Trail Angels

We left the Gite yesterday morning,there had been a huge thunderstorm during the night, but it was now clear. As we walked into the village the church doors were open and there was beautiful flute music coming into the street. We bought some things for lunch, and headed out as always uphill. Halfway up the hill several women, who were behind us began calling to us. My camera had come loose from my belt, and one of the women had found it and returned it to me. Definitely a trail angel. The heat and humidity is a killer, hiking at home I drink very little water, but here there is never enough water. About halfway along yesterday after climbing a hill (another one) we came to a farmer, who had put out 2 chairs, a table w/a bottle of fruit juice, he filled our water bottle and was excited to speak English with us. He grows prunes,and belongs to an Assoc. That is also in the U.S. Filling our water made him another Angel.
Later I was feeling on the verge of dehydration, when we came to the worst hill of the trip. Monica’s back was spamming and I needed water, but up we went, up a very steep slippery rock wall, and this was a first, part way up there was a long rope to help pull yourself up. It flattened out at the top, ran along a ridge for a 1/2 mile and then it was down,down,down the backside. Again unbelievably steep for a hiking trail, they put in some steps but erosion put loose rocks on them and each step was at least 2 ft. High, further down they tried a wooden handrail, but erosion had taken the trail away from the railing. By now I was becoming demented for water, but Monica became the Drill Sgt. And we keep the act together until we came to a spring.

We stayed in a Gite and once again had a great dinner, there about 30 guests, and we got to know the Japanese couple that we had met earlier. This morning we were packed and ready to start the days trek, when another hiker asked what town we were going to, and when we told her, she said there was a big festival there and our host had offered to drive everybody. Well, how tough a decision is that? Hike for fifteen miles in the hot sun or go to a festival – the festival won. Moissac has a huge Abbey/Cloister, that was a Roman building in 500 AD, then the Abbey was built on the site by the Church, starting about 1050. We went to Mass there, then to the bazaar, dozens of food stands,it made for a very interesting day.
The funniest thing was our Gite host drives us to Moissac, but can’t find the address of our chambre. He stops and asks 3 or 4 different people walking, and none have a clue. Our host explains these old men have lived here all their lives, and haven’t gone more than two blocks. Then he drives into the middle of the bazaar area, then has to backup for several blocks. He finally got us here, chambre is iffy, but only a 100 yards from the Abbey.

Ho Hum!

We’ll, we carried our backpacks to Cohor, but that days hike, like today didn’t offer any photo ops. We had a terrible dinner, because the town is overrun with tourist. The highlight of the day was that they did have a Pilgrims Mass and blessing at the Cathedral, but the priest told Monica, she should try and speak French. He was perfectly fluent in English but other than his comment to Monica spoke only French.

Interesting, we have heard it all along the way, but again tonite a Frenchman, indicated the real original Pilgrimage was in France, and he wanted to know why only the British and Americans want to walk in Spain. In France it is called “The Chemin de St. Jacques,” OK, SO WHERE WAS St. Jacque going? Maybe to Santiago de Compostela, which happens to be in Spain. Mon adieu, these French are so French.

Over the last couple of days, we saw a Japanese couple, but until yesterday hadn’t spoken to them. Yesterday we caught up with them, and they were very surprised when I greeted them in Japanese. I have to compliment them, they really hike in a relaxed manner. They walk 5 or 6km, then stop and sit down, look at the view, read, journal,listen to music. At one point they were walking along, and they walk fairly fast, but they had A Japanese flautist playing on their IPad. They go home in a couple of days.
The first half of today’s walk was not to difficult as we past miles of fields and woods that were posted as hunting reserves. The second half could rival the Meseta of Spain, flat, oppressive heat, no shade, no trees, for too many miles we walked along fields of harvested sunflowers, just the broken stocks sticking up almost to the horizon.
Today when we stopped for a snack in a village that had no cafe, shops, nothing, just houses and a church, when along came another Pilgrim. His first words to us was,”where is the beer?” After miles of walking along these parched trails, the promise of a village and a cold drink, is all you can think about. Here was a village that could have been a painting, absolutely flat and dead. We still had 10km to go

That is as good as it gets

That is as good as it gets

imageimagefor the day, the young man was French, but lived on the border of Belgium,he left us to our snack and went on. We shortly got going again, and after entering the village where we are spending the night, here comes the young man from behind us so we finally went together to the bar for beers.

We are spending tonite in an overpriced Gite, in Montcuq.

“Spirit of 76”

It must have the sign of a new year, but yesterday we cranked out 20 miles. We shipped one pack and Monica carried one the first half of the route and I carried it the second half, for the first 19 miles, fairly easy rolling trail. It was hot, and we only found two water stops, one of which we went to a farmhouse and asked the woman to fill our bottles. Murphey’s law, the day before was a much shorter walk, and there was water available every mile. The 20th mile was a corkscrewing climb up about 600 ft., but thankfully at the top was a Gite, our stop for the night and cold beers. The Gite served a super home cooked dinner. The night at the Gite included a private room w/bath, dinner & breakfast for 42 Euros. And we met some interesting French and French Canadian Pilgrims.

Today we are in Cahor, it was a shorter hike today, but more climbing and the temp at 85-90 and humid. There was a few drops of rain that did nothing but increase the humidity. We are in a hotel tonite just got their last room. There are a number of Pilgrims here (a number of Pilgrims that started in le Puy, Belgians, German, and Australian are stopping and going home tomorrow), but there are hundreds of tourist. We are now having a problem finding any kind of accommodations. Some places have closed for the season, and the remaining ones are reserved way in advance.
So,saddle up Pilgrims we have to skip the village we had intended the to stay in, and walk about 12 Kms further.

