Tuesday, 7 May 2002

GPS 45° 2.431'N 3° 53.321'E to St Privat.

After a steep climb to the cathedral (45° 2.735'N 3° 53.050E altitude 666m :) ), arriving just at the same time as late Mass begun (at 09:00), so skipped the peek inside, and descended to begin the walk, taking snaps of the town as I went.

On the outskirts, saw a much overladen young lass - I'd thought I'd overdone it by that stage, but she had maybe 3x the load I was carrying! Was caught up by a pleasant couple from Chateauneuf du Pape, who looked to be youngish fifty-somethings, but were retired. Indeed most of the walkers look older than me, and a whole lot seem to be on the whole 1400km shindy! (Apparently there were 30 at the early Mass for pilgrims). Behind us, the tower of Polignac thrust up, giving the finger to the entire district, overlooking the town. Unfortunately, it got washed out in the glare behind it in the photos I took looking back.

Up on the top of the ridge leading from le Puy, it didn't look too much different from the Dales, except for that peculiarly French style of rural dereliction. That and laying in this year's crop of Puy lentils rather than just grazing sheep.

Found out that this week has two public holidays, Wed and Thur, even though they had the first as Mayday.

Stopped for elevenses at St. Christophe, a peach and a yoghurt from the Casino at Le Puy, and was there caught up by overburdened lass, but I was definitely feeling far too loaded to help, now that the sun was blazing down. Hope she got to her destination and can shed some load.

This route very well waymarked, with only one tiny need to retrace where the red and white mark was not obvious on a farm building. Lunched on some bread pud, and more of the usual fruit and yoghurt. I parted company from the couple for a while, as I ate more simply - no thermos of soup, or such.

They caught me up later as we were entering Montbonnet, but just at that point, dived into a wayside church and I didn't see them again 'til supper. By now, four hundred meters above start, despite some descents. And another two hundred loomed. New companions by now, all looking or sounding tired and less banter. A stiff ascent to Lac de l'Oeuf, and cloud cutting sun to leave chilly wind. In pinewoods at top, the wind was blocked leaving a sullen heat in background.

Get caught up by a lass with two dogs who I saw on the local train to le Puy on Monday, and one dog grabs the ankle of my trousers, nearly tripping me. She is clearly the youngest so far I've seen on the trail, and despite being burdened with full camping gear including tin mugs and coffee pot, is striding faster than the older walkers, despite all their ski-pole like walking sticks. Her calls to the dogs, who have too much energy to make comfortable watching, marked her as German, the only non-francophone I meet (discounting the one Quebecker).

Later, the little dog who nearly tripped me started pausing and chewing at her toes on one foot, which I could see as they were all ahead of me by now. Caught up when the girl stopped to pick cowslips, which are plentiful here, and recited some preassembled German to tell her - and dog obligingly demonstrates, so I add "comme ça." Two thorns are duly removed from the paw, and the trio sped ahead down the patella-popping descent to St Privat, which had already detached the two of us from the other walkers. Hollow laughter on emerging from woods from what otherwise seemed a dead end to see a "Ralentissez Enfants" sign. Any kids would have run me over!

Arrive at hotel to find it shut. Find person at local bar down the road to open it. By now desperate for loo, stretchdown and shower. But disaster! Room not beddered! Manage first two, drag on sweat soaked outfit, back down the road to complain. No en suite rooms left, and no bedder to fix this one! Change to what's on offer and sponge-bath. Only thing firm about the bed is the bolster. Feeling v chilled now, so snuggle under covers in cleanish clothes 'til supper. Anonymous pinkish cream-of-veg soup, pallid sausage on huge heap of lentils vanish as fuel, don't really start noticing details until the fromage blanc. Too soon. The cold apple pie was more just fuel. Intend to argue for free wine to offset room downgrade tomorrow. If the lingo will take it. Getting more frustrated with ersatz stylus.

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