Friday, 10 May 2002

GPS 44° 48.246'N 3° 25.460'E +1129m to Aumont-Aubrac

Dark clouds when I get up, but then sun through a low gap under them. Forecast says rain in the morning on one channel, afternoon on another.

Most inedible breakfast to date - "French toast", last night's left over bread from supper grilled more to desiccate than brown. Not even a croissant as well! Choked down a couple of slices, but most of calories came from sugaring the coffee. Meanwhile all the other tables were sending out for seconds!

Sun gone when we set out, but will make brief appearances during the day. The hotel being off the main route, only a few today - the couple from day one, and two "hares". Our breath steams in the chill air. Meet the counter-marching guy again. Tells us that Jacqueline with the two dogs - it turns out she's Swiss - is ahead, or in the lead. Unsurprisingly, we don't catch her up, but I do meet him one more time on the way. Two miles down the road, at the only town en route (St. Alban), we have lost the retired couple, and when I get out the other side, the other two have vanished. Second breakfast?

Briefly lose GR65 on reaching the D4, so go to crossroads with D987, and pick up the trail as it leaves the 987 later.

Off road now, on chalk track, just enough brightness to make it sticky, with the promise of rain always in the wind. More of the clear-cut and abandon, with sparse lines of trees around spaces where trunks have been left until they weather to grey. Overtake other walkers, exchange brief greetings. Not too much of the eroded streambeds today, and not so many long descents. Emerge from final long off-road, to find a local entrepreneur has advertised his taxi service ("Allo Taxi") just on the corner - "any baggage, any distance, equipped to handle travel for medical reasons".

Stop at convenient bench at edge of Aumont, eat melon (had the fromage blanc for elevenses), then head on in. Carry on past hotel to locate station for tomorrow, then back. No sign of a grocer, but pass plenty of boucherie/charcuteries, a news agent, a couple of shops selling general tat.

Turn back to hotel to arrive at same time as the Michels.

This far down the line, Chinese whispers seem to have attacked my name, so take a while to locate my reservation in their book (no, I'm not the M. Zeeman due tomorrow) but that sorted, my bag is waiting for me. Poky shower, so sponge bath when hot water finally arrives. This way I give my dodgy toe (slowly healing but only just faster than abrasion) a chance to air and dry.

After a while to recover, set out to locate any sign of cheese vendor, also to check out the station in more detail and do GPS fix. Find a grocer at last, down a tiny side street, then get to station in time to see the evening bus to Clermont arrive. Useful - now I know which side to wait. On the way back to the hotel, the rain belatedly starts. Meet Jacqueline, the dogs and the counter-marching chap, so make my farewells, before dashing for shelter.

Dinner is soup (diced vegetables in clear stock), a puff pastry cheese sauce thing, pork steak on pasta, cheese (Cantal and St Nectaire), and the bread and butter pud, which seems to be a local specialty.

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