rack one of my water bottles split. Then the water ran all the way down the rack, dripping on everyone as it went. Oh hum.

Then the train stopped. For two hours it just sat there in the middle of nowhere. Somebody had died on the line. Under our train. I felt sickened, and so sad.

I was sat next to a young French girl who lives and works in Geneva. She was very friendly and she shared her food with me. She even gave me a packet of cigarettes for some reason. She also gave me the low-down on Geneva – beautiful but boring she said. And very, very expensive.


The train finally rolled into Geneva at 10pm. I easily found the cheap hostel I had booked into (25 Euros) and dropped my bag off. I needed a pint. The guy on the counter pointed out a bar around the corner which turned out to be an Irish bar. “Ok”, I thought, how much is this going to cost? 12.50 Euros or nearly £9 a pint! “No way!” says I to myself and left. Ok; ‘when in Rome’ as they say, so off I plod to find where the locals drink.

It was nearly midnight when I found a strange little bar down a dark alley. It was a rough looking bar full of drunks, “this will do nicely” thought me. Why was it strange? Well, something was odd, something just wasn’t right. After a few beers (only 3 Euros a bottle) I noticed the locals were drinking beer and a glass of something looking suspiciously like brandy. I had been totally ignored up to now, even though I sat right at the bar squidged in amongst the locals. I asked one guy in English what it was they were drinking, and he said it was brandy. Portuguese brandy. That’s it! That was what was weird! They were all talking in Portuguese! I was in a Portuguese bar in Switzerland. Yum yum I told the guy and ordered a large one. Well that broke the ice and they became really chatty. They asked if I was on business or a tourist. “Neither”, I replied, “tomorrow morning I set off walking to Santiago, I’m a pilgrim”. Well, being Portuguese they all knew about the Camino de Santiago, and they were impressed indeed that I was starting out from Geneva. So much so they decided to get me very very drunk.



Day 1 – April 6th
Geneva, Switzerland to Neydens, France
11.5 Km

‘Here begins the Journey
Now begins the Day
With one step upon the Road
My soul is on The Way’


I started my pilgrimage still drunk. I don’t remember what time I got back from the bar, and I don’t remember going to bed, and I’m not sure what time I woke up but I managed to stagger down to breakfast at 8am. All I could manage was the coffee.

I met two pilgrims at breakfast; they saw the scallop shell on my pack and came over to chat. They were both elderly ladies from Austria and both were called Brigitte. They are walking the Camino in what is called etapes; that is in stages. They only have two weeks holiday a year so every year they walk as far as they can in those two weeks and then pick it up from where they left off next year. It is a quite common way to walk for those with time constraints. They had even started from their home in Austria, though this year’s stage is from Geneva. It’s going to take them years to get to Santiago. Funny enough though, I never saw them again, they were probably faster than me.

On my Way

After breakfast I set off. It was a very weird feeling, very surreal. Taking those first few steps from the hostel, knowing I’ve got over 1,800 km to go. I’m walking to Spain. I’m walking across the whole of France and Spain. “Surely that’s impossible” the cop in my head said. The weather was warm and sunny as I strolled towards my official start point – the Cathedral Notre Dame. I had to get my first tampon in my credencial.

The pilgrim’s passport or credencial

For the pilgrim a credencial is essential; it is basically a pilgrim’s passport. The idea is you get a dated stamp (called a tampon in French, or a sello in Spanish) in your credencial at least once a day. It has two uses, first, when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, you take your credencial to the pilgrim’s office and if it is in order (stamped every day) you receive the coveted certificate of completion, in Latin, certifying that you have completed your pilgrimage. The certificate is called the Compostela. Even if you are not really bothered about receiving the Compostela the credencial is still essential, as it allows you access to cheap pilgrim hostels in gîtes (in France) and albergues (in Spain). Stamps are available in accommodation where you stay, churches, tourist information offices and even many bars and restaurants along The Way. A credencial can easily be ordered by post before you set off, but also many of the hostels and churches in the major starting points have them. They only cost a few Euros’. Some people collect many stamps per day. All are unique, and some are very beautiful. I was going to need a lot of credentials! (I filled eight credencials on my journey).

I had only walked a few metres from the hostel on my way to the cathedral when a guy on a bicycle saw me and shouted “Bon Chemin! Bon Courage!” He must have seen the shell on my rucksack. It cheered me up enormously.

I arrived at the Cathedral around 9am to find it was still closed, but mooching about I managed to find a staff member letting himself in. I showed him my credencial and asked “Tampon?” “Non problem” he replied. Within a few minutes he had let me into the cathedral and stamped my credencial for me. I was now officially a pilgrim! Whilst there I lit a candle for the unfortunate person that died yesterday under the train. Before heading out of the city, I got a second stamp at the other cathedral in Geneva, that of St. Pierre. The guy in there that stamped my credencial seemed a bit miffed that I had obtained a stamp previously!

Walking out of Geneva was beautiful, it was a warm sunny morning and the city is a delight, ringed by the snow capped mountains of the Alps. (I just hoped that I did not have to go over them)! I had a city map, but the Chemin is well marked through the city. On my way I stopped off at a café to stock up on water and grab a sandwich and a bottle of beer to take with me for lunch, (I planned having a lunch break after crossing the Swiss/French border). I ordered a cheap sandwich and the cheapest bottle of beer they had, and the young lady serving said to wait outside and she would bring them to me when the sandwich was ready. I sat having a coffee and within a few minutes she delivered a very large and expensive sandwich and a bottle of Leffe beer, not what I ordered. She saw my confusion and smiled, she said they were on the house, and she wished me a Bon Chemin! I had met my first ‘Camino Angel’.

Into France

The Way to the French border is a short flat 8 km walk through the outskirts of Geneva and the surrounding countryside. At the village of Bardonnex just before you reach the border, there is a box on a pole containing a signing in book and a stamp for your credencial; the last stamp in Switzerland. I signed the book with ‘Love to all, David from England’; this was to become sort of a trademark, but more on that later. The border itself is just a red barrier on a dusty track that goes over a small stream. You just walk right on through. I love the new Europe!

Just after the border I sat down to celebrate with my free beer and lunch on a grassy bank. I was now in France, and I was planning to walk across the entire country. My mind was boggling at the thought of it. Whilst there two pilgrims passed by, a father and daughter, but they didn’t stop to chat. However, a little later a German pilgrim came past and she did stop for a chat. Her name was Rosa who was in her sixties and she is also walking all the way to Santiago having started that morning in Geneva. Strangely, I never saw any of them again, such is The Way.

To Neydens

After an hour’s break I set off again. I had no idea how far I was going today, I’d just thought I would walk and see. Two things though, one is the weather was by now very hot, and the other was I was starting to feel the effect of last nights drinking. I was starting to feel a bit rough!

In under an hour I was passing through the small French town of Neydens, which has a campsite and gîte (hostel). I admired a very strange sculpture of a pilgrim that was at the entrance to the campsite before moving on. However, from Neydens the Way starts to get very steep and after a few kilometres more I decided to have a break on a country lane. I was shattered and I think I had a hangover coming on! After I had sat admiring the beautiful view of the snow capped mountains and watching an eagle hunting overhead for a while I decided I had had enough for today. I walked the 3 km back to Neydens and booked into the campsite (11 Euro’s plus 5 Euro’s for breakfast). By 3.30pm I had my tent up, and by 4pm I was fast asleep. It had been a rather short day!

Walking out of Geneva
001-02 Walking out of Geneva.JPG

The French/Swiss Border - Just a barrier on a track over a stream
001-12 The French-Swiss border.JPG

Looking back into Switzerland
001-23 Looking back into Switzerland.JPG

001-18 Rest stop after the French border.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Hi Davey, when the Kindle version of your book is released I will be the first to buy it! Jill
Hi Jill, If I ever finish the book I am thinking of giving it away for free. Money is not my thing really. But if I could get the message across that 'anything is possible' and help people change their lives for the better, then writing would of been worth it for me.

Buen Camino
Davey
 

Lance Chambers

Lance Chambers
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria (2015), SJPdP (2016), Burgos (2017), SJPdP (2018), Burgo (2019), SJPdP (2023?).
I love what I have just read and ask you to please keep it going if you can.

Many thanks.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 2 – April 7th
Neydens to near Chaumont
25.5 km

‘Always look on the bright side of life’

I woke up at 5am after a thirteen hour sleep to find my tent covered in ice. Even though the weather is warm and sunny I am at an altitude of 600 metres on alpine pastures surrounded by snow covered mountains. I hadn’t been too cold in my tent though thanks to my RAB sleeping bag which has a comfort rating of zero degrees. I was very glad I had brought it along. A French guy came past that was staying there in a camper van and said he could not believe I was actually staying in a tent!

Breakfast with Katerine

It seems I have been lucky with the weather. I went to breakfast at 8am where I shared a table with a young Austrian pilgrim called Katerine in her early 20’s who was walking all the way to Santiago. She had already been walking for six weeks. When she had set off from her home in Austria it was through deep snow through which she walked for the first two weeks, then she had two weeks of non-stop rain until the weather finally cleared up. She looked a bit haggard (a look I was soon to recognise on those that had been walking for a long time) but she was smiley and happy. When pilgrims meet the conversation usually begins with your name, where you are from, where you started from, how far you are going and how are your feet, and usually followed by how much does your rucksack weigh. Katerine had no blisters or injuries, which gave me hope! (Her pack weighed in at 8 kilo’s compared to my 16).

Breakfast in France usually consists of bread, jam, yoghurt and croissants with large bowls of strong coffee, good for getting you awake but not so good for long distance walking. Consisting of mostly sugar it wears off quickly and you are starving within an hour.

On my Way

Just before 9am I set off. Katerine had set off before me and I never saw her again, she being a lot younger, fitter and faster than I was. Leaving Neydens I crossed a road out of town that had a building being renovated on the corner. The builders had a radio on full blast which was playing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ by Monty Python. I had this ‘Ear Worm’ in my head for the rest of the day. Not good!

The Way from here was beautiful but steep. The scenery was very ‘the sound of music’ of alpine pastures and forests, with cow bells tinkling and birds of prey hunting overhead.

Attacked by a dog

Sometime after passing through Beaumont I was attacked by a large Alsatian dog that ran out of a farm drive. It really went for me, but I scared it off by screaming at it and raising my walking staff. As soon as it saw my large stick it became wary and I backed off, walking backwards, never turning my back on it until I was out of its territory and it slunk off home. Usually on the Chemin dogs are not a problem as they are used to seeing passing pilgrims, but not here on the quieter Geneva route.

I stopped for lunch in a field just past the village of Charly with magnificent views of the mountains. I was getting tired now and my right knee was very painful. I had an old injury to my right knee. In fact a few months before I set of I had been helping out a friend renovating a house when my knee had collapsed. It turned out to be only bad sprain, but I was house-bound for three weeks. It just needed rest and time to fix, but I knew if it went again on my Camino then I was screwed. It could mean the end of my pilgrimage. I was a bit worried about it to say the least!

I decided to head to Minzier where there was a gîte only 500 metres off route, but when I got there it was closed as it was still too early in the season yet. In Minzier I thought a jumbo jet had crashed onto a house, but it turned out to be a very strange house that resembled a jumbo jet. This turned out to be Maison Bulle, built in 1968 and now housing a local potter. I had no other choice but to carry on. I decided I would free camp in my tent at the first suitable spot I found.

Freecamp above Chaumont

By now my knee was really bad and I was exhausted. The weather had turned very hot again and I was running out of water. Where in my guide it said there was water there was not, as most of the village fountains were not working. (I hadn’t yet learnt that in France you only need to head to the nearest cemetery as all French cemeteries have a fresh water tap). I carried on and on but could not find anywhere to put up my tent. To top it all, near the village of Contamine Sarzin I came across a marker stone telling me it was 1,826 km to Santiago. That blew my mind. This was harder than I thought it would be. With the song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ in my head I decided to get to Chaumont a few kilometres away and find a gîte or even a hotel. I was past caring now.

About 1km above Chaumont the way descended steeply down a mountain track that for some reason considering the hot weather was more a swampy river than a track. It looked bad for my knee, which I knew needed rest. So sod it, I just set my tent up in a field next to the track, got in and fell asleep even before it got dark. I would attempt the muddy descent tomorrow after resting. (It is always good to freecamp before a town rather than after it, as you can walk in for a welcome coffee or breakfast and use a real toilet in the morning).

As I slept I dreamt that the soles had fallen off my boots.
002-09 The Way to Chaumont.JPG
The Way towards Chaumont is beautiful

View of the Alps on the way to Chaumont
002-10 View of the Alps on the way to Chaumont.JPG

Maison Bulle in Minzier 002-14 Maison Bulle in Minzier.JPG

002-16 Where I freecamped in my tent that night above Chaumont.JPG
Where I freecamped just before Chaumont
 

Fatma

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CP
Hi all, I hope this is the right place for this.

From April 6th to September 25th 2015 I walked from Geneva to Finisterre, but I got a little carried away. I started in Geneva, walked to Le Puy and then on to St. Jean Pied de Port. From there I walked down the Camino Frances as far as Leon where I turned off up the Camino San Salvador, then the Primitivo to Santiago arriving on July 27th. I didn't stay in Santiago however, I carried on that day towards Finisterre.

However, I got as far as Negreira and stopped. I got depressed that my Camino was coming to an end. I didn't want to finish. I knew when I got to Finisterre it was over for me. A passing pilgrim who I knew said "If you don't want to finish, then don't finish". So I caught the bus back to Santiago and an overnight bus back to St. Jean Pied de Port, turned around and carried on walking (straight down the Frances this time). I finally arrived in Finisterra on September 7th.

Then I turned around and walked back to Leon, where I caught a coach back to the UK.

I have been writing about my experiences, and I took over 4000 photographs.

I thought I would share the first part of my journey here with you, the 350km of the Via Gebenessis, Geneva to Le Puy. If you are interested I could add further sections too later.

But first here is a few notes of the whole journey, the introduction to the whole story.

Davey
Love this post. Tks for sharing!

It is the first time I'm walking and just the CP but I'm scared when thinking abt the end. It feels like walking is the only thing I did my whole life and will do for the rest of it. What an odd feeling this is!
I do not look around a lot I enjoy industrial areas same as the forest or the mud paths- do not care abt weather conditions- like torrential rain- but I love to watch my feet taking one step after another.
In my mind I have forgotten how to stop and to be honest I'm scared to hell to go back home.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Love this post. Tks for sharing!

It is the first time I'm walking and just the CP but I'm scared when thinking abt the end. It feels like walking is the only thing I did my whole life and will do for the rest of it. What an odd feeling this is!
I do not look around a lot I enjoy industrial areas same as the forest or the mud paths- do not care abt weather conditions- like torrential rain- but I love to watch my feet taking one step after another.
In my mind I have forgotten how to stop and to be honest I'm scared to hell to go back home.
You have got the bug too Fatma! I was in tears when I got near Finisterre the first time, I just had to go back to France and keep walking until I felt better. And I'm going again this year too! Next year I hope that I can walk for twelve months (a winters walking sounds great to me). I am lucky though that I have all the time I want, its just cash I'm short of, but I don't mind sleeping outside.

Can you carry on walking? I wasn't the only one like me, when I was on the Frances the second time I met a pilgrim who I had met some weeks before on the Primitivo, he went back and walked again too. Another friend finished at Finisterre then decided she did not want to stop, so she went of to walk the Portuguese. Then there was the 76 year old lady from Belgium called Anita we had met, she set off 8 years ago and is still going!

I hope all turns out well for you in the end, remember, the Camino won't go away, you can always come back!

Buen Camino
Davey
 
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gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
Day 2 – April 7th
Neydens to near Chaumont
25.5 km

‘Always look on the bright side of life’

I woke up at 5am after a thirteen hour sleep to find my tent covered in ice. Even though the weather is warm and sunny I am at an altitude of 600 metres on alpine pastures surrounded by snow covered mountains. I hadn’t been too cold in my tent though thanks to my RAB sleeping bag which has a comfort rating of zero degrees. I was very glad I had brought it along. A French guy came past that was staying there in a camper van and said he could not believe I was actually staying in a tent!

Breakfast with Katerine

It seems I have been lucky with the weather. I went to breakfast at 8am where I shared a table with a young Austrian pilgrim called Katerine in her early 20’s who was walking all the way to Santiago. She had already been walking for six weeks. When she had set off from her home in Austria it was through deep snow through which she walked for the first two weeks, then she had two weeks of non-stop rain until the weather finally cleared up. She looked a bit haggard (a look I was soon to recognise on those that had been walking for a long time) but she was smiley and happy. When pilgrims meet the conversation usually begins with your name, where you are from, where you started from, how far you are going and how are your feet, and usually followed by how much does your rucksack weigh. Katerine had no blisters or injuries, which gave me hope! (Her pack weighed in at 8 kilo’s compared to my 16).

Breakfast in France usually consists of bread, jam, yoghurt and croissants with large bowls of strong coffee, good for getting you awake but not so good for long distance walking. Consisting of mostly sugar it wears off quickly and you are starving within an hour.

On my Way

Just before 9am I set off. Katerine had set off before me and I never saw her again, she being a lot younger, fitter and faster than I was. Leaving Neydens I crossed a road out of town that had a building being renovated on the corner. The builders had a radio on full blast which was playing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ by Monty Python. I had this ‘Ear Worm’ in my head for the rest of the day. Not good!

The Way from here was beautiful but steep. The scenery was very ‘the sound of music’ of alpine pastures and forests, with cow bells tinkling and birds of prey hunting overhead.

Attacked by a dog

Sometime after passing through Beaumont I was attacked by a large Alsatian dog that ran out of a farm drive. It really went for me, but I scared it off by screaming at it and raising my walking staff. As soon as it saw my large stick it became wary and I backed off, walking backwards, never turning my back on it until I was out of its territory and it slunk off home. Usually on the Chemin dogs are not a problem as they are used to seeing passing pilgrims, but not here on the quieter Geneva route.

I stopped for lunch in a field just past the village of Charly with magnificent views of the mountains. I was getting tired now and my right knee was very painful. I had an old injury to my right knee. In fact a few months before I set of I had been helping out a friend renovating a house when my knee had collapsed. It turned out to be only bad sprain, but I was house-bound for three weeks. It just needed rest and time to fix, but I knew if it went again on my Camino then I was screwed. It could mean the end of my pilgrimage. I was a bit worried about it to say the least!

I decided to head to Minzier where there was a gîte only 500 metres off route, but when I got there it was closed as it was still too early in the season yet. In Minzier I thought a jumbo jet had crashed onto a house, but it turned out to be a very strange house that resembled a jumbo jet. This turned out to be Maison Bulle, built in 1968 and now housing a local potter. I had no other choice but to carry on. I decided I would free camp in my tent at the first suitable spot I found.

Freecamp above Chaumont

By now my knee was really bad and I was exhausted. The weather had turned very hot again and I was running out of water. Where in my guide it said there was water there was not, as most of the village fountains were not working. (I hadn’t yet learnt that in France you only need to head to the nearest cemetery as all French cemeteries have a fresh water tap). I carried on and on but could not find anywhere to put up my tent. To top it all, near the village of Contamine Sarzin I came across a marker stone telling me it was 1,826 km to Santiago. That blew my mind. This was harder than I thought it would be. With the song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ in my head I decided to get to Chaumont a few kilometres away and find a gîte or even a hotel. I was past caring now.

About 1km above Chaumont the way descended steeply down a mountain track that for some reason considering the hot weather was more a swampy river than a track. It looked bad for my knee, which I knew needed rest. So sod it, I just set my tent up in a field next to the track, got in and fell asleep even before it got dark. I would attempt the muddy descent tomorrow after resting. (It is always good to freecamp before a town rather than after it, as you can walk in for a welcome coffee or breakfast and use a real toilet in the morning).

As I slept I dreamt that the soles had fallen off my boots.
View attachment 25889
The Way towards Chaumont is beautiful

View of the Alps on the way to Chaumont
View attachment 25890

Maison Bulle in MinzierView attachment 25891

View attachment 25892
Where I freecamped just before Chaumont
Davey, I love this blog! Do you have a blog site so I can keep on reading?
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Davey, I love this blog! Do you have a blog site so I can keep on reading?
No, I don't have a blog site, I can't afford one!

however my plan was to put at least the first 350km to Le Puy on here with some pics. I aim to add new entries every day. It is all written out so its just a question of copy and paste and add a few pictures. Glad you like it. I will add some more in a short while.

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 3 – April 8th
Chaumont to Frangy
5 km

‘A Short day with a bad knee’

I woke up in my tent above Chaumont around 7am. My knee was still hurting and I still wasn’t feeling right when I set off. When I stopped for a break near Collonges I was passed by two older female Austrian pilgrims who were also walking all the way to Santiago. That totals six pilgrims that have overtaken me since I started a few days ago; and some of them are old ladies in their sixties. I felt depressed. I was so unfit and the distance to go seemed impossible.

Frangy

I arrived in the pretty market town of Frangy around 11am and decided to have a rest day for my knee and get a cheap hotel room (35 Euro’s, not so cheap)! I booked into the Hôtel/Bar du Commerce on the main street, the rooms were a bit shabby but functional and the landlady was a sweetheart who was the spitting image of Rene’s wife in ‘Allo Allo’!

Frangy is an actual town with shops, bars and even a kebab house. After hand washing some of my socks I popped into town and found a market where I bought half a hot cooked chicken and a baguette for dinner. At about 6pm I pondered about going into town for a beer or two, but decided against it. I was in bed by 7pm.

I had another strange dream; this one was about two girls being chased, I don’t know who by, who they were, or why. Odd.

The Way in the morning is muddy. Above Chaumont where I had freecamped:

003-01 The Way in the morning is muddy. Above Chaumont.JPG

Heading into Frangy:

003-02 Heading into Frangy.JPG

Artwork in Frangy:

003-04 Artwork in Frangy.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 4 – April 9th
Frangy to Seyssel
15.5 km

‘Attacked by another dog’

I got up at 6am, washed, shaved, packed and was down in the hotel bar for coffee by 8.30am. My knee was feeling a lot better and I felt refreshed. According to the locals the weather forecast this week is still looking good. I set off at 9am. There is a lot of climbing to do today. The Way out of Frangy is really steep; a straight up climb of over 200 metres and it was boiling hot. It was a hell of a climb but both my knee and my feet felt ok and my pack felt good. It was so hot I deployed my hiking brolly for the first time to give me shade, much to the amusement of the French!

Passing through the hamlet of Champagne I thought I was lost as The Way seemed to go through somebody’s garden! Then just after Designy I got attacked by another dog. This wasn’t a mere Alsatian, it was some kind of mountain dog and it was huge! However, my shouting and waving my staff about put it off actually biting me. Once more I backed off slowly while facing it until it was no longer interested. I felt more than a little shook up after this and I was very wary of loose dogs the rest of The Way.

Around midday I stopped off in the middle of nowhere to have lunch. It was stunning, beautiful views and so silent. There was no sound – nothing. No birds, cars, or planes – all I could hear was my own breath.

Into Seyssel

Near the village of Le Côtes the view down into the Rhône Valley is spectacular, but it is a very steep 250 metre descent into Seyssel. Seyssel is two kilometres off on an alternate route to the Chemin, but I had decided to go there as it had a campsite and descent shops. I arrived around 2.30pm. The campsite was very basic indeed; it hadn’t quite fully opened for the season yet. The showers were cold, they had the old squat toilets and there was no bar or food. However, there was a large Carrefour supermarket nearby where I could stock up on a few days food (and get cheap beer). The road near the campsite was very loud, and a construction site on the opposite side of the river even worse. They didn’t stop working until 9pm.

It was a good day walking, I felt I could have gone a lot further. Today I never saw any other pilgrims; it was just me on The Way.


The view near Designy:

004-05 The view near Designy.JPG

A marker post above Seyssel. The Geneva route is very well marked:

004-11 A marker post above Seyssel.JPG

Camping in Seyssel:

004-12 Campsite in Seyssel.JPG

More soon,
Davey
 

Fatma

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CP
You have got the bug too Fatma! I was in tears when I got near Finisterre the first time, I just had to go back to France and keep walking until I felt better. And I'm going again this year too! Next year I hope that I can walk for twelve months (a winters walking sounds great to me). I am lucky though that I have all the time I want, its just cash I'm short of, but I don't mind sleeping outside.

Can you carry on walking? I wasn't the only one like me, when I was on the Frances the second time I met a pilgrim who I had met some weeks before on the Primitivo, he went back and walked again too. Another friend finished at Finisterre then decided she did not want to stop, so she went of to walk the Portuguese. Then there was the 76 year old lady from Belgium called Anita we had met, she set off 8 years ago and is still going!

I hope all turns out well for you in the end, remember, the Camino won't go away, you can always come back!

Buen Camino
Davey
Winter walks are amazing!
Wd love to walk without a deadline having said that, I unfortuntaly can not carry on.

Weeping overcomes me too out of nowhere just to turn then in to some joyous momets guess I'm going bonkers:)

I keep saying to myself that I will keep walking in my mind (or between one mtg to the other)

Wd love to walk from Sevilla to SdC- doubt that I ever walk the French Way too busy it seems to be.Which route will u take?

What about this blog nomads who earn money by blogging? Have no detail information abt it just heard it.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Winter walks are amazing!
Wd love to walk without a deadline having said that, I unfortuntaly can not carry on.

Weeping overcomes me too out of nowhere just to turn then in to some joyous momets guess I'm going bonkers:)

I keep saying to myself that I will keep walking in my mind (or between one mtg to the other)

Wd love to walk from Sevilla to SdC- doubt that I ever walk the French Way too busy it seems to be.Which route will u take?

What about this blog nomads who earn money by blogging? Have no detail information abt it just heard it.
Yes I love walking in winter!

As for my plan for this year... well, I have booked the ferry from Portsmouth in the UK to Santander on the 14th June. I hadn't really decided which Camino I was going to walk, probably the Norte from Irun though. However, plans change! I found out one of my Camino family from last year will be walking the Frances from Sahagun on July 10th Soooooo, I have decided to walk from Irun on the Camino Vasco del Interior (The Tunnel Route) to Burgos, then meet my friend in Sahagun. I heard this is a lonely route which would be nice before getting on the Frances. I would like to see him get to Santiago. If the Frances is too busy (probably ok for us as we are happy to sleep outside) we could take the Camino Invierno to Santiago from Ponferada. Then afterwards I think I will walk the Via de la Plata, it should be a bit cooler by then.

To be honest, I know nothing about blogging!

Don't think just walk!

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 5 – April 10th
Seyssel to Chanaz
24.5 km

‘My first blister and the first clouds’

Not a good start this morning. I woke up late around 9am and the tent was soaking wet with the morning dew. I had picked the only pitch that was in shade in the mornings (lesson learnt) so I had to pack away a wet tent – which added a lot of extra weight to my pack. Not only that, I had left my washing on the line overnight so now all the socks I had washed were still wet. I duly hung them off my rucksack – now I looked like a proper pilgrim!

Before I left Seyssel I popped into a café for some coffee. A bloke at the bar asks me “Compostelle?” “Qui” I reply, and he paid for my coffee. He said that he had walked from Luxembourg to Nice in Italy in the past, but I could not figure out why. It is normal now for the locals I pass to greet me with “Compostelle?” (Basically; ‘Are you walking to Santiago de Compostela?’), or shout either “Bon Route!”, “Bon Voyage!” or “Bon Courage!” (In France between pilgrims the greeting is “Bon Chemin!” which like its Spanish equivalent “Buen Camino!” means ‘Have a good Way’). I finally left the café at 10.30am and set off on The Way.

From Seyssel

The Way from Seyssel follows the bank of the River Rhône until it rejoins the Chemin/GR65 at the bridge near Châteaufort. Seyssel to Chanaz was mostly flat as The Way followed the Rhône River valley, but the few accents and descents were short but brutal, some of which would have been dangerous in wet or icy weather. The terrain today was mostly rolling farmland, with small villages surrounded by mountains. Most of the snow has gone from the mountain tops now. The day started warm and sunny but became very hot by early afternoon. Today I saw my first clouds in the sky since I had set off!

I stopped off for a long lunch by a beautiful lake near Motz where I also got my credencial stamped at a tourist information office, and after a very long, straight walk alongside a drainage channel that seemed to go on forever, I finally arrived in Chanaz around 5pm tired and hungry.

Chanaz

The campsite is the first place you come to in Chanaz, and when I arrived at reception the lady there looked up and said “Ah, hello weary pilgrim, pitch your tent, shower and rest then we will sort out the camping.” How sweet! And how did she guess I was English? Also the cost was only 6.50 Euro’s as they had a special pilgrim rate! The campsite was really beautiful too, set on the bank of the River Rhône, and the town was stunning. What a nice place.

As the camping was so cheap I decided to go to a restaurant for a proper meal – steak and chips (rare steak of course)! It was the first sit down cooked meal since I had set off. I did feel a bit weird in the restaurant as all the French in there were all dressed up for dinner and I was in my scruffy hiking gear and boots, especially as there were no other pilgrims about. It was something I was to get used to! They were friendly enough in the restaurant though.

The day wasn’t all good. I hadn’t got around to buying any sunscreen yet and my arms and hands were getting very burnt. Also, when I finally got my boots off I found I had my first blister, though it was still only a baby (for now).

Lunch stop next to a lake near Motz where I also got my Credencial stamped:
005-04 Lunch stop by a lake near Motz where I also got my credential stamped.JPG

The Way between Motz and Mathy passes through beautiful woodland: 005-05 The Way between Motz and Mathy passes through beautiful woodland.JPG

Looking back at the way I just came towards Mathy:
005-08 Looking back at the way I just came towards Mathy.JPG

The long flat walk into Chanaz:
005-10 The long flat walk into Chanaz.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 6 – April 11th
Chanaz to Yenne
16 km

‘The rules of The Way’


Once again I got up late (9am), packed up and put a compeed (second skin blister dressing) on my new pending blister. There was no food or coffee on the campsite but I found a café 100m down the road. My rucksack was heavier than usual due to the two large cans of beer I had left over from last night.

Again it was a very steep climb out of town. In fact this was to be a ‘rule’ of The Way in this part of France; a steep descent into a town and a tough steep climb out, every single time. This is because The Way crosses the grain of the land most of the time on this route; that is over a hill or mountain, down across a valley, back up the other side up a hill or a mountain to be confronted by yet another valley. All the major towns are on rivers in the region of the Rhône-Alpes so it is always a descent into town then a climb back out again. This usually means a steep climb every morning after setting off.

The views were magnificent when I got to the top though. Today The Way was following a ridge overlooking the Rhône Valley for a lot of the time. The weather today was warm but cloudy in the morning with even a few drops of rain, which made for nice cool walking for a change. But by the afternoon it reverted back to sunny and boiling hot (just when I got to the toughest part, of course. And I still didn’t have any sunscreen).

Resting in Les Puthod

Around 11am I stopped for lunch in the little village of Les Puthod, just sat on someone’s grass outside their house. I drank the beer I was carrying to lighten my load of course. My blister was complaining so I decided to replace my expensive new boot insoles with the original ones which I was carrying, and that seemed to do the trick. (I later threw the expensive new ones away).

It got so hot that a little later while passing through the village of Jongieux I saw a woman with a hose watering her garden. She didn’t speak any English but I managed to convince her to fill my hat with water, which I promptly stuffed back on my head. She could not stop laughing.

Chapelle Saint Romain

An hour later I saw a chapel high up in the sky – Chapelle Saint Romain. This being The Way, I knew for a fact that I was going to have to climb up there! (This being another ‘rule’ of The Way’ of course). I started cursing St. Jacques for putting all his ****** chapels up ****** mountains. Much later I learnt why they were always up high. In medieval times before maps and signposts marked The Way to Santiago, pilgrims would see a chapel on a hill and head for that. Usually, once up there they could see the next one and so on. (They also followed their shadow during the day which sent them westwards. During the night they followed the Milky Way – It is no coincidence that the tomb of St. James was found in Compostela – ‘the field of stars’).

It was a steep climb up to the chapel, but it was by road so it wasn’t too bad. The chapel of course was beautiful, there were even interesting sculptures of modern day pilgrims there backpacks included (though some of them looked extremely grumpy, probably because of St. Jacques putting his chapels on mountains I reckon). When I did get to the top and saw the view from the other side I was completely stunned. It was magnificent! I could see my day’s destination, Yenne, down below me, a mere 4 km away. Easy peesy. Not. It was so stunningly beautiful that I considered camping out there. I had the food and water, no problem. But I had no beer left, so on to Yenne it was then. Oh how a few hours later I wished I had stayed up there that night!

The descent back to the valley floor wasn’t by road; it was a winding track through woods. It was steep in the extreme and covered in loose stones that rolled when you stood on them. It was treacherous and took me over an hour to reach the valley floor. I would not like to descend that in wet or icy weather. I was exhausted. (A Swiss pilgrim called Charlotte I had met this morning in Chanaz fell descending this path a few hours after I had gone and fractured her wrist. She was walking alone and had to call her own ambulance. I met her again eight weeks later near Navarrenx).

