Day 16 – Villefranche-de-Lauragais to Donneville, 24.0km, 6.0hrs, 29 April

Today should have been mentally tough but it wasn’t. That’s a good thing. The forecast was for rain and when we walked out the door, it was obvious that the forecast was going to be correct. The dark, heavy clouds were low and the air was as wet as it could be without pouring down. We left too early for the hotel breakfast but we found much better value down the street in a patisserie anyway. After beignets, coffee and juice, we were out the door and walking by 8:00am.

A quick section down Main Street in Villefranche put us back on the Camino trail and we were soon out of the village, walking past a small new housing development that would easily win any competition for ugliness. Back to the farmer’s fields, we kept looking at the sky for the certain downpour.

There was a steep but short 70m climb into the small round mound called Montgaillard-Lauragais. I liked the layout of the town and the dog who greeted our entry. The small pup seemed to have rather long fur all over and a small head. The result was that we couldn’t tell whether it was looking at us or his owner when we first saw him. We had to wait to see which end barked. Regarding the geography, the village on the hill has its church, St. Étienne’s at the center of the summit. There are two concentric rings around the church where all the residents live. From above, it looks like a tiny city with two ring roads that needed to be built to accommodate the growing city – even though the population never really broke 100 here.

Some further farm tracks took us to the edge of Villenouvelle but bypassing it to a small creek crossing. This was the moment it decided to really start raining. We were mostly prepared but we just had to put on our jackets over us and our gear. We use and love the old Altus Atmospheric Light model but the one drawback of it is that it is so light, it could tear easily with sharp objects like thorns. Now, of course, we were just a few meters short of entering the only forest trail of the day. I don’t think anyone has used this particular trail in years as it was so overgrown with thorn and other bushes. It was a short 500m section but it was slow going, whacking a clearance wide enough for us to pass safely through without shredding our coats.

The rain was more a typical London day-long variety, compared to the fierce but brief tropical rain storms of Singapore. We were in no danger of drowning but we could be tortured to death by the old Chinese water torture of repeated and never ending drips on our heads.

We stopped in a open barn to check the GPS without getting the phone wet and the owner saw us. The happy older man asked us if we were walking the the Chemin to Compostela and we said yes even though we are stopping far short of Santiago. He then had a long conversation with us in French about the walk and where we are from but when we explained we were walking to Donneville he seemed confused that we weren’t going all the way to Toulouse today. I said that we would only be able to walk to Toulouse tomorrow and he was shocked. “You are going to WALK to Toulouse – not take the train?!?” I laughed and said yes, we have walked every step from Montpellier and he gave the most French reply possible, “Ooh la la” with a wag of the hand.

We took a slightly shorter alternative route for the last bit into the town of Baziége, in order to stay on roads rather than soggy, muddy trails. That gave us the chance to walk the entire length of their Main Street to look for food, a drink and a dry, warm rest. We were just about to walk into a small patisserie when Melanie spotted a sports bar further down the road. This was perfect as it allowed us the chance to take our raincoats off outside under cover and shake them drier before going in. Also, no one really cares when two muddy, drenched walkers enter a sports bar. We were able to get a sandwich and soft drink before hurrying back to the patisserie for…. oops, it closed while we were in the bar. I was devastated but Melanie picked me up off the ground, stopped my from crying and kicking the the door and we were soon walking again.

After leaving Baziége, we crossed the A61 highway and were soon, finally walking along the famous Canal-du-Midi. I remember hearing about this canal in grade school history class so it was cool to see. I believe that the smaller canal we walked along the past few days just fed water into this one. We have decided to walk along the bigger canal all the way into Toulouse tomorrow. The main reason for this is because the accommodation in Donneville, next to the canal, provided the best stopping point half way between Villefranche and Toulouse.

We are now drying our clothes and bodies in the charmless Motel Restaurant l’Enclos. It has a high class, excellent restaurant with eight ugly cabins in the back. The rooms are sufficient but as motel-like as any motel in the US. The highly regarded restaurant is unfortunately closed on Sunday evenings – our timing is perfect as always. We asked about nearby places to eat and they could think of no solution within a kilometer. We asked if we could just eat a very early “dinner” at 2:30pm and they looked our soggy, muddy, drenched, smelly bodies up and down before taking pity on us. They showed us into the place where we saw everyone else in suits, dresses and their Sunday bests. Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, they hid us in a very secluded section that was mostly out of sight.

That’s it for today. Sorry for the few photos but the phone needed to stay dry.

Edited to add, its 7:30pm and I just went up to the reception to see why the wi-fi isn’t working. The building is locked up tight. There isn’t a soul around who can assist me. Furthermore, I had a look around the neighborhood as the rain stopped. There is a pizza parlor open directly across the street. Those jerks just wanted us to eat at their restaurant when they said thee was no food within a kilometer. Someone’s getting a zero rating on Facebook. For anyone following us, avoid this place. There is a B&B a couple of hundred meters south of here called Pause Canal.

Peace y’all.

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