I write tonight from my bunk in Servies, a tiny village at the bottom of a narrow canyon, to which we descended in a roaring wind that blew off Kent’s pack cover, caused havoc with my one remaining hearing aid, and at times threatened to topple us over as we held onto our hats. A worn wooden sign at the pass read “Gite d’Etape, 3 km” and we were relieved. But the steep descent on a rocky Jeep trail seemed much longer, although there were stretches of fairyland beauty through mature beech forests where the track was softened by layers of leaves. We saw no sign of the village until a house appeared below the trail on our left. We reached the far end of the village, still high above it, before we came to an intersection with a parking area and a road descending back through the village.
We wandered through the narrow street, past the church, past a door labeled “gite relais” and had not seen a soul, nearing the end of the village we heard voices, and walked back, spying an elderly woman on stairs above us, who pointed behind us to a friendly, energetic woman who was hurrying toward us. She pushed open the door to the gite, which I’d previously tried, but hadn’t pushed hard enough (it had no latch). We struggled up a few stairs into a large main room with a small kitchen and huge fireplace at one end, and seating for fifteen around a collection of tables in the center.
She showed us the bedroom with two bunks, the bathroom, dinner in the “frigo,” and pain in a big brown sack on the table.
We paid her $66 Euros and some cents, she showed us the way out of town to rejoin the Chemin by another route, wished us well, and left our exhausted selves to our usual evening routine.
It had been just minutes after five as we walked into the village, and I think we were asleep by 8 pm We had left the gite in Joncels before 8, and must have been the last to go. For the entire day, we never saw another person, other than a few people in Lunas and some hunters in cars.
We lost the trail shortly out of Joncels, which we left in rain, and lost perhaps 20 minutes or more, walking uphill, of course, while the trail, markings hard to see in the rain, had veered off into the woods on the left. After seeing no markers for 15 minutes, I checked the IPhiGéNie map app, and saw where we had gone astray.
The walk to Lunas was along a narrow brushy path, with the usual rocky descent into town. I’d hoped we might find a few pilgrims at a cafe enjoying a second cup of coffee, but no— only a few men smoking. We bought a apple from a small epicerie, and made fast tracks along the highway to Bosquet sur Orb, through which we climbed steeply, no shops in sight. Then we climbed still more, past a welcome water spigot to a bench where we sat for a few minutes to catch our breath and enjoy the view. Some creative signs decorated with shells led steeply up the hillside between houses. For the next two hours we would clinb steeply up through sometimes brambly paths.
We stopped for lunch on a rock outcropping, from which we could see part of the village and railroad tracks far bellow.
After that the trail evened out a bit, and we had pleasant walking through the trees, with views now in a new direction. Eventually we arrived at Le Col du Pins” and an intersection with a forest road lined with heather. On this we descended, losing most of the height we struggled so hard to gain. The sun shone, and it was fairly smooth, fast walking. A kite soared overhead. We began to climb again and came to a series of picnic areas with tables. Then climbed more, all on dirt roads, until we had gained another 300-400 meters, and topped out at the windy junction where we took the fork to Servies. From that junction we could look far below, and see the road we’d eventually take. A couple of vehicles with hunters were parked at the pass.
It would be almost an hour before we reached Servies, steep downhill into buffeting chill wind all the way. We were grateful to have cooler weather at last.
Back now to Day 10. We paid our bill at Hotel de la Paix, a total of 314 Euros, 80 per night for room, and the rest for meals, including 8 Euros breakfasts, of which we didn’t eat much our second morning.
We waited for the audiologist office to open at nine. The woman on duty replaced the tube on the whistling aid in a few minutes, but, alas, it was no better, and she said there was nothing more she could do, so we headed out of town, at least an hour later than we would have liked. The first part of the walk climbed through pleasant forests, then eventually opened out onto dirt roads that climbed endlessly upward. Does the road go upward all the way? Apparently yes. I would see the road vanish at a curve ahead, hoping each time there would be a summit, but each time we rounded the corner only to find the hill continuing.
The sun was hot, we sweat buckets, worried about running out of water, and eventually arrived at a summit where a few tracks converged. Pilgrims heading to Lunas could here take a shortcut on the GR 7. We turned toward Joncels, and were happy to descend through some trees, where we took off our packs and paused briefly for lunch. The sandwich from the Carrefour Express was not wonderful, and I tossed part of my half into the bushes.
We descended to a highway, which we followed uphill toward windmills, then turned onto a smaller road that descended into a valley, then climbed again. The clouds turned to rain. We were off and on again with ponchos for the next few hours.
At one point we passed a farm, where I spied a spigot, but no water came out when I tried the tap. We descended into another valley, crossed some streams, then climbed up to little Joncels , which we could see on the hill above us. After a steep climb through forests in intermittent rain, we arrived in the village and found the gite, The Forge, where we were warmly welcomed by Veronique and her husband.
We had a room to ourselves with a sink. Toilet, shower, and kitchen down the stairs. As soon as we arrived a torrential rain broke loose, pounding on the skylights. We thought we were there alone, but met Daniel an Wotan, with whom we shared dinner the the Forge dining room.
I briefly met a Dutch woman, never seen again, and another woman, never spoken to.
I had hoped one might be going to Servies, too, but all must have been going all the way to St. Gervais-sur-Mare. which at 37 km with all those ups and downs, I know we could not have done. We will get there tomorrow, 17 km.
Meanwhile, we are enjoying the peace of Servies, thinking this Chemin is too hard on these old bodies, but maybe we can make it over the mountains yet remaining.
No WiFi here, and no cell service either, so I will send this when I can.
Back to sleep now for two more hours until dawn.