Yenne

I arrived in Yenne around 6pm and booked into the local campsite which was rough and ready but quite pretty. Whilst there I met a French couple on a tandem bike (we were the only people on the campsite), they spoke excellent English and were very interesting. They lived in Antigua, an island in the West Indies, and had come over to visit their daughter who lives in Geneva. Now they were off for a cycle ride together. From Geneva they were cycling down to the South of France, then around the island of Corsica, across southern Spain before heading north to Santiago de Compostela. And they were going to get there a long time before I did! (Previously they had cycled around the coast of Britain and they fondly remembered Brighton where I live). It was the first time I had spoken to anyone properly in days.

Later, we popped into the town to find a bar and get something to eat. The guidebook said there was a restaurant which turned out to be a Turkish kebab house. I thought it was weird that the only place in town was a kebab house, what with the French being famous for good food. But I was thinking of what kebab houses are like in the UK, it turned out later that they are very different things. So while the French couple went off for their kebab I decided to stay in the bar and eat some food I had in my rucksack back at the campsite later. I later wished I had gone with them as they were good company. Weirdly, even though it was a Saturday, the whole town closed down by 9pm, the bars included! How odd are the French? I did also manage to get hold of some sunscreen at long last. It will probably rain for weeks now.

I had seen four other pilgrims on The Way today. First there was an older Swiss couple who passed me early on. The wife, Kathy, I was to get to know quite well later. Then there was Charlotte who I had met in Chanaz this morning who had the accident. The fourth was a German lady in her late sixties I shall call ‘Emma’. Me and ‘Emma’ spent the day leap-frogging each other. She was very slow and in a lot of pain as she had some serious blisters. I felt quite sorry for her and asked if I could help her in any way (I had a large first aid kit on me), she said she was ok and she bravely battled on foreword. Unfortunately I was to come across this ‘Emma’ frequently, as we shall see.

Looking down on the Rhône River and Les Mures from near Vetrier:
006-08 Looking down on the Rhone River and Les Mures from near Vetrier.JPG

Looking back the way I came towards Jongieux:
006-15 Looking back the way I came towards Jongieux.JPG

Chapelle St. Romain:
006-23 Chapelle St. Romain.JPG

Looking down on Yenne from Chapelle St. Romain:
006-28 Yenne from Chapelle St. Romain.JPG

The tough decent from Chapelle St. Romain where Charlotte fell:
006-30 Long killer decent from Chapelle St. Romain.JPG

(Note, sometimes I have changed people names to protect their privacy)
 

Fatma

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CP
Yes I love walking in winter!

As for my plan for this year... well, I have booked the ferry from Portsmouth in the UK to Santander on the 14th June. I hadn't really decided which Camino I was going to walk, probably the Norte from Irun though. However, plans change! I found out one of my Camino family from last year will be walking the Frances from Sahagun on July 10th Soooooo, I have decided to walk from Irun on the Camino Vasco del Interior (The Tunnel Route) to Burgos, then meet my friend in Sahagun. I heard this is a lonely route which would be nice before getting on the Frances. I would like to see him get to Santiago. If the Frances is too busy (probably ok for us as we are happy to sleep outside) we could take the Camino Invierno to Santiago from Ponferada. Then afterwards I think I will walk the Via de la Plata, it should be a bit cooler by then.

To be honest, I know nothing about blogging!

Don't think just walk!

Davey

Will look forward to all of your posts but specially abt VdlP.
Yeap, the 'Don't think just walk' is what I have 'learned' so far...
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Will look forward to all of your posts but specially abt VdlP.
Yeap, the 'Don't think just walk' is what I have 'learned' so far...
Yes, it was advice I got from a pilgrim who had been walking for 8 months. I always remembered it and it works!
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 7 – April 12th
Yenne
0 km

‘A rest day in Yenne, walking for one week’

I didn’t wake up until 10am as I had decided to have a rest day in Yenne. I needed to do a full clothes wash and needed the time to get them dry. There wasn’t a washing machine on site so I had to hand wash it all. It was also exactly one week I had been walking and I thought a small celebration was in order. After doing the washing I went into town for lunch and beer or two before heading back for a spot of sunbathing. I was the only person on the campsite now as the French couple had departed on their journey.

Entertainment was provided by a young couple practicing circus skills nearby next to the river. The girl, who was wearing a black leotard and red tights, was a contortionist and was vey bendy, the positions she got into were incredible.

I saw a few pilgrims passing through, and while I was in town I bumped into German ‘Emma’ again. She had stayed in a hotel in Yenne, and I saw her as she was continuing on The Way. She wasn’t looking good; she was hobbling quite bad and carrying her rucksack in her hand as her back was hurting too. It must have been bad for her on the tough descent from Chapelle St. Romain yesterday. I felt sorry for her and told her I thought she should have a day off to rest but she would have none of it.

I had an early night and was tucked up in bed by 8pm.

My home at the campsite in Yenne:
006-37 My home at the campsite in Yenne.JPG

Street scene in Yenne:
 

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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 8 – April 13th

Yenne to St. Maurice de Rotherens
16 km
‘Up and over Mont Tournier’

It was another late start today, one that I would come to regret as it was going to be a tough day. I awoke at 9am to find my tent soaking wet in the morning dew, which added at least another half a kilo to my pack weight. After coffee at a bar in town and watching an articulated truck get completely stuck in the narrow streets of Yenne I set off around 11.30am.

Mont Tournier

The Way today entailed an extremely long 14 kilometre steep climb up and over Mont Tournier which is 877 metres above sea level (Yenne is at 230 metres). The route is forest tracks following a ridge line with stunning views overlooking the Rhône Valley. And the weather was boiling hot which did not help matters, but at least the forest gave me shade from direct sunlight.

About halfway up the mountain I came across a hut in the forest with a sign proclaiming ‘Pilgrims – Drinking Water’, yes, a result! I was running short; because of the climb and the heat I had underestimated how much water I would need today. But alas, the sign lied and the water tap was dry. By now I was totally soaked with sweat and exhausted. (This would be a good place to freecamp as it had a fully covered shelter).

The climb over Mont Tournier was tough. I still wasn’t as fit as I was to become later and I hurt a lot. I was so exhausted I had to resort to ‘lets see if I can do ten more steps’, a five minute break then ‘Ok, now see if I can get to that bush’. I was in tears with agony and the heat. I really questioned whether I could make it to Le Puy, never mind Finisterra! It all seemed just so impossible.

To St. Maurice de Rotherens

Around 5pm I finally broke out of the woods onto alpine pastures and the land levelled out somewhat. I decided to stop in the village of Le Borgey where there was a gîte, but unfortunately it was closed for refurbishment. The locals were helpful but nobody knew where the next accommodation was to be found so had no choice but to carry on. At least I managed to top up with water.

Luckily, a few kilometres on I spotted a sign pointing off route to a bar, I fancied a rest (and a pint) so followed it. The bar was not only open but also had a gîte attached. And so it was that I booked into the Gîte Domain des Chamois at St. Maurice de Rotherens. It was posh but not too expensive for France (38 Euro’s for a whole flat including three course dinner with wine and breakfast included). It was a beautiful place with views to die for!

Just after I had arrived a Swiss pilgrim in his 50’s turned up, he was also walking all The Way to Santiago. His first words were “Today was a bastard”! I couldn’t agree more. We shared a lovely three course dinner and wine and chatted about The Way. He was walking over 30 km a day – so I knew it was another pilgrim I would never see again.

I got my own room in the flat and even though I had the most comfy bed in the world I had little sleep as I was aching all over.

A lovely woodland path gives much needed shade on a very hot day:
008-03 Lovely woodland path gives much needed shade on a very hot day.JPG

Looking down on the River Rhone on the way up Mont Tournier:
008-07 Looking down on the River Rhone.JPG
A view of Alpine pastures from The Gite 'Domaine des Chambois' near St. Maurice de Rotherens:
008-26 The view from the Gite The Gite 'Domaine des Chambois' near St. Maurice de Rotherens.JPG
 

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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 9 – April 14th
St. Maurice de Rotherens to Le Verou
19.5 km

‘The daily foot routine’

I woke up after very little sleep at 7.30am for breakfast. The Swiss guy had already left and I never saw him again. For days now I haven’t been sleeping well. Every day I go to bed early and exhausted but the problem is when I stop walking my legs and feet ache so much it keeps me awake. I nipped the baby blister in the bud, so no problem there, but the soles of my feet are so sore from the daily pounding. I hope my body toughens up. And soon. It seems at least the first part of what they say is true – about the Camino being in three parts; body, mind and soul. I’m definitely in the body stage!

Gresin – St. Genix sur Guiers – Romagnieu

The first part of today was downhill through Gresin to St. Genix sur Guiers where I crossed the River Guier, a tributary of the Rhône. Near Gresin I came across a barn that was set up as a pilgrim rest and shelter. It had water, a kettle, tea, coffee, fruit juice, cake and biscuits with a jar for you to put a donation in. They also had scallop shells for donation. There was nobody around and the donation jar was full of money; that wouldn’t last long in England! I chilled out there for a while and had a coffee then put a Euro in the jar. (Possible freecamping here in the barn)

After St. Genix sur Guiers the route follows the river to Romagnieu then climbs slightly through Le Bruyere to Le Verou where there is a campsite 1.5 km off route. The Way was mixture of woodland paths with some road walking thrown in. The weather was stupid hot again which is hard work and slowing me down.

Sorting my feet out

Just before Romagnieu The Way crosses a main road where there is a bus shelter that I used as a sun shelter to have lunch and sort my feet out. I have a daily routine to keep my feet happy. In the mornings I check my feet over including making sure my toe nails are short. Then I vaseline my feet all over. I wear two pairs of socks; a thin pair of liner socks and then hiking socks. The liner socks work in such a way that when your foot moves in your boot, it is the two socks that move and rub together not your foot against the boot. That is the theory anyway, but it seems to work for me. Then, when I stop for lunch, I get my boots and socks off to check my feet over again and air them dry, whilst drying my socks out. Then I vaseline my feet again and either put those socks back on or put fresh ones on, depending on how sweaty they are. The socks I take off I hang from my pack to air out more. I usually get through two sets of socks a day when the weather is hot. I am carrying four pairs of both liner and hiking socks.

To Le Verou

In the village of Le Bruyere there was another pilgrim rest stop. This one was just an ornate bench and table with a sign saying ‘Le Repos du Pèlerin’. (‘The Pilgrims Rest’). A lot of the villages on the route are quite proud of the fact they are on the Chemin St. Jacques and like to help passing pilgrims.

The campsite at Le Verou was weird. A big place full of French families on holiday in motor homes. Though there were a lot of people on-site I was told the restaurant was closed and the bar was only open for one hour! The French it seems were all eating in their motor homes. There was beautiful cooking smells wafting around site as I ate stale bread and tinned fish from my rucksack. The facilities however were very good and clean. I was tucked up in bed by 9pm, once again aching all over.

The Pilgrim rest stop in a barn near Gresin:
009-01 Pilgrim rest stop in a barn near Gresin.JPG

A beautiful sunken lane on the way to St. Genix sur Guires:
009-03 A beautiful sunken lane on the way to St. Genix sur Guires.JPG

The Way to Romagnieu alongside the River Guier:
009-06 The Way to Romagnieu.JPG

A Shady rest stop to change socks and vaseline feet in a bus shelter near Romagnieu:
009-07 A Shady rest stop to change socks and vaseline feet in a bus shelter near Romagnieu.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 10 – April 15th
Le Verou to Valencogne
10.5 km

‘No room at the inn’

It was a late start. Again. I got up around 9.30am and decided to hand wash my socks before setting off at 11am. My feet are really hurting today and I found a new blister on my left heel! It could be the steep downhill sections causing it. I also generally feel knackered; I think the sun is getting to me a lot, even though I’m using my brolly for shade.

The Way today was mostly uphill with some short but very steep sections. First it was a gentle stroll into the large town off Les Abrets where I had a beer and bought a huge ham and cheese baguette. Then uphill through Saint Ondras to Valencogne. The weather was once again hot and sunny.

Freecamp above Valencogne

I got to Valencogne around 2.30pm and decided to have a beer and book into a gîte as I’m totally exhausted now. I got the beer ok but there was no spare accommodation in the village, so after a slow lunch I had to carry on. I decided I would freecamp at the first opportunity, and I found a secluded and pretty field on a hill overlooking the village. When freecamping, unless you are in the middle of no-where, it is best to put the tent up just as it gets dark. So I sat on the hilltop, having a can of beer admiring the view and waited for the sun to go down.

I was really feeling down today, I don’t know why; I don’t feel lonely at all. I really felt sad for some reason. Though the route is tough, but no tougher than I expected, my body is taking a hammering. It crossed my mind that I may not make it.

The locals don't say much!:
010-02 The locals don't say much.JPG

St. Jacques in Valencogne:
010-03 St Jacques in Valencogne.JPG

Sunset over Valencogne. I freecamped here:
010-04 Sunset over Valencogne. I freecamped here.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 11 – April 16th
Valencogne to Le Grand Lemps
20.5 km

‘Insanity, drunkenness and a racist old lady’

At 8am as I was packing my tent away in the field I had slept in a pilgrim passed me speaking on his phone in German. I was to meet him later.

It was a cloudy and drizzly morning, and I was so glad! The heat has been relentless. The Way this morning was a bit tough. Valencogne where I started is around 580 metres above sea level, and then it is a climb to 700 metres mostly on forest trails to just after the hamlet of Lambert. The path is rocky but there are only a few real steep bits. After that it’s a very steep downhill 200 metres to Le Pin, not good for your knees.

Le Pin

I was looking foreword to getting into Le Pin as the guidebook said there was a bar there and I wanted to have a coffee and breakfast, but it was closed for refurbishment. (Bars and café’s in France are the same thing generally). The local shop was open though and there was a fountain with fresh water that also had a roof to shelter us from the drizzle. There were three other pilgrims sheltering under the fountain, the young German lad who had passed me earlier and the Swiss couple, Kathy and her husband who I had met five days ago near Chanaz. As we sat there sharing lunch yet another young German lad turned up. Both of the German lads were really nice blokes, one was walking all the way to Santiago and the other was going as far as Le Puy. As for the Swiss couple, they explained that Kathy was going on to Le Puy but it was her husbands last day walking. We sat and shared some lunch between us before heading off back into the rain.

From Le Pin it was an extremely steep climb back up to 700 metres above sea level followed by an extremely steep, rocky and dangerous descent into Le Grand Lemps to 476 metres. Le grand Lemps is a nice little town and I decided to stay there the night as I was shattered. On the descent into town the German lady ‘Emma’ passed me by.

A strange gîte in Le Grand Lemps

When I arrived in Le grand Lemps I walked into the local bar to find the two German lads, the Swiss couple and German ‘Emma’ there also. It was nice to have a beer and chill out with them for a while. The two German lads were continuing on, but the Swiss couple and ‘Emma’ were staying in town in the same place as me.

The gîte where we decided to stay was the ‘Chambres de Pèlerin’ which caters only for pilgrims. It was a very strange place; the house was basically a cross between a hippy hovel, an artist gallery, a gift shop and a museum. The owner was completely cuckoo and she was the splitting image of a friend of mine at home called Miriam – my first thought was ‘my God, there is two of them’! (Sorry Miriam).

After we checked in, had our credencials stamped (the stamp was hand drawn by the landlady) and shared a bottle of wine with the loopy owner (she was lovely as well as mad as a box of frogs), the four of us pilgrims sat and had a chat. This was when ‘Emma’ introduced herself to us properly. She told us she was from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, and when none of us had heard of it she went nuts! She shouted “But you must have done, it is where we had the 1936 winter Olympics!” Well that killed the conversation dead.

Next thing I decided was to go into town and have dinner and ‘Emma’ decided to come with me. There were two choices in this little town. The pizza place or the kebab house. “Which one shall we go to? I fancy Kebab” I said to her. Her reaction was to spit on the floor and say “But that’s Turkish, and they are scum.” Needless to say we ate separately. I feared worse was to come as we were sharing a room together.

Kebab houses in France are nothing like our English counterparts. They really are restaurants. They have plates and everything. The food was lush, and so began a long acquaintance with French kebabs. I now wish I had gone with the French couple to the kebab house in Yenne last week.

Getting drunk with the locals

After a wonderful Turkish kebab I couldn’t face going back to the gîte to spend time with racist ‘Emma’, so I buggered off to a bar. In the bar I met a huge dog. This thing was some sort of mountain breed, it was as nearly as tall as a Great Dane but built like a Pit Bull. Its owner could not speak a word of English so he telephoned his girlfriend to come to the bar who happened to be Welsh. Well, the proceedings got rather messy and I can’t remember their names due to them buying me lots of local rum and liqueurs, but I do remember the name of the dog. He was called First. And that is because he was the first born out of his litter of sixteen. I only wish I had taken my camera to the bar.

The bar closed at 9.30pm (crazy French, what is up with them)? so I staggered back to the gîte and the room I was sharing with ‘Emma’ the old racist German lady. I was so drunk I could not find my way into my bed, so I slept on top in my underpants.

The view from The Way near Le Pin:
011-01 The view from The Way near Le Pin.JPG

The strange things you find in French forests Part I. On the way to Le Grand Lemps:
011-02 The strange things you find in French forests Part I. On the way to Le Grand Lemps.JPG

Yet another valley to cross. On the way to Le Grand Lemps:
011-05 Yet another valley to cross. On the way to Le Grand Lemps.JPG

The crazy Gite where I stayed in Le Grand Lemps:
011-07 The Gite owner was a splitting double of Miriam!.JPG

An incredibly lifelike mural on side of house in Le Grand Lemps:
011-14 Mural on side of house in Le Grand Lemps.JPG

011-15 Murial on side of house in Le Grand Lemps.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 12 – April 17th
Le Grand Lemps to La Côte Saint André
14 km

‘Insanity, drunkenness and a racist old lady part II’

I woke up at 7.45am in time for 8am breakfast. There were four of us at breakfast, the Swiss couple who are staying here for another night as Kathy’s husband is catching the train home tomorrow, and ‘Emma’ the racist German who soon pushed on. I left later at 9.30am.

Singing on a hot flat plain

The Way was easy going through Bevenais to La Frette where I bought lunch and bumped into ‘Emma’ again. For some reason I took a wrong turn after La Frette and ended up walking to the south but parallel to the Chemin St. Jacques on an endless straight flat plain (which I enjoyed very much). The weather was quite lovely, overcast and warm, though it got hot later in the day. As I strolled across this plain I was singing my head off, and it was here that ‘my song’ developed. This song stuck with me for the whole journey, (much to the annoyance of my fellow pilgrims and a certain Spanish parrot called Coco – but more on that later)! The song started out as ‘In the Crowd’ by The Jam, but slowly morphed into something of my minds own creation.

La Côte Saint André

I arrived in La Côte Saint André, a big town, probably the biggest so far, by mid afternoon. I stopped of for a pint or two here as I was going to carry on at least to Faramans where there was a campsite, but my feet out voted me; they said a definite No! So I booked into the Hôtel d’Europe on the main street. The hotel was rather shabby and overpriced, but I actually liked it a lot, it had a bit of a crazy atmosphere to it. Possibly because it was full of drunks.

After I had checked in I headed straight to the bar where a few French men were drinking. One of these was Michelle, a local farmer who was completely filthy and absolutely drunk as a skunk. He kept trying to talk to me as I was holding up the bar next to him, but as I don’t speak French I didn’t understand a word he said. He resorted to completely taking the p*** out of me, getting completely in my face and threatening violence. So I bought him a drink. He carried on taking the piss out of me, but he enjoyed it when I took the p*** back. We got on like a house on fire. Luckily the other French guys in the bar were on my side (and some could speak a little English), and so was the barmaid who was called Laurence (this was confusing to an Englishman, a man called Michelle and a woman called Laurence). During the proceedings more people came in and we all started getting plastered, in fact it got quite confusing as to who was buying the drinks for whom, as everyone was buying for everyone else at the same time! We were all drinking beer with liqueur chasers.

Dinner with racist ‘Emma’

Luckily I was called into the dining room for dinner before I got too wasted, only to find I was sharing a table with racist ‘Emma’ who was also staying at the hotel. If you are reading this and had any doubts as to ‘Emma’ being racist or not, then the following conversation should convince you. Me and ‘Emma’ proceeded to chat over dinner and I found out more about her. She was walking the Chemin in etapes (stages) and had started out from home in Bavaria in 2006, walking either a week or two weeks per year. She told me this was her last day, as she was giving up walking The Way for good. I asked her why and she replied “It’s the French, I can’t stand them, they are just awful.” Words like “ignorant” and “peasants” followed.Bemused, I asked her that if she does not get on with the French why doesn’t she just walk the Camino in Spain? She replied “The Spanish are even worse!” So there she was, walking The Way across the whole of France and Spain and she hated the people! What a freak. I decided to just shut up and eat. Incidentally, dinner was great; a lovely lentil soup followed by fish and rice and then cake for desert. Oh, and a whole bottle of wine each.

After I finished eating I enjoyed telling ‘Emma’ I was going back to the bar to drink with my new French friends, who we could plainly hear from the dining room having a wild party.

Getting drunk with the locals. Again.

I still had half a bottle of wine left so I decided to take it with me to the bar and share it with my new mates. But as I passed Laurence the barmaid she asked me with concern what I was doing with the wine. When I explained that I was going to share it she snatched it off me and poured it down the sink exclaiming “Oh no! They won’t drink that shit”. It did cross my mind it was ok for us foreign guests though!

And so I rejoined the party in the bar where we all got completely smashed. When I first went back Michelle was wearing a blue wig and a bra, and he freaked out a bit when I gave him a kiss. Also this is when I had my proudest moment in France; I managed to say (much to the amusement of all present) “Oooh la la” in a conversation in France for the first time! Soon, I was contemplating getting myself out of there and going to bed when in walks a big beautiful French girl in a little dress. She only drank champagne and kept buying me a large glass, which wasn’t mixing too well with the beers, wine and local liqueurs. Every time I tried to leave I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to stay, and someone bought me another drink. In the end I just snuck out on pretence of going to the toilet and went to bed. It was 3.30am. Bad Pilgrim.

Months later I was walking in Spain with Agnès from France who observed “People like to get you drunk, don’t they Dave?”

The Way towards Bevenais:
012-01 The Way towards Bevenais.JPG

The long straight road to La Cote St. Andre on a hot overcast day. This was south of the actual Chemin St. Jacques:
012-03 The long straight road to La Cote St. Andre on a hot overcast day..JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 13 – April 18th
La Côte Saint André to Revel Tourdan
22 km

‘An easy day in the rain’

After lots of coffee I left the hotel at about 10am, surprisingly I was feeling good. It was an easy walking day today and I was taking it slow whilst singing my head off. It drizzled most of the day until late in the afternoon but it was still warm; it was good walking weather.

Onacieux – Faramans – Pommier de Beaurepaire

I walked through beautiful woodland to Onacieux and past a beautiful lake to Faramans where I bought a hot pizza slice for lunch which I ate in a bus shelter. While I was there German ‘Emma’ walked past, and she was still limping badly. I never saw her again, and I heard she had indeed abandoned The Way soon after. Just as well in my opinion, she never smiled and she did not like anybody. And she really pissed me off with her racist claptrap.

After Faramans I was onto another long flat endless plain. Trudging along with my brolly up in the rain I saw another pilgrim about two kilometres behind me. I stopped outside a farm for a pee and a cigarette and the pilgrim soon caught up with me. She turned out to be a young punky French girl from Lyon who was walking from Geneva to Le Puy. The year before she had walked from Le Puy to Roncesvalles, the first town in Spain over the Pyrenees. Later I stopped off in Pommier de Beaurepaire for a rest and she was also there so we had another chat before she set off again on her own.

Freecamp at Revel Tourdan

The last push was an easy stroll into Revel Tourdan which is a stunning village; in fact to me it looks very Spanish. Whilst there I got a stamp for my credencial in the local church (because I was going to freecamp I needed a stamp for today), and then popped into the local gîte for a beer. The gîte, which had a bar and restaurant, was an interesting place. There was a photograph on the wall of a horse drinking beer at the bar! There were also nice murals on the wall depicting the pilgrimage to Santiago. I also noticed they had horse steak on the menu (hopefully not the horse that was drinking at the bar)! But one thing you could not miss was that the owner kept his Ducati motorcycle in the restaurant! While there a local man bought me a beer and the owner let me try some locally produced cheese and meats for free. It seemed like it would have been a nice place to have stayed. Unfortunately I spent quite a bit of cash yesterday so tonight I was to be freecamping outside to save some money.

I left Revel Tourdan around 7pm and soon found a nice place to freecamp in a lovely meadow just past the village.

013-05 A shell points out The Way through the woods to Faramans.JPG
A scallop shell sign points out The Way through the woods towards Faramans. Note that the shell is directional, in this case pointing straight ahead.

013-09 The endless flat plain towards Pommier de Beaurepaire.JPG
The endless flat plain towards Pommier de Beaurepaire

013-11 Rest stop in the rain heading to Pommier de Beaurepaire.JPG
Rest stop in the rain heading to Pommier de Beaurepaire. Carrying my trusty Euroschirm hands free hiking brolly meant I always carried my own shelter from the sun and the rain. I carried a small sheet of bubble wrap as a seat. With these I could rest anywhere in any weather.

013-16 The strange things you find in French forests Part II.JPG
The strange things you find in French forests Part II

013-20 Entering Revel Tourdan.JPG
Entering Revel Tourdan
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
No, I don't have a blog site, I can't afford one!

however my plan was to put at least the first 350km to Le Puy on here with some pics. I aim to add new entries every day. It is all written out so its just a question of copy and paste and add a few pictures. Glad you like it. I will add some more in a short while.

Davey
I use blogspot.com. It is free...
www.gittiharre.blogspot.com
 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
You're a little champion @Davey Boyd
Great posts.
I checked out all the pics first, lol. I am still getting through the information but wanted to say thanks, and let you know the effort is appreciated.
It looks like a beautiful way .
Annie
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
You're a little champion @Davey Boyd
Great posts.
I checked out all the pics first, lol. I am still getting through the information but wanted to say thanks, and let you know the effort is appreciated.
It looks like a beautiful way .
Annie
Thank you Annie, The Geneva route is very beautiful, though it is much harder than say The Camino Frances. One pilgrim (on this forum I think) described it like "climbing up and down O' Cebreiro two or three times a day"! But it is doable and I fully recommend it!

Davey
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 14 – April 19th
Revel Tourdan to Assieu
21.5 km

‘Two weeks walking, Chemin Angels and a returnee’

Guess what? I woke up late as usual! As I was packing up my tent in the meadow near Revel Tourdan a pilgrim passed by, but I never got to speak to him.

Today was good walking through lots of woods and along quiet country lanes, the weather started off cool and cloudy but it warmed up later in the day. I had been walking now for exactly two weeks.

Gabrielle

I walked for a few kilometres before stopping for breakfast (cold pizza slices, cheese and bread) at the side of a country lane. After a few minutes a walker came from the opposite direction. I knew this was no French hiker; he had ‘that’ look about him. He turned out to be Gabrielle from Germany, a pilgrim in his mid 50’s who had an amazing story. He had been walking for over eight and half months already! (Today I had been walking for exactly two weeks). He had walked from his home near Munich in Germany to Rome, then from there to Santiago de Compostela. He was now walking back home to Munich. He still had over a month to go! It was interesting to chat to him as we shared lunch. I asked him what it was like walking in Italy and he replied “slow”, when I looked puzzled he explained “the weed was very strong!” He was the first of many ‘returnees’ (those walking back from Santiago) that I was to meet. They all looked either crazy or in perfect peace (or perfectly crazy). After half an hour he was on his way again, looking very fit and going very fast. Hopefully I would be like that one day!

Angels of the Chemin

After crossing the main rail line near Le Pinet I had sat down on a country lane having a fag and writing in my journal when two hikers came past going in the opposite direction. They stopped for a quick chat, the usual “Compostelle?” (Basically ‘are you going to Santiago de Compostela?’) and as they spoke English we had a few words about the weather and The Way. I was to meet them both later.

A few hours later I was once again sat on a country lane when the two hikers I had met earlier came past in a car and stopped next to me. They explained that they had a camper van parked up in the woods just a kilometre away up the road and would I like to join them for coffee? “Yes please!” I eagerly replied as so far all of the shops and café’s had been shut as it was Sunday and it would be my first coffee of the day. (Interestingly, they never offered me a lift, as they knew I was ‘on The Way’ and therefore would not accept a lift in a vehicle – walking all The Way was important to me).

Patricia was a teacher from Lyon in France and her friend (I have forgotten his name), was from Bonneville near Geneva in Switzerland. I spent a good two and a half hours chilling out with them drinking coffee and eating chocolates and biscuits. They were really interested in chatting about the Camino as Patricia’s friend was going to cycle the Camino next year. I gave him a lot of advice on guidebooks and so on. They also offered to give me a load of food for The Way, but I only took some light things including some packet soups that I could cook up in gîtes. I promised to give St. Jacques a hug for them and send them a postcard when I reach Santiago. They were lovely and true Camino Angels.

Assieu

In the early evening I arrived in Assieu where I found a great gîte on a farm for only 20 Euro’s including breakfast. The punky French girl from Lyon who I met yesterday was staying there also. I cooked my own dinner; a curry I had carried with me from home and I was showered and in bed by 10pm.

014-02 Gabrielle from Germany walking home to Munich.JPG
Gabrielle from Germany walking home to Munich

014-04 The Way towards Bellegarde-Poussieu.JPG
A beautiful sunken lane on the way towards Bellegarde-Poussieu

014-08 The strange things you find in French forests Part III. A babies see-saw.JPG
The strange things you find in French forests Part III. A childs see-saw

014-12 The church at Saint Romain de Surieu. French churches are always good for water.JPG
The church at Saint Romain de Surieu. French churches are always good for water (and mostly open too)

014-13 The Way towards Assieu is beautiful.JPG
The Way towards Assieu is beautiful

014-15 St. Jaques in a box near Assieu.JPG
St. Jacques in a box near Assieu
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 15 – April 20th
Assieu to Chavanay
21.5 km

‘Getting lost and meeting Elias’

I woke up just before 8.30am for breakfast at the farm-gîte in Assieu. I shared breakfast with the French girl from Lyon (we never did ask each other our names). The breakfast was huge; we could not eat it all. Most of the food was from the farm itself and the yoghurt, bread and ham was really beautiful. Not your average sugar loaded French breakfast here! There was so much food we stocked up for lunch, including some exquisite apple pastries.

A choice of routes

There was a choice of routes today; the GR65 route or the ‘new’ shorter St. Jacques route. The ‘new’ route goes directly to Chavanay across the River Rhône via Clonas sur Varèze. The GR65 route heads North-West to St. Prim then on to Les Roches de Condrieu where it crosses the Rhône then heads down the far bank into Chavanay. The French pilgrim had heard that the ‘new’ route was dangerous and when we asked the landlady she agreed, so we both elected to walk the GR65 route. We made the wrong decision! (I later heard from other pilgrims that the St. Jacques route was not dangerous at all. Sometimes towns and villages that are slightly ‘off route’ get jealous of the trade brought in by passing pilgrims so direct them into their towns through various means, fair or fowl. I was to come across this in more than a few places in both France and in Spain).

GR65 to St. Prim – Les Roches de Condrieu – Condrieu

The GR65 route was a lovely mostly flat route until St. Prim where I stopped for lunch. There was nothing open at all it being a Monday, but luckily there was a van selling foodstuffs (expensively) in the square, where I bought a packet of local pork pie things (beautiful), and six bottles of beer (well, they were only selling in packs of six so what can a man do)?

From St. Prim it was up an extremely steep hill with a steep descent into Les Roches de Condrieu on the bank of the River Rhône. This part of the GR65 was not very well marked at all (proving most people go the other way), and I got hopelessly lost. Luckily, as I was wandering around looking for The Way an old French lady who spoke no English rescued me. She was another Angel of the Chemin; even though she was going the opposite way she just took hold of my hand and led me off into what looked like a load of bushes that was actually The Way. I was worried for a moment!

I thought Les Roches de Condrieu would be a nice place, being on the banks of the river but it turned out to be a bit of a dump and not very friendly, at least until I crossed the huge bridge to the other side of the Rhône into Condrieu. Once across the river however, it was really picturesque. I sat there on a bench for a while drinking my beer (to make my pack lighter of course) and watched the world go by. Lots of the locals were out on this hot and sunny day for a stroll along the river, and I got many “Bon Chemins” as I was recognised as a passing pilgrim. After an hour or two chilling out it was a lovely flat walk beside the river for 5-6 km to Chavanay.

