• PLEASE NOTE: Please think twice before you travel to Spain now. More here.

Search over 55.000 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Advertisement

Walking from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port in Summer 2018

Lozone78

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy Camino 2018
Hi

I thought it might be helpful to some of you to write up my experiences of walking the French part of Chemin Saint Jaques from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port in summer 2018.

I walked ‘The Way’ with my girlfriend starting in late July and finishing in early September. The walk took 42 days with 4 rest days and 3 very short days.

It really was a wonderful experience. The walk is truly beautiful throughout it’s entire length. From the landscapes of the Albrac, with it’s many wildflowers, to the oak forests of Quercy, the numerous ‘Beau villages’ dotted along the route and of course being immersed in French culture and cuisine for 6 weeks. I naively expected the southern section of the walk to be fairly arid and dry, I was completely wrong, the entire walk was lush and green.

I think the first practical thing to talk about is the fact that we walked in mid summer, which of course had it’s pros and cons.

Positives

The positives of this were that the trail was relatively quiet and we had no problem finding accommodation when not camping. The weather was exceptionally sunny throughout the vast majority of the walk, with rain on only a handful of days and the nights were mainly warm. This allowed us to save some weight, due to taking lighter sleeping bags and less clothes.

Negatives

The downside was that we, unsurprisingly, had some very hot weather (34-38 degrees for 10 consecutive days). We often did avoid the worst of the heat by starting our days walking very early (5am-7am). However, it did lead to us taking extra rest days as well as walking some very short days that we would not have done had the weather been cooler.
Even though we were usually resting in the afternoons, it was very hard to find places to stay cool on campsites during the day, especially when you are very tired from a walking and none of the gites we stayed in had fans or aircon. We therefore went over our accommodation budget. Several times we elected to either stay in a gite rather than camp, or stay in a hotel with aircon rather than stay in a gite.

Guide book and navigation

We used Miam Miam Dodo. The book is great for understanding the accommodation available and contacting the gites/Chambre d’hotes a day or two in advance. You could do the whole walk with just this book. Neither myself or my girlfriend speak great French so we often emailed gites/chambre d’hotes to check availability rather than call, which worked really well. This was made easier by using roaming data on my mobile (I used about 3gb a month) and most places had H+/3G, even in remote areas.
The only improvement I can think of for Miam Miam Dodo would be if they added better maps of towns with labels of where things are etc… (but with using google maps this was never really a problem)
The sign posting on the walk is very good and we had very few instances of going the wrong way. However, I used the iPhiGeNie phone app for android as an extra navigation aid. I purchased full maps and GPS for something like 20euros. This had all the maps of France down to 1:25000 and uses GPS to show your position. This meant we always knew exactly where we were. This helped enormously when following route variations that were not well marked (such as Lectoure to Condom, missing out La Romieu).

Pre walk:

I would class myself as an experienced walker but my partner was not a regular walker prior to Jan 2018. We started training about 6 months prior to the start of our walk (most of the training occurred between April and July). In total we did about 200 miles of training walks on varying terrain, doing longer walks once or twice a week, with a couple of weekend walks as well. We also did some quick 30min-1hr evening walks on top of the longer walks (not included in the 200 mile total), often with our backpacks on. Most of the walking was on rolling/hilly terrain but not mountainous. Walks were anywhere between 6 to 19 miles in length. Something I think is important to mention is that the route does have a lot of (very quiet) country lanes and tracks. Walking on footpaths alone will probably not prepare your feet fully for this. Fortunately, several weeks before we departed for France, we did a long 19 mile walk in Staffordshire/Derbyshire along the Manifold valley and Dovedale. For those not familiar with this walk there is quite a lot of tarmac/asphalt along the Manifold valley. This walk gave us both blisters, even though I already had tough feet and had done a lot of walking prior to this. However, what I believe it did was partially prepare our feet for the type of terrain we were to encounter on the Chemin (There is quite a lot of walking on very quiet country roads). Neither of us had any real blister problems on the Chemin (We both got one blister each), some of which I attribute to the (accidental) tarmac prep we did.

Although I think the amount of training we did was sufficient, we did not do enough miles with the walking trainers that we both were to use on the Chemin. We both went through a couple of pairs of shoes before we found the pair we were happy with. Unfortunately, this was only a couple of weeks before starting the walk. Getting the right shoes/boots has always been a bit of a problem for me and has been expensive and frustrating. From my own experience It is very difficult to know whether a pair of shoes are the right ones for you from just trying them on in the shop and, even after a couple of walks, it can be hard to tell (then it is too late to return them!!!). In fact, I have had boots that felt good on day hikes but were not that great when I walked for several days continuously in them. I would advise therefore, that during your training, you do several 2/3 day hikes to ensure your boots/shoes are ok for you (This will also help you decide what other gear does/doesn’t work for you).

Kit

I wont list my full kit but I will provide a bit of detail about a few key items.

I think your footware (including socks) and backpack are the most important items. I think that anyone on a tight budget should, if possible, put the largest proportion of their money into these items.

