Some days are tough physically. Some days are tough mentally. Today fit into that second category and was just demoralizing. Every Camino we do, about half way through, we hit a day like today and it is rough. I’m not 100% sure why it was though. Some things were pretty good and should have meant a happier mood. Who knows?
Last night, we learned that breakfast was going to be later than we liked today but we didn’t want to skip it. That meant a late start to the day but it also meant a longer sleep in the place where we had the best sleep so far in France. Also, the weather forecast was for rain today but we just had a cloudy cool day, perfect for walking. Why was it so difficult?
I think a big issue for us today was the bad decisions I made. We took alternative routes four times today and two of those were bad ideas, the jury is still out on one of them and the last one was just me giving up on the day and taking a shortcut to the hotel.
First, the path today left La Barraque farm through the neighbor’s farm and down to the canal again. That part was easy even though the neighbor’s dog was out and showed a lot of interest in us. The dog’s name is Nanuk because he more resembles a polar bear in size and color. Fortunately, I could tell by the way that he looked down at me that he was friendly.
We walked on the lovely canal trail only about 1.5km before we (I!) decided to shortcut through the village of Saint-Paulet. It just looked on the map as a small village but my bet was that it was a nice one. It turned out to be on a hill so I traded a climb on road in exchange for a slightly longer, flat trail on dirt with a nice view of the canal. The village definitely wasn’t worth it and the highlight was to get to see a young drunk guy, leaning out his car door, retching in the street while his friend laughed hysterically and live-streamed the show to some other friends. I started to laugh at the stupidity of youth but then I realized that the guy throwing up was the driver, not the passenger. Now I was just angry at the stupidity of youth. I should have stayed on the canal.
By the time we got back to the canal, we only had about 2km on it again before we (I!!) made the decision to take the Les Pagès alternative route that the guidebook described. This route shortcut today’s part by 11km and I gave up a lot of zig-zagging route along the canal, the nice flat dirt trail as well as seeing where the canal dumped into the famous Canal du Midi that we will see again. The route we took was a hilly road trail through farmland that got a little boring and hard on the feet. The reason we took this route was to try to help catch up for the day we lost between St.-Guilhem and St.-Jean-de-la-Blaquiére as well as to try to give us options on how to walk into Toulouse, which is turning into a problem. I am not sure that the shortcut helped us at all but the only good point was that the roads were very quiet – we only saw 8 cars over the 6.tkm of roads.
Where the shortcut rejoined the trail, there was the “lovely” little hamlet of Montferrand. I put “lovely” in quote because I hate the place. Like many of the villages in southern Portugal, this tiny village was dropped by God on one of the the oddest little mountains you would care to see. Surrounded by relatively flat countryside, there is a hill sticking up about 90m with steep sides and two or three acres on top. That’s where a castle was built a zillion years ago and the hamlet now uses part of that castle as a wind stop. The views from up there were nice in every direction but the 45 degree climb, or steeper, took a lot out of us.
The next few kilometers to Avignonet were nice enough but then the marked trail bypassed the town on its eastern side. We were hungry so we (I!!!j made the decision to climb into this hill village to look for a cafe to get something to eat and drink, to get a toilet break and to rest a bit and drive the blues away. We actually took a longer route, up a hill, on a road and there wasn’t a darn place to buy anything there. We also missed a turn and walked further than we wanted too. We found someone up there who said that we should have bypassed the hilly portion of the village on its west side, along the flat road. It would have meant more mileage but we weren’t about to backtrack to get to the cafe.
The last 10km or 11km of the way to Villefranche was along hilly farm trails and roads. I could only take so much of that though and at one point, with 4.2km to go before getting to a bed, we (I!!!!) made the last decision of the day’s walk. The 4.2km had about 2km of road walking and the balance was on trails, probably along farm paths. Alternatively, there was a 2.8km road that took us directly to the Hotel-Restaurant du Lauragais. We took the short way and said the hell with it. That was my best decision of the day.
For those following us, please, please do your homework before you leave. I am still struggling to find the best way to get into Toulouse. There are very few places to stay near between here and Toulouse city centre. We have considered things including using the last metro stop in Ramonville, using Booking.com to find places not in the guide book, using the alternative Canal du Midi route, etc. As noted, we are tryin* to make up for a lost day but at the same time, we are tryin* to avoid 33km days. At the moment, we are hoping to get a room at the motel in Donneyville as the last stop before Toulouse. I’ll let you know how that turns out tomorrow.
It’s late. I’m tired. Peace y’all. May tomorrow be a better day for everyone.