Chavanay and Elias

I arrived in Chavanay around 6pm and immediately headed for a bar as I was intending to stay here tonight anyway. In the bar I met another pilgrim, Elias, who turned out to be an extraordinary guy. Elias was a Swiss guy in his late 20’s or early 30’s who was walking Geneva – Santiago – Finisterre as I was, though for him it was the third time he had walked it. When I asked him why walk the same route three times he just said “Oh, I’m just off to Finisterre for a pint.” It turns out that on his first Camino a few years ago he had met and walked much of The Way with a Scottish guy and they had become good friends. Apparently, a few weeks ago this guy had rang up Elias and said “Fancy a pint?” Elias asked him if he was coming over to Geneva, but his mate had said “no, I’ll meet you in Finisterre.” So Elias just packed his rucksack and set off. Again. As he had walked the route twice before and walking in the same style as me (freecamping a lot), he was a goldmine of information, and I enjoyed a few beers with him picking his brains.

A further thing about Elias, he did graffiti everywhere. For months in France and Spain I would see his tag and ‘Elias – Geneva – Santiago – Finisterre’ and the date on road signs all the way. I thought he was a bit of an idiot doing graffiti everywhere, though I did chuckle when I saw his tag on a jukebox in the infamous Bar Elvis in Religios on the Meseta in Spain!

Freecamping at the Chapelle du Calvaire

After Elias left the bar I wandered off to find the local gîte only to find it was ‘complete’ (full), so I decided to walk on and freecamp. And I’m glad I did. After a short but murderous climb out of Chavanay I came across the Chapelle du Calvaire. It was a stunning Chapel on a hill overlooking the town, all lit up. Elias was there as he was freecamping there too; he even showed me that many of these chapels have an outside plug socket used for cutting the grass, so he was playing some cool music. We shared a few beers overlooking the valley as the sun went down with amazing views over the Rhône. Elias was in a tent but it was so warm I slept on the porch in just my sleeping bag. (The chapel was open and pilgrim friendly but I slept outside, I thought it was more respectful). What a great place, a good night indeed!

015-18 Roadside cross with GR marking the Way towards St. Prim.JPG
A roadside cross with GR marker pointing the Way towards St. Prim

015-21 My lunch in St. Prim.JPG
Lunch in St. Prim

015-26 Bridge over the Rhone at Les Roches de Condrieu.JPG
Looking back: The bridge over the Rhône at Les Roches de Condrieu. I had come over the hill in the background

015-30 On the bank of the Rhone. The Way to Chavanay is the path on the right.JPG
On the bank of the Rhône. The Way to Chavanay is the path on the right

015-33 Long hot path to Chavanay.JPG
The Way into Chavanay

015-41 Where I slept outside the Chapelle above Chavanay with Elias.JPG
Freecamping above Chavanay at the Chapelle du Calvaire
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 16 – April 21st
Chavanay to Saint Appolinard
8.7 km

‘Faffing about in Maclas’

I got woken up outside the chapel above Chavanay by a young French pilgrim trying to get in at about 7am, and as I was packing up two more pilgrims turned up. They must have stayed in Chavanay last night. I hung around the chapel exploring and chatting until I set off around 10am.

A short while later near La Ribaudy, I met another young French girl from Lyon who was walking the Camino in etapes (stages) of six days at a time; it would be many years before she got to Santiago at that rate! We sat and had lunch while we chatted; once again we never exchanged names. Sometimes, it seems that we are ‘only’ pilgrims.

Maclas


Walking today seemed very hard, it was very hot again and there wasn’t much shade on The Way, so after a beer in Bessey I decided to descend south off the Chemin after Le Buisson 1.5 km into the town of Maclas to have a short day, find accommodation and hopefully wash most of my clothes.

But I was to be disappointed. It was a steep road descent into Maclas, and after a beer in the local bar I found out that the local gîte was closed and the hotel wasn’t a hotel anymore. The landlady of the bar kindly started ringing around for me to all sorts of places far and wide, but there was a definite language barrier between us. It turned out she managed to find an Accueil Jacquaire (a local who takes in pilgrims) a few villages away. There was a problem with this; one was I was to ring the Accueil Jacquaire up and she will pick me up in a car, something I didn’t want to do. The other was she wanted 50 Euro’s! (Accueil Jacquaires are usually for donation or at least not that expensive). I decided not to take it.

By now I was feeling really frustrated, so much for a short day and getting my clothes washed. It was now around 3pm and there was nothing else to do but leave Maclas, climb back up the steep hill to the Chemin and carry on.

To Saint Appolinard

I got as far as Pourzin a few kilometres further on when I spotted a turn off to Saint Appolinard where my guide book assured me there was a campsite, so back off the Chemin I went. When I finally got into Saint Appolinard around 4pm I found out that the campsite was two kilometres back towards Maclas!

When I finally managed to find the Camping le Cottot campsite I was shattered. The campsite was on a farm and was really basic, but it was pretty and clean and tidy. The landlady there was a real sweetie too. When I asked about buying food she told me the shop back in Saint Appolinard closes in five minutes! Luckily she took pity on me and drove me there and back! When we got back I saw they had donkeys. I joked to her that I might steal one to carry my bag to Santiago, she didn’t seem amused. In fact she quickly took the donkeys away and hid them!

After chilling out with a beer or two and some more pork pie type thingies that seem to be a local specialty, I crashed out at last light around 9pm.

016-05 A beautiful leafy lane heads towards Bessey.JPG
A beautiful leafy lane heads towards Bessey

016-07 Long road to Bessey.JPG
Towards Bessey

016-10 A scallop shell marks the right way in Bessey.JPG
A scallop shell marks the right way through Bessey

016-14 Bridge over a river near Bazin.JPG
Bridge over a river near Bazin

016-18 Village of Saint Appolinard where I found a nice campsite.JPG
Saint Appolinard where I found a nice campsite
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 17 – April 22nd
Rest day in Saint Appolinard
0 km (and 6 km to Maclas and back)

‘An evening out in Maclas’

I woke up at the campsite around 9am happy that I didn’t have to pack up this morning. I lazed about in the sun for an hour or two before starting my chores; which entailed washing most of my clothes by hand, and the kind landlady even lent me a bucket to help me out. After a shave and a bit more lazing about I decided to walk into the village, maybe hit the bar and get something descent to eat. Not a chance, everything was closed!

Back to Maclas

Around 4pm I was really bored so walked the 3 km back into Maclas which was a larger town. Everything was shut there too, except for the bar I was in yesterday (and I didn’t want to go back there), and a bar in a hotel that wasn’t a hotel. After a few beers I managed to find a pizza place open.

Wow! What a nice place! It was more of a classy restaurant than an average pizza place, playing lovely mellow Indian music, serving excellent food and the girls that worked there were very friendly. I had a bolognaise pizza and some beers followed by some local shots, one of which was paid for by the beautiful landlady when she found out I was a Pèlerin (pilgrim).

Later, after a good evening I walked the 3 km back to the campsite, drank my last beer and crashed out.

017-01 Day off at Camping le Cottot in Saint Appolinard.JPG
Day off at Camping le Cottot in Saint Appolinard
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 18 – April 23rd
Saint Appolinard to Saint Sauveur en Rue
24.5 km

‘Pompoms, an injured dog and sleeping in a shed’

Today was a long hard day, the weather started off warm but by 2pm it was boiling hot and humid. From Saint Appolinard I decided to walk the 9.5 km to the next town St. Julien Molin Molette by the direct road route rather than climb back up onto the Chemin to the north.

Pompoms in St. Julien Molin Molette

St. Julien Molin Molette was a small beautiful town where I stocked up on a few days food and had a coffee. The locals were very friendly; as I was passing through town an ancient old couple were sat on a bench. The old man, who was covered in pompoms, called me over and chatted in French to me even though I explained I don’t speak French! He took one of his pompoms off and tied it to my walking staff. Later, in a shop all the locals were smiling and laughing at the pompom, they knew where it had come from! Whilst walking out of town I found another pompom by the track (possibly given to another pilgrim?) and I tied that on to my staff too. I carried these pompoms on my staff for the rest of my journey; they became my trademark (I was often referred to as the ‘Englishman with the pompoms’)!

The dog incident in Bourg-Argental

Leaving St. Julien Molin Molette I rejoined the Chemin for the 5.5 km walk to the large town of Bourg-Argental. Little did I know that my Camino was to very nearly end there.

One of the things I wanted to do in Bourg-Argental was get a tampon (stamp) for my credencial as there was a possibility I would be freecamping tonight and there would be no other opportunity to get one today. So when I arrived I headed to the church, but as this was closed I went to the tourist information office across the street. This was closed for lunch and I had an hour to kill so a beer was in order.

I found a street with a row of cafes at which many French were sat outside enjoying the weather and having lunch; perfect. After a while I noticed this dog, a really beautiful white Labrador that had a smashed leg that was bent and twisted at an appalling angle. The dog was very friendly, going from table to table, café to café. It looked really hungry and in distress. While everybody was concerned about the dog it became quite apparent that nobody was going to do anything about it, so I thought I would have to. It was a big decision. If I got the dog to a vet I would have to pay, and hang about town possibly for days until it got fixed. Then there was the small matter of finding him a home. I knew if I took this responsibility on then that was the end of my Camino; it would use up all of my money. The only other option was to walk away and I could not do that.

I found a number for a vet on an information board nearby and went to get the dog. The dog was at a table of French tourists who were visiting town. We took the collar off the dog looking for some ID or a telephone number, but what we found was horrific. The collar had a metal box attached; we did not know what this was for until we saw two metal prongs sticking into the poor animal’s neck. It was an electro-shock collar; the owner can ‘shock’ the dog using a remote control. F****** disgusting. When I explained to the French what I was going to do, (luckily they spoke English), they said that they had a car and would take the dog to the vet. They also said they would keep the dog as the owner didn’t deserve to own an animal. I was thankful to them for this, and while they drove off with the dog I finished my beer, relieved that the dog would be ok and my Camino could continue.

To St. Sauveur en Rue

The remaining 8 km to St. Sauveur en Rue was a tough, slow uphill climb of over 200 metres with the first few kilometres extremely steep. It was very hot and humid and by now I was very tired. In my guide I saw that there was a campsite at St. Sauveur en Rue so I walked into town down an extremely steep road to find it. When I got into town I was starving (and French campsites don’t always sell food) so I found a local café to rest and eat a proper meal. It was lucky I did.

The bar was great, with many locals outside chilling out and a beautiful and friendly young girl working there who made me a lovely pizza. I got the impression that they don’t get pilgrims here very often which puzzled me. After eating I enquired about where the campsite was, to be told that the campsite (and the local gîte) was back out of town the way I had come! Apparently the town was ‘off route’ (hence they don’t get pilgrims here), and to cap it all both the campsite and gîte were closed; there was no accommodation here at all. Also, by now the weather was turning, there was the loud and constant rumble of thunder coming from across the valley; there was going to be a storm. And I had nowhere to sleep!

Sleeping in a shed in a storm

The girl from the café, her mum and various locals all got on their phones and rang around trying to find this poor pilgrim somewhere to stay. They were completely amazing! After a while they found a woman who would take me in, back up the steep hill out of town ‘somewhere’ (the language barrier did not enable me to follow instructions), and I was told that I had only ten minutes to get there! The café owner gave me her young son on his bicycle to show me the way. The poor lad had to cycle up the killer hill, but he was damn faster than me! By now the storm was getting louder and there were flashes of lightning, very soon it was going to poor down with rain.

We eventually climbed the hill and found the lady who had offered to take me in. It turned out she was the gîte owner, though the gîte was not open for the season yet. She offered me her garden shed to sleep in which was a ruin with no doors or windows and was strewn with rubbish, but to me it was perfect! She did say that in the morning I could come round her house for breakfast too. After thanking the young boy and moving into my shed the storm broke, but luckily it passed this hill by and it hit the next valley on. However, even though there was no rain the thunder and lightning continued for most of the night, and I sat outside the shed for a while in the storm watching the lightning light up the valley below, it was absolutely stunning. I reflected on what a crazy day this had been and what a journey this is. It already feels like I have been walking forever, and the ‘end’ is too far away even to contemplate. I slept like a baby.

I never saw one other pilgrim today.

018-02 The Way towards St. Julien Molin Molette .JPG
The Way towards St. Julien Molin Molette

018-03 Leaving St. Julien Molin Molette where I got my pompoms.JPG
Looking back on St. Julien Molin Molette where I got my pompoms

018-05 Heading into Bourg-Argental.JPG
Heading into Bourg-Argental. My Camino nearly ended there

018-12 Heart in the woods.JPG
Someone left their heart in the woods

018-16 Overlooking the Vallee de la Deome on the way to St. Sauveur en Rue.JPG
Overlooking the Vallee de la Deome on the way to St. Sauveur en Rue

018-20 The garden shed where I slept above St. Sauveur en Rue.JPG
The garden shed where I slept in a storm above St. Sauveur en Rue
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Santiago(2007-2012), Via Gebennensis (2013)
Geneve - Le Puy - Santiago (2017)
I just love your tale. It makes it so real and sends me right back 2 years to when we walked from Geneve to Le Puy. Keep it coming, please:)
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 19 – April 24th
Saint Sauveur en Rue to Montfaucon en Velay
25 km

‘A hard day climbing the Forêt de Tallard and a posh hotel’

Today was to be a hard. I woke up in the shed after a very good nights sleep above Saint Sauveur en Rue to find the storm had cleared the humidity, and although it was already warm and going to be another very hot day, that there was a cool breeze blowing. I went and knocked on the door of the landlady for breakfast as instructed, which I ate in her kitchen. The breakfast was lovely with plenty of hot strong coffee, she charged me 3 Euro’s for the breakfast but the shed was free.

To Les Setoux

The Way today passed through the Forêt (forest) du Tallard as far as Les Setoux then a mixture of roads and tracks through woods and farmland to Montfaucon en Velay. The first 10 km was an uphill climb of 400m elevation then a steep descent to 300m, up another 100m and back down another 100m into town. A real killer day, but at least there was the breeze and the forest offered shade from the sun.

In the middle of the Forêt du Tallard I came across a picnic area that included a large covered shelter. It was a splendid place with beautiful views and would make a great freecamping place, there was even a proper fire-pit set up with wood ready to burn. I considered stopping but it was too early in the day so I carried on.

I was impressed with the little village of Les Setoux. It seemed very pilgrim friendly. The church had an amazing pilgrim fountain, and there was a gîte and a shop. There is also a memorial to a shot down WWII US bomber and its crew. I would have liked to linger there longer than I did but the shop was closed so I pressed on.

Just after Les Setoux near the village of Coirolles I caught my first sight of the famous volcanic conical hills of the Le Puy region. It suddenly dawned on me that I am nearing the end of the first stage of my journey, the Via Gebennensis, and that I might actually make it to Le Puy en Velay which is only about three days away now. It might have been a hard day today, but the sight of those volcanic hills spurred me on!

Montfaucon en Velay

When I arrived at Montfaucon en Velay I was totally shattered so decided to stay here the night. Feeling that I had slept in a shed in a storm last night (and therefore had saved some money) and fancied a bit of luxury I booked into the Hôtel Les Platanes. The hotel seemed a bit posh, but it did have a scallop shell on its sign and they gave this scruffy pilgrim a lovely welcome! They also did pilgrim prices so decided to go for the whole hog; room, full dinner and breakfast for 58.85 Euro’s (extortionate I know but I really wanted a bed, a full meal and a shower). After a shower I went downstairs to find the place had about 8 French pilgrims staying there, mostly older ladies, but I was happy to see Swiss Kathy amongst them. The French pilgrims never even acknowledged me – they were a bit posh, but Kathy was glad to see me and came over for a chat. Most of these ladies I would cross paths with repeatedly until Le Puy, and they did warm up to me somewhat.

My room in the hotel was lovely; it even had a balcony where I could smoke. Weirdly the room had no toilet paper or rubbish bin, but there is always something missing from life isn’t there? I had a good refreshing sleep after a very hard day.

019-08 Track through the Foret de Tallard towards Les Setoux.JPG
Through the Forêt de Tallard towards Les Setoux

019-04 Deep in the forest I found this place. Perfect for freecamping, including a firepit.JPG
A good freecamping spot in the Forêt de Tallard

019-11 The pilgrim fountain in Les Setoux.JPG
The Pilgrim fountain in Les Setoux

019-20 The Way towards Montfaucon en Velay.JPG
The Way towards Montfaucon en Velay

019-28 I have to climb those hills soon.JPG
View of the volcanic hills of the Le Puy region near Montfaucon en Velay
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 20 – April 25th
Montfaucon en Velay to Araules
29.5 km

‘Accueil Jacquaire’

If yesterday was difficult then today was a complete killer and the longest distance I have walked so far. The first 14 km or so to Tence was easy enough, but then to St. Jeures was a climb from around 860 metres above sea level to about 1,015 metres followed by many steep ascents and descents to Araules at around the same height. The weather was hot all day to make things worse (though it rained after I arrived in Araules).

I hadn’t planned to walk all the way to Araules. When I got to the village of St. Jeures I went to check out the local gîte but it was ‘complete’ (full) but the landlady rang Gilbert and Marie in Araules who were Accueil Jacquaires (locals who take in passing pilgrims), and they had agreed to take me in. It was a very hard extra 4 kilometres that nearly killed me off, and I was totally exhausted when I arrived.

Gilbert and Marie in Araules

The problem was, when the lady had telephoned Gilbert he had asked if I spoke French and she had said yes I did. He didn’t speak a word of English at all and he only wanted pilgrims staying there who spoke French. It was very weird to sit in near silence with your host in their home. And they were very religious Catholics and keyholders of the local church; I don’t think they liked the look of me with my eyebrow piercing and all! They had walked the Camino from home to Santiago in 2010. It was a lovely home and they made me beautiful food but they did not like me smoking, not even outside in the rain. Also, Gilbert was a bit too strict with his dog for my liking. They tried their best with me I suppose, but I felt uneasy there the whole time.

Though the bed was very comfortable I didn’t sleep well at all, I just felt uncomfortable there.

020-01 Entering a dark forest after Montfaucon en Velay.JPG
About to enter a dark forest after Montfaucon en Velay

020-03 Down a beautiful lane towards Salettes.JPG
Crossing through fields towards Salettes

020-06 Memorial stone remembering Republicans of Spain between La Brosse and Salettes.JPG
Between La Brosse and Salettes I came across this memorial stone commemorating the sad story of Spanish Republicans that had been interned here after the Spanish Civil War. After the German invasion they were transferred to Auschwitz.

020-09 Passing through Tence.JPG
Passing through Tence

020-11 Roadside shrine to St. Jacques near Saint Jeures.JPG
A roadside shrine to St. Jacques near Saint Jeures

020-12 The Way towards Araules.JPG
The Way towards Araules. One of the ancient volcanoes of the Monts du Cantal is ahead
 
Last edited:

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
Wonderful posts - and very helpful as the Geneva route is slated for next year.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 21 – April 26th
Araules to St. Julien Chapteuil
13.5 km

‘Three weeks walking and the point culminant’

It was a good walking day today as the weather was drizzling all morning then cloudy and cool in the afternoon. Walking in the rain made a pleasant change from walking in the heat.

I was rather glad to have left Araules, I had felt very uncomfortable with my hosts Gilbert and Marie, but at least I got a good breakfast and lots of good strong coffee before I set off into the rain.

The Point culminant at Raffy

After a short descent from Araules there was a steep climb to Raffy of around 270 metres in about 6 km, followed by a steep descent of more than 450 metres for the rest of the 8 km or so to St. Julien Chapteuil.

Raffy is the point culminant (highest point) of the via Gebennensis route at 1,276 metres (4,186 feet) above sea level and the views from there were stunning. Looking across the valley you could see many of the perfectly conical hills that make up the Le Puy region. All these hills are ancient volcanoes of the Monts du Cantal, a great volcanic bulge in the crust of southern central France.

Queyrières

Just after Raffy the route passes the stunning village of Queyrières set at the base of a huge volcanic cliff. My guidebook told me there was a café/bar there so I deviated off the route by a few kilometres to grab something hot to eat and drink and as an excuse to visit this amazing village, especially as it had now stopped raining. However there was no café (the guidebook was wrong yet again), so after exploring Queyrières I had a cold lunch out of my bag at the nearby village of Le Coudert which had a picnic area. I was dying for a coffee!

Meeting Dan and Laura in St. Julien Chapteuil

I arrived at St. Julien Chapteuil mid afternoon and headed for the nearest bar to be amazed that there were so many pilgrims there; in fact there were 13 of us by the time I left. I hadn’t seen any pilgrims for days and wondered where they had come from! While most were going further today a fair few were staying here for the night, including Swiss Kathy.

I hadn’t been at the bar long when two young Swiss pilgrims turned up who I would have a lot to do with in the coming weeks. Dan and Laura had met on The Way and were travelling together. Laura was in her mid twenties and a fun loving girl who was always laughing. She had started walking from Geneva and was going all the way to Santiago. Dan was a remarkable character, in fact he became quite a legend on The Way and I was to hear about his exploits even as I crossed Spain.

Dan’s story

Dan was in his early twenties from Zurich in Switzerland and was unemployed. One day he woke up in bed bored and wondered what he was going to do for the day. In the end he just threw a load of gear into his old rucksack and decided to walk towards Santiago and Finisterre. He was the most unprepared pilgrim I was to meet. He had done no planning whatsoever, had no guidebooks, and he was really badly equipped for the journey. When he threw his gear into his rucksack it included a lot of things he would never need, like a climbing rope! But he didn’t have any walking boots (he wore trainers), wore jeans, and had no coat of any description or even a hat! When I asked him why he had brought the climbing rope he answered “It wanted to come to Santiago with me” (we had a joke about the climbing rope, that it was for escaping from the gîtes and albergues during curfew so he could go out and party. I think he thought this was a great idea)! He was though carrying a tent and full cooking kit including a gas cooker so he could freecamp out. He was a tall wiry lad but he was young and fit, just as well as he was carrying over 20 kilo’s! He was really philosophical about his pilgrimage, he didn’t know if he would make it or if he did when. He just set off in the right direction and “See what happens”. He was quite prepared to wander off the route if he fancied visiting somewhere that interested him; he even attended some free parties/raves that were nowhere near the Chemin, staying at them for days at a time. He was a truly free spirit. I wonder if he ever made it to Santiago.

The Gîte Communal in St. Julien Chapteuil

As I was sat there with my beer in the town square there was a sign pointing to the local gîte communal (a communal gîte in France is one run by the local authority or ‘commune’ as it was called) and decided to head there for the night. The gîte was locked but there was a sign on the door saying to collect the keys from the local camping ground about a kilometre away. When I got there I was told that I was the first pilgrim of the day booking in and I was to take the keys and open the gîte for any other pilgrims coming along later and to leave the keys in the kitchen when I leave tomorrow. Also, as I was the first in she said she had given me my own room instead of a bed in a dormitory! Bonus! Not bad for 12 Euro’s including breakfast.

The gîte was part of the local school; in fact it was in the same building, (my room overlooked the playground), something I was to come across often when staying in gîtes communals. Only five of us stayed there; Swiss Dan and Laura and a couple of elderly Austrian ladies and me. The gîte had a well equipped kitchen so I cooked some Chinese soup that I was carrying in my bag for dinner before having a beer or two before going to bed.

021-01 Shelter where I had breakfast in the rain at Piallevialles.JPG
Shelter where I had breakfast in the rain at Piallevialles

021-04 The view from near Raffy the point culminant of the route (1276 metres).JPG
The view from near Raffy the point culminant of the route (1276 metres)

021-05 The view from near Raffy.JPG
The view from near Raffy

021-10 The view to Queyrieres.JPG
Heading into Queyrières

021-13 The Way after Monedeyres.JPG
The Way after Monedeyres

021-16 About to enter St. Julien Chapteuil.JPG
About to enter St. Julien Chapteuil
 
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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 22 – April 27th
St. Julien Chapteuil to Le Puy en Velay
18 km

‘The Via Gebennensis completed!’

I woke up around 7am for breakfast and wish I hadn’t bothered. It was the worst breakfast I had had so far in France (it turned out it was the worst breakfast of the whole journey), the bread was stale and even the coffee was so awful it was undrinkable.

It was to be an easy walking day today, though it drizzled rain most of the time. Leaving St. Julien Chapteuil was alongside an awfully busy road for a kilometre or two, but The Way soon veered off into the countryside. There were a lot of pilgrims about, I counted fifteen today, the most I have ever seen.

With Swiss Kathy and Serge

About an hour after leaving town I bumped into Swiss Kathy and we walked all the way into Le Puy together. This was the first time I had actually walked with another pilgrim, three weeks after I had set off! In fact, just after the village of Marnhac we bumped into a Swiss guy called Serge who we saw all day and finally both me and Kathy walked into Le Puy with him too.

Serge was a nice guy, in his fifties I guess, and instead of a backpack he was pulling a trolley as he had an old back injury. Serge was walking all the way to Santiago from his home in the north of Switzerland (he was a German speaker), and he was a very interesting guy to chat to. He said I was an English gentleman and he said you can only be a gentleman if you are English! (He also said I was a ‘typical’ English gentleman as I had an umbrella)!

I was excited and a little apprehensive now I was nearing Le Puy en Velay. Excited and quite proud that I would of finished the first section of the journey and successfully completed the Geneva route; the Via Gebennensis. There had been a few times that I thought I would never make it this far. But I was also apprehensive too. The route from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port, the Via Podiensis, was another ballgame entirely. It was as tough as the Geneva route but much longer; 733 km as apposed to the 350 km. Would I make it? Would my body hold out? Also there was the fact that Le Puy was the main French route to Santiago and many modern pilgrims begin there journey there. The first half of this route is also a favourite for hikers too; many French people hike this route in their holidays and at weekends. It means that us pilgrims have to compete for bed space along this route. Would The Way be crowded? Would all the accommodation be full? What would these new pilgrims be like?

Arriving in Le Puy en Velay

As we were arriving on the outskirts of Le Puy we came across a pilgrim walking towards us going the opposite way. This turned out to be another returnee, a Czech pilgrim who had walked to Santiago from his home in Prague and was now walking home again!

Me, Kathy and Serge arrived in Le Puy early afternoon under grey skies and drizzling rain. Before heading into town we sat and rested under cover of a porch near some toilets to rest with a French couple. Soon Serge went off on his own leaving me, Kathy and the French couple (I never wrote their names down unfortunately and they didn’t speak any English at all) and we walked the last stretch into town and headed for a bar to celebrate. One of the things Le Puy is famous for is their lentils, they not only make delicious lentil soups but also brew beers from them, so the first beer was a local lentil ale, and very nice it was too!

The Relais du Pèlerin St. Jacques

A few hours later Kathy and I headed off to find our accommodation in the local pilgrim only gîte, the Relais du Pèlerin St. Jacques. This was a huge place it was quite special also. The accommodation was for donations; you pay what you can, if you can, and the sleeping arrangements were comfortable single ‘cells’. We booked in for two nights, usually this is not allowed as pilgrims are expected to stay one night and move on in the morning, but as we had been walking for weeks by now already we were allowed to stay an extra night to rest. Another great thing about this gîte was the staff, they were all volunteers, and to be one you had to have walked the Camino to Santiago; needless to say they were very helpful and lovely. In fact, when we enquired about doing our laundry the staff took it off us and did it for us for free!

There were many pilgrims in this gîte, I think about twenty or so, more than I had ever seen in one place! And this was only one of the many pilgrim accommodations in Le Puy. It was very strange, as almost all of the other pilgrims were ‘new’; just about to start their Camino and looking apprehensive. Me and Kathy got more than a few glances as we walked in wet, muddy and tired. It made me recall my first day and how I had felt apprehensive too.

In the evening I went out for a few beers and to have a look around this beautiful city, though I would explore properly tomorrow on my day off. I found a cheap kebab house for my supper before heading back for the 10pm curfew at the gîte (most pilgrim only accommodations have a curfew, usually 10pm. This is to ensure everyone gets a good rest before walking the next day, especially as many pilgrims leave before dawn).

022-03 Kathy and Serge enter Le Puy en Velay towards the Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel.JPG
Kathy and Serge enter Le Puy en Velay towards Chapel Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe

022-07 Swiss and French Pilgrims in Le Puy en Velay. Kathy is on the Right.JPG
French and Swiss pilgrims enter Le Puy. Serge is on the left and Kathy on the right

022-08 Entrance to the Relais du Pelerin St. Jacques gite in Le Puy.JPG
The entrance to The Relais du Pèlerin St. Jacques

022-09 My 'cell' at the Pilgrims gite in Le Puy. Very comfy.JPG
My 'cell' at the Pilgrims gîte in Le Puy. Very comfy
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Oh yes please, I am very interested! My favourite and rather tearful memory was of Mont Joie (French Monte de Gozo) where I say Le Puy for the first time after ~2,000km. Also stayed at the same gîte as you for two nights and loved it. Thanks for bringing my memories back! SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Santiago(2007-2012), Via Gebennensis (2013)
Geneve - Le Puy - Santiago (2017)
I am also very interested. As I wrote above, you really bring back fond memories.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 23 – April 28th
Rest day in Le Puy en Velay
0 km

‘DJ’ing in the Roc n’ Volle’

Not only do pilgrim only gîtes (or albergues in Spain) have a curfew at night they also have a rule that you must leave by a certain time in the morning so they can get the place cleaned for the next intake. Here the Relais du Pèlerin St. Jacques was no exception and we had to be out by 8.30am, even us that were staying two nights. At least I could leave my rucksack there. The gîte re-opens at 3pm, leaving me all day to mooch about town and explore. Though the weather was cool and cloudy at least it wasn’t raining.

Following my rule ‘when in Rome’ or ‘drink where the locals drink’ I found a dodgy looking bar off the tourist trail down a side street for a coffee. The bar proved to be very friendly and even though it was only 8.30am the locals were boozing already, of course I joined them for a grande blonde beer or two. Well, it was a day off!

Pilgrims Mass in the Cathedral

This morning I decided to attend the pilgrims mass at the Cathedral. There were around forty pilgrims there to receive the traditional blessing for their journey to Santiago, most of them new pilgrims about to set off for their first day on the road. They all looked shiny and new, with clean clothes and immaculate boots. Young Dan from Switzerland was there too and it was good to catch up with him, we were both leaving the next day so I would probably see much of him on The Way. During the mass all the pilgrims were asked to gather together at the front for the blessing of their journey and receive a gift of a little medallion like a St. Christopher. Though I am not religious at all (being a pagan anarchist) I found the mass very moving. However, at one point in the mass, which of course is Catholic, that the believers lined up for Holy Communion, Dan went up also. When he got to the front he was refused with no explanation, which I thought was a bit much and I got upset for him.

The Roc n’ Volle

Next stop was the tourist information office to find out where I could find a public computer that I could access the internet and they sent me to another bar! (I was surprised that there is not an internet café in a city the size of Le Puy, but hey, a man must do what a man must do). The bar was the ‘Roc n’ Volle’ on one of the main streets of Le Puy. When I got there the computer turned out to be used for playing the music in the bar (Jazz and Blues mainly), but the landlord was happy enough to let me use it for free as I bought another grand blonde. So it was that I sent my first message on facecrap since I had set off (in fact my first message home in over three weeks at all). I really liked the bar and decided to return later in the evening.

Chinese buffet

It was time for lunch by now and I found an all you can eat Chinese buffet just up the road from the Roc n’ Volle. Probably the only things I missed from home was Chinese and especially Indian food, so when ever I was in a large town I would ask at the tourist information office if there was a Chinese or Indian in town. I never found an Indian but many large towns had a Chinese of which I would always head to for something different to eat. This one was superb and I sat in there for hours eating as much as I could. In fact I was still in there when they were closing up for the afternoon, I thought the lady there was going to get a bit mad at me as she was staring at me all the time, but when she came over she just said “More! Eat more!” Which, of course I was only too happy to help her out. Not bad for only 11 Euros.

Back to the Roc n’ Volle

After checking back in at the gîte and chilling out there for a while I decided to head back to the Roc n’ Volle for the evening. It turned out to be a good night. I was on my first grand blonde when in walks one of the locals who was an Englishman from London. He lives in Le Puy and runs a van selling fruit and veg in the nearby villages. As the landlord and landlady spoke no English at all and this guy was a good friend of theirs it meant I got to chat and get to know the owners over the course of the evening. At some point in the proceedings the conversation turned to the subject of our children (the English guy had one child as I did and the owners had two sons), and for reasons I cannot remember, the conversation turned to what song our children were conceived to! Then I was asked to DJ these tunes on the computer (The Clash and Bee Gees amongst them I remember) and later I just carried on spinning tunes and even got some of the locals dancing! It was a good night!

The bar was closing at 9pm (what is it with the French closing bars early?) so I headed out to take some sunset photos of Le Puy (quite drunk) before heading back to the gite before curfew.

