Distances walked: Saturday, September 28, 17 official km, and 11 iPhone Miles. Sunday, September 29, 14.1 iPhone miles
Rest Day in Lodeve, Monday September 30.
We have enjoyed a much-needed rest day in Lodeve. We arrived about 5 pm yesterday, hot and tired. No place to stay. Spied the Hotel de la Paix as we entered town, staggered into the lobby, and asked for a room. We’ve been treated like family here. Lovely room, great meals. We’ve washed clothes, gotten money, topped off my phone, visited the Tourist Office 4 times, run into the Canadian pilgrims as they arrived late this afternoon, and visited the gorgeous St. Fulcran Cathedral twice. We have worked out some details for the next week, and reserved some nights ahead.
This evening our host with the large speckled dog shared his photo album of his trip to the US Southwest in 1995–Taos Pueblo, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Moab, then treated us to drinks.
One of my hearing aids is having problems, so I will try to get help at an audiology office in the morning, which will delay our start on a tough 22 km walk..
Days 7 and 8
We’ve had a wild up-and-down couple of days since we climbed up the cliff behind St, Guilhem at dawn on Saturday morning. Several pilgrims were just ahead of us, and one passed us, but by the time we had reached the top of the climb, all had disappeared from sight, and we have seen none of them since, although several should be here in Lodeve and leaving this morning.
We have decided to stay here a second night, giving ourselves a rest day and time to wash our clothes and figure out the rest of the trip. This town of perhaps 9,000 is the largest we will see for several days.
Back to the climb from St. Guilhem, where we had slept like four large sardines on the side-by-side mattresses that, except for a small passage from the door across the bottom ends, had entirely filled the room.
The climb was the first for this trip of over 1000-feet, and it was good to make in the cool of morning. The temperatures have been in the upper 70 Fahrenheit range, which has meant much hotter walking than we’d anticipated and than we would like.
The cool morning breezes helped refresh us as we climbed, and the views were spectacular. The walk though a forest at the very top was among the most pleasant anywhere. Then, we descended on less picturesque gravel roads. We looked out over a vast expanse of country, and saw the sun reflecting on the Mediterranean in the distance.
The official trail sometimes veered off the road onto scrubby brush trails, adding distance, but also variety. There were smaller climbs and then a very long descent, hard on knees and feet. Suddenly below us I saw the crenellated outline of a castle wall.
We enjoyed some quiet moments without our packs, looking at the remains of the once-bustling Castellas de Montpeyroux.
Once down on the relative flat, it was an uneventful walk and then a bit of a climb to Arboras, where we found the cafe in the middle of town — the only business—serving delicious platters of salad with toast and chèvre.
This is where we had arranged to meet Emanuel, our friend and companion on our previous walk, who was driving from Grenoble. Meanwhile I thought I would call the number of the Arboras family that was to take us to our evening’s lodging.
It turned out that the number handwritten by the woman in the tourist office that I thought was an 8 was a 2, and I’d been calling the wrong number, leaving messages and annoying the folks who had no idea what I was talking about, nor did I understand their replies to me.
We waited more than two hours for Emmanuel to arrive, and it was great to see him looking just as we remembered him. By then the cafe had closed, and I turned my phone over to Emmanuel, who discovered my misreading of the number.
When he finally got the right number, we discovered that the people we’d been trying to reach lived just two doors from the cafe.
We ended up showering and having tea at their home, and then riding in Emmanuel’s car back to Montpeyroux and on to St. Jean Du Fos, where we’d accidentally detoured the day before, all this at a dizzying auto pace, past places where we’d recently trudged like snails.
Our night’s lodging was a picturesque stone building set in a vineyard, but it left quite a bit to be desired in terms of amenities and cleanliness. The toilet was an outhouse with a camouflage net for a door. The beds, with torn quilts, were up a ladder-like stair in a loft.
We had reserved dinner in the place in Montpeyroux at the Terrasse de Mimosa. It was a lovely dinner, although it grew cold as the evening deepened. It was 11 pm by the time we had retrieved our packs in Arboras, made several attempts to find our way back to the “farm,” and finally arranged ourselves in our beds for the night.
We had purchased some pastries and yogurt for morning (in Montpeyroux), found a kettle and some coffee, and then set out for St. Jean de la Blaquiere, deciding to skip the rough walk between there and Arboras, and realizing we were getting a late start.
We next wasted perhaps an hour seeking a shortcut that never materialized, then climbed through lovely forest paths to the tiny village of Uscias, where we rested briefly on benches in the shade, and looked at the medieval pilgrim grave markers in the cemetery.
There was a water spout, that we were assured probably had drinkable water although the sign said “non potable.”
Then came the long climb of the day, past some boar hunters, who said they’d shot a fox. We have almost no wildlife and few birds so far on this walk. Why would anyone want to shoot a fox high in the mountains?
We encountered several times a large noisy group of hikers attended by a bus. Touristic pilgrims perhaps?
The turn-around point for Emmanuel and our good-bye took place following a tour of the Priory of St. Michel de Grandmont, the impressive remains of what had been extremely austère order. So austère that it ceased to attract members and after a long decline became defunct in 1604.
The priory was also the site of several Neolithic dolmens and mysterious stones.
Emmanuel made it back to his car in less than half the time it had taken us to walk uphill, and arrived a good 2 hours before we would reach Lodeve with nowhere to stay. None of our phone messages, including those left by Emmanuel, had been answered. Booking.com showed just one hotel, with one room left, on the far side of town.
The long descent into Lodeve on a steep and rocky path, hot in the late afternoon sun was torturous. The first brew of the city presented a huge cemetery along a highway flanked by commercial buildings. I felt ready to catapult myself I to that cemetery for a permanent sleep.
We ate a true shared, cobbled together pilgrim lunch—an apple, potato chips, small sausages, cookies, soft drinks and almonds and a chocolate bar. Then it was time to say goodbye.
My feet and knees ached, but finally the descent slowed and ended quite near the center of town.
Across a lovely river, with water splashing over a small dam, and ducks paddling, we spied the 3-star Hôtel de la Paix.
The door opened when we tried it, and a gentleman sitting with a large speckled dog at his feet asked if we would like a room, and motioned for us to sit. A young woman appeared, took one look at us, came back with a key and led us to an elevator and to our room! Ah heaven!
Shower, toilet, crisp sheets, towels, and a view of the river and the ducks.
We received a shock when our ATM card was declined twice. I had time this evening to check our Capital One account and discovered our withdrawals were coming from our checking account rather than our savings account, and we were over $800 in the hole! Yikes! Fortunately,
I was able to instantly move funds between accounts, so we should now be OK.
The adventures continue and the Camino provides.