Thursday, 10 May 2012

Pilgrim's progress to Estaing

The difference in temperature since yesterday morning has really sorted me out. Coming down from the high country to the Lot might seem a leisurely walk, but it's not just a gradual descent: the way goes steeply up and down, all the time, rocky and muddy by turn in places. And this now settled-looking fine weather sounds all well and good, but I've frequently been gasping for water. Luckily, there are plenty of kind people living by the way, well used to our need. Today, I dipped my head into two village water troughs on the short étape from Espalion, with amazing views down over the valley, once we'd struggled uphill.

Before setting off, I bad farewell to the brave Roland, then walked for the last time with Dominique (seen in the centre and on the right of my photograph, with the very amiable Jacques, left): I've been with Dominique and Roland since Le Puy, but Roland, wounded ankle and all, is pressing on further than us today, and in order to catch him up tomorrow, Dominique is speeding off early in the morning, to get all the way to Conques: I'm taking two days to walk the same distance. A highlight today was visiting the little church of Saint-Pierre-de-Bessuéjouls, with its secret Romanesque chapel of St Michael, halfway up the tower: I could hardly climb the spiral staircase even without my rucksack. Happily, Dominique and I had arrived there just before a large gaggle of day walkers invaded its peace.

Tonight, Dominique and I are once again up and down in a bunk in the dormitory of the Hospitalité St Jacques, a long-established lay Christian community in a fine old house in the centre of this ancient and beautiful town (Giscard's - originally): all the "family" are with us in this peaceful place - Wolfgang, an Austrian maths teacher on sabbatical and his French friend Cathy; Sophie, who works for Axa in Paris: she is just doing a few days, her parents-in-law looking after her young daughter; Hauke, the charming young German, as tall as me, always seeking zen moments; and Jacques de la Vallée, an ever-smiling farmer from Arras, nearly my age. Vincienne, the friendly Belgian writer, has a really bad leg, not by any means the only casualty, and is seeking more comfort, and possibly a day or two off.

I recounted earlier finding Mireille's stick; and Sophie in turn finding my credit card. Today, Sophie's kindness was itself repaid. She left her coat in a café before setting off this morning: when she arrived here, she telephoned the café owner, whereupon he jumped into his car and drove here with it.

'Nuff blogging: now it's high time for a look round Estaing, before the communal supper - to be followed by Compline and silent prayer in the community's chapel.

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