Tomorrow

I was hoping that I could walk with Swiss Kathy again tomorrow. I had only walked with someone else for one day in over three weeks and had enjoyed her company. When I first met Kathy weeks ago she had said she was walking as far as Le Puy but might go further. Now she had decided to extend her Camino a further 733 km to St. Jean Pied de Port near the Spanish border, but she wanted to walk alone and so it seems I will be on my own tomorrow once more after all.

023-23.JPG
Le Puy en Velay

023-03 The Cathedral in Le Puy.JPG
Heading to the Cathedral for Pilgrims mass

023-05 Looking out of the Cathedral.JPG
Looking out of the Cathedral

023-06 The bar in Le Puy where I was asked to DJ.JPG
The Roc 'n' Volle where I was asked to DJ

023-08 The Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel in Le Puy.JPG
The Chapel Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe

023-14 Sunset in Le Puy.JPG
The sun sets over Le Puy
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Chapter 2

The Via Podiensis
Le Puy en Velay to St. Jean Pied de Port
733 km

‘We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us’

The Route

The Via Podiensis, starting in Le Puy en Velay is one of the four main pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela through France (the others being the Arles, Vézelay and the Paris/Tours routes). It is used by mainly French pilgrims of course but also by others coming through Switzerland and from points further back in Southern Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics. It is also popular with Australians who due to the huge distance and cost of travel from home find it worthwhile undertaking a longer pilgrimage. It is also popular for many of the same reasons to French Canadians, and as they also have the advantage of speaking French.

733 kilometres long, it joins the routes from Paris and Vézelay on the French side of the Pyrenees just before St. Jean Pied de Port. Once a fairly quiet route this is now becoming much more popular and it is also a favourite route for French hikers, so accommodation may be problematic at busy times especially on the numerous long French holiday weekends.

The terrain is very varied but fairly strenuous and rarely flat, starting in the volcanic Velay region, crossing the French Central Massive, with constant ascents and descents. It then passes across the mountainous moorland of the Aubrac Plateau (at 1,300 metres) before descending to the abbey at Conques. It then continues through the Causse (hilly limestone scrubland) to Cahors and then through undulating farmland to Moissac and finally on to the Basque country in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Guidebooks used

The Miam Miam Dodo guide ‘GR65 St. Jacques de Compostelle’ – by far the best and up to date accommodation guide. Also shows all the variants of the route. The maps are not very good but are complementary to the Michelin guide. Written in French but very easy to understand.

The Michelin map guide ‘Chemins de Compostelle’ No. 161 – Good maps with elevations and some town plans. Some accommodation included but usually out of date. Pocket sized. In a variety of languages including English.

Both guides often disagree on distances between villages (sometimes up to 5 km difference), but then again the signposts along the route are not accurate either!
 
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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 24 – April 29th
Le Puy en Velay to St. Privat d’Allier
23.5 km

”So, you have got a new Cathy then David?”

At breakfast I was chatting to some of the other pilgrims and I was introduced by the hospitalero’s (the volunteers who work in pilgrim gîtes and albergues) to a young Irish/Australian girl called Cathy. She was born in the south of Ireland but lives most of the year in Australia and her Irish/Australian accent was truly amazing! Last year she had walked from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago on the Camino Francés, and this year decided to walk to Santiago again but starting this time from Le Puy. She asked if she could walk with me today and I agreed (we were a few of the rare English speakers). I had only ever walked with someone for one day so far (Swiss Kathy) and was looking forward to the company. As we walked out the door together to set off one of the hospitalero’s smiled and said; ”So, you have got a new Cathy then David?”

Walking with Cathy

Today was a very easy walk in excellent walking weather; warm and breezy with a bit of cloud. We had no expectations, that is we would walk as I preferred, not knowing how far we would go or where we would end up. We would just walk without pre-booking our accommodation, even though there must have been about forty other pilgrims setting off from Le Puy today who could make accommodation finding difficult. But in my mind, if you pre-book accommodation you are fixed to a plan, and that means if you are tired or get an injury you have to keep going to your booked accommodation, or if you get to where you booked too early it is not very easy to carry on further. It takes out the spontaneity that I love. In this I was glad Cathy had walked before and was not a ‘newbie’ (a term I hate), and that she had no wish or need to over-plan things.

There were two options walking today. After 5.5km at La Roche the route splits, there is the La Roche – St. Christophe sur Dolaison – Montbonnet route or the La Roche – Cordes – Montbonnet route. There isn’t much difference between the routes and we took the St. Christophe route for no reason at all. Interestingly, depending which local you talk to, you would be advised as to which is the ‘real’ route, and there are differing opinions. But as I found out later in similar route choices both in France and Spain it turns out that it is just the locals fighting over who gets the pilgrim Euro!

It was interesting walking with Cathy, as we walked she told me about her experiences walking the Camino through Spain and it sounded very different from what I was experiencing here in France. It also helps that we both have the same walking pace – slow! In choosing someone to walk with this is the primary concern, it is very hard to walk with someone with a different pace. If they are faster than you then you are inviting injury as you try to keep up with them, and if they are slower than you then it is a real pain to keep waiting for them.

St. Privat d’Allier

After Montbonnet we crossed the Monts du Devès (one of the volcanic mountains of the Velay region, 1,206 metres high) before arriving at the beautiful town of St. Privat d’Allier in the early evening and checking into the local gîte communal. Considering the amount of pilgrims we saw today we had no problem finding a bed, but I did feel Cathy was getting worried about it before we got to town. Swiss Dan and Laura were staying there also, but they had booked in including the evening meal which we hadn’t so we did not see much of them. In my experience if you don’t pay for the meal in these type of gîtes then you get a bit excluded by the owners who don’t really want to know you, and I felt this was the case here also. Still, it was good to see them again.

024-02 The view on The Way after Le Puy.JPG
The view after leaving Le Puy

024-05 Halte du Perelin (Pilgrim rest stop). Cathy is on the on left.JPG
Cathy (left) at a pilgrim rest stop/cafe
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 25 – April 30th
St. Privat d’Allier to Sauges
19 km

‘A red man day - A killer climb out of Monistrol d’ Allier’

Irish/Australian Cathy and I set off from St. Privat d’Allier early around 7am. It was to be a lovely walk today, cloudy and warm – perfect walking weather. However, the guide told us today was a ‘red man day’ (each stage in the Michelin guide had a green, orange or red man on the map in accordance of how difficult that stage was) so a tough walk was expected.

Monistrol d’Allier

After passing through the tiny hamlet of Rochegude there was a steep and winding descent into Monistrol d’Allier where we stopped for a break. While here Cathy went off to the post office to send some contents of her rucksack she felt she didn’t need on to Santiago. It was only her second day and she had found she had over-packed, and I was surprised as I thought that as she had walked before she would know by now what to bring and what not to!

Considering it was a ‘red man day’ so far The Way had not been too bad, but after dropping down from the Monts du Devès into Monistrol d’Allier we had to climb back out again (938 to 599 then to 1,022 metres). And this climb was a real killer; a 423 metre climb in under 3km. It was tough going but we took it slow. About halfway up we saw a sign telling us there was a pilgrim rest stop with a bar up ahead, I was so glad as I was gagging for a cold drink, but the sign lied and the bar never materialised. At least there was wonderful views from the top though! When we finally made it to the top I suddenly realised that I had forgot to pay for my second coffee back in Monistrol! Bugger, but there was no way I was going back down there and back again, no matter how guilty I felt. (bad pilgrim)! At least I had paid for my lunch and my first coffee though.

Le Vernet

By the time we got to the village of Le Vernet we were shattered so followed a sign to a bar. Of course the bar was closed and looked like it had been for years! There was a crazy pilgrim statue there though that looked like it was designed by a five year old.

As we neared our destination for the day, Sauges, we came across a series of crazy sculptures on the hill above town, they were wonderful and intriguing.

Sauges

By now we were both very tired and I was dying for a beer. Cathy got really grumpy and short tempered as she was really worried that all the beds in Sauges would be taken forcing us to walk further on. As we entered town Cathy wanted to head to the tourist information office to get directions to the gîte communal, but I assured her all we needed to do was head to the local primary school as I had noticed it had the same name as the gîte (gîte communals are often part of or next to the local school in France), but she got even more grumpy. When we arrived and got to the gîte there was no problem at all; there were plenty of beds and it was indeed next to the school. To be fair, it was only her second day walking and it had been a tough one, she also apologised to me for being so grumpy when we went out to find a shop later. But I got the impression that my way of playing things by ear was not her way. I think she would be happier booking her accommodation in advance.

The gîte communal itself was nice and modern if a bit institutionalised. But it was clean and tidy and best of all instead of dorms with bunk beds it had single beds in rooms of two. However it seems that here they split the sexes up which was strange and rare for non-religious pilgrim accommodation. So it was that Cathy was sent into a room with a woman and I shared with a Swiss bicegrino (a pilgrim on a bicycle; from the Spanish word for pilgrim – peregrino).

025-01 Leaving St. Privat d'Allier.JPG
Looking back at St. Privat d'Allier

025-09 Pilgrims above Monistrol d'Allier.JPG
Pilgrims above Monistrol d'Allier

025-13 Cathy and other Pilgrims finish the killer climb out of Monistrol d'Allier.JPG
Cathy and other pilgrims on the tough climb out of Monistrol d'Allier

025-15 Crazy Pilgrim statue in Le Vernet.JPG
Crazy pilgrim statue in Le Vernet

025-17 Cathy and another Pilgrim entering Sauges.JPG
Cathy and another pilgrim entering Sauges

025-19 Artwork above Sauges.JPG
Artwork above Sauges

025-23 Art above Sauges.JPG
 
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Lance Chambers

Lance Chambers
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria (2015), SJPdP (2016), Burgos (2017), SJPdP (2018), Burgo (2019), SJPdP (2023?).
Day 4 – April 9th
Frangy to Seyssel
15.5 km
Thank you for the image of the Camino icon. I wasn't aware that the Camino was signposted this far from Spain. Good to know.

Please keep posting your notes. Fascinating, inspirational, and very informative.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Thank you for the image of the Camino icon. I wasn't aware that the Camino was signposted this far from Spain. Good to know.

Please keep posting your notes. Fascinating, inspirational, and very informative.
Hi Lance, yes all the main routes through France are extremely well marked. Usually they are marked as GR (Grand Randonnee) routes with the white/red GR markings (and even marked both ways). They even put a white/red cross if you go the wrong way! but often you will also see the scallop shell too. Both the Geneva and Le Puy routes are marked as the GR65. As far as I know the pilgrimage routes all through Europe are well marked, from Prague, through Germany, Switzerland etc.

Davey

EDIT I see you are setting off this year from Bordeaux? Me too, from June 17th!
 

Lance Chambers

Lance Chambers
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria (2015), SJPdP (2016), Burgos (2017), SJPdP (2018), Burgo (2019), SJPdP (2023?).
Davey,

You HAVE TO STOP POSTING!

I am falling in love with your story and I just know that if I continue reading I will have to follow your trek and that means I'll be away from my lovely wife for at least a year or so and I can't allow that to happen.

:)

Love it. I was lying. Don't stop. PLEASE!
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 26 – May 1st
Sauges to St. Alban sur Limagnole
31.5 km

‘The longest day so far – onto the Aubrac Plateau’

In the morning as I was packing ready to leave the gîte I got chatting to my roommate the Swiss bicegrino. He had also set off from Geneva and it was good to compare notes. He said to me “you must have walked through the snow then,” “No” I answered, “The Way was snowed in a few weeks before I had set off but it had cleared by the time I walked in early April.” Of course, being on a bicycle he had set off a lot later than me; bicegrino’s typically cover three times the distance as a pilgrim on foot per day. It seems I had been lucky, I had set off just after the winter snow had cleared (as I had planned), but The Way had snowed in again just after I had walked through!

It was raining as I left the gîte, and it wasn’t to stop all day. And this was no drizzle either, it was pouring down. I was alone again as Australian/Irish Cathy had said she wanted to walk solo. I was glad really as she had got very grumpy yesterday and that had soured my mood too.

As I walked through Sauges I spotted a market setting up in the square and I soon found what I was looking for; a stall selling hot cooked chicken on a spit and I bought a whole one. It would stay warm until lunch time; just what I want on a windy rainy day and it would last me two days too. First stop though was a local café for coffee. I thought I would let Cathy get on ahead on her own, but mostly I wanted to shelter in the vain hope that the rain would ease off. Of course it didn’t and I set off around 8am; brolly up and gaiters on, but I wasn’t wearing my Gortex jacket, I had found it too hot for walking long distance in and I always got soaked with sweat – defeating the object.

The Pilgrim refuge in La Clauze

After about 7km walking mostly through forests I arrived at the village of La Clauze which had a pilgrim refuge with an invitingly open door so I went in to investigate and I’m glad I did. The refuge was an old stone cottage set up by the village to aid passing pilgrims. It was very well equipped; it had a long wooden table and numerous wooden benches that could be put together to make beds if needed. It also had a wood burning stove/heater complete with kettle and pans, it even had a dry wood pile ready to use. As I previously stated, a lot of the French are proud to be on the Chemin St. Jacques and go out of their way to help passing pilgrims. But this set up warmed more than my heart! It was full of soggy pilgrims drying out and most were having lunch. Lunch on The Way typically consists of a baguette, cheese, cooked sausage, and fruit but I got a few admiring glances when I pulled out my baguette and a still warm whole cooked chicken followed by a can of beer!

I heard later on that after I had left the refuge that Swiss Dan and Laura had turned up and outdone me. Dan had pulled two huge beef steaks out of his rucksack and promptly cooked them with mushrooms and onions on the wood burner! I would have loved to have seen the look they got from the other pilgrims!

Onto the Aubrac Plateau

After another 3.5 km of mostly road walking I reached the village of Le Villeret d’Apchier, and from there the countryside got wild. I was now entering the Aubrac Plateau, an area of outstanding natural beauty that I had long heard about and was looking forward to. The Aubrac Plateau is a high volcanic plateau that looks something like Dartmoor crossed with the Brecon Beacons, and is considered not only one of the most beautiful stretches of any of the Caminos including those in Spain, but even one of the most stunning areas of France. The climate is harsh on the Aubrac Plateau; it can be hot, then rain and snow in an afternoon, and it is famous for its sudden descending mists that can easily get a pilgrim lost. I was to be lucky with the weather when I crossed as there can be deep snow up here well into June! (There are even ski resorts on the Aubrac Plateau). Its beauty was not to disappoint me. It would take me five days to cross.

Le Domaine Le Sauvage

It was a further 9 km climbing steadily onto the Montagne de la Margeride across open moorland and through forests on muddy tracks to Le Domaine Le Sauvage. It was very windy and the rain was constant, but it wasn’t normal rain; we were walking through the rainclouds. By now I was tired and needed a rest. I passed Le Domaine Le Sauvage which was an interesting place. Looking like an ancient monastery in the middle of nowhere next to a lake, it was in fact a hotel/pilgrim gîte/restaurant and bar (I learnt something here, I didn’t know you could use the bar facilities in the gîtes I passed along The Way. I thought you had to be a resident. I thought of all the times I had trudged past gîtes in the countryside when I was tired, hungry and fancied a beer)! I didn’t know it had a bar until I had passed by, and looking back I saw the familiar figure of Cathy. She was walking with a group of French pilgrims and I waited for her to catch up. She told me they had sheltered for a while there in the bar, and also said they had one place left in the gîte. I was sorely tempted to book in for the night, and later I kicked myself for not doing so!

Instead I carried on walking with Cathy and her French friends. They all seemed really nice, especially one guy who was really chatty. I was to find out tomorrow that he was in fact a total b******. Cathy told me that she and her friends had rang ahead and booked into a gîte in the village of La Roche so I decided to walk with them as far as there before going on to find somewhere to freecamp. So onwards we trudged.

Chapelle Saint Roch

After a few kilometres walking on forest trails The Way turned left onto a minor road; the D587. While not happy trudging along a road, The Way passed the Chapelle Saint Roch. The church was quite big and remote; it also had an inviting deep porch that would have been good for freecamping. I was again tempted to stay, but by now I was wet through and even my feet were getting wet. Even though my boots were waterproof they could only take so much of this weather. (I’m now convinced my gaiters weren’t helping matters much as this seemed to happen whenever I wore them in constant rain). I didn’t fancy freecamping with wet feet so decided to carry on and find a gîte somewhere where I could get hot food and dry out, (I now wished I had stayed at Le Domaine Le Sauvage when I had the chance)! Soon we came to the turning that led to St. Roche and Cathy and her friends headed for their gîte, they looked quite sorry for me as I headed off down a muddy track on my own.

St. Alban sur Limagnole

It was a further 10 km to St. Alban sur Limagnole. When I arrived around 5pm I was soaked through and completely shattered, I just could not have gone any further. St. Alban was quite a large town so I decided to book into the hotel in the town centre that also had a gîte. The owner told me the gîte was full but gave me a hotel room but only charged me the price for the gîte which was good of him I thought. Maybe he felt sorry for this soggy tired pilgrim! I also ordered the evening meal and breakfast so even at gîte prices it was a bit extravagant of me, but considering the state I was in and that I had walked 31.5 km today – the longest I had walked so far – I thought I deserved it!

When I went down for dinner I was led to a table where they had put all the pilgrims together. There were an older French couple and also the two older Austrian ladies who I had met in the gîte communal in St. Julien Chapteuil five days ago. The meal was very good, three courses and wine, but my favourite was the Le Puy lentil soup. The company was also good too, everyone was very friendly and though the French couple did not speak English the Austrian ladies did and translated for us. I really liked the Austrian ladies (I wished I had wrote down their names), they were well into their sixties and seemed an intrepid pair; they were coping well with the walking and weren’t phased at all by the weather! It was a good evening (especially as most of them gave me their left over wine), and a good end to a very long wet day.

026-01 Pilgrim Statue points the Way to Santiago outside of Sauges.JPG
A Pilgrim statue points the Way towards Santiago outside Sauges

026-03 Pilgrim refuge in La Clauze. This was packed with soggy Pilgrims. .JPG
The pilgrim refuge in La Clauze. This was full of soggy pilgrims

026-07 Muddy Way on the Aubrac after Chazeau.JPG
Muddy Way onto the Aubrac Plateau after Chazeau

026-08 Looking back the way I came. Two Pilgrims on the Aubrac in the rain.JPG
Looking back the way I had come. The Aubrac Plateau

026-11 Le Domaine Le Sauvage Pilgrim gite and bar on the Aubrac.JPG
Le Domaine le Sauvage gite and bar

026-16 An interesting wayside cross after Le Rouget.JPG
An interesting wayside cross after Le Rouget
 
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Davey Boyd

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Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 27 – May 2nd
St. Alban sur Limagnole to Aumont-Aubrac
14.5 km

‘Aligot with Swiss Dan and Laura’

I woke up for breakfast to find that the rain had finally stopped though it was cloudy and overcast – good walking weather – also the guide book told me it was a ‘green man day’; an was easy walking day. While I was outside the hotel drinking coffee Swiss Serge who I had walked into Le Puy with passed me by with his trolley and he stopped for a chat. When walking I often knew when Serge was around; I quite often spotted the unique single wheel track left in the mud by his trolley. On more than one occasion when I doubted if I was going in the right direction I followed his trail.

Meeting up with Dan and Laura

Not long after I had set off I was sat at a picnic table having a cigarette near Grazières-Mages when who should walk around the corner but Swiss Dan and Laura! Laura wanted to know how the hell I was in front of them and I told them I had walked 31 km yesterday so must of overtaken them. They had in fact stayed in La Roche. We set off together and soon after we stopped off on a forest track for lunch, all of us pulling allsorts out of our packs to share. I still had half a cooked chicken from yesterday and I was glad that Laura had got some fresh bread, something I had forgotten to stock up on this morning. Dan being Dan pulled allsorts of treats from his pack as usual including some milk jam that he had found. It was surprisingly lovely!

We were sat there on some upturned logs when a car pulled up and a French lady and her daughter got out and set up a stall for passing pilgrims. She was selling foodstuffs and coffee for donations as well as homemade walking staffs. It’s nice to know the locals come out and spend their time doing these things for us pilgrims and it was good to chat to her and her little daughter.

Also while we were there Irish/Australian Cathy came past and stopped to tell us the latest gossip. Apparently the nice French man she had been walking with yesterday and stayed with at the gîte in La Roche turned out to be a nutter. When they arrived at the gîte in the rain Cathy said that the owner, a woman, was most helpful and even had a roaring fire waiting for them to dry out and warm up. But this French guy just started screaming at her calling her allsorts of rude names in her own house! The lady actually burst into tears. One of the other pilgrims staying there, a German man, threatened to knock him out, saying that this French guy had done this before in another gîte that he had stayed in. It seems that this guy has a real problem with women. Cathy was really upset, and we all agreed to keep an eye out for him, but luckily we never saw him again.

To Aumont-Aubrac

After walking a further 5 km on muddy tracks and passing through the village of Chabannes we came to Les Estrets and stopped off at the gîte Le Gevaudan for a beer or two. This gîte was beautiful and the owner was lovely, so much so we debated staying here for the night. But we had only walked 7.5 km so far so in the end decided against staying and carrying on, though I would fully recommend considering stopping here to anyone.

We arrived in the small town of Aumont-Aubrac quite early having walked a total of only 14.5 km and booked into the excellent and beautiful Gîte La Ferme du Barry. It was a wonderful place to stay and dinner included the Aubrac speciality Aligot. Aligot is basically like mashed potatoes with cheese and a little garlic mixed in, and it was lovely. In this case it was served with my favourite meat belly pork too! The owners were perfect hosts and I fully recommend this place.

It had turned out to be a good easy walking day in good company.

027-01 Swiss 'Dan' and 'Laura' get lunch sorted between Grazieres-Mages and Chabannes.JPG
Swiss Dan and Laura get lunch sorted between Grazieres-Mages and Chabannes
 
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Davey Boyd

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Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 28 – May 3rd
Aumont-Aubrac to Rieutort
20 km

‘The day I nearly stood on a poisonous snake’

I had a slow morning this morning. After the usual French breakfast Swiss Dan and Laura both headed off while I hung around the Gîte Le Ferme du Barry drinking coffee and chatting to the owner’s son for a while.

Today was another ‘green man day’; an easy walking day. The weather was good, it was warm but cloudy and with a nice breeze up on the moors. The walk out of Aumont-Aubrac was by road for a kilometre or two until it crossed the busy E11 motorway then it was very muddy tracks into the village of Le Chaze de Peyre where I noticed there was another pilgrim refuge. From there I stopped off to check out the tiny Chapelle de Bastide before heading into the village of Lasbros where I stopped off at the Gîte Hernandez for a beer and use the loo. Weirdly the loo had a sign in English urging customers; ‘If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and use the seetie.’ They must have a problem with English men peeing on the seat I thought!

Lasbros to Finieyrols

From Lasbros it was across beautiful wild moorland all the way. A lot of the tracks were just waterlogged bogs because of all the rain recently which made things hard going, and I was glad I had my gaiters to stop the muddy water trickling into my boots and had my staff for balance as at times there was nothing for it but to wade through. In places somebody, probably the local farmers, had tried to bridge some of the worst sections with planks and pallets which did help somewhat.

Walking across the moors I came across a very friendly mountain horse in a field and as you do I stopped for a chat. The poor thing was very old but its hooves were in extremely bad shape, they were split open and didn’t look good at all. I really wanted to do something about it but in my heart I knew I couldn’t. I looked like outright neglect to me.


After a wonderful 9km walk across the moors I got to the small village of Finieyrols where I stopped off at the Gîte La Rose de l'Aubrac for a large cheese and ham baguette and a beer or two. Some of the other pilgrims wondered about my drinking beer while walking but I had discovered that per volume beer was cheaper than coffee or juice! Later I was to get a bit of a reputation for my beer drinking habits from French and German pilgrims, but to be honest when you are walking all day a beer or two has no effect at all and is very refreshing. And of course beer is full of minerals, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

The snake outside Finieyrols

Leaving Finieyrols though I had the scare of my life. I was walking along the road outside the village with my mind wandering and I stepped over a small beige and black stick that was lying in the road. As I stepped over it, the ‘stick’ jumped and slithered off to my right. I still had one foot in the air at the time and nearly fell on my back before I shot off to the left, the opposite way the snake had gone. It wasn’t very fast so I got a good look at it but not long enough to get my camera out unfortunately. I was scared witless, but then I think the snake was too! When I looked it up on the internet it turned out to be an Asp Viper, it is a venomous snake but the guide said; “Many first defensive bites are "dry" with little or no venom being injected” and it also said it is not very aggressive. Thank God for that really, but I’m glad I did not stand on it, as it would have been a painful hospital job for me (and not nice for the snake either). I found out later that it had been sun-bathing on the tarmac of the road; a common practice for snakes where they soak up the residue warmth of the heat from the tarmac, especially in the evenings. I was wary of sticks lying in my path for weeks afterwards and would walk far around them!

L’Ange Camping Gardens at Rieutort

After Finieyrols I decided to find a place to freecamp for the night at the next available place I could find. I was tired by now, even though I had walked only 16 km The Way had been extremely muddy and hard going. The next village was Rieutort 4 km away and the two guide books I had told me there was no accommodation there. Looking at the terrain it would probably entail just setting up my tent in the lee of a stone wall on the moor, but the weather was kind and I was looking foreword to it. I was carrying enough food and water, though I had no beer for the evening. I could do with a beer though!

Just after 3pm I got to the impressive rock formation on the moor called the Roc des Loups and it looked like an interesting and beautiful place to camp, but just up the road I could see the village of Rieutort. As it was still early I decided to walk into Rieutort just in case there was a bar there after all, then I would return to the Roc des Loups to freecamp. So I was really surprised when reaching the outskirts of the village I spotted a yurt in a field that turned out to be a gîte and camping ground. And it had beer. The L’Ange Camping Gardens wasn’t in my guidebooks but I happily booked in including paying for the evening meal, especially as camping was only 4.50 Euro’s.

The L’Ange Camping Gardens was run by a wonderful woman and her young daughter who turned out to be perfect hosts. They had a fridge full of beer and the lady explained that I could just take what I wanted and pay her for it in the morning. It also had a beautiful communal room with cooking facilities. I was the only guest there but soon after two French couples turned up who turned out to be neither pilgrims or tourists but old friends of the Madame herself. Later, I had dinner with the two French couples and the Madame served by her young daughter. Interestingly the meal was vegetarian and was a great change from the usual food I got to eat; it included local dishes and burgers made from the famous Le Puy lentils. I was treated the same has her friends and all of them were lovely. One of the French couples had even walked the Camino de Santiago from Le Puy in the past. It was a great unexpected night, and I found out all about their lives including the Madame who had inherited this place after her husband had died of cancer some years ago, and she and her daughter were trying to make a go of the business. I was surprised that the Madame had not listed the place in any of the guidebooks but she told me she didn’t want to, though I never got to understand why. I would love to come back and stay again one day though.

It had been a good day, and strangely enough I hadn’t seen any other pilgrims all day except for one who passed by the campsite in the evening. The only down side was that it had started raining again not long after I arrived and it rained all-night. I was comfy and warm tucked up in my tent though.

028-02 The Way towards Chaze de Peyre.JPG
The Way towards Chaze de Peyre

028-08 Sign in toilet at gite Hernandez in Lasbros where I stopped for a beer.JPG
Sign in the toilet at Gite Hernandez in Lesbros

028-17 Across the Aubrac Plateau between Lasbros and Finieyrols.JPG
Crossing the Aubrac Plateau between Lasbros and Finieyrols

028-23 Across the Aubrac Plateau between Lasbros and Finieyrols.JPG
Crossing the Aubrac Plateau between Lasbros and Finieyrols

028-31 A friendly mountain horse on the Aubrac Plateau.JPG
Meeting the locals on the Aubrac Plateau

028-39 View across the Aubrac Plateau after Finieyrols.JPG
Flowers on the Aubrac Plateau after Finieyrols

028-40 Looking back at the way I had come.JPG
Looking back at the way I had come. After Finieyrols

028-47 L'Ange Camping Garden. It wasn't in the guide books.JPG
L'Ange Camping Garden at Rieutort. It wasn't in the guidebooks.
 
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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Yes indeed! As far east as Warsaw and Bratislava, in fact. And there is a route along the Baltic coast coming from Talinn, Estonia that is under development.
Wow! Walking from Talinin would be grand!
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 29 – May 4th
Rieutort to St. Chely d’Aubrac
(Though I stayed in Aubrac)
23.5 km

‘An epiphany, another snake and meeting the incredible Remi’

It had rained heavily during the night so when I packed up in the morning my tent was soaking wet which added a lot of weight to my pack. I left the L’Ange Camping Garden in Rieutort late around 8.30am glad that the rain had stopped and looking foreword to the days walking. Today I was to cross the wildest part of the Aubrac Plateau.

Nasbinals

After crossing over 6 km of the most stunning moorland I entered the small town of Nasbinals ready for lunch and my first pint of the day. I was sat outside the Hôtel du France enjoying some rare sunshine and some tinned mackerel with a baguette when who should walk past but Swiss Kathy! It was big hugs all round and she joined me for lunch. When I told her about my snake experience yesterday a German pilgrim sat nearby said that almost the same had happened to him a few days ago. So it wasn’t only me then! Kathy was having a bit of a rough time as she had developed tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) in her ankle. I lent her some ibuprofen cream and suggested she should take a day off, Nasbinals being a nice town too. She took my advice and went off to find a gîte.

In Nasbinals a sign on a barn told me it was still 1,396 km to Santiago de Compostela. I didn’t really want to know!

Just outside of Nasbinals I came across the sad sight of a memorial stone commemorating a French pilgrim, Patrick Coudert, who had died here on The Way in 2011. I was to come across dozens of these memorials all the way to Santiago. It goes to show that not all of us make it there, and it was a sobering thought. In my research I had read that the most common death for pilgrims was traffic accidents and most of them were bicegrino’s. However, the next most common death for those that walk was a heart attack, usually in older pilgrims.

To Aubrac and an epiphany

The Way from Nasbinals to the medieval village of Aubrac was 9 km of more beautiful open moorland and a few wooded copses with stunning views. The highest point of the Aubrac Plateau is just before the village of Aubrac at 1,324 metres, which explains why the weather can change up here in seconds. In fact there is an emergency storm shelter near the highest point where pilgrims can wait out passing storms. Today I was indeed lucky, the weather was clear with even some sunny spells, though it was not so warm due to a stiff breeze. This meant I could take in the splendid views.

It was on this stretch of The Way between Nasbinals and Aubrac that I had an epiphany that reduced me to tears. As I was walking, up ahead in the far distance I could see two pilgrims. When I looked behind me there was two more about two kilometres away. I looked at the ground in front of me and I could see footprints stretching ahead far into the distance. When I again looked behind me footprints again stretched back far into the distance, including mine. This was an original ancient part of The Way, walked since medieval times and it occurred to me that millions of people had walked this very path to Santiago before me, including the two I can see up ahead, and all of them left their footprints too. Also, millions of people will walk after me, like those two now behind, and even those not even born yet will one day leave their footprints on top of mine. It made me feel small and humble in the universe and in the great scheme of things, but also powerful, knowing I am playing my part in history. I sobbed my heart out as I walked along.

Aubrac

The village of Aubrac was founded in the middle ages by a Flemish pilgrim who walked to Santiago called Count Adallard who out of gratitude to God built the Dômerie (pilgrim hospital) at Aubrac. (The medieval word ‘hospital’ does not mean the same in English, in fact it comes from the word ‘hospitality’, and so ancient hospitals were more like our hostels). The village of Aubrac grew around the hospital. The Dômerie was home to monks and the knights of the Order of Aubrac until the French Revolution. The monks fed and sheltered passing pilgrims, and rang a ‘Bell of the Lost’ to guide pilgrims off the moor during times of snow and fog. Today the beautiful tower that is the Dômerie is still serving pilgrims as a gîte and has hardly been modernised.

I didn’t linger too long in Aubrac as it was still early; I just had a look around and a quick pint at one of the hotels before passing on. Little did I know I was to come back later today and spend the night here!

From Aubrac The Way winds downhill 4 km across muddy and waterlogged lanes to the village of Belvézet and the incredible huge rock called Le Neck that stands above it. I stooped off here briefly and had a packed lunch at a picnic table in the village before heading off for last further 4 km to St. Chely d’Aubrac where I was planning to spend the night.