Oh no! Another one. . .

Yep! Another year has rolled around, so it had to be a special day. It has been a great day starting with the best breakfast that we have had in France. Then I was promised a short day walking, and an easy flat trail. Well, it was shorter, but a steady up for about the first 2-3 miles. at about midpoint of the climb, Monica’s phone came on playing the Spanish Monks chanting the Mass, what a nice gift. shortly after we topped the climb, another gift, a breeze came through to dry off the sweat. It came and went and came back later, it would have been nice to have a steady wind, but it is not the gift, but the sentiment of the giver. The best of the day was that yesterday I thought I was going to need knee surgery, and today I could almost keep up with Monica. Maybe some of the rocks we scrambled over yesterday were Kreptonite? Whatever, today had no problem. At lunch time, we had not seen a village, people, nothing, but we came to a place with a faucet coming out of a rock, so stopped to fill the water bottle, and Shazaam! Another gift a French Poet selling beer out of the back of his car. HE do move in strange ways. Thanks to all for your many gifts of friendship, and special prayer for Monica’s love and care.

Does your dog bite?

Why is it I feel like I’m walking in a Peter Seller’s movie. Some of the people are in costume and character, others are just innocent extras. Well then, after a moment of thought (Don’t seem to have as many of those as I used to) maybe the whole world are players in a movie we have seen too many times. But, then again we walked along the river Lot today; guys are fishing, couples and families are enjoying the beauty and serenity, lush gardens of vegetables and flowers on the right, the river on the left. This is the historic part of the village, and most of the buildings have been standing (many still lived and worked in) since the 1600’s. Every town, village, city in France has a memorial to their heroes, those killed in WWI, this small village of Cajarc lost 600. Thankfully, that was the war to end all wars. When you walk here you are haunted by all the stories the villages have to tell. But for now'”all is quiet on the western front.”

On a wing and a prayer

As usual today started out with a steady climb for about 2 miles, then it was up and down to a small village, nice church, but nobody home. The guide book said it was all downhill from here – WRONG! It continued up and down until long downhill to the village of Figueac. Unlike most of where we have been, Figueac is an interesting place. Medieval history with a very upscale present. We stopped for lunch in a churchyard, along with a number of other hikers. Dave was nursing a Dr. strangelove right knee that had a mind of it’s own, so,we burned off over an hour there and in the meantime everyone else left.we got back on the trail and surprisingly we caught up and passed the others. Not bad for hammering out 18 miles.

First Conques

Conques (pronounced Conk) you climb/fall about 900 feet down this cliff face to arrive in this small medieval village, it’s centerpiece is a large church run by the Cisterion Monks. I have to say the Monks made it the most religious experience so far. But, the village is a Pilgrimage resort Disneyish village, there are no services in the village, only tourist amenities, souvenir shops, restaurants, and lodgings. Other than on a tour (or a true hiking Pilgrim) or born there you can’t get there by any mode of transportation. A interesting point for reflection, the Monks have 5 prayer periods a day, and Islam religion stops five times a day for prayer – both to the same God.
Leaving is as challenging as arriving, you leave the village and descend to the bottom of the Csnyon, cross over and then climb the other vertical side of the canyon. Then it gets to be a somewhat monotonous trek, more on nice but deserted farm roads than trails.
Once out of the canyon there are a choice of two routes, typically we took one and everybody else took the other. Down the line the two trail came back together. Now with all Pilgrims on one trail, Monica’s afterburner kicked-in and she took off passing everyone. I just get caught up in her vortex, so lo & behold I’m passing people. With all the aches, pains, bruises, medical issues, Monica is amazing. She finishes the day dusty, disheveled, drenched in sweat, give her a shower and she is out the door to dinner looking like a San Francisco socialite. she’s amazing. Today was about 16.5 miles for the lady, and finishing on a 2km steady climb. did I say she is amazing.

Two day ago we met a German couple, the wife was ver outgoing and spent some time talking to Monica. We were sharing a table that night with a number of other people. I arrived before Monica and the host seated me next to the German couple. An aside, while earlier Monica was talking to the woman, I was sitting across the table having a beer and the women’s husband was reading, so we had no conversation. Now, as I take my seat at the dinner table the German man announces in a perfectly English voice that he will not speak English tonite. His wife try’s to quiet him, but he rests his refusal to speak English, again he says it in perfect English, obviously for my benefit. “As Snoopy, flying his WW one Sopwith Camel would say,”curse you Red Baron.”

Camouflaged Americans

Today was a rest day, we have averaged 14 miles a day, and definitely feeling stronger.
Today a couple were taking a picture outside of our chambre (which is on the main plaza with the church), and we heard them speaking in good old unaccented American English. We asked in the same language where they were from, to which they replied Canada. Monica said, you don’t sound Canadian. The women then admitted that they weren’t Canadian, and lived in Hayward, Ca., but they were afraid they would be attacked if they said they were American. The husband said if they find out your American you have a big target on your back. Later we again saw them, but we didn’t speak to them, because we didn’t want to blow their cover. We could hear him explaining a site to his wife,in a loud voice that have only been an American. If it quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, well Duh! It is a paranoid American. By contrast we walked into a shop, and there were about 5 Hikers we had met a day or two earlier, and they immediately announced “here comes the Americans.” Some people watch to much news on Fox.