Updated: Mar 16
Photo: The fictitious 3h 12m walking route as provided by Google.
Following on from save me (from myself), I am now on day 7 or 8, Lodéve to Lunas, 27km
What a difference a shower, a night of decent sleep and good food makes. I felt almost human.
This area of Haut-Languedoc is a really popular tourist destination and the hotel had a huge map in the lobby. The path looked well marked and that cheered me up, no getting lost today.
With a pack, I walk at about 4.5km per hour, 27 km is about 6 hours, plus time for food, toilet, rests and photo opportunities, at least another hour. Add to this extra time for being tired and the up and downhill elements, I expected a nine-hour day.
My day started from the hotel and stopped 100m later at an excellent pâtisserie, where I gorged on two croissants (with jam) and a delightfully creamy café au lait. My day stopped again at the local supermarket, where I stocked up on essentials, just in case.
The basic food for me is relatively simple. Bread, hard cheese (keeps longer), olives in a small plastic bag, cold slices of meat, to be consumed the same day, tomatoes and apples are a tasty addition. I had no means of heating water so no coffee, only cold water to drink. After this Camino, I would always carry a little stove, coffee and a small coffee maker, always.
The sun was out so my sun hat was on. The route was simple and well signposted. I had a full belly, plenty of extra food and clean water. My spirits were up, all thoughts of quitting were set aside, this was going to be a good day.
It was the sun that done me in. This time of year the weather is supposed to be on average 17°C, my guess, it was upwards of 25°C. The gradual uphill climb and a merciless sun sucked the energy straight out of my pores. All my water was consumed by mid-afternoon.
In nearly every village in France, there is an outdoor water supply. It will have a sign, either, Potable or Non-Potable, safe or unsafe to drink. The two villages I passed through were both unsafe. My path was a steady zig zag uphill, dark green thorn bushes either side, rough sandy gravel underfoot, brutal sun overhead.
I came to a third tiny village, it was so tiny you could walk through it in maybe two minutes. There was no bar and no shop but there was a live human being, sitting on a terrace. I tried my terrible French and he replied in perfect “I just left London this morning” English accent.
I was invited in. My bottles were filled up and over a cup of stewed cabbage leaf herbal tea, I learned he had been here thirty years. He came on holiday and never went back, his wife did. Many years later, at an art market, he met a lady from Belgium. He painted and she was a potter. Together they make enough money to live, a pretty ideal life. It turned out the herbal tea was leaves taken from the side of the road, it tasted like it.
Before I left, he pulled out a map and showed me the route across the top of the mountains (hills) and the path to Lunas. Amazing what a little tea and chat can do for my spirits. Five minutes later I was beeped by a car coming up the track behind me. I stepped aside to let it pass but it stopped. It was London artist man, he had decided to do me one more favour and give me a lift.
Fifteen minutes later when he dropped me off I was very thankful, the road was a series of hairpin bends snaking up the hill. When the car couldn't go any further I clambered out. I was so grateful for that simple act of kindness, I could have hugged him. I didn’t. The last kilometre was a joy compared to the back aching slog I had just avoided.
The track opened up on to a grassy hillside, and a gentle climb to the “col”, the pass between the hills on either side of me. There was a little chapel, I guess it had been built to give rest, and shelter perhaps, to the weary traveller making their way over the hills. I sat, unbothered by the passing of time, enjoying the tranquillity and the stunning panorama in front of me.
Photo: the little hilltop chapel
The stroll down to Lunas was downhill, simple and pleasant, follow the track and admire the valley to my right.
The hotel in Lunas was cheap but comfortable.
Photo: the hilltop overlooking Lunas
Turned out not such a bad day after all.