Stopped by a snake

It was nearly 6pm when I was about to enter St. Chely d’Aubrac, but as I trudged down the road into town I was stopped in my tracks by a huge snake sunning itself dead centre in the middle of the road. The snake was about 2 metres long and as I got near it raised its head and hissed at me. It didn’t seem scared off me at all! I tried going around it but each time I tried it hissed even more. There was nothing I could do; I just couldn’t get past it. So, I thought to myself, ‘the bloody thing has the right of way’ so I just waited until it could be bothered to move. I was there for at least ten minutes before it slid off into the bushes letting me past at last. At least it was there long enough for me to get some excellent photographs of it. Later researching it I found out it was a Couleuvre Verte et Jaune or Western Whip Snake. Online I found out this about it;

“The Couleuvre verte et Jaune is above all else a powerful snake, though normally discreet it can be obstinate and aggressive, thrashing the ground with its tail and hissing when angered, sometimes tilting its head back and then striking and biting with force, it is this force which gives it the ability to overcome its victims but is of no serious concern to humans. It is also an agile climber weaving its way with speed through bushes and hedgerows.”

Though glad I saw it I was more than glad when it cleared off.

When I finally got into St. Chely d’Aubrac I headed to the nearest bar. I really needed a pint. Sat outside the bar were a young French couple who were pilgrims drinking with a scruffy local man. As I sat down with my grande blonde beer they gave me the bad news that the town was ‘complete’; that is it was full, there just weren’t any beds left in town. “Oh well, sod it” I thought, and told them I would just freecamp as there was a forest just out of town. I could get a decent meal and have a few beers here before I go. But no, all three of them got on their phones and tried to find me some accommodation even though in my mind I was happy to freecamp. However, they were unsuccessful but the scruffy local decided I could stay at his house and I didn’t have much say in the matter. He turned out to be the incredible Remi. The thing is he lived back in Aubrac and he was going to drive me there. Now usually I would have refused to get into a car being a pilgrim as I wanted to walk all The Way, but I didn’t mind going back the way I had come in a car at all as it would mean I have not ‘cheated’. Tomorrow he would either give me a lift back here to St. Chely or I would have to walk the 8 km back here again.

Remi

When Remi was ready to go we climbed into his ramshackle car with his dog and his dog’s six tiny puppies. When we arrived at his house in Aubrac I was gobsmacked. He lived in the oldest house in the village, built in the 12th century, and it had hardly been modernised at all. It was a one room stone building with a high ceiling that had a mezzanine level halfway up on one side. It had no electricity, no toilet, bathroom or running water and the only cooking facilities was the fire in the centre of the room.

Remi himself was extraordinary too. By trade he was a forger (as in a metal forger) and his forge was the enclosed huge fire in the middle of his house that he also cooked on. The fire was enclosed in a box that he could heat to extreme temperatures for his work. To cook on it he had to physically climb into the box. Remi was a natural anarchist with a complete disregard for money, rules and the law. Even in his work he would not charge poor people, maybe only accepting a gift like vegetables, a chicken or wine. Rich people he would charge extortionate prices on the grounds that the rich are able and stupid enough to pay. He showed me his portable pizza making oven he had made and told me a story. He said that when he sees pilgrims peering at the menu in one of the posh hotels in Aubrac he calls them over for free pizza. “Don’t give them your money” he would say. Weeks later I met a pilgrim who had actually been offered pizza by Remi and had taken him up on it.

One gripe he had was seeing people taking photos of porches and other posh cars in Aubrac instead of the beautiful nature surrounding the place. He said to me “Do you know, rich b****** keep parking their f******* cars on my land?” when I asked him what he does about it he said “I charge them 20 Euro’s and they pay” What if they are poor people I ask “Then I give them free pizza!”

The local businessmen did not like Remi. His land was wild and uncut with knee high grass and wild flowers, to their minds it looked untidy and spoilt the spotlessness of the manicured tourist trap that Aubrac had become. They had even offered to cut it for him for free but he refused on the grounds “It was for nature.” Even so, one of Remi’s thingswas to bake his own bread in his forge which he either sold to the local hotels or traded it in St. Chely for sausages, wine or other goods. In fact that was exactly what he was doing in St. Chely when I met him there.

We had a great dinner cooked on his fire of a pasta dish and local sausages, his own bread and local wine followed by rum. It was a great evening and he told me of his many adventure travelling around Africa in his hippy van that was parked outside. These adventures in Africa had a lot of run-ins with the police.

Remi not only had his hippy van parked outside but he had half a car. It was the back end of an estate car on two wheels, blocked off at the front and with a tow bar attached so he could tow it with his van. I could not work out what it was for as the windows were all painted over, so he showed me inside. Of course! It was a mobile sauna, what else? One of his hobbies was travelling around festivals in France with his hippy van, mobile sauna and pizza oven. He would exchange pizza or a sauna for donations of food or alcohol, no money accepted.

Soon I wanted to go to the loo. Remi explained that as he was a born and bred local he was allowed to use the toilets and showers in the Dômerie tower where the pilgrims stay. He had his own key. When it was dark though he just peed in his garden. So off I popped to the Dômerie tower where I had a shower too.

Remi said that he loved looking after pilgrims, but he wanted to sort his house out so he could help more. Problem was he didn’t have much time as he was busy with his forge. He offered me to stay and live with him to fix up the mezzanine as a bed space and to cultivate the garden for vegetables and generally look after the house. One day I might take him up on it.

I slept on the sofa with his dog.

029-03 Cross on the bridge over the Le Bes River.JPG
Cross on the bridge over the Le Bes River

029-10 Memorial to French Pelegrin Patrick Coudert who died near Nasbinals in 2011.JPG
Memorial to French pilgrim Patrick Coudert who died on The Way near Nasbinals in 2011

029-20 Two pilgrims crossing the Aubrac Plateau.JPG
Two pilgrims crossing the Aubrac Plateau towards the Medieval village of Aubrac

029-23 The Aubrac Plateau. Looking back the way I came.JPG
Looking back the way I had come

029-27 Emergency storm shelter on the Aubrac Plateau at 1,324 metres.JPG
The emergency storm shelter on the Aubrac Plateau near the highest point (1,324 metres)

029-30 Entering the village of Aubrac.JPG
About to enter the village of Aubrac

029-37 The Way towards Belvezet.JPG
The Way before Belvezet

029-38 Croix du Chemin on the way to Belvezet.JPG
The Croix du Chemin on The Way towards Belvezet

029-44 The Way towards Belvezet.JPG
Stunning views on The Way towards Belvezet

029-46 Heading to Le Neck de Belvezet.JPG
Heading towards Le Neck de Belvezet
 
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Fatma

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CP
Day 11 – April 16th
Valencogne to Le Grand Lemps
20.5 km

‘Insanity, drunkenness and a racist old lady’

At 8am as I was packing my tent away in the field I had slept in a pilgrim passed me speaking on his phone in German. I was to meet him later.

It was a cloudy and drizzly morning, and I was so glad! The heat has been relentless. The Way this morning was a bit tough. Valencogne where I started is around 580 metres above sea level, and then it is a climb to 700 metres mostly on forest trails to just after the hamlet of Lambert. The path is rocky but there are only a few real steep bits. After that it’s a very steep downhill 200 metres to Le Pin, not good for your knees.

Le Pin

I was looking foreword to getting into Le Pin as the guidebook said there was a bar there and I wanted to have a coffee and breakfast, but it was closed for refurbishment. (Bars and café’s in France are the same thing generally). The local shop was open though and there was a fountain with fresh water that also had a roof to shelter us from the drizzle. There were three other pilgrims sheltering under the fountain, the young German lad who had passed me earlier and the Swiss couple, Kathy and her husband who I had met five days ago near Chanaz. As we sat there sharing lunch yet another young German lad turned up. Both of the German lads were really nice blokes, one was walking all the way to Santiago and the other was going as far as Le Puy. As for the Swiss couple, they explained that Kathy was going on to Le Puy but it was her husbands last day walking. We sat and shared some lunch between us before heading off back into the rain.

From Le Pin it was an extremely steep climb back up to 700 metres above sea level followed by an extremely steep, rocky and dangerous descent into Le Grand Lemps to 476 metres. Le grand Lemps is a nice little town and I decided to stay there the night as I was shattered. On the descent into town the German lady ‘Emma’ passed me by.

A strange gîte in Le Grand Lemps

When I arrived in Le grand Lemps I walked into the local bar to find the two German lads, the Swiss couple and German ‘Emma’ there also. It was nice to have a beer and chill out with them for a while. The two German lads were continuing on, but the Swiss couple and ‘Emma’ were staying in town in the same place as me.

The gîte where we decided to stay was the ‘Chambres de Pèlerin’ which caters only for pilgrims. It was a very strange place; the house was basically a cross between a hippy hovel, an artist gallery, a gift shop and a museum. The owner was completely cuckoo and she was the splitting image of a friend of mine at home called Miriam – my first thought was ‘my God, there is two of them’! (Sorry Miriam).

After we checked in, had our credencials stamped (the stamp was hand drawn by the landlady) and shared a bottle of wine with the loopy owner (she was lovely as well as mad as a box of frogs), the four of us pilgrims sat and had a chat. This was when ‘Emma’ introduced herself to us properly. She told us she was from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, and when none of us had heard of it she went nuts! She shouted “But you must have done, it is where we had the 1936 winter Olympics!” Well that killed the conversation dead.

Next thing I decided was to go into town and have dinner and ‘Emma’ decided to come with me. There were two choices in this little town. The pizza place or the kebab house. “Which one shall we go to? I fancy Kebab” I said to her. Her reaction was to spit on the floor and say “But that’s Turkish, and they are scum.” Needless to say we ate separately. I feared worse was to come as we were sharing a room together.

Kebab houses in France are nothing like our English counterparts. They really are restaurants. They have plates and everything. The food was lush, and so began a long acquaintance with French kebabs. I now wish I had gone with the French couple to the kebab house in Yenne last week.

Getting drunk with the locals

After a wonderful Turkish kebab I couldn’t face going back to the gîte to spend time with racist ‘Emma’, so I buggered off to a bar. In the bar I met a huge dog. This thing was some sort of mountain breed, it was as nearly as tall as a Great Dane but built like a Pit Bull. Its owner could not speak a word of English so he telephoned his girlfriend to come to the bar who happened to be Welsh. Well, the proceedings got rather messy and I can’t remember their names due to them buying me lots of local rum and liqueurs, but I do remember the name of the dog. He was called First. And that is because he was the first born out of his litter of sixteen. I only wish I had taken my camera to the bar.

The bar closed at 9.30pm (crazy French, what is up with them)? so I staggered back to the gîte and the room I was sharing with ‘Emma’ the old racist German lady. I was so drunk I could not find my way into my bed, so I slept on top in my underpants.

The view from The Way near Le Pin:
View attachment 25997

The strange things you find in French forests Part I. On the way to Le Grand Lemps:
View attachment 25998

Yet another valley to cross. On the way to Le Grand Lemps:
View attachment 25999

The crazy Gite where I stayed in Le Grand Lemps:
View attachment 26000

An incredibly lifelike mural on side of house in Le Grand Lemps:
View attachment 26001

View attachment 26002
Interesting... So I as a Turkish person cd bump into a racist EVEN on a Camino! Sad world...
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 30 – May 5th
Aubrac to St. Côme d’Olt
24 km

‘One step back to help another is more valuable than a hundred forward and not know who is by your side’

It took me a while to leave Aubrac. Remi chatted on and on, but really I was sorry to leave him and this magical place behind. And I was in love with his puppies. He talked again about me staying to help him out, and I think he really didn’t want me to go. I told him I was seriously considering his offer, but I also really needed to finish my pilgrimage first. I know in my heart I will be back one day. He also tried to give me one of his puppies; he even offered to drive to Santiago to deliver it when I got there!

A helping hand

I finally left Aubrac at 10.30am and I had to walk the same 8km back to St. Chely d’Aubrac again too. So it was back downhill through the rocky and muddy lanes towards Belvézet I went. I hadn’t gone more than a few kilometres when I came across a young French pilgrim sat down with his boots off. He was clearly in trouble. He had bad problems with his feet and explained that he did not know before hand that you should buy walking boots at least one size too big for a walk of this length (your feet swell by at least one size when walking for weeks on end). He had set off from Le Puy en Velay and now his feet were being crushed because they had swollen. It was very painful for him to walk. I told him I would accompany him, and if it was serious I would go ahead to St. Chely and organise transport for him. He told me not to, as it would slow me down and he didn’t want to hold me up. I told him I didn’t care about time, and I wasn’t going to leave him. I also explained I had already walked this section yesterday and some of it up ahead was very tricky, rocky, steep and waterlogged. He was amazed that I would walk the same 8km twice! And so we set off, him hobbling like a cripple. I was also amazed that he had no staff or walking poles to help him out.

Finally we got to Belvézet where we took a break and we shared some lunch. He was an extremely fit young man, very sporty, and was a bit embarrassed to be injured in this way. But the wrong size boots would cripple anybody I explained. While we were there a Swiss pilgrim passed us by who we would see later. So we set off again, indeed I had to help him down some of the steep gradients and gave him my staff which helped. We soon came across the Swiss guy who had passed earlier, he was sat in a wood and had cut a staff for the French lad, and together we finally got into St. Chely d’Aubrac. The French lad insisted he buy me a beer or two. I recommended he catch a bus to the next big town to buy some decent boots (he could get the bus back to here to set off again so not to miss any of the Chemin), and also that he should take a day or two off to rest. I don’t know how he got on because I soon left. And I forgot to write down his name unfortunately.

Crossing the Monts d’Aubrac to St. Côme d’Olt

From St. Chely it was a 2.5 km short but steep wooded climb through the villages of Le Recours and Les Cambrassats onto the Monts d’Aubrac (Mountains of Aubrac) and then a further 4.5 km to the quaint old stone village of L’Estrade. In L’Estrade I came across an open farm barn that had been set up as a pilgrim rest stop. It had all sorts of things for donation only. They had hot coffee, cakes, scallop shells and even homemade cut walking staffs. Sat inside were a few pilgrims and the old farmer, all chilling out and chatting away. Unfortunately nobody spoke any English, but I had a coffee and chilled out here for a while too, watching the cows being herded through the village for milking.

From L’Estrade it was then 5.5 km to the even quainter old stone village of La Rozière. The Way to La Rozière followed a mostly forested ridge line downhill to a bridge over the River Boralde St. Chely where there was a pilgrim picnic area. From La Rozière to Cinqpeyre some of the tracks had either been washed away leaving a deep trench full of rocks and logs or were totally bogged and had to be waded through. It was interesting going.

The last few kilometre was more open country lanes and easy going but with the obligatory steep descent into the large town of St. Côme d’Olt. I was really glad to see St. Côme d’Olt come into view in the valley below as by now it was 7.30pm and I was shattered.

St. Côme d’Olt

When I arrived in town I booked into the campsite communal (run by the town) and headed into town to explore and get a meal. The town was quite beautiful; the church was stunning with a twisted spire surrounded by narrow lanes. However, the town was closed. There must have been a good half dozen bars and restaurants in town and a fair few shops, but every single business was closed; it was a Tuesday, not a Sunday or Monday (a lot of French shops close on Mondays too). What on earth are the French thinking? The place must be packed with pilgrims and nothing is open! I asked around and soon got the impression that the town didn’t seem very friendly. Maybe it was just me?

So it was back to the campsite to eat the half of old sandwich I had left in my pack. The campsite itself was next to a river and was lovely, and I was the only person on it. Even better was that I found out the campsite office sold bottles of beer! I was in bed by 9.30pm going to sleep with the sound of a waterfall nearby.

030-01d St. Chely d'Aubrac comes into view. Again.JPG
St. Chely d'Aubrac comes into view. Again

030-03 Me with the pilgrim statue in St. Chely d'Aubrac.JPG
Me with pilgrim statue at the entrance to St. Chely d'Aubrac

030-08 Signs point The Way to St. Come a'Olt.  1,390 km to Santiago.JPG
Signs point the way towards St. Come d'Olt. Only 1,390km to Santiago!

030-11 Old farm machinery on the way to L'Estrade. Notice the GR marker.JPG
Old farm machinery on the way to L'Estrade. Notice the white/red GR marker pointing the way

030-12 Pilgrim rest stop for donations at a farm in L'Estrade.JPG
Pilgrim rest stop for donations in a barn in L'Estrade

030-15 A white and red GR sign shows The Way towards La Roziere.JPG
A GR marker shows the way towards La Roziere

030-18 Entering La Roziere.JPG
Entering La Roziere

030-21 The Way towards St. Come d'Olt is waterlogged.JPG
The way to St. Come d'Olt is waterlogged

030-25 Two pilgrims head into St. Come d'Olt.JPG
Pilgrims heading into St. Come d'Olt

030-28 St. Come d'Olt.JPG
St. Come d'Olt
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Interesting... So I as a Turkish person cd bump into a racist EVEN on a Camino! Sad world...
She was a one off and left the Way. Though I did meet one French pilgrim who hated English people! You get them everywhere unfortunately, but not often on Camino!

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 31 – May 6th
Rest day in St. Côme d’Olt
0 km

‘One month walking’

I had a very good sleep on the campsite next to the river. I decided to have a rest day today. For one, the campsite has washing machines so I can catch up on my laundry and have time to get it all dry. Second, I have been walking now for one month exactly so a celebration is in order. Also the sunny weather is back!

I needed some proper cooked food today, so after my washing was hung up to dry I headed into town. The town was at last open for business! I chilled out in the square and had a coffee before heading to a different place for lunch. I ordered rare steak and chips, and the steak was one of the best I had ever had, a really melt in the mouth job.

I stayed in town all day chilling out, drinking beer, exploring and taking photos like a proper tourist. In the afternoon I was sat outside a bar and bumped into Swiss Kathy again. It was good to see her and she joined me for a while for a drink. She has caught me back up after having a day off in Nasbinals because of tendonitis.

The tour guide group

There were a lot of pilgrims in town, but one group in particular stood out. There must have been twenty of them, but from allsorts of countries; a lot were US, French Canadian and Germans with some young Asians thrown in. What an odd group I thought, but I soon worked out they were pilgrims on a guided walk. They didn’t seem very friendly either for some reason except the tour guide who I got talking to. She was from the USA but lives in Spain. She has been walking the Camino for years and had decided to relocate to Spain and get a job doing what she loves. She organises guided walks for pilgrims who either don’t want to walk alone or want all the ‘details’ like accommodation sorted for them. I don’t mind these types of pilgrims, each to their own, but it’s not my thing.

Anyway, I told the guide that my plan was to go to Santiago via the Camino’s San Salvador and Primitivo. She told me she runs a hotel next to the route of the San Salvador and she would give me her card later. I was to ring her up while on route and she would let me stay there and feed me. I never saw her again unfortunately.

Evening in St. Côme d’Olt

In the evening I went back to the same food place as before but this time I ordered a duck bruschetta followed by a ‘Cream English’ chocolate desert. ‘Cream English’ is what the French call custard, and they serve it cold on a hot pudding. Weirdo’s.

Later I wandered around town to take photographs as the sun went down.


I drank way too much today, I got a little bored too; I’m not used too not walking every day. I think I got a little lonely too.

031-17 St. Combe d'Olt.JPG
St. Combe d'Olt

031-06 Sunlight on cobwebs in the church.JPG
Sunlight on cobwebs in the church

031-19 St. Combe d'Olt.JPG

031-21 St. Combe d'Olt.JPG

031-27 Fountain with scallop shell in St. Combe d'Olt.JPG
Fountain with scallop shell in St. Come d'Olt

031-28 Life is good.JPG
Life is good
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 32 – May 7th
St. Côme d’Olt to Estaing
19.5 km

‘Hot, tired and ill’

When I woke up this morning I did not feel good at all, I had an upset stomach and diarrhoea. Obviously something I had eaten yesterday did not agree with me but I have no idea what it was (maybe the rare steak)? I left St. Côme d’Olt late as I spent most of the morning on the toilet. Normally I would take a day off if I was ill but I didn’t want to stay here another day.

To Espalion

It was 10am when I finally crossed the bridge over the River Lot out of St. Côme and got on my way. The weather today was glorious; hot and sunny. In the guide it said today was a ‘green man day’ but the word on the ground was different. Pilgrims had been advised that the normal Chemin St. Jacques route was dangerous because of the recent heavy rains and we had been advised to take the road route instead for the first 6.5 km as far as the Église de Perse. I heard later from pilgrims who had taken the high route and not followed the advice to take the road that The Way was indeed washed out and dangerous. Lucky then I had taken the advice.

The Way today was to follow the Lot River valley; we were now off the Aubrac Plateau. The first 7.5 km to the large picturesque town of Espalion was on a quiet country road that followed the bank of the River Lot. I stayed in Espalion a while, chilling out at a bar on the riverfront enjoying the sunshine having a beer or two. My impression of Espalion was it would be a good place to stay and explore; maybe next time!

Église de Trédou – Verrières

It was boiling hot by now and I had to deploy my brolly as a sunshade, and I wasn’t feeling well at all; in fact as I walked I was looking for a likely place to freecamp, I had had enough today already! The next stage should have been a pretty walk 4.5 km to La Chapelle St. Pierre then about 2 km through Le Briffoul to the Église de Trédou, but as I wasn’t feeling too good I missed out St. Pierre and carried on the road directly to Église de Trédou instead. I may have made a mistake in doing this, as I was hoping I could freecamp at Le Trédou which turned out not to be possible as it was a private residence, but St. Pierre was a possible freecamp spot as it has a good covered porch. Walking on I must have looked a bit haggard because a van with some Swiss tourists in stopped and offered me a lift into Estaing; of course I refused, I am determined to walk every step of The Way.

So not finding anywhere good to freecamp I had to carry on. It was a further 4 km through the pretty village of Verrières into Estaing but it felt a lot further than that. At least The Way was now very beautiful again.

Estaing

It was 4.30pm when Estaing finally came into view, and that view was absolutely stunning. Estaing is famous as one of the most beautiful villages in France and I could see why (a total of about 155 villages in France have been given the official and prestigious 'most beautiful villages of France'’ award and the Chemin St. Jacques passes through many of them). After crossing the magnificent bridge over the River Lot into the village I headed straight to the nearest bar to check out my options; and my options did not look good. I was told that the town was complete, in fact as I sat there with my grande blonde I saw many pilgrims arriving and being turned away with no other option than to carry on, and it was a further 8 km to the next village with a gîte.

My choices were: carry on and try and find somewhere I could freecamp, but the route from Estaing was along roads for a long way which would mean finding somewhere to freecamp difficult. The other option was to check into the municipal campsite here, but the campsite wasn’t actually in town, it was 1.5 km away off route. I was shattered, ill and getting depressed by now; I really didn’t want to walk any further. In the end I chose the campsite, I had a more realistic chance of finding accommodation there (and it would have a toilet), so off I went, and I’m really glad I did!

Camping Municipal La Chantellerie

To my relief the walk to the campsite was flat and pretty and I was soon there. When I booked in I was told I could use my tent or they had large multi-roomed marquees for the same price with a bed. Obviously I chose a marquee and was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it have a bed it was really well equipped, complete with gas cooker and full kitchen equipment and a dining area. I soon had some soup on the go. All good for only 8 Euro’s!

It turned out I was sharing the marquee with another pilgrim, a lovely young French lad who had walked the Camino Francés in Spain before so he knew the crack. He was good to chat to and compare notes; in fact he was impressed with my Euroschirm hiking brolly and intended to get one for himself (I could of sold hundreds of these in my months on The Way). His girlfriend was also walking the Camino but was a week behind him. There was also a French bicegreno in the marquee opposite us.

All in all it was a tough day for me, but all turned out well in the end.

032-01 Crossing the bridge over River Lot out of St. Come d'Olt.JPG
Crossing the bridge over the River Lot out of St. Come d'Olt

032-03 Be careful of pilgrims. A sign on the road to Espalion.JPG
Sign on the road to Espalion warning of pilgrims on the road

032-04 The beautiful town of Estaing comes into view.JPG
The beautiful town of Estaing comes into view

032-06 Estaing.JPG
Estaing
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 33 – May 8th
Rest day in Estaing
0 km

‘Champagne and rats in Estaing’

So much for the glorious sunny weather yesterday. I was woken up early this morning by the cracking of thunder and flashes of lightning as a full blown storm was in progress. The rain was torrential. My first thought was that I was extremely glad I wasn’t in my tiny tent! My second thought was I needed the loo, and I very nearly didn’t make it to the toilet block. My stomach was still bad.

Rest day in Estaing

We three pilgrims on the campsite got together over coffee to discuss the day ahead. All of us were considering having the day off in Estaing due to the weather; The Way ahead had some steep sections and could be very muddy or washed out. There was also the consideration that today was WWII victory day in France, a public holiday, and surely everything would be closed. For myself I also had my diarrhoea to think about. In the end I decided to have the day off even though I had already had one a few days ago in St. Côme d’Olt, but the nice young French lad and the bicegreno decided to press on. I never saw the young lad again which was a shame because we got on really well. I was a bit concerned also because his poncho was held together with gaffer tape! I hope they both made it to Santiago ok.

Little Lucie

Midday found me in a pizza restaurant that I found open much to my surprise after braving the 1.5 km walk into town in the pouring rain. My stomach was feeling a lot better than it had this morning and I was starving so I ordered a very large Indian chicken pizza for lunch. It was huge and there was no way I could eat it all. By now the storm had abated and the rain had ended so I sat outside with a beer or two.

I was sat outside the restaurant going through my Miam Miam Dodo guide book when the owners little five years old daughter came across and started chuntering at me in the cutest baby French. I don’t understand French at the best of times so I had no idea what she was on about; I just chuntered back in English which seemed to keep her happy. She then climbed onto my lap, took my pen out of my hand and coloured in the maps in my guide book for me. We were there for a few hours, her dad bringing me beers because I couldn’t get up! Lucie, as I found out her name was, spotted the numbers in my book and started reciting them in French, I repeated them in English, and within an hour she had taught me how to count in French and she could count to ten in English! I also seemed to be her parent’s best friend for occupying the little one’s attention whilst they were working. They also told me Lucie is normally very shy and it was strange for her to be this friendly with a stranger, but she had really taken to me. I was a little sad when her dad took her off to go and visit her grandparents, as I was enjoying her company too!

Folfie

After Lucie had left to visit her grandparents I went in and propped up the bar. Whilst there I got chatting to a local girl called Folfie, she was about 30 years old and very chatty. She was good company, very lively and had an infectious laugh. After an hour or two drinking away she asked me back to her house for some champagne. Well, what is a man supposed to do? When we got back to her house she introduced me to her pet rat, and as a rat lover myself who used to have rats I fell in love with him. But Folfie’s love for rats runs deeper, she explained how she has befriended and feeds the local wild rat population to the point they feed out of her hand! And within a short time sure enough there was a noise outside and she exclaimed “They’re here!” When I looked through the French windows there were a gang of rats outside waiting patiently for her! And she did go out and feed them by hand too. “Everyone in the village thinks I’m crazy” she told me. I have no idea why.


When I told Folfie that I had walked through the village of Aubrac, Folfie explained that she works there in a restaurant, and then asked me “Have you heard of Remi?” Oh yes I told her, and explained how I had stayed at his house and that he had offered for me to live there. Folfie told me that Remi was famous in the area and even though she works in Aubrac and even sees Remi around has never spoken to him. Not only that, but Remi was a bit of a hero to her. I told her to knock on his door and say hi, and explain that she knew David from England as an excuse to meet him. And I am glad to say, I heard later that she did.

Folfie wasn’t at work today as it was a public holiday – WWII victory day. She told me that tonight her and her friends were going out to a bar for the evening, Nick’s bar, and would I like to join them. Of course I would! So she called her friend, who came around a few minutes later (I cannot for the life of me remember her name, and she didn’t speak any English, but she was lovely). We drank more champagne and brandy, had a spot to eat then went out for the evening.

When we got to Nick’s bar she introduced me to her friend who can only be described as the local nutter. In fact everyone there described him as the local nutter! At least he was a friendly nutter. The bar was full of locals and not one pilgrim which was refreshing too. After drinking beer, champagne and brandy all day I can’t honestly remember too much detail, but everyone was friendly and I had a great time.

I cannot remember when we left, but I remember walking Folfie and her friend home, and Folfie insisting she drive me back to my campsite. Well, Folfie was seriously drunk, her car would not pass any MOT certificate known to mankind and she drove like a loon.

I slept like a drunken baby while dreaming of rats.

033-01 Estaing. The bar we went to is in the centre.JPG
Estaing, Nicks bar is in the centre

033-02 Nick's bar in Estaing where Julie took me out for the night.JPG
Nicks bar in Estaing, a good night out!
 
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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 34 – May 9th
Estaing to Golinhac
16 km

‘Another snake and a nasty French pilgrim’

I woke up late around 10am in my marquee in Estaing after a long drunken sleep. After packing away my gear I headed into town to Nick’s bar for coffee. Nick gave me a bright cheery welcome when I arrived and a great send-off when I left around midday.

Estaing – Montégut – Fonteilles

It was a good walking day with perfect weather; warm and sunny but with a bit of cloud cover. The first 4 km was a flat walk along the Pays d’Olt alongside the River Lot on a quiet country road snaking through forests until the road leaves the river and rises steeply to pass through the village of Montégut. From Montégut the road snakes and rises for a further 3 km where it passes the village of Fonteilles. From Montégut to Fonteilles the land rises from 320 metres to 650 metres in 4 km, some of it hard work, the type of uphill road that seems to steadily climb forever. As I climbed the view got more and more beautiful.

Near Fonteilles there was a picnic stop by the side of the road where I stopped for lunch. This picnic stop also had a proper toilet block that even had disabled access – luxury! While there I met two male Belgian pilgrims who were on their first day. They were walking to Santiago in etapes (stages) of two weeks a year, and this years etape started for them today in Estaing. They were in their early thirties, big, fit and strong, and were telling me how completely shattered they were by the climb and how they had been amazed at me when I had earlier overtaken them with my huge rucksack. They were stunned when I told them I was carrying 16 kilo’s (they were carrying 8 kilo’s each). I think this shows just how fit I was getting! We sat there for a while chatting, enjoying the sun and shared lunch.

While I was sat with the Belgian guys a group of French hikers passed and one stopped and asked if any of us has lost a guide book, and I noticed it was mine! I had dropped it on the road a few kilometres back. As I thanked him he said he had noticed by the notes I had written in it that this was my 34th day walking, “Is this true?” he asked. He was utterly taken aback when I told him that it was and that I had started in Switzerland!

Another snake encounter

From Fonteilles The Way passes through the small village of Massip before going on to the beautiful village of Golinhac, much of it on stunning forest tracks.

It was along this stretch that I had my third snake encounter. I was walking along a quiet country road when I saw something moving next to me. I looked down and a small snake was going as fast as it could alongside me, going in the same direction as me. It was the same breed that I had encountered outside of St. Chely d’Aubrac five days ago, a Western Whip snake, but this one was a baby (about half a metre long instead of two metres). I wasn’t scared this time, I thought it was cute, but then I hadn’t learnt yet that these snakes while not poisonous are aggressive and do bite! I never thought I would have a snake as a temporary walking companion! Unfortunately it shot off into the bushes before I could get my camera out.

Pépé Catusse

Near Massip I came across a beautiful memorial to a local man called Pépé Catusse, a true friend of The Way. The memorial reads:

“Friends, pilgrims, walkers, over these many years it has been my greatest pleasure to come here to this path and meet you, to say hello, encourage you, speak to you and share stories with you… I sit here often but since the 5th April 2008 I have joined the millions of stars which guide and accompany you on your journey.”

God bless you Pépé.

Golinhac

When I walked into Golinhac I was stunned by the beauty of the place. The views from the square across the surrounding valleys were truly magnificent. I had only walked 16 km today (one guide said 13, one 16 and one even 24 km, showing how unreliable the distances are in the guidebooks), and I was still feeling good, I could of easily walked a lot further, but Golinhac looked like a great place to stop and it had good facilities, so I booked into the campsite there.

A nasty pilgrim

After I had set up my tent and showered I went to the campsite bar for a beer. Nearby was a group of around eight French pilgrims drinking heavily and getting rowdy. One of them, a man, passed me and stopped to chat. He spoke to me in French of course and I replied (in French) that I was sorry but I do not speak French. In English he then asked me where I was from, and when I told him he said with a snarl “I refuse to speak English in France” and went off laughing. Soon all of them were looking at me and laughing too. When one came past again I asked in French if they spoke Spanish, when they said “Non” I said in English (which they all understood) “I wonder if the Spanish will ignore you in Spain then” That shut them up a bit, but I felt bad about the encounter. I know I don’t speak French, but I do try, and up to now all the French I have met have been wonderful.

A lovely evening

I decided to go into the village to the local bar/restaurant/gîte and get a decent meal. I ordered the pilgrim menu and it was a wonderful four courses including wine. I had vegetable soup. A bean dish with salad, then Aligot with a big piece of chicken followed by stewed fruit (what fruit I could not tell) and very nice it was too.

