and they won't go
Following on from my previous blog https://www.urasojourner.com/post/spirits-in-my-head, I am wheezing into Montpellier with my voices, and they won't go away.
It was a long 40km day, the last 8km was a stinky cacophony of industry and heavy traffic.
I was travelling with no maps or internet, totally reliant on road signs and the occasional unreliable pedestrian. A walker has to cross roads, you zig-zag up long ramparts to cross a bridge and zig-zag down the other side, just to span 30m of road. At lights, you stand and wait and wait and wait for permission.
By the time I found the centre, I was too late for the tourist information office, so I was forced to wander the streets popping into any sad-looking run down hotel to check the price for a night. I found one, I think it rented by the hour.
Strangely enough, in the centre of Montpellier, I met a whole band of miscellaneous oddballs and miscreants, some of whom, kindred spirit like, were also having conversations with no discernible partner.
I was too tired for tourism, I took a picture of a tram, Photo: picture of a tram
had an indigestible burger and coke, and went to bed to the natural symphony of sex and arguments.
Day four, I was tired before I got out of bed. I couldn’t face the 6km walk out of Montpellier through the industrial mirror image of the day before. I took a tram to Grabels, and amazingly, spotted the Camino sign as the tram pulled into the stop.
I have no recollection of those first few hours. Roads, tracks, footpaths, trees, fields. Just a random collection of forgettable nouns. The day was supposed to be about six hours walking but my guidebook warned about one stretch.
Photo: the entrance to my desert experience.
The uninteresting entrance to this ominous stage was marked by some boulders and a little red and white stripe to mark the way. After this … it was supposed to be an hour through a maze of paths bordered by chest-high thorn bushes. An hour, pah!
It was a labyrinth created by satan himself. No signs, no markings, no people, just me and a thousand crisscrossing sandy footpaths. I could see the general direction I was heading, to a lone windmill in the distance. A chosen path would look hopeful but would curl away. I would be tempted by another path only to for it to stop in a dead-end. I attempted to squeeze through the bushes, not funny, and climb in and out of ditches to reach another path. After an hour I was cut, grazed, bruised, livid, furious, demented, raging … and still off course, and beginning to panic. A figurative desert experience.
My destination for the day was the ancient Benedictine Abbey in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. My guidebook warned of a very strict door opening times, a two-hour window between 16.00 and 18.00.
Lost in the maze of despond I was with much dismay, lamentations and consternation. After two hours I exited and started a half jog speed walk. My anxiety firing my limbs with a manic energy, I sped along. One moment I was head down concentrating on the rough stone path and the next I was on a car park outside a small roadside cafe. A quick time check and a rough calculation and I figured I had made it, with an hour to spare.
And then I saw the bridge.