The guidebook for this walk contains suggested stages, turn-by-turn directions with mileage information, a list of some possible accommodations for each stage and a short paragraph describing the stage’s trail. The directions are useless to me, the list of accommodations has been invaluable on two days and the descriptions of the day’s walk is starting to get comical. More and more I am finding phrases like “the marked GR trail is dangerous and has unnecessary climbs” and “we prefer to avoid the dangerous shale trail and walk on the farm tracks that don’t have the arduous descents”. Well if the authors of the guide book are not following the GR trail, why should we?
Today was another perfect example of Via Do-Smithia working out a lot better than the official trail sounded, at least for us. Since I don’t read the author’s directions, I have no idea where they were going. I am sure seeing the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Lurs would be lovely but would it be worth the extra 8km or the extra 500m ascent on “increasingly narrow tracks on the steep ascent from Notre-Dame”? I don’t think so. Except for the final 2.6km city walk into Gap, our route today was almost entirely on very quiet back roads and farm tracks with about an equal mix of each. We only had 217m of elevation gains and 335m loss but none of the sections were boringly flat. On top of that, we still had either outstanding views or forest shade the whole way. That is my kind of Camino.
Today started out with a little deception that I do actually feel bad about. Our hosts last night, Jacky and Lilly, are wonderful people and I highly recommend their place. Jacky though, is a mountain walker and would never consider missing a climb. When he dropped us off this morning where he picked us up yesterday, he pointed out the way to us and watched us walk away. After a 50m or so, I looked back to make sure he had driven off before we turned around and headed the opposite direction. The Via Do-Smithia headed out of town to the north, instead of the south, before turning west on the C15. On the 3km of this road, I counted being passed by six cars, one jogger and an old man walking his bear. That’s a quiet road…. at least until I saw the bear (Melanie, however, swears it was just a massive shaggy dog and that my screaming had scared it).
We then had 3.5km section of beautiful gravel track until crossing the rail tracks just before La-Bâtie-Neuve where we had the only busy road of the day. The 1km along this road was softened by the presence of a sidewalk. After crossing the N94, we again were on gravel tracks or dirt farm roads for 4km. Switching back, we had another 2km on a quiet road before a shady farm trail of about 1km into the outskirts of Gap. Most importantly, we enjoyed every step of the way.
We are now sitting the hotel after showering, washing the clothes, resting our legs, etc. but we are desperately trying to match up our kind of stages with places to stay and that appears to be getting harder. It’s all part of the challenge though and we are enjoying that too. Tomorrow is worked out already but the next day is sketchy at the moment.