After the meal I sat outside on the terrace with my usual grande blonde beer chilling out in the evening sun taking in the breathtaking views. While there I got chatting to an older pilgrim from Luxembourg. While I had been away they had held the national elections back in the UK, and up to now I didn’t know who had won. That meant I had no idea who my government was, and I really didn’t care (as the saying goes; ‘the bastards always get in’). Anyway, the Luxembourg guy told me that David Cameron had won and he was really surprised that I really didn’t want to know that!

After a nice evening I headed back to the campsite and the bar for a final beer before bed. While there I met an English pilgrim, the first British person I had met so far. He was an elderly guy from Devon walking Le Puy to Santiago. He seemed to be having a good Way, he was walking with a group of vibrant younger Australian ladies and he was a very happy man! Though he seemed to be really posh he was a nice bloke. Unfortunately, such is The Way, I never saw him again.

034-01 Leaving Estaing.JPG
Sadly leaving Estaing

034-08 The road towards Fonteilles has a pilgrim lane.JPG
Towards Fonteilles. The roads in this part of France have pilgrim lanes!

034-09 Looking back at the steep climb up to Fonteilles.JPG
Looking back at the steep climb up to Fonteilles

034-14 The Way towards Golhinac.JPG
The Way towards Golinhac

034-18 Arriving in Golinhac.JPG
Arriving in Golinhac

034-19 Cross and St. Jacques sculpture in Golinhac.JPG
A cross, St. Jacques and wonderful views in Golinhac

034-20 St. Jacques has turned into a Ninja.JPG
St. Jacques has turned into a Ninja turtle!
 
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smj6

Siempre hay que ver el positivo
Camino(s) past & future
Oct/Nov 2016 (Via Podensis/ Frances)
Oct 2018 (Via Francigena stage)
No, I don't have a blog site, I can't afford one!

however my plan was to put at least the first 350km to Le Puy on here with some pics. I aim to add new entries every day. It is all written out so its just a question of copy and paste and add a few pictures. Glad you like it. I will add some more in a short while.

Davey
I'm also enjoying your blog, @Davey Boyd. Please keep blogging.
Suzanne :)
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 35 – May 10th
Golinhac to Conques
25 km

‘A large, large, large beer in Conques’

I left Golinhac late, by the time I had a few coffees and set off it was 11am. The weather today was very hot and I was to use my brolly as a sunshade once more.

My first destination of the day was the town off Espeyrac 7.5 km away where I planned to stop for breakfast. The route to Espeyrac was easy enough though mostly on tarmac on quiet country roads, although there was some off road walking through pretty woodland. The Way passes through the villages of Le Poteau, Les Albusquies, Campagnac, Le Soulié and Carbonies. The countryside around here reminded me of Ireland with rolling green hills and woods.

Julie and Jerald

Just before I arrived at the tiny hamlet of Le Soulié I came across a very welcome and pleasant surprise. There was a beautiful pilgrim rest stop set up by the side of the road being run by two children. They were stopping passing pilgrims and offering fresh juice, tea, coffee and biscuits for donation. By now I was hot and bothered and I welcomed the break, so I stopped for a coffee and a chat. The two kids turned out to be brother and sister Julie and Jerald who were about 10 and 12 years old. There was a gîte here that their parents ran; the Gîte Le Souléir, which was also for donations only. Julie and Jerald both spoke good English and told me they were on their school holidays, and that they spend their holidays here at the gîte looking after passing pilgrims. They were lovely kids and what a great thing for them to be doing! The gîte also looked beautiful and laid back and when I spoke to their parents they were lovely too. If it was later in the day I would have definitely stayed here for the night. Maybe next time! (I heard later that the gîte here was extremely hippy and religious, involving compulsory prayer and holding hands. Not my thing at all)!

Espeyrac – Celis – Sénergues – St. Marcel

I soon got to Espeyrac but the whole town was closed being a Sunday so I pressed on. I was glad I had met Julie and Jerald and had managed to get a coffee there.

The Way out of Espeyrac was a steep uphill slog; a 5.5 km climb of over 250 metres through the villages of Celis and Sénergues; not nice under a boiling sun. The climb out of Sénergues was especially brutal, but there was a very smart modern pilgrim picnic stop there (with toilets) where I had a rest and ate lunch out of my pack. The next 8 km wasn’t so bad, lots more road walking with some shady woodland paths to the hamlet of St. Marcel and the beginning of the descent into Conques.

While I was walking today I came across some graffiti on the back of a road sign from Elias, the Swiss guy who was walking to Finisterre for a pint who I had met 20 days ago in Chavanay. Basically it read; “Elias. Geneva-Santiago-Finisterre. 3/05/15” So that means he is a week ahead of me already! I was to come across his graffiti all the way across France and Spain, (not that I approved of the graffiti).

Into Conques

It is a steep 5 km, 300 metre descent from the hamlet of St. Marcel into Conques, the first half of which consists of tracks skirting fields. The final 2.5 km consist of a tiny track steeply descending through thick forest. This track is like descending into a beautiful enchanted wonderland, and it is tricky to say the least. It is bad enough in fine weather being very rocky and slippy, but in wet conditions can it can be dangerous. It took me a long time to get down, placing one foot cautiously in front of the other. One slip could mean a bad sprain or worse, a broken ankle. At least the forest gave me shelter from the burning sun.

Conques is a medieval village resting on the slope of a valley above the confluence of the Dourdou and Ouche rivers, built around the historic church and abbey of St. Foy. Conques is one of the highlights of the Via Podiensis, the Le Puy pilgrimage route. The church and abbey are impressive with three towers dominating the village, yet totally invisible on the approach due to their location on the side of a steep forested valley. The first time you see Conques is when you are in it! It is truly an amazing place.

Of course, the first thing I did when I arrived in Conques was to head to a bar for a well deserved beer and to ponder my options. As I walked into the bar, (hot, sweaty and with a huge rucksack – not looking like a tourist) I was served by a stunning young blonde girl. I asked her for a grande blonde, and then the conversation went a bit weird. “Grande?” (large) she asked. “Oui! Grande” I replied. “Grande, Grande?” (very large) she a then asked. “Oui, Grande Grande!” Well this went on until we got to Grande Grande Grande Grande and I finally got served a glass of beer I could hardly lift to my mouth.

Conques was the first town I had come across where we pilgrims were outnumbered by tourists. Most of the places we pass through there were only us and the locals, or possibly a few French hikers. Here the tourists outnumbered even the locals. Needless to say that Conques was an expensive place. However, as you cannot take a vehicle into Conques and most tourists arrived by coach for a day trip (there was a coach stop just outside the village) it seems that by early evening the streets were empty; most of the tourists had gone.

Camping in Conques; a mistake

I had two options in Conques. The first, and what pilgrims I had spoken to recommend, is that I stay at the gîte in the abbey with the monks. In fact this is what I had been looking forward to even before I had set off from England. The other option (for me) was the campsite just out of the village on the bank of the river. I chose the campsite, mainly because I was feeling a bit shy (and a little scared of the monks to be honest), and also because of the glorious weather and camping next to a river sounded magnificent. So after my big, big, big, big beer off I went to the campsite where I booked in for two nights.

The campsite was a 2 km walk out of town down an extremely steep hill to the valley bottom. The campsite itself was a pretty place though ascetically ruined by the heavy use of red/white roadwork tape to cordon off camping/parking pitches that had been reserved or were being tended to. I soon found that the campsite was not exactly a friendly place either. Nobody spoke to me in the two days I was there, not even the other pilgrims.

I soon came to the conclusion that I had made a mistake booking in here for two nights. I should have booked at least the second night in the abbey with the monks. The abbey was only a few Euro’s more expensive (11 Euro’s), but eating there would have been cheaper than paying tourist prices at the campsite or in town. And the meals are communal, which meant I would be amongst my fellow pilgrims.

In the evening I stayed and chilled out at the campsite and had a large hot dog for tea which turned out to be awful. There were many pilgrims on site having the set menu; a three course meal with wine, but I didn’t want to pay the price. I was in bed by 6pm falling asleep to the sound of the raging river flowing nearby.

035-02 A GR marker points The Way towards Albusquies and Campagnac.JPG
A GR marker on a tree points the Way towards Albusquies and Campagnac

035-03 Pilgrim oasis for donations  just before Le Soulie.JPG
Angels of the Chemin Julie and Jerald running an oasis for pilgrims at Le Soulie

035-09 The Way is beautiful to Espeyrac.JPG
The Way to Espeyrac is beautiful

035-12 Heading into Espeyrac.JPG
Heading into Espeyrac

035-17 Entering Senergues.JPG
Entering Sénergues

035-26 The Way towards St. Marcel.JPG
The Way towards St. Marcel

035-33 The beautiful but steep descent into Conques.JPG
The descent into Conques through an enchanted forest

035-37 The beautiful but steep descent into Conques.JPG
The descent into Conques

036-23 Conques from near Chapelle St. Roche.JPG
Conques (I came over the hill in the background)
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 36 – May 11th
Rest day in Conques
0 km

‘Exploring Conques’

I woke up in my tent around 9am, got up for a wee, and as the tent was in the shade promptly went back to bed again. Bliss! I finally got up at 11.30am and hand washed my clothes, put them out to dry and chilled out by the river for a while before heading back up the steep hill to explore Conques. It was a perfect hot and sunny summer’s day.

First stop of course was the abbey and church of St. Foy which was impressive to say the least. Whilst there I popped into the pilgrim gîte (which is part of the abbey itself) to obtain a tampon (stamp) for my credencial. The visit here confirmed that I had made a wrong move by booking into the campsite for two nights and not staying at the abbey, as the hospitalero’s there were extremely friendly and helpful. While I was there pilgrims were arriving and booking in, and I was slightly jealous!

The cave under Chapelle St. Roche

It didn’t take long to fully explore Conques and as beautiful as it was I was soon regretting staying here for a full day; this place was just too expensive for me and I could have seen it all in an afternoon. However, my regret was short lived when I headed up a tiny medieval street to visit the beautiful Chapelle of St. Roche.

Chapelle St. Roche sits high on an outcrop of rock opposite the main village of Conques. Needless to say the views are magnificent, both of Conques itself and the surrounding forests. The exciting thing for me though was my discovery of a cave underneath the chapel itself. I found a tiny path leading down in front of the chapel and followed it out of curiosity, to find it led to the opening of the cave. The cave was about seven feet high and about thirty feet square. Inside set into the floor was two perfectly rectangle holes, each about five feet long, three wide and three deep. The first one at the rear was full of straw, while the second one nearer the entrance was full of water. I have no idea what the cave was for, or the holes inside, even though I later tried to find out. There was nobody around, not even any tourists, and I soon came to the conclusion that this would be a perfect place to freecamp. There was even a grass area behind the chapel where I could have pitched my tent.

Evening in Conques

After more wandering around Conques I headed back to the bar for a proper meal and a beer or two. Once again I was served by the young beautiful girl, and as soon as she saw me she offered me a ‘grande, grande, grande blonde’! The meal was stunning; duck and potato’s with all the trimmings. After watching the sun setting with a beer on the balcony I headed back to the campsite to rest before resuming my pilgrimage tomorrow. For a pilgrim one of the aspects of Conques was the infamous brutally steep climb out of town up and over a mountain to resume The Way, and I needed to be fresh and rested before attempting that.

036-04 The abbey of St. Foy in Conques.JPG
The Abbey of St. Foy in Conques

036-11 The road to Chapelle St. Roche in Conques.JPG
The road to Chapelle St. Roche in Conques

036-12 Chapelle St. Roche in Conques.JPG
Chapelle St. Roche

036-15 Entrance to the cave under Chapelle St. Roche.JPG
The entrance to the cave under Chapelle St. Roche

036-19 Conques from the cave under Chapelle St. Roche.JPG
View of Conques from the cave

036-24 Conques from near Chapelle St. Roche.JPG
Conques

036-34 Doorway in Conques dated 1771 with scallop shell.JPG
A doorway in Conques dated 1771 with scallop shell

036-40 The climb tommorow out of Conques.JPG
The climb out of Conques tomorrow is up over that!

035-52 My tent at the campsite in Conques.JPG
Camping in Conques. The campsite wasn't very friendly
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 37 – May 12th
Conques to Vivoles
19 km

‘Singing in the sunshine’

After a few coffees in the campsite café I hit the road at around 10.30am. I was more than worried about the legendary steep climb out of Conques that I had heard so much about. And yes it was tricky and tough, but though it was an extremely hot day the climb was through a forest so it was at least shaded and cool. In fact by going slow and steady I found the 300+ metre climb not too bad (I’m a lot fitter than I was)! On the way up I came across the beautiful Chapelle St. Foy with its stunning views across to Conques and beautiful decoration inside. It was a great place to rest on the climb up.

Meeting Kurt

At the top I came to an intersection where pilgrims have the choice between two routes to Decazeville. They are the Prayssac or Noailhac routes, but there does not seem much difference between them. Both Prayssac and Noailhac have café’s and the distance is about the same. While I was stood there pondering which route to take a guy came up behind me and started chatting. He turned out to be Kurt from Germany, a lovely man who was on holiday walking around the Conques area. He was also an experienced pilgrim having walked a few times before, including Le Puy to Santiago a few years previously. I asked his advice and while he confirmed that there was not much difference between the two routes, he said that when he had walked before he had taken the Noailhac route and had found it beautiful. I followed his advice and after a chat soon set of towards Noailhac.

Noailhac

Though there was a lot of road walking the Noailhac route was pretty indeed. It really was boiling hot now I was out of the forest and I had my hiking brolly deployed as a sun shade. Within an hour I was at the Chemin St. Jacques café/restaurant in Noailhac where I rested for lunch. Unfortunately the café/restaurant was closed but they had a little shop where I managed to get together a ham and cheese baguette and a few beers.

While I was at the café in Noailhac I met an older French couple in their sixties, Anaïs and Julien, who were walking from Le Puy to Santiago. Despite their age they were carrying a tent and camping all The Way. I was impressed. I was to meet them often at various campsites all across France.

Due to the persistent heat and constant road walking (walking on hot tarmac is not good, it feels like your feet are slowly cooking), The Way from Noailhac became really hard work. I decided that instead of heading directly into Decazeville, which is a large industrial mining town, (the ugliest town on the Chemin St. Jacques by far), that I would stop just before in the hamlet of Vivoles where I had spotted in the guidebook an eco-gîte that had camping. It turned out to be a good choice.

Fonteilles – Vivoles

On the way to Vivoles I was passing through the hamlet of Fonteilles when I came across the most beautiful pilgrim rest stop. It was a large picnic area on the outskirts of the village complete with a picnic bench outside, a picnic bench inside a weather proof shelter, a toilet, a fresh water tap, and a little covered kiosk type thing with a signing in book. And all this was in a beautiful garden with little flower beds and art sculptures. It was amazing that the locals had put so much care and effort to help pilgrims passing through their little corner of the world. It was a magical place and I spent a little time there chilling out in the shade from the sun. Thank you Fonteilles!

To explain how hot it had now become I will describe an incident I witnessed on the road about 3 km before Vivoles. I was sat in the middle of nowhere beside the road under my brolly having a cold beer. (I had found out that if I bury cold beers in the centre of my rucksack they would stay cold for over four hours, even in the 40 degree heat of the Spanish Meseta; much to the astonishment of my fellow pilgrims). While I was sat there under my brolly I spotted an older French couple of pilgrims coming up the steep hill towards me, the man in front and the very overweight lady behind. She was staggering as if drunk and I noticed she wasn’t even wearing a hat to shade her from the sun. Just as she passed me and I was about to get up to enquire over her wellbeing, she just collapsed into the ditch. She was really dehydrated and possibly had sunstroke. They had to call a taxi to get them to the gîte they had booked in Decazeville. I hope she was ok, but she was stupid walking under this sun with no hat.

The Le Mineur Paysan Eco-Gîte in Vivoles

I arrived at the eco-gîte around 5pm and checked in, set up my tent and showered. Even though I was camping I was allowed full access to the facilities including the excellent kitchen, not bad for only 6 Euro’s. The gîte was environmentally friendly of course, with solar panels and even compost toilets. The owner was amazed that I knew how to use the compost loos without being instructed, and was well impressed when I told him I was a Greenpeace volunteer and activist. The landlady gave me a present of half a loaf of home baked bread for tomorrow which was really kind of her. The whole gîte had been built from a ruin using recycled and locally sourced materials. They also had a little shop there that residents could buy organic food to cook, though this was a bit expensive for me. I bought beer (of course) and cooked up a packet of instant noodles, which I ate with two lovely French pilgrims Bernadette and Katerine.

It was a lovely evening; I sat out on the balcony having a good chat watching the sun set with the ladies until it was time for bed. This gîte was a great place. It had been a great walking day and I had sung my head off for most of it!

037-01 Leaving Conques across the 16th century Roman bridge.JPG
Leaving Conques across the 16th century Roman bridge. The Way is straight up that mountain ahead!

037-07 View of Conques from the 300 metre steep climb out.JPG
View of Conques from the steep 300 metre climb out

037-10 View of Conques from Chapelle St. Foy.JPG
Conques from Chapelle St. Foy

037-11 The Way above Conques.JPG
At the top at last! The Way above Conques

037-17 Looking back on Noailhac.JPG
Looking back at Noailhac

037-19 The Way before Fonteilles.JPG
The Way before Fonteilles

037-22 Chatting up the ladies before Fonteilles.JPG
Chatting up the ladies before Fonteilles

037-25 Beautiful pilgrim rest area at Fonteilles.JPG
The beautiful pilgrim oasis at Fonteilles

037-29 First view of Decazeville.JPG
Decazeville comes into view

037-30 Me outside the eco-gite in Vivoles.JPG
Me outside the wonderful Le Mineur Paysan Eco-Gîte in Vivoles
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 38 – May 13th
Vivoles to Livinhac le Haut
6 km

‘Kidnapped by Romy’

I woke up in the garden of the eco-gîte and was up on the balcony for breakfast at 8am.

I was soon in Decazeville and I was soon back out again quickly, stopping only to buy some supplies at a small shop. Decazeville looked like what it was; a rough mining town (I would of probably liked it a lot)! The town has a rich history I would like to have learnt more about, including various miners’ revolutions and riots.


Beer for donations in St. Roche

The walk out of Decazeville was a short but extremely tough 2 km climb in boiling temperatures to the hamlet of St. Roche. In St. Roche I came across pilgrim heaven! As I entered the village I was passing a gîte with an old lady stood in the doorway, and when she saw me she sang the medieval pilgrim song ‘Ultreia’ for me in its entirety! As soon as she finished she asked “Do you want a beer?” Oh yes I do! Not only that but the beer was for donation! So I had two while chatting to a lovely young French couple who were cycling to Santiago. The gîte was the Gîte Sentinelle run by the wonderful Bridgitte d’Halluin who operates the gîte on the principle of participatory eco-citizenship: guests donate what they want to cover the costs. Brigitte cooks using vegetables and herbs from her own garden as well as eggs from her own chickens.

After donating some Euros’ for the beers I headed off. I think this would be a great place to stay.

Meeting Romy in Livinhac le Haut

It was stupidly hot by now but it was only a few kilometres to Livinhac Le Haut where I planned to stop for lunch. The Way from St. Roche to Livinhac le Haut was pretty and I arrived in the town square around midday. Little did I know that I would be here two days!

When I arrived I noticed that there was a nice looking bar in the town square with tables outside, so I headed there for a cold beer. At the next table were a group of five or six French people, obviously local, chilling out and drinking. One of the French people sat by me was a beautiful crusty looking girl in her 30’s with long dreadlocks and a ready smile. Soon they ordered dinner which looked so good I asked the beautiful girl what it was (pork curry and couscous) and ordered one myself. In a typically wonderful French gesture, when my meal was delivered the beautiful girl invited me to eat with them and they all made space for me at their table. It was in this way that I was introduced to the wonderful Romy.

After my meal I stayed there a while having another beer and Romy explained she worked in the local shop in the square and had to go and work a shift for a few hours but she would be back if I stayed there. Of course I stayed there!

Just after Romy left for work a pretty young Australian pilgrim turned up who sat with me and had a drink. She was travelling alone and was glad I was English. Like me she did not speak French and she said it was great to be able to converse in our own language. Shortly we were joined by two female South African pilgrims who of course also spoke English and soon we had our own English drinking club going on! They even started to buy me beers!

A few hours later the Australian and South Africans headed off back on The Way, but within minutes I was joined again by Romy who had finished work. We sat drinking for a few hours more and were joined by various locals who Romy knew. Of course in a small town like Livinhac everyone knew each other, and I was introduced to what seemed like half of the town including passers by.

Romy asked me what my plan was for the day and I told her I would probably freecamp just outside town as it was still incredibly hot and I was slowly getting plastered. Later she told me I could come back to her house and have a meal and stay the night. It sounded like a plan to me and I agreed.

Romy’s house

Soon we headed off to back to Romy’s house which was an amazing place a few kilometres away on the bank of the River Lot that flows around the town. At Romy’s we carried on drinking while I found out a little more about her. It turned out she was part of an environmental action group that was against genetically modified (GM) crops, and that she had been arrested on a few occasions for deliberately destroying GM crops. My kind of woman! (I am a Greenpeace activist with quite a few arrests of my own). She also explained that the bar/restaurant we were in earlier was only recently opened and the two young men that owned it lived with her for no rent. It was her way of helping them out until the business was established. Soon we were joined by her friend who had been at the bar earlier and Romy cooked a wonderful pasta for us.

By now I was quite drunk and I passed out on the sofa in the house porch cuddled up to Romy’s huge dog Bambi. When I woke up a few hours later there looked like a storm coming and Romy said I could stay in the house, but the sofa on the porch was covered and comfortable and as I didn’t want to push my luck I decided to stay there for the night. I slept like a log.

038-03 A giant scallop shell marking points The Way through Decazeville.JPG
A giant scallop shell marks The Way through Decazeville

038-06 Pilgrim heaven. Gite Sentinelle in St. Roche where they had beer for donations!.JPG
Pilgrim heaven. Gite Sentinelle in St. Roche

038-09 Shrine to St. Jacques just past St. Roche.JPG
A roadside shrine to St. Jacques just past St. Roche

038-12 The Way above Livinhac Le Haut.JPG
The Way towards Livinhac le Haut

038-13 About to enter Livinhac Le Haut.JPG
Livinhac le Haut comes into view

038-16 Romy (right) and friends in Livinhac Le Haut.JPG
The wonderful Romy (right) and friends in Livinhac le Haut

038-20 The porch where I slept at Romy's house.JPG
My bed for the night, the porch of Romy's house
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 39 – May 14th
Rest day in Livinhac Le Haut
0 km

‘Should I stay or should I go’

I woke up after a very comfortable and drunken sleep on Romy’s porch and was packed up and ready to go when Romy asked me if I wanted to stay another day. Today was a national holiday in France (Ascension Day) and so Romy did not have to work, also it was completely pouring down with rain. I didn’t take much persuading to stay!

We sat in her lovely garden most of the day under a balcony next to the river drinking beers and chatting. Though it was raining it was still warm. Romy’s friend came around again (I wish I could remember her name because she was lovely) and Romy cooked us up a beautiful pasta curry.

Later on we went back into town where she was meeting a couple of friends in the local bar. Her friends were lovely and were a couple of total crusties who live on the road complete with dreadlocks and doggies on a string. They reminded me of some of my good friends back home.

In the evening me and Romy went back to her house and chilled out drinking and chatting. When I told her I had walked through the village of Aubrac she asked me if I knew Remi! (The anarchist guy who I had stayed with in his 12th century house). She confirmed what I already knew; that he was a legend!

Romy took me to show me her large Mercedes camper van and asked if I wanted to sleep there, but I chose to once again sleep outside, this time on the covered balcony overlooking the river. There was a big thunder storm this night and it was cold, but I was warm and comfy in my sleeping bag on the old sofa. It had been a good day.

039-08 The balcony where I slept at Romy's house in Livinhac Le Haut.JPG
The balcony where I slept at Romy's house in Livinhac le Haut
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 40 – May 15th
Livinhac le Haut to Figeac
26.5 km

‘Squatting a camping-chalet in Figeac’

When I got up this morning Romy was already up and was about to leave to do an early shift in the shop. She left the house open so I could use the facilities as I got packed up and ready for resuming my Way. Despite the thunderstorm overnight I had slept well. The first stop for me was the bar back in Livinhac for a coffee where I got a lovely welcome from the owners. After stocking up on some supplies (chocolate, bananas and beer – my favourite walking lunch) in Romy’s shop and thanking her for her hospitality I set off.

The Way today was nice and easy with perfect walking weather; cool and cloudy but warm when the sun chose to come out. But I found walking out of Livinhac hard; not only because I was still drunk (and that was hard) but because I felt I was walking away from something instead of walking to something. I would miss Romy and I wanted to stay.

After 6 km I came to the village of Montredon where the church there, the Église Saint Michel, had set up a pilgrim reception and rest room. You could get a tampon (stamp) for your credencial there and they also had hot coffee, juice and cake for donations. It was a welcome break and coffee stop.

Figeac

The rest of the 20.5 kilometres to Figeac were uneventful and I had arrived there by late afternoon. Figeac is one of the largest towns on the Le Puy – St. Jean route (population 9,773), a big touristy town on the banks of the River Célé. I walked into town and found the tourist information office so I could find out where the campsite was; of course it was about 2 km out of town back the way I had just come! It didn’t take long to get there though and I booked into the Campsite Le Domaine du Surgié with no problem.

I was about to book in when a haggard looking French pilgrim about my age turned up who suggested that we share a pitch. Usually on French campsites you can get more than one tent on a pitch so it works out cheaper if we shared. However, after we had paid (8.50 Euros’) we discovered a line of canvas chalets that were not being used and had not yet been set up for the season. They had bunk beds in them and a little sitting/kitchen room too. We decided to squat one each for the night instead of bothering to set up our tents. (They are usually the same price as pitching a tent). At this time (early in the season) the campsite was pretty deserted so we knew that we were not really bothering anyone by squatting the chalets and it turned out they didn't mind at all.

It was at this point that I discovered that I had left my mobile phone at Romy’s house. My mobile was an ancient old Nokia pay as you go so I wasn’t that fussed about losing it. I certainly wasn’t going to walk back to Livinhac; another option was to catch a bus from Figeac there and back tomorrow and pick it up. I did have Romy’s telephone number written down though so I decided to ring her from reception where I thought there may be a payphone, maybe I could ask her to post it forward to me to a town further on my route. There wasn’t a payphone, but the kind receptionist offered to ring her for me. Unfortunately there was no answer, but she said she would try again later on this evening.

While walking to reception I walked past the campsite restaurant and noticed it was closed. When I asked the nice receptionist when it would open she gave me the bad news. There was a group of 100 motorcyclists who had booked in and were arriving on site tonight. They were holding a bike rally here and had booked the restaurant for a private dinner. This meant that I would have to walk into Figeac for dinner, a 4 km round trip. But worse for me was if French bike rallies were anything like their English counterparts it was likely I wasn’t going to get much sleep!

In the evening I had a pleasant walk around Figeac and managed to find an excellent Turkish kebab house for dinner before returning to site and crashing out around 10pm.

040-01 A sign points The Way towards Figeac.JPG
Outside Livinhac le Haut a sign points the way to Figeac

040-02 Cant Avey Lot! No you can't! Outside Livinhac Le Haut.JPG
Cant Avey Lot! No you can't! Outside Livinhac le Haut

040-04 The pilgrim centre had coffee, juice and cake for donations.JPG
The Église Saint Michel in Montredon had a pilgrim rest centre with drinks and cakes for donations

040-05 Sign saying portion of the route dangerous outside Montredon.JPG
Outside Montredon a sign warns that a portion of the route is dangerous. I never found anywhere that was dangerous

040-06 The Way between Montredon and Figeac.JPG
The Way between Montredon and Figeac

040-07 Famous pilgrim poem in village between Montredon and Figeac.JPG
A French version of a famous pilgrim poem in a village between Montredon and Figeac

040-08 The Way between Montredon and Figeac.JPG
The Way between Montredon and Figeac

040-13 Crossing the River Cele into Figeac.JPG
Crossing the River Cele into Figeac

040-17 Kebab in Figeac.JPG
Turkish kebab in Figeac
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 41 – May 16th
Figeac to Béduer
27 km (including 15 km lost)

‘Getting seriously lost’

I woke up in the chalet in Figeac early (for me) at around 9am and finally set off at 10.30am. On the way out of the campsite I passed the bikers queuing for breakfast at the campsite restaurant – the lucky buggers – I was dying for a coffee but it was still exclusively booked by them. The bikers were extremely friendly and I got many a ‘Bon Chemin!’ from them as they recognised me as a pilgrim. I had thought their partying would have kept me awake last night but they were extremely quiet. In fact most of them looked very well dressed and a bit middle class, not like a typical bikers rally in the UK.

A choice of Routes

There was a choice of routes today. From Figeac there is either the GR65 or the Rocamadour routes, both of which go to Cahors. Rocamadour is a stunningly beautiful medieval village that clings to a steep cliff face and one of the top tourist attractions in France. A pilgrim destination in its own right, it is a popular variant on The Way to Santiago. However from Figeac I will continue on the GR65. The Rocamadour route is a beautiful but long detour, but I really cannot be done with tourists.

It is 11.5 km from Figeac on the GR65 to Béduer where there is another choice of routes. There are either the Cajarc to Cahors route or the Célé route which follows the River Célé to Cahors. I was planning to take the Célé route along the river valley but as they say; ‘how do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans’. First stop though was into Figeac for a much needed coffee or three.

Stop for an afternoon kip

The Way today was easy apart from the usual steep climb out of town and it was perfect walking weather; nice and cool and cloudy. On The Way to Béduer where I was to take the Célé route I did something that was to become common for me while walking through France and Spain. In the village of Faycelles I stopped off at a shop and stocked up on picnic food and some beers, then carried on into the countryside to find a pretty field or meadow. Just before Mas de la Croix I found the perfect place, got out my rollmat and sleeping bag and had my lunch and had a nice afternoon kip. This was a common thing for French pilgrims and hikers, I would often come across them asleep in all sorts of out of the way places; fields, forests and even in farmers barns.

Lost

Whilst walking towards Béduer I met a young male French pilgrim and we walked together for a while. Discussing our options in Béduer I told him my plan to walk the Célé Valley route and he told me he wanted to take the Cajarc route as he was meeting up with a friend there later, he had even booked his accommodation there. We spotted the familiar white/red GR markings heading out of the village, but could not find the other route out of there so we stopped to compare maps (the maps in our guide books are abstract to say the least). The Cajarc route we knew was the ‘original’ Way, so we supposed these GR markings were for that route and so the French lad went off happily, while I retraced my steps to find the Célé route.

I found a French farmer working in a field and asked him for directions, even though he spoke very little English he pointed to where the French lad had disappeared and said “Chemin St. Jacques”. “Oui” I replied and pointed on my map to the other Way, the Célé route. He pointed to a track opposite the field and said “Célé”, so off I went. From there it went horribly wrong.

As I headed down the path it seemed well marked, but not with the white/red GR markings. This did not worry me too much, as I had expected the alternate route to be marked differently somehow. There were two distinct markings on this trail; yellow boards with what certainly looked like a pilgrim with a backpack and staff and an arrow pointing the way, and a version of the GR markings but in yellow. So on I continued.

After a few hours I started to have doubts that this was The Way. There wasn’t the usual signs of pilgrims (or anyone else for that matter) passing this way. There were no footprints, even on the sandy sections of the trail. I passed a few roadside crosses which are common on The Way which put me at ease until I noticed there were no stones placed on these crosses; pilgrims often place stones on them to mark their passage, it is a common pilgrim ritual. And there was no toilet paper at all behind hedges and trees (I will gripe about this disgusting habit at length later). I decided to carry on; I had walked too far to just turn back. It would surely lead somewhere.

Another hour later, now certain I had gone wrong, the trail came to a T-junction with a forest track leading off to the left and right. This track was marked with white/red GR markings; I was back on The Way! However, was this the Célé or Cajarc route? I didn’t care by now which route I was on, but I had one more mystery to solve; Left or right? I knew that The Way generally heads West towards Santiago, so I got my compass out and found that this GR track headed north and south; no help there then, I would just have to take a guess knowing if I took the wrong one I would be heading back the way I had came. After about 2.5 km I came to Béduer; the village I had started from over three hours ago! And it was now raining heavily just to fob me off even more.

The facts in the end were these;

· When I was with the young French pilgrim we were actually on the Célé route; the way I wanted to go. The French lad had gone the wrong way; he would never make it to Cajarc and to his booked accommodation today now. I felt sorry for him.

· The route I took was a circular 15 km local walking route starting and ending in Béduer.

· Both the Célé and Cajarc routes are marked with the white/red GR (Grand Randonnée) markings. The yellow markings I was following are PR (Petite Randonnée) or local paths.

