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La Voie d'Arles October - November

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#1
After all the useful advice I got on this forum I decided to learn some French and undertook an eight week course at Alliance Francaise de Sydney before beginning my Camino. So now I'm confident to walk the walk and even attempt the talk.

The canal alternative route out of Arles was an enjoyable way to start the Camino and there were not many of the mosquitos I had heard so much about.

There has been a lot of rain and some tracks are more like streams than paths but this does not detract from the beauty even when pelted by rain.
The mud is the usual soft gooey stuff that sticks to your shoes adding a kilo to each foot it's been quite deep too not that this has dampened my enthusiasm, I'm loving every bit of this walk.

Following the entire GR with it's delightful off-road challenges from Arles to Montpellier would have been very difficult without GPS. The GR653 is clearly marked on the Garmin France Topo Pro V4 map (expensive but can be downloaded if you know where to look). I met two fellow Pellegrino's at lodgings who had walked mostly on roads because they had lost the way.

I'm now at Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert staying at the clean and comfortable Carmel St Joseph. Wow this is a stunningly beautiful village.

The walk had been highlighted by the friendly and helpful nature of the people I've come across so far they have made everything relatively easy.

Two things that have made walking in the rain enjoyable are my OR waterproof broad brimmed hat and Dexshell waterproof socks. With the hat on you don't have to have the annoying raincoat hood over your head all day unless its driving rain in which case the hat hood combo works well. The socks keep feet warm and dry so light weight trail runners mean no need for boots although time will tell if there's snow later on route.
 
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Doogman

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#2
Hi Michael: Thanks for your post. I will be following along with interest, as the Arles route is on my list, but unfortunately not for a couple of years, when I can free up a longer period of time. Bon chemin!
 

MCFearnley

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ponferrada to Santiago (September 2016)
#3
Two things that have made walking in the rain enjoyable are my OR waterproof broad brimmed hat and Dexshell waterproof socks
I too have an OR hat that served me very well on both the rainy days and sunny days of my Camino. Love the hat. It was on my head every single day and it has become my signature piece. A couple of times I heard my name shouted out from behind as pilgrims I met previously recognized me by my hat. It's purple with a black brim.
 
#4
Thanks for the lucid, interesting report.
A pleasure to read. Keep it up mate.
And good idea about the hat.
I've got a favourite but it's not waterproof. I'll have to get a can of that spray on waterproofing.
Regards
Gerard
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#5
Saint Guilhem Le Désert to Joncels.
The mountains have been delightful although a real test for my fitness. I was lucky to escape forecasted rain as there has been only fog and light drizzle.

The path out of St Guilhem is well waymarked but it's steep and rocky zigzaging and climbing up the mountain finally reaching a plateau with stunning views even though the mountains were shrouded in a thick foggy mist.

The way continues through open windswept scrub and eventually descends to a medieval fortress.

It took me most of the day to reach Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière where I stayed at the comfortable Gîte Le Saint Jacques.
Interesting and beautiful countryside continued until reaching Lodève.

In Lodève I stayed at Chez Nina which was a great place to stay, Nina told me of those who trek through from St Guilhem Le Désert to Lodève in one mammoth mountainous 40km day, they must be very fit and or crazy.

From there it's very tough going with many steep climbs but also many beautiful trails where you're isolated and surrounded in tunnel like vegetation the loudest sound being my feet breath and staff except of course for the too close for comfort sound of hunters in there hides emptying gun barrels on pigs or birds.

If the sound of the shotgun was too close I'd bang the metal tip of my staff on a rock so hopefully they wouldn't aim my way.
A highlight was the small medieval 12 century village of Joncels 5km before Lunas with its narrow streets of ancient stone buildings. The village had no shop no bar and no restaurant but fortunately it did have the brilliant Gîte de la Forge.

The friendly hosts cooked food that was to die for and the selection of homemade jams presented at breakfast was a treat to behold.
 

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Doogman

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#6
Great pictures and great update. I am so envious. I am not sure why, but I have recently become a bit obsessed by the Arles route, even though I will not get a chance to do it for another 2-3 years. Glad you are enjoying it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#8
Phone to have or not to have.
It's 5km to Lunas from Joncels and I'd heard they had a Tabac shop there where I could buy Orange phone credit for the mobile I definitely was not going to bring on the Camino.

I found the shop/bar slightly off route and bought a 10€ credit receipt but could not figure out how to get it to appear on the phone. The barman was not very forthcoming and shrugged indifferently. His customers obligingly tried to help, 10am and they are blind drunk they borrowed my glasses and started pressing wildly determined to solve this puzzle.

