“Like the dust that settles all around me, I must find a new home, the ways and holes that used to give me shelter are all as one to me now”
Hello to all: more apologies, I’m seriously in arrears in posting entries to this blog, and I’ll try to get caught up. Today was a red letter day; I effectively completed the Via Podiensis which is roughly 750Kms from Le Puy (466 miles). I walked, with blistered feet, into The Porte St. Jacques in St. Jean Pied de Port, the last village before the Spanish border.
I’ve now walked roughly 1,100Kms (683.5 miles) across France from Geneva. This does not include the number of times I missed the turn, got lost or generally screwed up on the route. Someone said that getting lost is the best way to end up in a place you’ve never been: I can confirm this to be a totally accurate statement.
Anyway, I’ll now try to get back on track, hunting and pecking on my iPhone key pad. If the grammer gets really bad, I’ll have to blame it on all my Camino buddies and our celebration of the end of the Via Podiensis, and the Armangnac.
Anyway, back to the walk: after my incredibly social day walking into Conques, I had a rather lonely day walking to Livinhac Le Haut. As beautiful as Conques was, the walk to Livinhac was long, boring and quite uninspiring on a hot, hot day. I took the variant route to avoid the town of Decazeville and I did not see any other pilgrim all day. At one point I got exasperated with the route and flagged down a motorist to get directions. Unlike in Paris, the folks here try to be so helpful that the motorist gave me specific directions for the next 15 kilometers. This would have been very useful, but unfortunately, it was all in French and I lost him on the second ‘droite’.
Anyway, I finally crossed the river Lot in the late afternoon and stumbled into the campsite in search of loggings for the night. I got the last chalet/ mini mobile home. Being the last, you can imagine how horrid, dirty and grimy this place was, I was just too tired to care. I do remember the nasty, drunk little campsite manager with bad teeth who was terribly abusive towards his wife: I should have punched him on the nose.
Not wanting to eat anything that came out of this dirty, snack bar campsite kitchen, I made my way into town where I dined at the only restaurant that was open. I saw a fellow pilgrim, Guy, from Québec, and asked him to join me for dinner.
Couldn’t get out of Livinhac fast enough; left early and marched to Figeac in the cool of the morning reaching it by lunchtime. Figeac is a lovely old town with a rather unique cathedral. Saw several pilgrim friends from the past few days and treated myself to an excellent bottle of AOC Cahors Malbec. I’ve found excellent wines, usually for under €10.00, to be a very good value when compared to California wine prices.
The next day it was on to Cajarc. By this time I felt pretty confident about my route finding abilities, which meant I was overdue for the mother of all blunders. At the morning beer break, I met an older Dutch couple, Sophie and Bert, who were doing a bike tour. They had cycled all over the world and had some terrific stories to tell. Anyway, on hearing my South African connection they told me of a South African couple, Gavin and Lillian, who were running a superior B&B in Cajarc and recommended that I call them to arrange for accommodations for that evening. I called, but alas, the inn was booked: Lillian offered to find me a place for the night and invited me for a BBQ. Fantastic, I was sorted out for the evening plus I was going to get a good old South African BBQ, a very welcome change from French cuisine.
Sophie & Bert at the morning beer break.
I confidently strode out with good pace anticipating an arrival in Cajarc a little after 2:00pm. What I wasn’t aware of was that there were two variant routes which did not go through Cajarc. The Cele variant used the same white and red trail indicators as the standard route. I was flying through lush forests looking forward to a pleasant evening. I walked into Boussac and did a map check thinking that I had about an hour to go to Cajarc. Nope, couldn’t find Boussac anywhere on my map. Some other pilgrims walked by and I asked them if they knew where we were. It turned out that I was miles off the planned route and going through the Cele Valley. Oh no! Getting back on track to Cajarc was a major challenge as I had to follow regular roads for about 10 miles to get back to the planned route. What a blunder! Anyway I arrived at the hotel in Cajarc after 7:00pm quickly showered and made the BBQ by 8:00pm. All I can say is that meeting Gavin and Lillian and having that BBQ was well worth the slog to rectify my route. I’m now a little more conscious of the variant routes.
The next day was another long solo trek to Varaire. Got a room at a better-than-average B&B run by a Dutch couple. While en route came across a colorful kiosk set upon the meadow by some enterprising former hippies to sell drinks at fairly inflated prices. Who cares about the price, I’ll have two Panaches as I’m hot and dying of thirst.
The rest of the day were the usual pretty sights meadows, forests etc.
Now it was on to Cahors, roughly the mid point of the 750 Kms of the Via Podiensis. The walk to Cahors was long and not terribly spectacular. Whoever planned the GR65 (the Chemin de St Jacque de Compostella) must have been a masochist: towards the end of the day one expects to see the destination in the distance, however, this seldom happens, and then one thinks that one still has a way to go; then suddenly one comes over a hillock and ‘boom’ the town is right in front of you.
Rain and drizzle had been threatening all day but nothing to worry about. However, just before crossing the bridge into Cahors, the heavens opened up and it rained cats and dogs for about an hour. I had no time to get my poncho on, so I got thoroughly drenched. I was very happy to get to my hotel to dry out.
(At the time of writing this last piece I’m actually in Pamplona, Spain, sitting in the Cafe Irunya which was made famous by Hemingway.)