Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Halfway walked

This afternoon, I reached St Chély d'Aubrac: we're now in the Aveyron (having left the Lozère this morning). It's been raining all during today's walking time - it stopped just after I got in; but nothing like the snow which comes regularly in May to these high parts. We were at 1200 metres last night, and touched 1300 today, before descending here (at 800). Tomorrow, we will descend further, into the Lot Valley.

Although 80% of the walkers are French, I feel I'm part of an international family. We pass and repass each other as we go, meeting up in our gîte, or in the bar in the evenings. All very jolly and friendly. I'm not quite the oldest: there's a Frenchman, Jean Cosyns, veteran of walking in Nepal, who's 75; and one or two in their 20s. But it's mostly us recently (or relatively) retired, who are traipsing along this ancient and very wonderful Way, passing through a wonderland of wild flowers.

The fact that they are mainly French is taxing. Smiles however constitute a free currency, and the ability to laugh at oneself comes in useful - I'm dining out heavily on my reputation as the taxi-driven Englishman. My little German, I find handy too, though English is mostly spoken, except of course with the French.

The photograph was taken by Josiane, the nice Bretonne with whom I arrived at Aubrac this morning, a ghostly place. A hospice was founded here 900 years ago, but only vestiges of the original buildings remain. They have left a prayerful aura, nevertheless. The sculpture to my left is inscribed, "Dans le silence et le solitude on n'entend plus que l'essentiel." I stopped for coffee in the village's Domerie hotel: some time later, Jean came running down the path after me, saying that Sophie had found my credit card on the floor of the hotel loo. Thus have I been repaid for picking up Mireille's stick on Sunday.

Despite the rain, there have been some wonderful views on this the day when our walk reached its highest point. And the communal gîte I'm staying in (Dominique alongside once again) is clean and well-equipped, apart from the shower being a bit seedy. It is upstairs from an excellently-resourced tourist information bureau, complete with computer for itinerant bloggers..

Writing this message, however, goes heavily against something I said today to Hauke, my then walking companion: "How good it is to be living in both the here and the now!" In other words not to be constantly Twittering, emailing and... blogging. Ah well.

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