Monday, 28 October 2013

Via Podiensis - A Brief Update

Finally Wifi (weefee in France) availability...after my iPad came back from the dead. Essentially it needed a hard reboot (thanks Andrew)...plugged it in...then press two buttons for 10 seconds or so and voila it was resurrected. I suspect some System Architect dreamt this up...sorry Greg!

So much has happened since Day 36...overall things are going very well as I have now completed day 51 of walking. I am currently 4 days ahead of my pre trip schedule...likely have about 10 days or so left. The main change is that I hooked up with a small group of guys over the last 10 days or so. We walk fairly independently during the day and then usually share a room and some laughs at the end of the day. I no longer plan anything...just go with the flow.

People come and go from the small group I.e. Yosh from Tokyo left 2 days ago...69 year old human walking machine. Daniel left 4 or 5 days ago...72 year old recovering from cancer surgery with essentially one functioning lung and one of the most positive outlooks on life I have ever come across. I am currently walking with George a 47 year old  6 ft 4  powerhouse from Belgium who left his home 65 days ago...he will walk close to 2,700 kms when all is said and done. Cyrille a 28 year old left from Nantes France a month ago and biked to Le Puy en Velay and is now walking to Santiago to fulfill a promise made for a friend who is quite ill.

A great group of folks to be walking with and a very strong walking group...moving hard to keep up! Physically holding up well so far...the going is relatively easy at this point with smaller elevation gains.

I am keeping some notes on paper and am still taking pictures...when I return home I will update my blog...likely in a more abbreviated manner. I realize this will be of limited interest to most who have followed the blog so far...will do it more from a personal recollection point of view.

So far I have walked just under 1,300 kms so far officially...unofficially I am sure I have walked closer to 1,500 kms...not too shabby for an old desk bound guy like me!

One disappointment is that I have not had a pattiserie cookie or other goodie in well over a week!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Via Podiensis - Blogging Suspended

Friends Unfortunately my iPad has decided it no longer wants to work...just like that. If I have success reviving it I will continue blogging otherwise I am afraid this is the last blog of the long walk. Quite sad about this but fully intend to complete the walk at this point...I suppose this was meant to be...a true pilgrim experience without technology. Thanks for following my travels. Guy

Monday, 14 October 2013

Via Podiensis (October 15, 2013) - Day 37 Nasbinals to Saint Come d'Olt

Today was a long and varied day both from a terrain and weather perspective...oh and it included a Mexican cow standoff! Overall I walked 33 kms over roughly 8 hours.

First last night where supper was very good both from a company and food perspective. I was joined by 3 pelerins Patrick and his niece Delphine who are walking to Conques and Cyrille from the Bretagne region in France. Cyrille is an interesting young guy, likely in his 20's, who cycled from his home in Nantes France to within a day of Le Puy en Velay. He then sold his bicycle and is walking to Santiago de Compostela to fulfill a wow for a friend who is ill. 

A few years ago Cyrille walked the St. James way to Santiago in 22 days or an average of 35 kms per day! He did say that he would not do this again this year.

Delphine, Patrick and Cyrille

Vegetable soup - bit watery and not too tasty!

Potato & Cheese with sausage - delicious!

Apple pizza pie

I gave each of them Canadian lapel pins...turns out Patrick spent 1 year in Montreal. I also handed out 6 pins to the family who seemed pleased...especially the 6 year old!

The morning was raining off and on and I set off at 7:40. I stopped at the boulangerie and came out with 2 croissants...not what I really wanted but pickings were slim! The first 4 hours walking were on the Aubrac plateau. Some rough trail snapshots...

As the morning progressed it became quite eerie on the Aubrac as the fog closed in...I had heard one can easily get lost up here. I wasn't too worried as I stuck to the stone fence as le Chemin was also following this same fence...

Stuck to stone fence!

After Saint-Chely d'Aubrac the Chemin for the next few kilometres was quite simply brutal...very rocky, steep and extremely slippery. It was a physical and mental struggle all the way. That is one stretch that I have no interest in redoing!

During this descent I suddenly found myself in a small herd of Aubrac cows with horns and no protective fence! I gingerly sidestepped a few of them, within a meter or so, and made my way to a gate where I lifted the latch.

Bad move as a small electric current went through me...electrical fence! I backtracked 10 metres or so and found where I missed the trail...and there was a giant cow. There was no way around it and vice versa so a Mexican cow standoff started. The cow put his head down and made a snorting I climbed over the stone fence into a pasture...

Fence at right

...and promptly fell into mud or so I think it was mud...will need a good shower tonight! I then moved to the side of the cow and it moved forward...PHEW... I was on my way!

WW1 - Aubrac where 9 soldiers died         
WW1 - Saint Chely d'Aubrac where 93 soldiers died

No idea what the wire I went under was for!

After Saint-Chely d'Aubrac came some of the best walking on my journey so far...