On the good side, the walk today was stunning; in fact one of the most beautiful days walking I was to undertake in France. And it was remote, I never saw another human being in the whole 15 kilometres while I was ‘lost’. I also passed some truly magnificent ancient dolmans, old Stone Age burial chambers. I might have been fed up and wet when I got back to Béduer, but it had certainly been a good walking day.

In Béduer. Again

Trudging back into Béduer in the pouring rain I was worried. It was now late in the evening and I had no accommodation. What if Beduer was complete? That would really fob me off, I would have to continue walking and find somewhere to camp in the rain. In fact the first gîte I came across was indeed complete, but I struck lucky just around the corner. I found a spare room in the excellent Chambre d'Hotes La Mythie (very expensive at 40 Euro’s just for the bed – but by now I really didn’t care) and I got a warm welcome from the owners who must of took pity on this tired and soggy pilgrim as they gave me some free beers! The downside was there was no food available anywhere, so it was stale sandwiches out of my pack for supper.

041-03 Cross above Figeac.JPG
Cross above Figeac

041-09 Faycelles.JPG
Passing through Faycelles

041-10 Roadside cross just past Faycelles dated 1738.JPG
A roadside cross just past Faycelles dated 1738

041-12 Rest stop in a field before Mas de la Croix.JPG
An afternoon kip in a field just before Mas de la Croix

041-14 Sign points the  way, but I'm lost.JPG
A sign points The Way after Béduer but I am in fact lost. I thought that was a pilgrim on the sign!

041-17 Lost after Beduer.JPG
I might be lost but it is a beautiful walk

041-18 Lost after Beduer.JPG
Still beautiful, still lost!

041-20 Lost after Beduer. A typical French cazelle (shepherds shelter).JPG
Lost after Béduer. Passing a cazelle, a shepherds shelter

041-24 Lost after Beduer. An ancient Dolman.JPG
Lost after Béduer. Passing an ancient dolmen

041-26 My home tonight; Chambre d'Hotes La Mythie in Beduer .JPG
Back in Béduer. Again. My home for the night, the excellent Chambre d'Hotes La Mythie
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 42 – May 17th
Béduer to Cajarc
20.5 km

‘Drunk with a French anarchist’

I woke up in the apartment for breakfast at 8.30am after a very good nights sleep in a comfortable bed. I set off just after 9.30am in drizzling rain which soon turned into a torrential downpour. I decided to take the first GR65 route out of Béduer I could find, I no longer cared if it was either the Cajarc or Célé route. The landlord told me that The Way passes nearby and pointed me in the right direction, and this turned out to be the Cajarc route. This meant I had to walk the same 2 km that I had walked yesterday after I had got lost, not that I cared; I was just glad to escape from Béduer. The signage for the two routes out of Béduer are poorly marked, and both are marked with the white/red GR65 markings; though they fail to tell you which route they are for (Cajarc or Célé Valley).

Walking today was good and quite easy and by lunch time the rain stopped and it became warm when the sun came out. By late afternoon it had become hot and sunny. Just after 10 km from Béduer and after passing through the village of Gréalou I came across a series of ancient stones including the impressive Dolmen de Pech-Laglayre. This area of France seems littered with these Stone Age stones and burial chambers.

The Grotte de Lachaune

Around 2.30pm I caught my first view of Cajarc, a pretty market town nestled between wooded hills on the bank of the River Lot down in the valley below me. The Way into Cajarc entailed a steep but easy descent down a cliff face with spectacular views across the Lot Valley. It was down this path descending into town that I came across the Grotte de Lachaune, an enormous cave set into the cliff. There were numerous fire-pits set up indicating that the locals or pilgrims had been camping there, indeed this looks like an excellent place to freecamp, and I would of done except for the fact I was short of food and water. I briefly considered walking into Cajarc and getting supplies and returning, but decided against this as it would have entailed a 2-3 km steep walk back up the cliff path that I would have had to repeat tomorrow.

Cajarc

I arrived in Cajarc around 3.30pm and after a few beers in a bar I decided to check into the municipal campsite and after setting up I wandered back into the town to explore. It was market day in Cajarc and the town was heaving even though it was a Sunday. I wandered around the stalls which looked like a cross between a typical rural town market and a car boot sale before ensconcing myself on the terrace of a bar to do some serious people watching. The French were out in force, families out shopping, children running around playing and many locals sat in the sun outside the bar. There were many pilgrims there too, even though I hadn’t seen one on all day whilst walking here.

Adrien the anarchist

In the early evening as the locals headed off for home and as the bar closed the pizza place nearby opened so I headed there for more beer and dinner. Whilst sat there I was joined by two French pilgrims including Adrien who I found out after a while was a scientist and also an anarchist. We sat there for hours well into the night and had an in depth discussion on police and government infiltration of the anarchist movements in both the UK and in France. He was well informed of the Mark Kennedy case in England but I was surprised that there were huge problems of police infiltration in France also. Adrien was good company and I enjoyed having someone to chat too for a while, sadly though I never met him again. Such is The Way.

We had way too many beers and I staggered back to the campsite just before midnight.

042-03 The Dolmen de Pech-Laglayre after Grealou.JPG
The dolmen de Pech-Laglayre after Grealou

042-05 The Way between Grealou and St. Chels.JPG
The Way between Grealou and St. Chels

042-07 Cajarc comes into view.JPG
Carjarc comes into view

042-10 Entrance to cave (Grotte de Lachaune) before Cajarc.JPG
The entrance to the cave the Grotte de Lachaune just before Carjarc

042-12 Looking out of the cave before Cajarc.JPG
Looking out of the cave

042-15 The Way entering Cajarc.JPG
The Way descends into Carjarc

042-16 English sign at hotel L'Atelier in Cajarc.JPG
An English sign in Carjarc

042-17 Market day in Cajarc.JPG
Market day in Carjarc
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 43 – May 18th
Cajarc to Limogne en Quercy
18 km

‘Feeling ill and Chased by vicious dogs again’

I got up really late and worse for wear after drinking way too much last night; I finally managed to set off around 10.30am. There was no café on the campsite so no coffee, but at least The Way passed the entrance of the campsite so I knew where I was.

The Way out of Cajarc was a short but very steep climb up a cliff face. Part of the path consisted of steep steps that were too high for me to get up easily with my pack on; in places I had to use my hands to climb up them though my staff helped somewhat. Also, the path was very narrow and rough with a steep drop on one side, and to be honest this section scared me a little as I’m scared of heights.

This was a ‘green man day’ (an easy walking day) according to the guide, but I wasn’t feeling well at all. I had a queasy stomach and I kept on having dizzy spells which I was concerned about. It didn’t feel like a hangover. I had to keep stopping to sit down, and at one point I stopped in a field for a snooze. I felt miserable, but at least the weather was hot and sunny all day. There was to be no singing from me today.

After 4 km and having crossed over the River Lot I came to the splendid village of Gaillac which was perched on a cliff face. It looked like a nice place to explore but feeling ill I pressed on. The guide book told me there was nothing in Gaillac, but wonder of wonders I found a café that was not on the map; time for coffee then!

Pilgrim oasis at St. Jean de Laur

The next section was a very beautiful 6 km on enchanted wooded tracks where the trees formed a tunnel to the village of St. Jean de Laur. My guide told me that just before you enter St. Jean de Laur there was a pilgrim rest stop with a fountain and a café. I was planning on having lunch and a long break there. When I arrived I was stunned, it was a fantastic and beautiful place. It consisted of an open barn for use as a wet weather shelter next to an ancient lavoir (a traditional communal laundry), and picnic tables in the sun. The lavoir even had large carp swimming in the spring fed pool. The site was beautifully decorated with dozens of multi-coloured scallop shells hung from the trees, and a signpost gave distances to many places such as Lyon, Berlin and Rome. It also informed me that I had walked 570 km from Geneva and that Santiago de Compostela was still a further 1,252 km! The rest stop was run and maintained by the pilgrim association of St. Jean de Laur, once again proving that the locals are proud that their village is on The Way. Unfortunately though the café was closed and I was by now starving, but at least I was carrying some food in my pack.

Attacked by two dogs

I think it was sometime after passing St. Jean de Laur that I was again attacked by dogs. I had just passed a house on a secluded country road when I heard a commotion behind me. Turning round there were two dogs, a huge Alsatian and a large collie running at me from behind snarling. I did the by now usual defence tactic; facing them I lifted my staff in the air and waving it at them shouting at them to bugger off while backing away out of their territory. Unfortunately they split up, one going for my front and one trying to get behind me. This was scary; two dogs are difficult to fend off, as they tend to egg each other on. I looked like a crazy whirling dervish spinning around swinging my staff in the air and screaming at them until I managed to slowly get away from them. The owners of the house had left their garden gate open. I would never walk without a staff.

Limogne en Quercy

I finally arrived in Limogne en Quercy around 5.30pm, and feeling a little better I stopped for a beer. There were numerous pilgrims arriving at the bar, some staying in the town for the night and some just passing through. Sat near me were two young male French pilgrims, one of whom I had met yesterday at the pizza place in Cajarc with Adrien the anarchist. They were just passing through and after a beer got up to get ready to go. One of them was rubbing a very swollen knee; it looked awful and very painful. I gave him some ibuprofen cream to put on and gave him my knee brace from my first aid kit. My knee had been ok now for a while, and I just could not let him go on in that state without a support, he probably wouldn’t make it and would damage his knee more in the process. They were walking The Way in etapes (stages) and were only going as far as Moissac which was about four or five days away, and he said he would leave the knee brace in the tourist information office there for me to pick up when I passed through (it wasn’t there when I got there but I wasn’t surprised – the staff there were not friendly at all and I suppose he wasn’t allowed to leave it there).

I decided to check into the municipal campsite which was about 1.5 km up the road, and I’m glad I did. The owners were extraordinarily friendly and I received a warm welcome.

In the evening after a shower I headed back into town for a meal and a few beers. The duck steak I had was simply superb, the best meal I had in France yet, and that is saying something as the food in France was generally excellent. I managed to drum up some good business for them too by directing hungry pilgrims in their direction.

I was back at the campsite and in bed by 9pm, even though it was still light until 9.30pm. It had been a tough day for me, and I still wasn’t feeling good at all.

043-01 Chemin de Compostelle after Gaillac.JPG
Chemin de Copmpostelle after Gaillac

043-02 Looking back on Gaillac.JPG
Looking back at Gaillac

043-04 The Way towards St. Jean de Laur.JPG
The Way towards St. Jean de Laur

043-06 The view on the way towards St. Jean de Laur.JPG
The view before St. Jean de Laur

043-12 Sometimes there is a cafe here (not today though).JPG
Pilgrim oasis at St. Jean de Laur

043-08 Pilgrim rest stop just before St. Jean de Laur.JPG

043-13 I've walked 570km. Only 1,252 to go.JPG
I've walked 570 km. Only 1,252 to go!

043-14 Lavoir at Pilgrim rest stop just before St. Jean de Laur.JPG
The lavoir at St. Jean de Laur was full of Carp

043-21 Pilgrims heading into Ligmogne en Quercy.JPG
Pilgrims heading into Limogne en Quercy
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 44 – May 19th
Limogne en Quercy
0 km

‘A rest day recovering in Limogne en Quercy’

When I woke up this morning in my tent it was absolutely pouring down with rain. And as I was still not feeling my best I decided to have a rest day here to recover; so I had a nice lie-in. To be honest it was raining so heavily I just could not face packing up a wet tent.

At breakfast I asked the lovely manager Eric about using the internet as I thought it was about time I checked in and informed the world that I was still alive. Though the campsite had Wi-Fi you had to have your own device which I hadn’t, and there was no internet café in town. So Eric drove home to pick up a tablet I could use; it took him two hours! And he said I could use it for free too! Bless you Eric. I also took the opportunity to use the campsite washing machines to do all my laundry, though they had no dryers I hung it all out under an awning out of the rain in the toilet block hoping it would dry out by tomorrow.

I spent the afternoon sat outside the local bar (of course) glad that it had now stopped raining. It was interesting watching pilgrims passing through the town and it seemed most of them stopped off here for a coffee or lunch. I met some really interesting people including a young black American lad who was a very talented artist and been drawing while he walked The Way. I also met a young German pilgrim who had met the infamous Remi in Aubrac; Romy had offered him free pizza!

After a great meal of pork steak and chips and a fair few beers I headed back to the campsite for an early night.

044-01 Scary. A display in the tourist office in Limogne en Quercy.JPG
A very scary display in the tourist office in Limogne en Quercy
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 45 – May 20th
Limogne en Quercy to Mas de Vers
21 km

‘A green man day in the rain’

I woke up in my tent around 8.30am to find it raining steadily once again. I went to breakfast (it is unusual for municipal campsites to serve breakfast) and hung around chatting to Eric the owners wife and his brother; I was delaying myself hoping that the rain would clear off. There was also the fact that most of my washing was still damp.

Crossing the Causse de Limogne

It sure was a brolly day today though The Way was very easy; almost totally flat, the first flat day since I had set off 45 days ago! After 7 km The Way bypassed the village of Varaire where the guidebook promised me there was a café but I decided to trudge on a further 5 km to Bach, especially as it had now stopped raining for the time being. The Way between Limogne en Quercy and Bach was across the Causse de Limogne (a Causse is ahilly limestone scrubland) a largely forested plateau famous for its deep chasms or so-called "phosphate holes" (phosphatières in French), dolmens, prehistoric megaliths and small dry stone huts called cazelles which had various uses including as shelters for shepherds. I had passed many of these cazelles over the last few days and there were many more today. Conical in shape and with an open entrance a lot of them would make a good freecamp. It was interesting and beautiful walking.

Meeting ‘My Germans’

On the outskirts of the village of Bach I came across the Gîte La Grange St. Jacques, where I was so intrigued I decided to stop off for a rest and a beer or two. It was an amazing place, looking like a converted medieval farm complete with tower. The owner Mike was English and was a pilgrim himself (he and his wife had walked to Santiago a few years ago), and it was really strange chatting to someone with an English accent! I would thoroughly recommend this gite.

Just after I turned up a group of ten Germans arrived, they had booked in for the night (lucky I didn’t want to stay here as there was only ten beds)! They were an extremely friendly bunch and I had a beer with them before they went of to sort their beds out. They were walking The Way in etapes of two weeks stages. They had started walking from home near Munich five years ago; and they calculated it was another seven years before they reached Santiago! Now that was commitment. They were a friendly fun loving bunch and I would come across them repeatedly until their etape was over for the year (their etape for this year was from Decazeville to Flamarens) and I had the pleasure of walking with them on a few occasions. Whenever I bumped into them my day brightened, they were all lovely; I nicknamed them ‘my Germans’.

2.8 km after Bach The Way splits into two variants. There is the GR65 Cahors route (Bach – Le Pech – Cahors) or the L’hospitalet route (Bach – Vaylats – Lalbenque – L’hospitalet – Labastide that bypasses Cahors). I wanted to visit the historic town of Cahors that I had heard so much about so took the GR65 route.

Vaylats

From Bach it was only a further 3 km to the lovely village of Vaylats, a beautiful walk across grassy lanes. The GR65 route skirted Vaylats to the north but I detoured into the village as there looked to be a storm brewing and Vaylats had a café and a little shop. Vaylats also had an impressive church, but most of the village was taken up by a huge beautiful convent which offered accommodation for pilgrims. The café was a stunning place and the owner was very friendly too, they even sold bottles of real ale! While I sat there with my beer and thinking about lunch the weather broke again and it began to pour down with rain. As I sheltered in the café by an open fire I was really glad I had stopped off here. After a while the rain abated and after picking up and eating a ham and cheese baguette from the little shop I headed off back on The Way.

Gîte du Poudally at Mas de Vers

After a final 6 km walking on beautiful country lanes which were mostly off-road and in and out of forests I passed through the hamlet of Mas de Vers. My guidebook informed me that there was a gîte that had camping just 300 metres off route from Mas de Vers, and as it was now getting late and raining on and off I decided to check in there. The Gîte du Poudally was a stunning place on an old farm. Lucky I had a tent as it was full, but I didn’t mind as it was only 5 Euro’s for camping and I could use all the facilities, have a shower and cook. They even had donks! The owners made me most welcome, though it was strange eating the pot-noodle I had cooked while all the other pilgrims had a three course meal! I felt slightly out of place there, not that I cared in the slightest. This was another gîte I fully recommend. Despite the rain it had been a good day.

045-01 The Way towards Varaire.JPG
The Way towards Varaire

045-04 A cazelle (shepherds shelter) near Varaire.JPG
A cazelle (shepherds shelter) near Varaire

045-09 The Gite La Grange St. Jacques at Bach.JPG
The excellent Gite La Grange St. Jacques at Bach

045-13 The Way between Bach and Vaylats.JPG
The Way between Bach and Vaylats

045-14 The Cafe de Lorme in Vaylats where I shelterd from the rain.JPG
The cafe in Vaylats where I sheltered from the storm

045-15 The church in Vaylats under a stormy sky.JPG
The church in Vaylats under a stormy sky

045-17 A pilgrim figure on a wall just outside Vaylats.JPG
Pilgrim statue on a wall past Vaylats
 

Bendt Johansen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
From Malaga to Santiago 2016
Hi Davey
I have been reading most of your postings. It is very interesting and entertaining to read. Thanks a lot! It has certainly not discouraged me from setting out on a camino later this year.
Bendt
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Hi Davey
I have been reading most of your postings. It is very interesting and entertaining to read. Thanks a lot! It has certainly not discouraged me from setting out on a camino later this year.
Bendt
Hi Brendt!

Welcome to the forum!

I hope I don't discourage you to walk your Camino! You will love it I'm sure!
Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 46 – May 21st
Mas de Vers to Cahors
18 km

‘I’m very sorry I killed you baby bird’

It was a dreadful morning, though it had started out nicely enough. I had woken up late in my tent around 10.30am then gone into the gîte and managed to blag three cups of coffee from the other pilgrim’s breakfasts (I hadn’t booked one). I hadn’t realised last night that all the pilgrims staying there were together. There were about twenty of them, all French bicigrino’s, and they still hadn’t left yet either. The landlady was a very patient woman!

As the bicegrino’s set off I sat outside chilling out with my coffee watching three very cute baby birds by a bush near to the gîtes back door. They were beautiful, and the parents were busy flying to and fro feeding them. Now ready to set off I went into the gîte to use the loo. When I came back out one of the chicks had hopped in front of the door and I stood on it on my way out. It exploded. At least it had died quickly. I felt terrible and did so for the rest of the day. Bad pilgrim!

Across the Causse de Limogne

I set off around 11.30am, the weather today was perfect for walking; cool and cloudy with sunny spells. I was still crossing the flat hilly limestone scrubland of the Causse de Limogne and there was to be a lot of walking on beautiful woodland paths. After 4 km near Laburgade I came across the Fontaine d’Outriols, which wasn’t just a fountain but a beautiful huge old lavoir (communal washing place) and I stopped of here for breakfast.

The Way then bypassed the village of Le Pech and after 6 more kilometres after crossing a motorway I came across a pilgrim refuge beside the track in a wood. It was a simple stone one roomed dwelling with no windows and no door, but it had obviously been recently renovated. Inside a sign informed me that it had been renovated by the local friends of the Chemin for use by passing pilgrims. It had some seats and a fire pit and would be a good bad weather shelter or even a place to freecamp. Not for me though as I wanted to get to Cahors today and it was still early.

Whilst walking today I met a lot of nice pilgrims. I bumped into My Germans and we had a chat, but I also bumped into a large walking group of older French pilgrims who I was to bump into often over the coming weeks and became friends with. It is difficult to say how many of them there were as they didn’t always walk or stay together, but I guess there must have been a dozen of them, including two lovely French Asian ladies and their husbands. They always brightened up when they spotted me and would always chat; they thought I was quite intrepid and adventurous for not booking accommodation and freecamping. They seemed to keep a motherly or fatherly eye on me and often helped me out too. It was always a pleasure to see them. They were a fun loving bunch and they had made good friends with My Germans too as I would often bump into them together.

Cahors

Coming down off the Causse de Limogne into Cahors wasn’t as steep as I had expected but the views over the town were magnificent. Cahors is a large town (population 20,000) surrounded on three sides by the River Lot. It is famous for the fortified Valentré Bridge, also known as the Devils Bridge. Building of the bridge started in 1308 and legend has it that building it took so long that the architect entered into a pact with the devil; when the bridge was complete the devil would own the architects soul. In 1378 the architect reneged on his pact with the devil by never putting into place the final stone, hence never completing the bridge. When the bridge was restored in 1879, the architect Paul Gout made reference to this by placing a small sculpture of the devil at the summit of one of the towers. Cahors is also mentioned in Dante’s Inferno alongside Sodom as being wicked. This was due to the local bankers charging interest on loans at a time when the church regarded this as a sin.

Cahors was too big for my liking, apart from the old medieval centre it wasn’t even pretty, and there was just too much traffic and commercialisation. After a grande blonde beer when I arrived I headed to the tourist information office to get a tampon (stamp) for my credencial and get directions to the campsite, which as I expected was not in town.

Before heading off to the campsite I thought I had better get a meal somewhere as the campsite was out of town and there was no guarantee that it served food. I didn’t want to walk back into town again later. The food options in Cahors are immense, but I found a great Turkish kebab house. Turkish kebab houses in France (and Spain) are a thousand times better than their English counterparts; they are truly restaurants. This one did not disappoint either and the Turkish staff were extremely friendly. They were more than impressed when I practised my rudimentary Turkish on them too. They were a little surprised that I had walked in the door in the first place though, the only customers I saw in the two hours I was there were Turkish immigrants; no locals, tourists or even pilgrims. I was best friends with them when they asked me what beer I wanted and told then only Effes (Turkish beer) would do. I was a happy man.

The Camping Rivière de Cabessut campsite in Cahors was a good 3 km out of town on the other side of the River Lot. The campsite was a splendid place (8 Euro’s), clean, beautiful and it had a café/bar. It was a very friendly place. When I arrived I had to book in and pay and I had to do that at the bar, so before I even set up my tent I sat down with a refreshing beer. Whilst there I met an English couple on holiday, the man spotted the scallop shell on my pack and exclaimed “Oh, he’s going to Santiago!” We had a good chat.

Alicia and Martin

While setting up my tent I met two young French pilgrims who were camping opposite to me. Alicia and Martin were in their mid twenties but not a couple, they were two old friends who were walking from Le Puy to Santiago. Alicia was stunningly beautiful in a natural way; she looked like a typical English Rose. They were travelling much the same as I was; freecamping and using campsites mostly as they were short of money. Being two of them they could split the weight of their tent and could carry cooking gear too. Later on we went to the bar for a few beers before crashing out.

I liked Alicia and Martin; they were my kind of people. After walking alone for so long I was ready to walk in company and these two would have made good companions, unfortunately they were faster and covering much more distance than I was. I did bump into them a few times though and they gave me a lot of useful advice.

One piece of advice that they gave me was to be careful of gîtes that asked for donations instead of charging a fixed price. They explained that some of these places were donation only because it was a tax dodge; they don’t pay tax if they don’t charge. Yet the reality of these types of places was that they were more tourist than pilgrim orientated and expected you to ‘donate’ them premium prices (like 50 – 80 Euro’s)! If a pilgrim on foot turned up at one of these places you were unlikely to get a good welcome or even be allowed to stay. Little did I know I was to encounter one such place tomorrow.

046-01 A cazelle (shepherds shelter) after Mas de Vers.JPG
A cazelle (shepherds shelter) after Mas de Vers

046-02 The Way towards Cahors.JPG
The Way towards Cahors

046-03 A ruined tower between Le Pech and Cahors.JPG
A ruined tower between Le Pech and Cahors

046-05 The Way between Le Pech and Cahors.JPG
The Way between Le Pech and Cahors

046-06 A cazelle (shepherds shelter) between Le Pech and Cahors.JPG
Another cazelle between Le Pech and Cahors

046-08 A rudimetary pilgrim refuge between Le Pech and Cahors.JPG
A rudimentary pilgrim refuge between Le Pech and Cahors

046-12 Looking down on Cahors. The bridge with towers is the 'Devils Bridge'.JPG
Looking down on Cahors. The famous Valentré (Devils) Bridge in the background with the towers. The Way out of town tomorrow is over that bridge with a very steep climb up the cliff next to it
 

gollygolly

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2000, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Invigorating, stimulating and uplifting. My personal thanks for your enormous effort in relating your Camino and sharing the experiences, and have loved what I have read so far.
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 47 – May 22nd
Cahors to Trigodina
19 km

‘Meeting Kim Hyosun and crossing the Quercy Blanc’

When I woke up at the campsite in Cahors this morning Alicia and Martin had already departed. I hung around as usual and headed to the café for coffee. I had to walk back into and through Cahors to get back onto The Way so decided to grab breakfast in town while passing through.

The demise of the bees

Whilst walking back into Cahors I came across a school class walking in a line down the road with their teacher and somehow I ended up in the middle of them. The kids, about 13-14 years old, never batted an eyelid at this scruffy tramp in their midst but the teacher was soon by my side to check me out. He was fine when he found out I was a pilgrim and we ended up walking together with his class into town while having a good chat. Not only was he a teacher he explained, he was a bee farmer too. I have a friend in the UK that keeps bees organically so I was interested in his story. I had a very informative chat with him on the current demise of the bee population (they are dying out and nobody can quite work out why). From what he was saying the bee situation is worse than I thought.

Kim Hyosun

I had only just got back into Cahors when I spotted a South Korean lady pilgrim looking a bit lost. I asked her if I could help and she explained she was looking for the tourist information office. I was there yesterday I said and as I had to go there again today I showed her where it was. I only found out later that she was Kim Hyosun, a bit of a legend on the Camino in Spain. Nobody can help notice whilst walking the Camino in Spain the huge amount of South Koreans walking The Way. In 2014 over 4,000 South Koreans walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, that is more than English people did and only slightly less than the Dutch. On my Camino I was to meet many more South Koreans than English people by far, I even walked with South Koreans and made lifelong friends. This popularity is largely down to Kim Hyosun who had walked The Way from St. Jean Pied de Port in France and wrote a book in Korean of her experience called ‘The Way to Santiago’. The book was a best seller in South Korea and it still is. She had a receptive market; as South Korea has the fourth number of Catholic Saints in the world! Kim was walking again, this time starting from Le Puy en Velay all The Way to Santiago. I was to meet her numerous times across France on my journey.

In Cahors still

As I mentioned, I had to go back to the tourist information office myself. If you remember, I had left my mobile phone at Romy’s house back in Livinhac le Haut. I had Romy’s number but could not work out how to use French public payphones, it seems they do not take coins and need some kind of card. So I enquired at the tourist information office how do I get a card or how they work. The lady there did not believe me one bit that pay phones still existed in France! When I assured her that they did she told me she had no idea how they worked. So much for that then.

Before finally leaving Cahors I decided to grab a coffee and a bite to eat. Just across from the tourist information office I found a café with tables outside and ordered a coffee and some seriously delicious cakes. At the next table to me were an English couple obviously on holiday and we started chatting. They saw my rucksack and when I explained what I was up to were aghast. They had never heard of the Camino de Santiago and thought (possibly correctly) that I was a lunatic. They on the other hand were nudists on a tour of nudist campsites throughout France. It was an interesting chat!

Finally on my Way

It wasn’t until past midday that I crossed the stunning Devils Bridge across the River Lot and finally left Cahors. It was once again great walking weather; sunny and warm, not too hot and occasionally cloudy. On the other side of the bridge I found a marker pointing out The Way. I looked up to the sky in disbelief; I had a serious 100 metre cliff to climb. It was so steep at the beginning that I had to use both my hands to climb up, not an easy task while carrying a 16 kilo backpack. But it soon turned into a pleasant wooded track and at the top next to the Croix de Magne the views over Cahors were magnificent.

I was now crossing Quercy Blanc, an area famous for its limestone buildings. The Way from Cahors passes through the hamlet of La Rozièreto Les Mathieux 3.5 km away. On the way I was passing a field beside a country road when I came across a hand written sign in French; ‘Pilgrims please leave your little turds elsewhere’. Fair enough I thought.

The Gîte Domaine des Mathieux

In the village of Les Mathieux I came across a stunning gîte, the Gîte Domaine des Mathieux. It looked very pilgrim orientated with statues of St. Jacques, a reproduction wayside cross complete with scallop shell and way marker signs in the Spanish Camino style. The grounds were beautiful; green lawns, a swimming pool and a picnic area under a vine canopy. The restaurant looked stunning too. I decided to pop in for a beer or two and wish I hadn’t bothered. When the owner spotted me she nearly had a fit and only calmed down when she found out that I wasn’t looking for accommodation. Even then she could not hide her disgust at me; I surely wasn’t welcome here. I was dumbfounded, what was this about?

As I sat there drinking my beer on the terrace a few cars pulled up. And out of them came pilgrims with little dainty daysacks with scallop shells on them. They were given a very warm welcome. Pilgrims in cars. Over the coming days I heard from other pilgrims about this place, a lot of the French pilgrims had heard about it and avoided it. Apparently the woman who owned it wasn’t keen on pilgrims on foot, carrying a scruffy rucksack and covered in mud. Her place was of a better class. I soon cleared off, dumbfounded and a little upset.

Les Mathieux – Labastide – Trigodina

Only slightly fed up I carried on. It was 5.5 km of beautiful forested tracks to my next stop off point at Labastide-Marnhac where I spotted in the guide there was a café/bar where I intended to stop for lunch. I needed a proper meal. When I arrived there however they were not serving food, it was just the wrong time of day. They did have a well stocked shop though and they were friendly, so I bought a microwavable meal and they microwaved it for me. Not the best meal I had had in France to be sure but not their fault.

It was getting late as I passed through the village of Trigodina and it was 7.5 km to the next campsite at Lascobanes, so I decided to freecamp at the next descent spot on The Way. Around 7.30pm I was walking down a track and spotted a gap in a hedge leading into a field. It was in the middle of nowhere so thought I would check it out. Boy was I surprised: this spot had been freecamped before; there was even a fire pit with cut wood and kindling ready. The wood was very dry and looked like it could have been there years. But some pilgrim had camped there, built a fire pit (cut the turf and circled it with large stones to stop the fire spreading) and when they had gone had left more wood for the next person coming along. I thank you whoever you are. Just to top it off the views from there were amazing!

I had bought some beers back in Labastide so my evening consisted of a few beers next to my campfire watching a stunning sunset. It was warm enough that I didn’t use my tent, I just slept out in my sleeping bag under the stars.

047-01 The Devils Bridge in Cahors. The Way is up the cliff to the left.JPG
About to cross the Devils Bridge out of Cahors

047-05 Looking down on the Devils Bridge in Cahors.JPG
Looking down on the Devils Bridge on the steep climb out of Cahors

047-10 Sign between Cahors and La Roziere. Pilgrims, please leave your little turds elsewhere.JPG
Sign at a field between Cahors and La Roziere 'Pilgrims please leave your little turds elsewhere'!

047-12 Boots on a wayside cross at La Roziere.JPG
Boots on a wayside cross at La Roziere

047-14 Gite Domaine des Mathieux at Les Mathieux. Very unfriendly.JPG
The very unfriendly Gite Domaine des Mathieux. It seems it is best to arrive by car for a good welcome

047-27 Pilgrim cairn between Labastide and Trigodina.JPG
A pilgrim cairn between Labastide and Trigodina

047-39 The sun sets on another day. 4km past Trigodina.JPG
The sun sets on another day 4 km past Trigodina as I wait to freecamp

047-40 The sun sets on another day. 4km past Trigodina.JPG
Life is good!
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Invigorating, stimulating and uplifting. My personal thanks for your enormous effort in relating your Camino and sharing the experiences, and have loved what I have read so far.
Thank you gollygolly! (Great tag by the way)! Glad you are enjoying it

Davey
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 48 – May 23rd
Trigodina to Montcuq
16.5 km

‘Walking to ‘My Ass’’

I woke up on a hilltop in a field 2 km after Trigodina late at 10am. I had slept well indeed. Luckily there was no dew so my tent was dry; there is nothing worse than packing away a wet tent and having to carry the extra weight. Again it was a good walking day, mostly on dusty chalk like tracks over open fields and moorland areas. The weather was perfect also; warm and sunny, not too hot and occasional cloud. And The Way was exceptionally pretty also. I felt blessed.

Not long after I had passed the pretty village of Lascobanes and the wonderfully sublime Chapelle St. Jean I saw ahead of me a group of pilgrims (a waddle of pilgrims? A limp of pilgrims?) who were standing chatting. They turned out to be My Germans and my gang of French friends. One of the French ladies joked that even though she always sees me sat down somewhere with a beer when they pass me, the next day I’m always ahead somehow and they pass me again. I explained that they always get to their accommodation by 2-3pm but I pass them as I walk into the evening. That and I always stop for a beer and possibly a kip under a bush or in a field so they catch me up the next day.

