Day 8 – St.-Gervais-sur-Mare to Murat-sur-Vebre, 23.5km, 8.25hrs, 21 April

A fantastic walk today! It was challenging with a long climb from 320m up to 1,020m but the terrain for the first 19km was varied and lovely. I complained yesterday about the long stretch of the logger’s road. Today, we were rewarded with changes of terrain every couple of kilometers. We had shady forest paths, dirt logger roads, very short stretches on roads in or near villages, stream-side paths, rocky climbs, deep forest trails covered in leaves, etc. it was only when we reached the summit that we were dumped out onto a quiet country lane that eventually wore out its welcome. It did make the descent into Murat-sur-Vebre easier on the knees, if not the feet. Also, since we were cursed with 25 days of glorious weather, we still haven’t seen any clouds, only a hot sun.

In one very step ascent in the forest, there was a switchback trail that was perfectly hidden. As a result Melanie and I continued straight a few hundred meters further before wondering why we didn’t see any more blazes. After checking the GPS, we realized our error, turned around and managed to stop the French couple, Daniel and Anna-Marie, from making the same mistake. That was the only place we wasted a step today.

The chambres d’hote where we are staying tonight (L’Etape des Menhirs – which I recommend) includes Jerry, fresh from his holiday in Lodève, in one “VIP” room, Melanie and I in another, and in the gîte (hostel in the basement) are Daniel, Anna-Marie (“no physique”), the French Foreign Legion guy from yesterday and another French couple just walking for two days.

Daniel told us at the communal dinner that he lost Anna-Marie in the forest today and I can see how that was possible. The last climb of the day was through a forest, up a zig-zag trail between the trees. The problem was that there were so many leaves on the trail, it was near impossible to stay on the correct trail, much less “any” trail. They were a little behind us but separated from each other and Anna-Marie just kept zigging when she should have zagged. It took them a while and a lot of yelling to reunite. With Melanie, she is rarely out of my sight so if one of us is lost, we are at least lost together and we both have GPS on our iPhones, just in case.

For anyone following us, note that you pass through a very few small villages. The first is Andabre at 3.7km and you just skirt the edge of the village. There is supposed to be a water fountain but it is at the other end of the village. The second hamlet is Castanet-Le-Haut at around 6.7km. Their water source was the village washing well and it did not say it was potable. The French couple said they found a source in the cemetery. The first place we found water was a solitary home overlooking the valley at 12km. They seemed used to people asking for water and it was COLD! Also note that there are three GR route that converge at the intersection before Ginestet. The routes are indicated on signs but the red and white blazes seem to head out in every direction. Don’t get confused – go straight ahead.

A funny story from before dinner – Melanie tells me that she went to go into the kitchen to see if our host, Jean-Luc, needed any help making dinner. She stopped short of the door when she heard him talking to someone in French inside. She didn’t want to interrupt a conversation but the two just kept talking and talking non-stop. After several minutes of waiting, when finally gave up and barged in, finding Jean-Luc quietly cooking and listening to a talk radio show. Oops.

I can tell you, if listening to the radio helps you cook so well, I might just try it myself. We had the best paupiette stew that I have ever had. Actually, this was a first paupiette for us but it really was good and filling. The homemade chocolate mouse was excellent too. And the cheeses. And the salad. The wine too. And, of course, the pâte. Really, it was all good.

And with that, I’ll try to add photos, post this and sleep. It was the last day of climbs for us for a while but the last several days took a lot out of us.

Peace y’all.

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