Wow! Wow! Wow! What a tough day. A very steep 400m climb and another grueling 320m climb with lots of smaller climbs and some tough terrain over 28.4km made this day’s walk truly exhausting. We set off right on schedule at 7:30am and didn’t finish until 5:30pm. Therefore, I’ll probably be brief. We just finished cleaning up and eating dinner and Melanie was already asleep by 8:00pm.
The day began with an easy 3km walk along the river to the nearby town of Le Bousquet d’Orb. That’s already 10% of the day done and we didn’t even break a sweat. Heck, we barely woke up yet. Unfortunately, as we got close to the town, we noticed the church, high on a hill. Worse still, we could see the mountaintop hovering above that. We knew we were going to visit both.
The climb through the edge of Bousquet to the church was a knee trembler. It was only 50m up but it seemed to be on a 45 degree angle. After that, and a tricky left hand turn in a maze of houses, we were soon climbing the narrowest forest path ever imagined. It was overgrown with thorny bushes on both sides and we had to whack our way though many portions. The boulders and rocks underfoot were also difficult to navigate. This forest portion of the trail was only 3.3km but it took us 100 minutes to finish it. That said, the first 400m climb was done.
When we were dumped out of the section, it was onto a logger’s dirt road, heading downhill in the shade of the mountain. We were in heaven. We walked about 500m in about 3 minutes and I said to Melanie that I hope the rest of the day was on this nice of a road. Be careful what you wish for because it may just be granted. Sort of.
The next 17km of the route was on that same durn logger’s road. Sometimes it was in the shade but only about 30% of the time. We also had the next big climb on that road. It’s better than lots of other surfaces but it did get monotonous. We hit our summit for day at the 16km point at 1:30pm and still had a lot of work to do.
It was 5km from St.-Gervais (exactly where there was a sign that incorrectly said it is only 4km to St.-Gervais) where we finally got back onto a regular forest trail. I may have been slipping and sliding on the loose stones underfoot but I was happy for a bit. I knew that the only place to get a drink on today’s walk after Le Bousquet was 1.5km away in Mècle. Sadly the only shop in the village was closed. We did get into the small chapel but that does hit the spot like cold lemonade.
The final 3.5km trail from Mècle to St.-Gervais was marked out by a masochistic Nazi war criminal. The trail seemed to have the worst problems for any trail but to have it after a very challenging 25km, it just seemed cruel. An early portion had us climbing up a steep muddy stream bed. Then we moved to some more of the overgrown path featuring thorn bushes. Next, we still had more steep climbs? Why? The trail actually disappeared near the ruins of the St. Pierre de Nayran. Using the GPS, we had to find our way down after searching on the side of the hill for several minutes.
When we arrived at the chambre d’hote in St.-Gervais (Chez Camille), we were just too exhausted to care when the host said that he wasn’t cooking us dinner. We didn’t care that the whole place smelled like human sewage. We didn’t care that everything in the room was covered in a think layer of dust. We quickly washed ourselves and our clothes and headed out to the only cafe in town that was open. The owner could not translate what the meal of the day was but we both ordered it, ate it all, loved every bite and hurried back to the room to sleep.
It’s the life of the walker! I guess. I’ll have to tell you another time about the French pilgrim couple, the strange French Foreign Legion pilgrim, the nice bicyclists and the 15 minute delay waiting for the the trucks to finish “chipping” a hundred or so trees. I have to sleep.
Happy Birthday to Mom Rodrigues! Say hi to Dad Rodrigues for us. We miss you both.