Future Pilgrims

I stayed at the Couvent de Malet just outside Saint Come d'Olt. Very impressive nun convent where the  demi pension is 31 euros for a shared room and 56 euros for a single room.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Via Podiensis (October 14, 2013) - Day 36 Aumont - Aubrac to Nasbinals

A very good day today as the weather cooperated and I had a chance to walk on the very impressive Aubrac plateau...26 kms in a little over 6 hours.

Last night just before supper I met 3 Frenchmen who were leaving the Gite. They had just returned from a walk over the Aubrac plateau to Conques and I took the opportunity to give them each a Canadian lapel pin...they seemed quite pleased.

Supper last night was a great experience as I ate with 4 others...two sets of friends walking together. Yves and Yves both from the Bretagne region who were doing various GR's including part of the Stevenson's way and a couple of older distinguished French gentlemen who were starting a week walking tour arranged by one of many companies who specialize in this type of trip.

As an icebreaker I handed out 6 Canadian lapel pins...including Christiane and Andre the Gite owners. Fun discussion on Canada ensued but the highlight for me was that one of Yves left the table and returned with a souvenir from Bretagne which he gave me!

Bretagne symbol
The Yves from Bretagne were also walking the day it snowed and they lost their way and ended up walking 40 kms instead of an expected 26...a bit of a harrowing experience I think for them! I enjoyed their company very much at supper.

The other two gentlemen were clearly refined highly educated types...reminding me of possible university professors. One of them amazed me...when I mentioned my home town he knew exactly where it was and started to reel off various facts. When they asked about my family and I mentioned the Actuary connection he properly outlined what an Actuary does and that Brest had the only school in France. When I mentioned one of my daughter's had been in Troyes he proceeded to describe how Troyes had played a very key role in the garment trade routes in the past...up north to Troyes to Lyon and then on to Italy and other countries. Did you know Troyes is home to Lacoste shirts...the ones with the alligator?

Later I learned that both these guys are retired of them an ophthalmic surgeon...we had a brief discussion about my recent experience!

Supper was an is Andre preparing alligot which is an Aubrac region specialty.


Tomato slices...various kinds
Alligot with sausage...potato and cheese mixture which requires a knife and fork! Really tasty!
Salad prior to cheese plate                    
Dessert specialty from the Aubrac region

All in all a great supper and good company.

While I met a few folks walking in the opposite direction from me on the Aubrac plateau today was very a very quiet day...befitting of the wild Aubrac plateau surroundings.

A few pictures from the first 10 kms prior to the Aubrac plateau.

Quite the building in Aumont Aubrac

Shortly after the Aumont Aubrac building picture was taken I had an unfortunate incident with a dog...Doberman type of guard dog. He was unchained lying in a driveway and as I walked by he became very agitated, barked loudly and made threatening moves toward me.

I quickly made a wide circle and kind of danced/ran with my backpack waving my poles madly. No sooner than I was out of range and out of breadth I noticed that I was heading the wrong way. I had to return! I did very gingerly however some workers were in the process of chasing the dog away by throwing rocks.

Really a sad incident owing to an inconsiderate dog owner.

Entering Aubrac plateau...few rough spots

Entering Aubrac plateau...few rough spots

The Aubrac plateau is kind of a surreal place...different from anywhere I have been before...thank goodness it was not raining however it was windy. A few pictures will give you a feel for this area.

Typical Aubrac rock formation

Aubrac Plateau - huge rocks everywhere

WW1 - La Chaze de Peyre where 38 soldiers died in WW1

WW1 - Nasbinal where 75 soldiers died in WW1

Tomorrow I have a half day left on the Aubrac plateau before walking to Saint-Come-d'Olt and the Couvent de Malet....roughly 30 kms therefore a longer day. Hope the weather started to rain just before Nasbinals.

NOTE: I am using wifi at the Gite Centre Equestre des Mont d'Aubrac...unfortunately something has happened to my non wifi Internet service. I have been in touch with the company however there are no assurances of a quick resolution. I may be blogging intermittently using wifi where available if this problem persists! Just part of the experience I guess!

Future Pilgrims

I am staying as mentioned in the Gite Equestre des Mont d'Aubrac and have my own room. The cost is 35 euros for demi pension. Initially I thought the Gite owner's reception was a little less than welcoming however I think things will be just fine.

Via Podiensis (October 13, 2015) - Day 35 Les Faux to Aumont-Aubrac

After yesterday I was ready for a quiet short day...and that's exactly what it was. I walked approximately 22 kms in a little over 5 hours. I knew it was a short day so I felt like I was dawdling in comparison to a normal walking pace.

It seems that the mind and body just seem to adjust to what is expected of them...short day means slower speed and lower expectations with the reverse being true on longer days.

Nothing happened in terms of any weird Beast Gevaudan showed up.

Last night's supper was really good at l'Oustal de Parent...I realized after coming into the hebergement and relaxing a bit just how cold I really was. I think maybe it had to do with releasing some tension from the snow, pelerin tracking and dangerous beast.

