Day 11 – Anglès to Noailhac, 23.6km, 7.0hrs, 24 April

Another lovely day of walking, with a great variety of pathways until near the end when the roads took over a little too much. Again, these are roads that rarely see cars but walking on them tires me out more than any other surface. I would still give the day a B or a B+ though. We also were faced with an unusual challenge today that worked out perfectly.

Last night’s accommodations were lovely and we had a fantastic and entertaining host couple but they only had one bedroom with a queen sized bed and one hostel with four sets of bunk beds. That meant Jerry got fully christened into pilgrim life even though he shared the room with just Alain, the French Foreign Legion guy. As Jerry was nodding of, he heard what sounded like a train coming through the room. That was Alain snoring and apparently the reason why Daniel and Anna-Marie insisted on staying at a different gîte last night. Jerry is now one of us.

As we walked out of the gîte, leaving Alain to say a very long goodbye, we immediately ran into Daniel and Anna-Marie, singing the praises of their very quiet and restful night. They had spent several nights with Alain and they knew exactly why Jerry was staring daggers at them.

We walked with those two for several kilometers today but at one point, Daniel was in front by a good distance and his wife was behind the three of us. We came to a blaze that indicated that we should turn left. I looked to my left and saw the most beautiful, dry, dirt, slowly descending, shady trail that you would ever want. Yes! I excitedly started walking on it with Melanie nearby and Jerry not far behind. When Anna-Marie got to it though, she called to us, asking if we were sure it was the right path. I looked up and could not see Daniel nor any other blazes ahead so I quickly checked the GPS. I had indeed made a wrong turn so I headed back. The actual trail was supposed to go around the tree with the left turn blaze on it, then turn left. It was no big deal for us as we would have figured out the error soon enough (I hope) and we only walked an extra 150m or so. When I got back to the turn off, I thanked Anna-Marie and thought that the end of this story. It wasn’t.

Anna-Marie was sure that we were on the right trail but very worried that Daniel had taken the wrong one. I assured her that the correct trail was the next one and Daniel was either on that one or would find his way soon if she stuck with us. She looked a bit panicked though and started shouting for him. I told her that I would walk quickly ahead and find Daniel. Jerry was behind me and Melanie walked with Anna-Marie to help keep her calm. I called out – with my booming voice – but got no reply. Eventually, I did see him a few hundred meters ahead and got Jerry to pass back the message “Il est là” (he is there) to Melanie and from her to Anna-Marie. A message came passed back to me that Anna-Marie was currently talking to Daniel on the phone, yelling at him for leaving her behind to get lost. Ugh. I thought that was the end of the story. It wasn’t.

When I caught up to Daniel, I explained what happened as we waited for the others to arrive. When Anna-Marie got there, she started giving Daniel an earful so we quietly walked away, trying not to eavesdrop. Unfortunately, we all heard one phrase that caught our attention in the middle of the scolding “L’Américain”. Obviously she was referring to me. I really didn’t care whether she was blaming me for making the wrong turn or thanking me for trying to help her. I just thought it was rude that she referred to me that way, rather than using my name, which she knew. I stewed on that for a short bit and tried to finally put an end to this story. You know me by now though. It wasn’t the end.

A few hundred meters after leaving the lovebirds, I saw a memorial plaque on the wall of a building. I was then proud to be referred to as an American and that is the fitting end of that story.

(Although my brother, Paul, will likely be able to tell me exactly which commando unit it was that parachuted near Saussonnieres / San Fe in August, 1944).

A shorter story from the trail, we were coming down a steep dirt path and my eyes were drawn to a beautiful iridescent beetle also heading down the path. I kept my eyes on it and called for Melanie to hurry up and look at what I found. When she got about five meters behind me, she shrieked. She loves beetles so I was shocked at her reaction. I looked back at her and and she simply pointed at the 1.2m long snake just on the other side of my feet from the beetle. The snake actually looked ready to strike Melanie, rather than me but I got out of the way quickly, just in case. After a few pictures and a detour around him by all three of us, he hurried into the nearby scrub. I’m told they are poisonous but I am happy to say, we didn’t have to check.

We are now off the mountainous plateau and dropped about 500m today. Gone are the coolish days and cooling winds. We could easily tell the difference. Jerry is happy that he only has one more short day of walking.

We had been informed by fellow pilgrims and hosts that finding accommodations today was going to be very difficult. Our original planned destination was Boissezon but we heard that all their beds were occupied and that the town had no restaurant, grocer, cafe, bar, etc. We were supposed to buy something in the morning to eat at night even if we could find a bed. Additionally, we heard that there was only two beds available in the town of Noailac, 3km further on. That wouldn’t work drawing straws with Jerry and Melanie. We decided to try our luck getting a taxi in Noailac 13km into Castres and finding a room there for two nights. We could taxi back tomorrow to walk that section.

Our plan worked perfectly despite not having any way to call for a taxi, the unlikelihood of there being a taxi in the small village and no idea of what hotel could work for us. As soon as we reached Noailac, Melanie spotted a restaurant that looked open. At 3:00pm? Impossible! But it was. We walked in and asked for help calling a taxi and they did right away – “a taxi is on its way in ten minutes”. Yeah! When the taxi arrived, the driver asked where we wanted to go and we explained our situation. She rattled off a bunch of hotels and the two star Rivière was the only one I knew. Let’s go there. It turned out to be an inexpensive and very nice place. Our huge room cost the same as our room last night. And the wi-fi works perfectly. Life is good!

Peace y’all.

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