Thursday, 9 May 2002

GPS 44° 57.572'N 3° 32.799'E +979m to Les Faux

More rain overnight, but stopped by daylight.

Breakfast was a buffet so I had three (small) bowls each fruit salad, and muesli+yoghurt, plus plenty of juice and just enough coffee. One of the Michels is sufficiently sleepy that he almost pours coffee into his juice glass.

As I was checking out, he and the rest of the fast crew from yesterday were walking out the door, and after I'd stopped at the p'tit Casino for fruit and fromage blanc, I thought the dots on the horizon would be the last I saw of them for the day.

The weather is cool, cloudy, damp, with some sun breaking thro' to make it steamy. Rain blowing on wind.

After an hour, I pass the others sitting by the side of the track, munching. Later, they pass me, and this happens three or four times, until I just have joke about the hare and the tortoise - having seen one yesterday, I didn't have to look up lièvre. But honestly they were at it like hobbits!

Today the route passes through a lot of rolling terrain with pines, clear cut in places, sometimes with the cut trees just left lying. In places the ground has been cleared of stumps and loosely ploughed, in othes the debris seems to have been left simply for the locals to help themselves to firewood. The trees, gorse, and dull weather reminded me of the journey from New Plymouth to Rotorua.

Ninety minutes in, suffered through what would have been an hour of soft weather, except for the wind bringing the drizzle in almost horizontally. A brolly was very useful - I was already soaked with sweat in the steamy heat, so wearing waterproofs would have been a disaster. Gaiters are useful too!

Sun comes out, so now have parasol as brolly dries. Winding through a little village, with a horrendous steep descent and inquisitive dogs - up to now all local wuffs encountered had been dozy.

There are tadpoles, legless so far, in the puddles!

I am sure that a chap who passes me in opposite direction about half eleven is the same as did an hour or more before.

By noon, I'm halfway up scramble under trees near Chanaleilles. I listen to my legs and stop - peach, yoghurt and an oeuf dur abstracted from the breakfast buffet.

Load thus lightened, stride up to encounter the hobbits again. A stream to cross with interestingly menhir-like bridge, where a stepping stone would have been less precarious. A gate to wrestle with - needed a lot of lifting to fit the bolt back. Now on main road, and decide to skip two miles of detour. Renewed rain rakes this fairly unanimous.

It stops just as I approach the St Roch chapel and refuge, but I stop anyway to have a lunch of oranges and fromage blanc. "Tea time" quips Michel as they pass me for the last time. Off the road now and back in woods. Sun emerges for brief Fangornish ("almost felt I liked the place") moment, before becoming dull again. On home stretch now, where I'm overtaken by two cyclists. One loses (it had come loose, and he simply removed it rather than reattaching it) his back mudguard, which he soon regrets, the path being rather muddy. Guide-book says to take care to take turn off the GR65 to the village a mile or so off to the side where I'm staying, but the only care needed is to not walk into the sign for the place! (I'd expected one as it had been signed on the path before I'd reached Saugues!)

Of course this bit in the open was the only bit of blazing sun, and of course the auberge was the building on a rise that I passed going to the main road, so had to double back! There'll be a serious set of corrigenda this one.

Very much a restaurant on this Ascension Day holiday, so it takes a while to get lodged. The room's not en suite, but at least it's modern (a converted/extended old farm house). Much needed shower. I'd hoped to take a relaxing stroll, but by then chilly rain comes and goes outside, I sit and watch watch "Attack of the killer bees" dubbed into French. Soon I'm rooting for the bees, as the victims' stupid behaviour deserved them a Darwin.

Forecast says rain tomorrow morning, dull later. It is chilly now. Dinner comes with 25cl red on the table, kidneybean, corn tomato and egg salad, pork steak on mountain of peas and haricot verts, so it's likely to be windy tomorrow too :) then fromage blanc, bread and butter pud with plums, coffee. GPS makes this the highest stop so far.

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