The virtues of beer

My beer drinking raised a few comments along The Way. Some pilgrims don’t drink alcohol until they have finished walking for the day. I drank beer all day, and I wasn’t the only one, many pilgrims swore by it. Even some of the hospitalero’s (volunteers in hostels who are usually pilgrims) talked about beer as being an important drink; apparently it contains minerals much needed for long distance walking. And no you don’t get drunk either; after say two large beers at lunch you would of walked any effects off within an hour. It was cool and refreshing, and believe it or not cheaper per volume than tea or coffee! I couldn’t have walked after drinking wine either, so beer it was. When one French lady commented on me drinking beer one day under the shade of a bush a passing German said “Well, he is English”. Another time I was sat at a pilgrim rest stop and one of the French stopped and asked “David, where is your beer?” To which I pulled two bottles out of my rucksack. They were more amazed that I actually carried the stuff, beer being quite heavy, than me actually always drinking it. I also explained that there is an historical precedence too. Back in medieval time’s in England drinking water was so bad that people, including children, drank only beer. I found out that this didn’t apply just in England either, both the French and Germans said it was the same there too in the past. Either way, though I drank beer at most of my rest stops during the day and in the evenings, I always carried and drank water while walking. On a cool day I drank about 1.5 litres of water, and double that or more under the Spanish sun.

Into Montcuq

From Chapelle St. Jean it was a beautiful 8 km along dusty white tracks to Montcuq. Montcuq is a running joke to the French, not the town, but the name. In French, Montcuq is pronounced the same as ‘mon cul’, meaning ‘my ass’. Hence you will hear French pilgrims state “Today we are walking to my ass”. The town itself is a pretty and vibrant market town and a tourist destination in its own right. I really liked Montcuq; I didn’t find it too touristy and could of easily of spent a rest day there. When I arrived around 5pm I could easily have walked much further, but liked the place so decided to check into the local campsite. The tourist information office was nearby so I popped in there to get directions to be told that the campsite was closed due to a local cycle race happening that night and it was fully booked up. In fact this was confirmed when I bumped into the campsite owner in a bar I was in. No problem, I would get a decent sit down meal, have a few beers and enjoy an evening chilling out then walk out of town and find a spot to freecamp.

The beautiful Kiwi family

I found a lovely café/restaurant with a terrace in the main square and ordered my meal (an excellent duck steak by the way). Minutes later a family of five turned up and asked if they could share my table. No problem at all, in fact I was very happy to meet them, they were wonderful. They were from New Zealand, a mum and dad with their two young daughters and young son. Their story was interesting. They had decided to travel around Europe for a year and had bought a caravan and a Range Rover in the UK. From there they took the ferry across to Spain and they had been travelling around Spain for a while. Their plan was to travel from there, across France and Germany before heading back to the UK.

They asked me if I was a pilgrim and I confirmed that I was, and that I had started out in Geneva. They told me that before they had left New Zealand they had never heard of the Camino, but had spotted these strange pilgrims plodding across Spain and was intrigued. Whilst in the Spanish city of Burgos they had met and talked to many pilgrims from all over the world. They had even met and befriended a young girl from New Zealand who was walking The Way. They told me they were not only impressed but were actually considering walking the Camino themselves. Weeks later they had arrived here in Montcuq and were astonished to find pilgrims here walking to Santiago, they had thought it was a Spanish thing. They had spotted the tell tale scallop shell on my pack marking me out as a Santiago bound pilgrim and had asked to join me at my table to find out more. They laughed when I told them that I would be passing through Burgos, probably in a couple of month’s time! We chatted about the Camino and I told them the history of the pilgrimage and of Finisterra, my destination. They were impressed even more when I showed them the ever growing collection of stamps in my credencial, even the stamp from here, Montcuq, which I had just got from the tourist information office. They said that their next holiday would definitely be walking the Camino; they were hooked!

They told me about their journey too, and for them travelling through France was causing some problems for them. You see, they explained, they had a twin axle caravan they were towing. That and the fact that the dad was not a white man but a Maori, dark skinned and hairy. They said that they had been refused entry to some campsites in France as they thought they were Gypsies!

When they departed I gave them a spare scallop shell I had found along The Way and told them to hang it off their pack when they walked to Santiago. They said until then they would hang it in their caravan to remember me. After they had left I found out they had paid my bill. I really wish I had got their contact details before they had gone.

Freecamping outside Montcuq

After a spot of food (and beer) shopping it was around 8pm when I finally left Montcuq to find somewhere to freecamp for the night. After a 2 km climb up a narrow woodland track I found an ideal place to camp. It was a field next to The Way; where I slept was separated from the path by a hedge. I had fully expected to be woken up early in the morning by passing pilgrims; no such luck. The cycle race that caused the campsite to be fully booked up turned out to be a night ride down the Camino! At first they scared the c**** out of me, they were all kids, howling and screaming in delight as they flew past me down the track into Montcuq. That and their lights kept me awake until they finally cleared off around 3am.

048-01 Pilgrims on The Way to Lascabanes.JPG
Pilgrims on The Way towards Lascobanes

048-02 A strange pilgrim sculpture in either Baffalie or Lascabanes.JPG
A strange pilgrim sculpture in either Baffalie or Lascobanes

048-03 Looking back on Lascabanes.JPG
Looking back at Lascobanes

048-04 A cazelle (shepherds shelter) after Lascabanes.JPG
A beautiful cazelle after Lascobanes

048-05 Chapelle St. Jean 2 km after Lascabanes.JPG
Chapelle St. Jean 2 km after Lascobanes

048-07 The dusty road towards Montcuq.JPG
The dusty road to Montcuq

048-08 'My Germans' heading to Montcuq.JPG
'My Germans' on the way to Montcuq

048-09 The wonderful Kiwi family I met in Montcuq.JPG
The wonderful Kiwi family I met in Montcuq
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 49 – May 24th
Montcuq to Lauzerte
16 km

‘The night of the frogs’

I was woken up around 9.30am by passing pilgrims having had very little sleep in my tent near Montcuq. Even with the lack of sleep I felt good walking today. I was still crossing the rolling white chalky limestone countryside of the Quercy Blanc. The Way was noticeably getting hillier again after the last few days of relative flatness and some parts were steep but nothing serious. The weather today was splendid for walking; warm and cloudy and sometimes hot and sunny.

Rouillac – Bonal – Montlauzun – Montjoie

After only 2 km after setting off I got to the picturesque village of Rouillac and came across a pleasant surprise. I had thought I would have to walk at least 5 km to Montlauzun for my first coffee of the day, but here in Rouillac I found there was a gîte with a pilgrim rest stop in a lovely garden. They had hot coffee and biscuits and a sign telling pilgrims to help themselves and to put 1 Euro in a jar that was there.

The Way towards Montlauzun was a steep uphill muddy path through woods. In good weather like today it wasn’t too bad, but in wet weather this path must be treacherous. To prove the point someone had rigged polyprop (blue nylon rope) guide ropes up the side of the path to help haul yourself up in wet weather.

Soon I was passing the impressive hilltop village of Montlauzun which can be seen from miles away, I could have stopped here for breakfast but decided to press on. Just after Montlauzun I came across a nutty old French lady with two little dogs in a pushchair, she seemed to want to chat to every passing pilgrim, whether they understood French or not!

3.5 km from Montlauzun I came to the tiny hamlet of Montjoie. Just after the hamlet there were some newly built very steep steps I found tricky as they were so high and I am little, but by taking them slowly they weren’t a problem. At the bottom of the steps was a cute pilgrim water point that appeared at just the right time as the weather was now getting very hot and I needed to top up. Whilst there I bumped into the Asian French ladies and their husbands again too, it was good to see them again.

Lauzerte

You can see Lauzerte a long time before you get there. It certainly looks impressive perched on top of its hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. It was a killer climb from the base of the hill to the medieval part of town, and I was shattered when I arrived around 3pm, and it didn’t help that the weather was now boiling hot too. Lauzerte is one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’, a distinction granted to only 155 villages in the country. I wasn’t planning on staying here, now it was hot weather again I had changed my routine. I would stay here for the afternoon and chill out, then walk on in the cool of the evening; tonight I was planning to freecamp once more. So first thing when I arrived was to ensconce myself in a bar in the medieval town square. Lauzerte sure does live up to its beautiful reputation; sitting in the square was like sitting in a castle.


Today was not only a Sunday, it was also Pentecost, and so the locals were out in force chilling out in the bars mixing with the numerous pilgrims and tourists. One of the locals was a beautiful young Staffordshire bull terrier who I quickly made friends with. While I was there I got my feet out and put them up on a chair, I had by now a typical Camino tan; my feet were bright white and from boot tops up my legs were tanned golden brown. Spotting my feet the waitress laughed and said “Sexy!” Not. I had dinner at a café before leaving town, a sausage salad type thing that I can only describe as average.

Freecamping once more

It was 7.30pm when I finally left Lauzerte, I had no idea how much further I would be walking, I would stop at the first likely looking place I could freecamp. I wasn’t walking for long. Only a couple of kilometres from Lauzerte I came across a lake with beautiful views looking back over the town. Because it was warm I didn’t even use my tent, I just rolled out my sleeping bag under the stars and watched a magical sunset. It was perfect, even the farmer saw me setting up to camp and gave a friendly wave. Until the frogs started that is. As soon as it got dark thousands of frogs in the lake started an almighty racket that went on all night! There was not much sleep to be had, and after three nights now freecamping out and little sleep last night because of those damned cyclists I promised myself somewhere descent to sleep tomorrow night.

049-01 Pilgrim rest stop at Rouillac. Help yourself for 1 Euro.JPG
The pilgrim rest stop at Rouillac. Help yourself for 1 Euro

049-07 The Way towards Bonal.JPG
The Way towards Bonal

049-10 Heading towards the hilltop town of Montlauzun.JPG
Heading towards the hilltop village of Montlauzun

049-12 The Way near Montlauzun.JPG
The Way near Montlauzun would be tricky in wet weather

049-20 Pilgrim fountain at Montjoie.JPG
Cute pilgrim water point at Montjoie

049-21 The Way towards Lauzerte.JPG
The Way towards Lauzerte

049-22 Lauzerte comes into view.JPG
Lauzerte comes into view

049-26 Lauzerte looks impressive!.JPG
Lauzerte looks impressive!

049-30 Sunday in Lauzerte.JPG
Lazy Sunday in Lauzerte

049-42 My bed is ready for the night (no tent because the weather is so warm).JPG
My bed is ready for the night. Lauzerte in the background
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 50 – May 25th
Lauzerte to Moissac
22 km

‘There is nothing for you here’

It wasn’t the best start to a day. I woke up in a field next to a lake to find I was in full view of the Chemin and all the pilgrims leaving Lauzerte. Not good when you are naked in a sleeping bag and dying to go to the toilet! To top it all I hadn’t got much sleep due to those noisy frogs last night.

There was a lot of road walking today which is always tiring, and this compounded with lack of sleep meant I wasn’t at my best at all. The weather was good for walking though; cloudy and warm, and though it was threatening to rain it didn’t.

Hunting for a coffee

After a few kilometres I came across the Chapelle St. Sernin du Bosc where I was able to top up my water (in France chapels and churches often have water, and their cemeteries always have a fresh water tap. I often met pilgrims in cemeteries in France). 4.5 km from there I passed through the hamlet of Mirabel, and by now I was dying for a coffee. As luck would have it came across a table outside a farm with coffee for donation, but they had run out! Bugger. However, just a few kilometres up the road I came to the Hôtel/Restaurant L'Aube Nouvelle just before the village Durfort-Lacapelette. The hotel was extremely posh and I wondered about trying my luck there but I was glad I did. I sat outside in their stunning landscaped garden and ordered coffee and a bowl of soup, which was superb. The owners were very nice to this scruffy and hungry pilgrim, so I stayed on for a while with my boots and socks off having a beer.

Into Moissac

From Durfort-Lacapelette it was a long drag mostly on roads for the remaining 12.5 km into Moissac that felt like forever. At least for part of the way I had some good company; I had met some of my French pèlerin friends including the two Asian ladies and walked with them for a while.

The Way was very urban and ugly entering Moissac and I headed straight to the tourist information office to find directions to the local campsite. Moissac tourist information office is the only tourist office that I have ever been in that was downright unfriendly. I got the impression that they didn’t like pilgrims for some reason. But I managed (eventually) to get the directions I needed and set off. As per usual the town campsite wasn’t in town; in this case it was a 2 km walk across the river.

CampingLe Moulin du Bidounet in Moissac

I was extremely glad to arrive at the campsite, it looked pretty and I saw there were plenty of spare pitches. There was a small queue at reception so I took my place. In front of me was a French cyclist, then me, then a young French lad who was obviously camping in a tent also (none of them were pilgrims). The cyclist was sorted out fine, and then it was my turn. “Bonjour” I said then proceeded in my rudimentary French; “Un person, un nuit, un tente s’il vous plait”. The guy was friendly at first and smiled. In English he asked “Do you speak French?” “Sorry, very little” I told him smiling back. Then his attitude changed completely. “No camping” he said, so I asked about chalets and he replied “There is nothing for you here”. And with that went to serve the guy behind me. This guy had heard what the owner had said and asked him if it was true that there was no camping, but he was told that for him there was! “Sod you” I thought and walked off. Little did I know he had done me a favour!

So it was another 2 km walk back into town and on the way I pondered what to do. I was really tired by now, and disheartened by my unfriendly welcome to Moissac. I decided I would get the first accommodation I came across, even a hotel; after all I had just freecamped outside for the past three nights. I needed a shower and to wash my clothes also. The first two places I came across were hotels; and both full. I found a third one and entered, which was also full, and the lady on reception informed me that I would be lucky if I found anywhere in town.

Gîte Ultreia

Just as I was thinking I would have to walk out of town and freecamp once more, down the hotel stairs came my Germans! We stood outside chatting and I told them what had happened, they were obviously concerned about me. Then one of them pointed behind me across the street and said “Why not try there?” And there across the road was the Gîte Ultreia. I rang the bell to the gîte and was answered by a beautiful Irish lady who turned out to be one of the owners. I asked her if she had room for one and she told me they had one bed left. Yes! Not only that, she saw the state of me, sat me down and brought me a big bowl of soup and a beer for free! (It was obviously soup and beer day for me). I immediately booked in for two nights.

Gîte Ultreia is a pilgrim only gite run by Rom and Aideen Bates originally from Ireland and both pilgrims themselves; they have walked to Santiago numerous times. After walking The Way they felt they wanted to dedicate their life to the Camino and helping other pilgrims and so they had relocated from Ireland to Moissac and set up Gîte Ultreia. They were also a positive goldmine of advice and encouragement to the pilgrims they shelter. The gîte was beautiful, the garden especially so. (By the way ‘Ultreia’ is a medieval pilgrim salute, the word comes from a mix of old Latin and French but has no meaning outside of a pilgrim context; as such it is a pilgrim only word. It means ‘keep going’ or ‘go further’ and is still commonly heard between pilgrims today. There is also a medieval pilgrim hymn of the same name).

In the evening, refreshed and showered I headed into town for a bite to eat (Unfortunately I had been too late to get a meal at Ultreia; they were eating as I arrived). There was a fair going on in town and I found a burger stall and ordered a large one, only to find it was awful and uncooked. Oh well.

Tonight I slept in an actual bed! The first in three days, it was bliss. I was sharing a four bed dormitory with three other blokes, luckily none of them snored. A day of mixed fortune indeed, but as the old saying goes ‘The Camino provides’.

050-01 Pigeonnier du Chartron (A medieval dovecote) not far from where I slept .JPG
The Pigeonner du Chatron (a medieval dovecote) just past where I had freecamped

050-02 Pilgrims on The Way between Lauzerte and Durfort-Lacapelette.JPG
Pilgrims on The Way between Lauzerte and Durfort-Lacapellette

050-04 The Way between Lauzerte and Durfort-Lacapelette.JPG
The Way between Lauzerte and Durfort-Lacapellette

050-05 Hotel-Restaurant L'Aube Nouvelle just before Durfort-Lacapelette.JPG
The friendly Hotel-Restaurant L'Aube Nouvelle just before Durfort-Lacapelette where I stopped for lunch

050-06 The Way towards Moissac.JPG
The Way towards Moissac before it gets really urban and ugly

050-08 The Gite Ultreia in Moissac.JPG
The wonderful Gîte Ultreia in Moissac run by the lovely Rom and Aideen Bates.

050-10 Old boots at the Gite Ultreia in Moissac.JPG
Old boots at Gîte Ultreia in Moissac
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 51 – May 26th
Rest day in Moissac
0 km

‘The singing nuns of Moissac’

I had a very good nights sleep indeed. Unfortunately breakfast was at 7.30am and as with most pilgrim only gîtes kicking out time was 8am. However, I had booked in for two nights and I was thankful to Rom and Aideen that they let me hang around the gîte while they cleaned. I even offered to help them but they weren’t having any of it. I didn’t even have to pack my things away either which was nice too.

The lovely Aideen did my laundry for me (4 Euro’s) and after I had hung them up to dry I headed into Moissac to have a look around. First off I headed to the impressive Abbey of St. Pierre. Rom had told me that whatever I do I should go there and hear the famous singing nuns of Moissac at vespers. I did indeed go, and they were truly magnificent, the acoustics in the abbey sent chills down my spine. I needed a beer or two afterwards!

Following vespers, again on the advice of Rom, I went to the all you can eat Chinese/Japanese buffet that is just a few doors down from Gîte Ultreia. Splendid, I was in there for hours.

As I was in an actual town and not the usual tiny village I decided to go and get my hair cut. I hunted around until I spotted a cheap barbers shop and headed on in. They were Algerians and didn’t speak a word of English so I had to mime a lot until they figured out what I wanted; a number 3 cut all over my head and my beard trimming. They were very enthusiastic to say the least, they trimmed up my nose, in my ears and my eyebrows got manicured too! And I got a bon-bon for being a good boy. The rest of the afternoon comprised of hanging around in bars.

In the evening I headed back to the Asian all you can eat for a second helping before going back to the gîte before curfew; they lock the doors promptly at 10.30pm. They explained they will stay open longer if a whole group decide to stay out late, but nobody else wanted to, but I was ok with this as I was tired anyway.

051-01 St. Pierre Abbey in Moissac.JPG
The Abbey of St. Pierre in Moissac where I saw the singing nuns

051-03 St. Pierre Abbey in Moissac.JPG
The Abbey of St. Pierre in Moissac

051-04 The Tympanum of St. Pierre Abbey in Moissac.JPG
The famous Tympanum of St. Pierre Abbey in Moissac

051-05 Strange statues in Moissac.JPG
Strange sculptures in Moissac

051-06 Strange statues in Moissac.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 52 – May 27th
Moissac to St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz
28 km

‘Turned away once again’

I had a great nights sleep in Gîte Ultreia. Breakfast was at 7.30am so I was able to make an early start for once; I set off at 8.30am after big hugs and goodbyes from the lovely Rom and Aideen.

There were two routes out of Moissac; there was the GR65 route that goes through the hills via Boudou to Malause, or the canal variant that is 3 km shorter and goes directly (as the name suggests) along the Canal Latéral à la Garonne to Malause. Rom was advising us to take the canal variant, not because it was shorter but because it was pretty. I took his advice.

The Canal Latéral à la Garonne variant

Constructed in 1856 the Canal de Garonne (now the renamed Canal Latéral à la Garonne) together with the Canal du Midi forms the ‘Canal des Deux Mers’ (‘The Canal of the Two Seas’) that connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. From Moissac The Way is a footpath with the canal Latéral à la Garonne on the right and the River Tarn then the huge River Garonne on the left. It is very easy walking as The Way is flat, and it is indeed very pretty. The only downfall is that it is 14 km on a tarmac footpath which is very hard on the feet. The other problem today was that the weather was glorious; hot and sunny with clear blue skies; however I was thankful that most of the canal variant was in shade thanks to the plane trees lining the route.

As I walked along the canal there were a lot of pilgrims around, it seems most have decided on this variant too. After around 5 km I came to a huge road bridge at the confluence of the rivers Tarn and Garonne and decided to take a break on a picnic bench. I was soon joined by an older French pilgrim, and even though neither of us could speak each others language we shared some lunch between us and admired the view. Such is the camaraderie amongst pilgrims; we may come from all over the world but we all have The Way in common.

It was boiling hot by now and after another 4 km I came across a lock on the canal with a lovely shaded lawn and decided to rest and get my boots off for a while. Already there were an older couple having lunch who turned out to be English on a cycling holiday. They asked me what was going on; they were heading into Moissac and keep seeing a lot of people trudging along with rucksacks with shells tied to them. They were amazed when I told them that these people were pilgrims and were walking to Santiago de Compostela in Spain! Just after they left my Germans turned up, it seems that they had also had taken a rest day in Moissac. As always it was good to see them and they joined me for a while resting on the lawn.

After a short break by the lock I walked with my Germans for a while and we decided to head into Malause where there was a café. As usual they laughed at me when I ordered a beer! They set off again earlier than I did as I stayed to shop and stock up on food.

From Malause it was a further 4 km until The Way finally turned off from the canal into the small village of Pommevic. As I was passing through the village I bumped into Kim Hyosun the South Korean author and we chatted for a while, I hadn’t seen her since five days ago in Cahors. She was doing well.

A case of mistaken identity in Espalais

From Pommevic it was 3.5 km of road walking with no shade under a now burning sun to the pretty village of Espalais. Before I had set off this morning Rom from Gîte Ultreia in Moissac had said that if I could I should stay in Espalais at the Gîte-Accueil pèlerin Le Par’Chemin and to say hi to the owner Vincent from them. It was a pilgrim only gîte for donations and they did camping also. It sounded perfect, and when I got to it looked more than perfect, it was stunning!

When I walked in around 2.30pm I was given a warm welcome from a young Belgian hospitalero (volunteer) who said there was plenty of room for my tent, handed me a cold beer and told me to chill out pointing to a hammock in the lovely garden. Bliss. While I was chilling out I bumped into the French couple Anaïs and Julien who I had met two weeks ago in a café in Noailhac. (They were the one’s who were in their sixties and were camping all The Way to Santiago).

I was drinking my second beer when the owner’s partner turned up and said hi. She looked at me very strangely before asking if I had been there before. I told her I hadn’t, but she quickly cut me off and said they were full and I couldn’t stay there. She obviously thought I was someone else. The young Belgian hospitalero looked away embarrassed. Both Anais and Julien looked a bit shocked too. There was nothing I could do so I drank up, put a donation in the box and left.

Auvillar

I walked out of Espalais tired, hungry, hot and feeling upset. One of the reasons I wanted to stay in Espalais, apart from the great gîte and the recommendation from Rom, was that the next town, Auvillar, was perched on top of a huge rocky hill and I would have preferred to tackle that in the morning before it got hot and I was still fresh. But now I had no choice but to climb up there now.

It was only just over a kilometre to Auvillar, across the huge impressive suspension bridge crossing the River Garonne and a short but steep climb into town. Auvillar is yet another of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ that the Chemin St. Jacques passes through and it lived up to its reputation. From the towns old walls atop the hill you can see for miles around, and the views were stunning. And the town itself is pretty as a picture. While I was admiring the views an ancient couple perched in the shade on a bench tried talking to me in French. I apologised at not being able to understand them but the old dear just carried on. It was plain from her gestures that she was talking about my rucksack being very big, and she got up and came over to see how heavy it was. The poor dear couldn’t lift it off the floor!

I was soon settled in a bar and considering my options. Auvillar was a tourist town and I thought the gîtes here would be expensive (and probably full) so I decided to have an afternoons rest and a good meal before walking on when it was cooler and find a good freecamping spot. (I will also admit looking back now, that my confidence was badly shaken by getting turned away in Moissac and Espalais. One of the reasons I decided to walk was that I suffer badly from multiple PTSD, in fact before I set off I had a fear of going outside. I thought I had got over it but these incidents made me feel 'a bad person' again, this is why I didn't even try to find accommodation in Auvillar - I was scared of being turned away again. Saying that these feelings eventually passed, but it took a while). With this in mind I left the picturesque and touristy town square and found a locals bar just out of the centre. I chilled out here for the afternoon and indulged in a fabulous duck steak dinner.

Onwards once more

I walked out of town at 8.30pm as now it was nice and cool. The plan was for me to freecamp just before the next town that had a café so I could wake up to coffee in the morning. The next such place was the small village of St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz 6.5 kilometres away. I got to 2.5 km before St. Antoine and I hadn’t found anywhere at all suitable; either flat or out of eyesight. And it was now 10pm and dark too. In the end I crashed out without using my tent in a cherry orchard behind a house and next to a country lane. Not ideal but by now I was completely shattered, it had been a long day.

052-02 The Way towards Malause alongside the Canal Lateral.JPG
Leaving Moissac alongside the Canal Latéral à la Garonne

052-04 Rest stop overlooking The Garonne River on The Way to Malause.JPG
A rest stop next to the River Garonne on the way to Malause

052-05 The Way towards Malause alongside the Canal Lateral.JPG
The Way towards Malause alongside the beautiful and shady Canal Latéral à la Garonne

052-09 Passing through Espalais.JPG
Passing through pretty Esplais after being turned away from the Gite

052-10 The main square in the hilltop town of Auvillar.JPG
The main square in Auvillar

052-12 Auvillar.JPG
Passing through Auvillar

052-13 View from Auvillar to the bridge over The Garonne I had just crossed.JPG
The amazing view from Auvillar. I had crossed that bridge coming from Espalais

052-15 Esplais from Auvillar.JPG
Looking back at Espalais from Auvillar

052-19 Murals in Auvillar depicting the Chemin St. Jacques.JPG
Mural in Auvillar depicting the Chemin St. Jacques

052-20 Murals in Auvillar depicting the Chemin St. Jacques.JPG
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Again, soon as possible!
Day 53 – May 28th
St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz to Castet-Arrouy
16 km

‘Goodbye to my Germans’

I hardly slept last night, the ground felt so rough it felt like I was sleeping on a pile of rocks, I got plagued by wood ants and by 2am my sleeping bag was soaking wet with dew on the outside (I hadn’t used my tent because I had slept in a very exposed location). I finally got up at 8.30am extremely tired and damp in full view of the Chemin with pilgrims strolling past which made going to the toilet tricky.

St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz

Due to my planning it was an easy 2.5 km stroll into St. Antoine where there was a café for my first coffee of the day. Strolling to St. Antoine would you believe it I found an excellent freecamping place by a picnic area just a few hundred metres down the road from where I had slept!

St. Antoine is a stunningly beautiful tiny village and very friendly. I had three large coffees in the café, which also had a ‘leave what you don’t want and take what you need’ clothing donation box; pilgrims who find they are packing too much can leave things there for others. I had a rummage and found some insect bite cream and an excellent expensive hiking top. Just outside the café was a sign offering cherries for donation to pilgrims which I thought was a nice touch too. While I was there my Germans turned up and it was good to see them as usual; they had stayed in Auvillar last night. To their astonishment for once I wasn’t drinking beer.

Whilst sat outside the café I met an elderly English lady who lives in a cottage in the village and we got chatting. She was a real sweetheart; she told me her life story and all the village gossip and brought out some English biscuits to have with my coffee. Strangely, even though she has lived here for years she does not speak a word of French! I think she was glad to find an Englishman to chat to. She was fully accepted in the village though (as ‘the eccentric old English lady’ probably) and she was even the key holder for the village church. She gave me a pile of English biscuits for my journey bless her.

I finally set off from St. Antoine at 11.30am. It was a good walking day today, the weather was hot and sunny and The Way was largely on paths skirting fields through beautiful rolling countryside. Just outside St. Antoine I came across a little stall selling very large bags of cherries for one Euro and I decided to buy one. The stall was just a table under a tree in the middle of nowhere with nobody there, you just put your money in a pot on the table. That wouldn’t happen in England! For the rest of the afternoon I would follow a trail of cherry pips from the pilgrims before me.

Flamarens

The next village was Flamarens, a sedate 4.5 km away. Just before I got to Flamarens I came across a pilgrim rest stop, a ramshackle open shed like structure, where I sat for a while and had some breakfast out of my pack. I had just got there when my Germans came past spitting cherry pips. For the second time today they were amazed that I wasn’t drinking beer! They probably thought I was ill or something.

I arrived in Flamarens early afternoon to find my Germans sprawled out on a lawn in the village square. There was a café in a hut there with sheltered seating for pilgrims. To keep up my reputation with my Germans I bought a beer or two and also sprawled out on the grass. It was a hot day and it was good to get my boots and socks off. I was also trying to even out my pilgrim tan on my feet; my legs were brown but my feet were still English white. They looked ridiculous.

It was to be the last time I would see my Germans; this was the last day of this year’s etape for them. They are walking to Santiago in etapes (stages) of two weeks a year. Next year they will resume their pilgrimage here in Flamarens. I was sad to see them go, they were a fun loving bunch and I was always happy to bump into them. We wished each other farewell and with a final “Bon Chemin!” in my ears I walked out of the village and continued on my Way.

Through Miradoux to Castet-Arrouy

From Flamarens it was 4 km to the village of Miradoux on pretty grassy footpaths skirting fields. It was boiling hot by now, The Way had no shade at all and I had to deploy my brolly. I could see Miradoux in the distance on top of a hill; The Way was in view snaking away in front of me leading there. In Miradoux I stopped off for a quick beer and to consider my options for the day.

The choice was between the next village, Castet-Arrouy 4.5 km away where there was a gite communal that also did camping and had cooking facilities or 15 km to the large town of Lectoure that had everything but no campsite. It was an easy choice as I would prefer staying in a village than a large town, I would prefer to camp in this weather and 15 km was a long way in this heat. Castet-Arrouy it was then; if they had space there for me that is.

The Gîte Communal in Castet-Arrouy

I arrived at Castet-Arrouy around 4pm and quickly found the gîte communal. I wasn’t surprised that it was part of the village school as they often are in France. When I was booking in I was pleasantly surprised to bump into Anaïs and Julien, the elderly French couple who were camping all the way to Santiago who I had met yesterday when I had been turned away in Esplais. This was a great gîte communal; it was really pretty and well equipped and camping cost only 5 Euro’s. After I showered I cooked my lunch (a packet of noodles to which I added some fresh ham) and ate with two friendly older Dutch ladies who were cycling to Santiago.

To walk with someone; the Camino family

It was here that I met my first ‘Camino family’. Before setting off I had heard a lot on the forums about the phenomenon of Camino families. It is where people who set off walking alone meet other fellow pilgrims and band together, often walking all The Way to Santiago together. They can be just two people or can become quite large groups, often from numerous nationalities, ages, sexes and backgrounds.

As I was to find out later, walking with someone for any length of time creates an extremely tight bond with them. This is because on Camino you will be together 24 hours a day; you wake up, walk, eat, rest and even more often than not sleep next to each other (the beds get assigned to you on arrival, therefore if four of you turn up your beds would be next to each other). The only time you are apart is when on the toilet or in the shower. Walking with someone for weeks or more on end creates such a strong bond that I have only previously witnessed between serving soldiers. Little did I know that I was to be part of various Camino families myself on my journey.

There is only one ‘rule’ in walking with someone; they have to have the same walking pace as each other. If they are faster than you then you are risking injury trying to keep up, too slow and it a pain in the arse waiting for them. Other than that the sky is the limit, and as we shall see on my journey, Camino families can consist of very unlikely walking partners.

The Camino family in Castet-Arrouy were an interesting group. There were four of them; two middle aged Frenchmen, a young guy from the USA and a pretty young Swedish girl. Their ages ranged between 21 and 55. They had all intended to walk alone from Le Puy, but had met there on their first day and had been walking together ever since. I never was to see them again and I hope they all made it to Santiago.

I had a lovely evening before crashing out; drinking wine and chatting with the two Dutch bicegrino’s.

053-01 Entering St. Antoine.JPG
Entering St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz

053-03 The main street and cafe in St. Antoine.JPG
The lovely St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz

053-04 My Germans in St. Antoine. Unfortunately it was their last day.JPG
Some of 'my Germans' visiting the church in St. Antoine de Pont d’Arratz. Unfortunately it was their last day.

053-07 Help yourself cherry stall on the way to Flamarens.JPG
Help yourself cherry stall on the way to Flamarens. From here on The Way was marked by cherry pips!

053-08 The Way to Flamarens.JPG
The Way towards Flamarens

053-11 Pilgrim rest stop in Flamarens.JPG
A nice place to rest in Flamarens. I said goodbye to 'my Germans' here

053-20 Heading towards Miradoux.JPG
The Way snaking towards Miradoux

053-23 Château de Gachepouy between Miradoux and Castet-Arrouy.JPG
The Way passes Château de Gachepouy between Miradoux and Castet-Arrouy

053-26 The Way towards Castet-Arrouy.JPG
The Way towards Castet-Arrouy

053-27 The Gite Communal in Castet-Arrouy where I camped.JPG
The Gite Communal in Castet-Arrouy is part of the school. It has excellent camping facilities
 

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