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Le Puy: it took me 60 years. Spoiler: geology

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
When I was a boy, maybe aged 12, I was given as a Christmas present this book.
IMG_1062.jpeg
A satisfyingly hefty book about the history of the planet.
My parents knew I was interested in rocks and fossils, and this book certainly fed my appetite. There was of course a chapter all about volcanoes, and included in this was full page colour plate of the chapel of St Michel d'Aiguilhe in Le Puy perched on the summit of its immense tower of rock.
This is more or less the picture - I no longer have the book.
Le Puy en Velay - Eglise Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe (1).jpeg
I was astounded. This, I read, was the remnant neck of an ancient volcano, the conical mountain itself having been long since eroded away. The fact that such a thing existed on the other side of the English Channel seemed incredible. Volcanoes, to me were exotic phenomena, far away. (Obviously the authors of this original French Larousse Encyclopaedia were influenced in their choice of illustration). I resolved, then and there, that one day I would visit Le Puy and climb to the top of that extraordinary marvel. It took me about 60 years, but in 2019 I did just that, crossing the world instead of the Channel.
I did a tour of France on my bike, a round trip to and from Roscoff ferry in Brittany. The itinerary was planned deliberately to pass through Le Puy at nearly the half-way point. Obviously I was not on Camino but I did cycle a few sections of various caminos - they are hard to miss in France. I stayed 2 days, booked into a comfortable self contained AirBnb in the centre.

St Michel d'Aiguilhe is situated some distance from the city centre, and this was my first view of it, seemingly a toy perched on the roof of a house.
IMG_9774.jpeg
Well, before I climbed the 260 or so stone steps to the summit, I managed to reproduce the grandeur of that photo from long ago. A boy’s dream become reality. That day I probably took 50 photos. Like Mont St Michel, this was a wonder.
IMG_9812.jpeg The staircase itself is remarkable as seen in this old engraving. IMG_9872.jpeg
Going up is OK. Coming doown was hell on my knees.The chapel is beautiful.

...and a view IMG_9842.jpeg

As my later education in geology progressed I became aware that exposed volcanic necks like this are by no means unique. The most spectacular occurrence would be in the aftermath of the eruption of Mt Pelée in Martinique 1902. A pyroclastic cloud, ie a superheated soup of gas, molten rock and glowing ash exploded out of the volcano and descended on the city of St Pierre at horrifying velocity, completely destroying it and killing the entire population except for a convict adequately shielded in his dungeon.
Then the mountain ejected its own volcanic neck, rising sometimes at 20m per day out of the crater to the terrifying height of nearly 300m. Eventually it collapsed under its own weight. Those are human figures at the bottom.
Mount_Pelee_YORYM-TA0152.jpeg

There are similar erosional examples to Le Puy. The most spectacular of all is probably in Sao Tome Principe, off the west African coast.
PICO CÃO GRANDE - NA ILHA DE SÃO TOME.jpeg
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2019
The clerk at the end of the Camino asked me the reasons why I walked. I answered: Religious, historical, cultural, and geological. I am a geologist. But I was bummed because at the end of the day I was so tired and my feet were so sore that I could not go climbing around looking at the rocks and formations. I enjoyed them afar or as I was walking over them, but at the end of the day I was too worn out to go exploring!!! Making up to 35 km a day sometimes. So you wash yourself and your clothes, you eat, then you hit the sack. I was 69 when I walked The Camino. Lots of my friends ask me how my vacation was. I answer: it was NOT a vacation. They also ask if it was fun: It was NOT fun!!! I tell them it was an interesting but grueling journey.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Thank you Paul, for this!
I grew up on a shield volcano that tends not to explode and looks about as dramatic as an overturned platter. This is another story altogether. Some day....
I enjoyed them afar or as I was walking over them,
The Via de Bayona crosses the complicated geology between Irun and Burgos, and along the way....well there were some very nice moments of enjoyment from afar.
20190526_173025 - Copy.jpg 20190528_142852.jpg
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
The Via de Bayona crosses the complicated geology between Irun and Burgos...
The panorama is sensational! I know you've posted "rock shots" of this route elsewhere. How long can I put it off?:rolleyes:
 
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300m from the cathedral and around the corner from the fresh food market in Santiago. Perfect place to tele commute from (1GB symmetrical connection).
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Lurch

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
looking at 2018-2019
Received my undergraduate degree in Geology. Never worked in it but that is another story. American southwest is mostly cinder cones, go to New Mexico for volcanic plugs, i.e. Shiprock. Never regretted the degree field. Every roadcut is a story unto itself!
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
I was going to post about geological maps here, but thought I'd do so on a new thread.
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
The clerk at the end of the Camino asked me the reasons why I walked. I answered: Religious, historical, cultural, and geological. I am a geologist. But I was bummed because at the end of the day I was so tired and my feet were so sore that I could not go climbing around looking at the rocks and formations. I enjoyed them afar or as I was walking over them, but at the end of the day I was too worn out to go exploring!!! Making up to 35 km a day sometimes. So you wash yourself and your clothes, you eat, then you hit the sack. I was 69 when I walked The Camino. Lots of my friends ask me how my vacation was. I answer: it was NOT a vacation. They also ask if it was fun: It was NOT fun!!! I tell them it was an interesting but grueling journey.
I know what you mean, but nevertheless my phone has numerous pictures like these:
IMG_9803 (1).jpeg IMG_9804.jpeg Basalt cobblestones in Le Puy
I have only just noticed the green "crystal" in picture 2! Hmmm - I'm suspecting a broken bottle fragment ... otherwiseo_O
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
Or even worse:
IMG_7275.jpeg Mica schist paving the road from Obradoiro to the Pilgrim Office. It actually looks more impressive in reality! I know - give us a break!
 
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