I managed to get my glasses and phone back and tried the not so drunk folks outside. Lots of head scratching and button pushing but to no avail until finally the barman decided he'd better take control and sorted it out in no time.
Smiles all round and the pilgrim with his walking stick goes on his way to his next adventure.



Got to say the phone is brilliant it's a camera a talking back home device and I'm even writing this post on it in a hotel room in Saint-Félix-Lauragais.

Lucky I bought the tent too because there's no accomodation in range from here so I bought some salami bread cheese and fruit and will find a spot to camp on the Canal du Midi tomorrow night.
 
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TMcA

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to Burgos (2017)
#11
Good work on your French study before departing. I hope it has paid dividends.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#12
Good work on your French study before departing. I hope it has paid dividends.
Interesting yes the eight week course in French made some difference and I'm glad I did it but honestly I would have been fine with zero French.
So long as one is ok with aloneness it's a brilliant walk and when you do come in contact with humans remember to smile and be pleasant which is not hard after being surrounded by all that beautiful nature.
To not go anywhere because of language or fear is a mistake.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#14
Well, I have just received my Miam Miam Dodo for the Arles route, and am still unable to get off the fence between the Norte (maybe with a Baztan prelude) or Arles for 2017. HELP!!!!!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid.
#15
Hard choice Laurie. I've done some of the Arles and all the Norte. Really, whichever way you choose you can't lose. Pray that life will be long and you can do both.

If you want company and perhaps a camino family ("through walkers" - help me, I'm using that phrase!), go the Norte.

Food is fabulous on both - French county cooking or seafood? More planning required on the Arles - small villages tend not to have shops these days, and accommodation needs determine where you stop. On the Norte accommodation is plentiful and we never had to think about where the next meal was coming from.

Landscape? I could not choose.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#16
From Lunas the going gets really tough so I was glad to have gained some fitness along the way walking from Arles.

The trail goes through beautiful forest which is silent other than a few bird tweets and the sound of my own feet, lots of twisting and winding up steep rocky slopes. One section from Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet is uphill all the way for 7km some of it seriously steep.

The nightly stay in Gîtes offer clean comfortable safe and cheap accomodation they are mostly well maintained by the nicest people and there's hot radiators so drying walking clothes for the next day is no problem. Because I'm traveling out of season I've usually got the Gîte to myself otherwise I'm sure there would be competition for radiator space.

The problem I have with steep down hill slopes is there is inevitably an uphill following but at least I'm now fit enough to keep on going without stopping to rest until over the crest. There have been some flat ridge hugging trails deep in the forest that could go forever.

The stone work in village walls and along the lanes of the trail look like they've stood the test of time. I often find myself wondering who laid these stones, such artwork.



The lake near Lac de Lauzas is an interesting change in scenery.

After La Salvetat-sur-Agout the country opens up and the walk heads into farmland and forestry tracks with gravel roads and gradually more and more tarmac roads by Castres.



 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#17
Did you too stay at CH Mde. Angelani very close to that bench
Don't think so -- the bench was the location of a nice rest, possibly with beers.

From Lunas the going gets really tough
errrrrmmmm, yeah, it's actually somewhat advisable over that particular patch to avoid the GR / "official" Camino where appropriate. TheFrench Association of Hikers leads you through avoidable mountains, avoidable wilderness, avoidable hardships that are hard on both body and spirit ; and away from the traditional path, away from the villages and Parishes, away from the people that make a Pilgrimage (rather than a hiking trip) worthwhile (though the inevitable solitudes are essential too).









---

We've seen things the same way ... :) (photos from 2005)
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozárabe & Vía de la Plata (2009
Camino Arles & Aragon (2013)
#18
From Castres to Toulouse the hills are not as taxing and the going gets easier.

The landscape is more agricultural and opens up to vast fields of crops and pasture.

Fortunately there is not massive clearing and belts of trees protect fields from wind and leave space for wildlife to exist.


More and more towns and roads and then the the bank of La Rigole that feeds into the amazing Canal du Midi



 
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Camino(s) past & future
VDLP to Finisterre 2009
Le Puy to SJPDP 2013
Frances 2014
#19
Thanks for your great Blog Michael, did you go further than Canal du Midi? If so I'd love to see more of your fabulous photos and read more as I'm off to walk the Arles route mid May and its hard to get much info about it. Looks beautiful and sounds challenging.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid.
#20
Lovely photos Michael. We walked from Sête to Oloron-Sainte-Marie via Toulouse and the Canal du Midi. I'd like to go back and walk the standard Arles route from Arles to Toulouse, and then from Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Punta la Reina.
 
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