Okay, today didn’t quite work out as planned. Last night, with the help of the staff at our hotel, we cleared up a misunderstanding and made the right reservations for tonight at a beautiful bed & breakfast (Chambre d’hotes Le Mas des Quatre Saisons) just outside the ancient little hamlet of St.-Jean-de-la-Blaquiére. It was supposed to be a 22km day but with two steep climbs of 400m and 300m.
^ that’s “our” mountain, highlighted by the early morning sun.
I was worried about the speed we were walking yesterday so we planned an early 7am departure which we only missed by 15 minutes. The problem was that we started the first 400m climb after only a few hundred meters of the walk. The climb also looked a lot more than 400m, particularly to Jerry. It was slow going. Almost immediately Jerry was having trouble with his hip. He got the first taste of that yesterday but any incline was causing him tremendous pain. As a result, he walked slowly and stopped to stretch every 20 or so steps. Melanie and I could not get too far ahead so we walked a few hundred meters and waited for him to catch up. Only once did I have to backtrack about 400m to make sure he was still walking. He made it to the summit of the first mountain like a trooper, albeit a slow trooper. We had only walked 2.9km in two hours. At that rate, we would arrive in St.-Jean at 9pm. That would not work.
On the flatter parts of the mountain top and the descent, Jerry was fine. In fact, he came so close to passing us that I threatened to trip him. We still had several more smaller hills to navigate though, including a stem 300m ascent. Also, 95% of today’s walk was on rocky, gravel or dirt paths so the uneven footing also sometimes made his hip hurt too.
To his credit, Jerry recognized the seriousness of the situation and said that he would bail out of today’s walk at the 14km distance when we got to the village of Arboras. The story of that decision, I will get back to shortly.
Fun fact for the day: caterpillars form little trains and follow each other head to toe. The trains look cool but we found out where the end of the line was today – Sex City. We saw several orgy balls of caterpillars and one just forming from a long train of them too. Those they must “raily” be horny. Get it? Raily?
Regarding the walk itself, we had some stunning views of the French countryside around the entire section that we walked today. We also met a couple of young French pilgrims who were doing a week-long section of the route with their dog. Actually, we were temporarily proud of ourselves, including Jerry, to pass them later in the day when they rested between Le Barry and Arboras. The tortoises beat the hares (and hound)!
Just as we were descending into Le Barry, we were treated to a nice tour around the impressive ruins of the Castle of Montpeyroux which was kind of cool. The wall to the north was still intact and it was easy to see where the original inhabitants decided to raise the height of the wall, we figured once they found out their enemy could shoot arrows higher than they thought.
Another highlight of Le Barry was that we chatted with a lovely young couple who saw us stop outside their home. They came out to offer to refill our water. We asked about the chance of a cafe in town but it was too late in the afternoon for that to be open. The communication was almost comical as my French is still not even close to conversational. “No problem” says the wife, her husband speaks Spanish. While that may be better for Melanie & me normally, I have too many French words swimming around my head and I would get a confusion concussion trying to communicate with that. I offered Indonesian as an option, know that Melanie is fluent but shockingly, neither spoke that. The wife suggested Russian, which turned out to be her native tongue but we couldn’t do that. Back to broken Frenglish and we understood each other.
We reached Arboras only at 2pm. We wanted to eat something, rest a little, find transport for Jerry and get back on the trail but that didn’t make sense and didn’t happen. The two cafes in town were already closed for the day. There are busses eastwards from there but nothing westward to St.-Jean-de-la-Blaquiére. With the help of some resident, we tried to call for a taxi. Taxis in rural areas of Europe are often just unaffiliated individuals. Several calls went unanswered and two refused to come to such an ulu place. What to do? Melanie came up with the solution. Since there was only one road in town and we were next to the only stop sign heading west, we tried begging. It worked!
The first car that stopped was driven by a lovely French woman and her mother-in-law. After hearing our plight, she told us to jump and and she would take us if we could direct her. Our GPS showed only one turn between Arboras and St.-Jean so that was easy and not too far out of her way. We tried hard to pay her for her help but she refused. She did it only to help guests in her country. How special is that?
All we had to do was walk the final 800m north of town to get to our B&B for the night. We are all very happy, resting in the back wing of a gorgeous house. Too bad that it is too cold to use the pool.
As Melanie & I are keen to walk every step, we are still planning how to do it. Finding transport back to Arboras and the ability to find accommodation either here or in Lodève will direct us. The working option is to try and stay in this lovely house another day, if they have space, ask ask if we can get a taxi to Arboras around 9am and then just walk the 10km to here without the burden of a backpack. It would be a simple day for us and a rest day for Jerry. We will see how that works out later.
For anyone following us and using the 2018-19 Miam Miam Dodo guide book, note that there are sometimes differences in the route markings compared to the maps in the guide. You should be able to just follow the blaze markings but we missed one new marked shorter section today that wasn’t in the book and wasn’t on the older GRS tracks I have on maps.me. The correct new trail saves about 700m and is obvious on Plan 17 in the upper right hand corner. The guide book even shows the right trail, just not marking it as the route (on either side of the 386m peak. Also note that maps.me was important to get us back on the right trail.