I came downstairs to eat at 7:00 and my place setting was just besides the warm fire!

 A really nice warming fire!                   

I was eating alone as I think I was the only guest for the evening however I really have to give credit to the Oustal for still providing me with a great supper...they could have warmed up a can of ravioli or beans but they didn't.

Seif, a fairly young guy, was the cook and waiter I think...he was really good and I gave him a Canadian lapel pin. He immediately said that visiting Canada, specifically the West coast, is on his wish list.

Delicious vegetable soup

Beef with rice - great sauce!
Cheese selection - for the first time I was asked if I wanted hard or soft cheese

Slice of cake with some type of fruit

I spent some time after supper reading the first book on the fantasy series by George R R Martin (recommended by my daughter Jeanne)...was a good way to wind down the day.

Breakfast was a typical French breakfast although I had orange juice which isn't always served...always go for the chocolat au lait...sure miss my skim milk from back home!

Serif provided me with directions that did not involve backtracking .9 km to GR65 but to go forward and rejoin it. He showed me a schematic which showed where there would be signs on how to rejoin le Chemin. In looking at the drawing I asked Seif if it was approximately 3 kms...he was quick to point out that the schematic was not drawn to scale and 15 minutes walking would be sufficient.

You have heard me comment on this type of shortcut on many occasions in past blogs...some of my most difficult moments have been in following this type do advice. I am not sure why however I trusted Seif...he seemed to be coming from a position of having actually walked this route.

It worked perfectly and in 15 minutes I was back on GR65 with the additional bonus of having walked through an interesting and different area.

This got me thinking about how I was walking my own Camino...whereas it is likely that millions have walked the The Puy route (1,000 years at a current average of 19,000 pelerins a year) and that each one of us has likely taken a slightly different it to visit a monument, church, an off road hebergement, a variant etc. Sort of like life I suppose but it struck me as cool to think that in a very small way my pelerinage was unique.

Now that comment plus the earlier one on body/mind adjusting to what is expected demonstrate just how deep I can go in thought...yeah sure...I spend hours while walking thinking of what might be my daughter's would say "Papa tu n'est pas drôle...tu juste penses que tu aie drôle!" 

Overall walking today was not too difficult...sure a few good elevation gains and drops...mostly coming into (drop) and out (gains) of villages. Some pictures from the day...

Quite foggy to start

Backyard pond

An old friend the GR65 symbol

Getting There!

Flower market

Lonely old cross - one of hundred's I see

A tough section of le Chemin
Nice walk into a village

A little hut...have not seen one like this before

Imagine the work...barb wire is wrapped around the rock!

Building has seen better days

Since leaving Le Puy en Velay I have not come across as many WW1 memorials however the one in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole was particularly moving.

WW1 - Saint-Alban-sur-Limognole and surrounding villages - 109 WW1 soldiers died, WW2 - 7 died

WW1 - Aumont-Aubrac where 79 soldiers died in WW1, 5 died in WW2

Today was Sunday which added to a very quiet day. Other than when walking through villages I saw 2 people today over the 5 hours...both hunters. One of them had his rifle slung in front of he approached me with his cracked open his rifle barrel and took out the cartridge. Only later did I think that I should have given him a Canadian lapel pin, or many or them or even money if that's what he wanted!

Lunch was part of a baguette and a small pie with mushroom and ham filling both bought at a boulangerie in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole. Boulangeries appear to be open Sunday morning's but Monday is out! For tomorrow lunch is a little skimpy so far...part of the baguette not eaten today and an apple. I am told the epicerie down the street is open Monday morning...sometimes!

My lunch on the side of le Chemin

As I walked into Aumont-Aubrac around 1:30 I saw a little bar was open...went in to see what they might have for food...came out with a chocolate bar and handing out 6 Canadian Lapel pins...2 of them to very much underage young boys under 10 for sure.

Just went out for a short walk around Aumont-Aubrac. Nothing is open of course however everything seems so interesting. I went to the church which of course dates back forever...this church felt much warmer and inviting than many therefore spent a little extra time there...incredible stained glass which is impossible to really capture in a photo.

Stained glass window in church

The sun came out for a while! Yahoo! I am really looking forward to tomorrow where I will walk on the Aubrac plateau. Christiane told me the walking is relatively easy with the first 10 kms tomorrow being typical Margueride scenery (what I have seen the past few days) and then all trees disappear and it's a totally different experience. Weather is very important...looks like I have a chance at a decent day however from past mountain experience I know things can change quickly up high...whatever it is should be special.

Future Pilgrims

I am staying in the Gite Chambre d'Hotes Les Sentiers Fleuries which is centrally located right on le Chemin. Christiane the owner let me in at 1:30 which was really great for me. The cost is 38 euros for The Gite and 47 euros for a single room, which I have chosen, both demi pension. Very modern interior with wifi and a computer available for pilgrim usage. Very impressed so far.

Outside front door of hebergement

My room