Trainers & Socks – As detailed above we both used walking trainers and not boots. I used La Sportiva Bushido’s together with Darn Tough Vertex ¼ sock Ultra Light men (2 pairs), my girlfriend used similar socks and Solomon Ultras. I was very happy with my choice and would do the same again. At no point did I wish I had walking boots (up until this year I have always walked in boots) and I really feel the trainers were an advantage on the tarmac roads. Although the Darn Tough socks are quite thin in comparison to previous socks I have used, this did not lead to blisters or any increase in soreness and my feet felt much cooler. The La Sportiva Bushidos are not gortex and I noticed a big difference between these and other gortex trainers I have worn. The Bushidos are so much cooler and this reduced how damp my feet got from sweat. When my feet did get wet from rain, they dried out very quickly.

Clothes – I walked in shorts for the whole walk. I started with a pair of trousers and a shirt for evening wear, but never once used them, therefore they were posted home.

Rain gear - I took a poncho and a lightweight umbrella rather than a rain jacket and was happy with this decision. The poncho is more versatile than a jacket (can be used as a ground sheet) and the umbrella doubled up as a sun umbrella (Euroschirm light Trek Umbrella). This meant during light showers that I didn’t need to put the poncho on and it also helped to keep my feet dry on the rare wet days.

Anker Powercore 10000 (Lithium battery) – Was brilliant. As I was camping, charging points were hard to come by or a pain to use. I was able to get nearly three full phone charges from the Anker, which meant I could go a week without having to find a power source.

Experience of walk/tips (some a bit random)

We walked short days for the first week (between 12-20km each day). This was a conscious decision made after we had started and to break ourselves in gently. It actually wasn’t that easy to hold back from the urge to get some long days and good miles behind us in the first week. But I think it was very much worth it. It allowed our bodies to get used to the rigours of walking every day and I think helped us avoid blisters and injuries.

Because we self-catered, some mornings (especially in the last third of the walk) ended up being walked at a very fast pace to get to a shop before 12pm/1pm, when they close. This was because we hadn’t thought properly the previous day about the following day. Plan ahead properly and leave plenty of time to get to your lunch stop. Increasing the pace considerably can lead to injury or at least a drop in motivation and does far more harm than getting up early!

Conques - Be aware that if you take a rest day here the food shops are very limited (resturants are aplenty though).

The most challenging climbs are nearly all in the first 250km. However, after that, many days are what you would consider ‘rolling’, often with 2 or 3 100m climbs a day.

The walk from Le Puy to Aubrac is a bird watchers paradise.

Ibruprofen and ice can make a really big difference. Try and nip any tendonitis and or swelling in the bud before it gets bad. Don’t be afraid to take rest days or walk short days until your pain/injuries improve.
If you are feeling any aching or pain on the top of your foot or the front of your leg at the bottom, loosen your laces a little and see if this helps (do this asap after any discomfort starts).

Blisters - Wearing a thin pair of socks under your normal walking socks for a day or two can really help if you have blisters and allow your feet to recover (this is more a tip from my previous walking experiences than from the Chemin).

We heard that people were being told in Conques to avoid Decazville. Decazville is a perfectly nice place but seems to be, somewhat unfairly, compared to the many ‘Beau villages’ along the Chemin (it is on par with any normal small ‘working class’ town in England). With amenities and some larger shops it is a good place to stop (or just pass through) and resupply. The last thing Decazville and the businesses relying on the Chemin need is people missing it out, I would definitely go there again!!!

Chamber D’hotes and gites that deserve an honourable mention:

Rose De Aubrac Chambre D’hote near Fineryols (Aubrac) – Superb food
The owner of the Les Volets Bleus in Decazville who very generously gave us food even when we were eating our own and also drove us into town to go to an outdoor shop.
Ferme Bohoteguia – Very friendly and food was great.
 
Last edited:

TimH

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April 2016
Le Puy route May 2017
Camino Norte June 2017
St Francis Way Sept 2018
Totally agree with you regarding iPhiGenie. We walked the route in 2017 and found it absolutely invaluable
 

josephmcclain

Active Member
Love your report and want to do it. Am presently working at the Pilgrims´Office in Santiago. Wrote a Compostela for a French woman of 70 who had just finished the Le Puy to Santiago. That is a lot of kilometros. Like 1500 and a bit more.!
 

billmclaughlin

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP/Burgos 2012; Le Puy/SJPP 2013; Aumont Aubrac/Aire sur l'Adour 2014; Burgos/Santiago 2016.
Thanks! and three cheers for Decazeville!
 

Louise Lazar-Wright

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Compostela 2016
Love your report and want to do it. Am presently working at the Pilgrims´Office in Santiago. Wrote a Compostela for a French woman of 70 who had just finished the Le Puy to Santiago. That is a lot of kilometros. Like 1500 and a bit more.!
Hi,
I’m doing the Le Puy to Santiago Camino and just read your post... any tips or contacts would be most welcome... I will be turning 70 during this Camino...
Did 350ks in 2016 but had an injury, going back to finish what I started:)🙏
 

Advertisement

Booking.com

Latest posts

Camino Conversations

Camino Conversations

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

Most downloaded Resources

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 16 1.2%
  • February

    Votes: 10 0.8%
  • March

    Votes: 57 4.3%
  • April

    Votes: 202 15.2%
  • May

    Votes: 330 24.8%
  • June

    Votes: 96 7.2%
  • July

    Votes: 25 1.9%
  • August

    Votes: 27 2.0%
  • September

    Votes: 386 29.0%
  • October

    Votes: 160 12.0%
  • November

    Votes: 17 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 7 0.5%

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store
Top