Day 21 – Apt to Coustellet, 25.3km, 7.25hrs (5.75hrs moving)

Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day”? Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day”? Sheesh. Before I went to bed last night, I looked in the guidebook to see what I did wrong yesterday. We ended up on that God-forsaken old rail line / ugly new cycle track for far too long. Remember that the guidebook is guiding people from Arles to Vercelli, the opposite direction of where we are going. This is how it described from Apt to Céreste: “From Apt, we choose to continue on the cycle track”. Wait! What! The cycle track also leads into Apt??? The guide book also said “For long distance walkers, we recommend the shorter and easier cycle track”. Please roll me up in an old rug, tie both ends with heavy chains and throw me in the river now. I can’t do any more of that rail line.

After I calmed myself down, stopped crying and finished burning the guide book, I looked at the GPS trails and it appeared as if the entire 24km recommended trail today was supposed to be along that wretched rail line. I then got to work. Wherever we could, we would be taking the marked GR trail if it differed from the rail line. Where it was on the rail line, we looked for alternatives that would not add ridiculous mileage. It turns out that, except for a few hundred meters, we were able to avoid the line for the first 9km. After that, we could often, but not always, walk on dirt, gravel or rock paths just meters away from the cycle track. We had the same boring straight flat trails but they didn’t hurt my feet nearly as much as yesterday.

As we left the hotel this morning, we headed through the center of town. Not only was it a great walk through an old historic town, it was market day so it was very lively too. We bought some delicious trail mix from one vendor and I had to drag Melanie away from another vendor selling jewelry. We kept heading west and just before the Hospital du Pays, we met a lovely older woman who asked where we were headed. After she corrected my pronunciation of Coustellet, she firmly insisted we were going the wrong way. She pointed north and said we needed to go there. I assume that she was directing us to the cycle track. I swear that I didn’t harm her. We thanked her and waited until we were sure she couldn’t see us then we climbed the small hill on the quiet road along side of the hospital. From the top, we had beautiful views both back to Apt and into the valley forward towards Coustellet.

When we came down from that hill, we moved to the busy D943 for a longer descent. That road has a very wide shoulder and is perfectly safe. We tried to cut through a industrial zone to the marked GR trail but it was completely fenced off. After that small detour we were forced onto the hated cycle path for a half kilometer. As soon as the GR trail turned off the rail line, we did too and were treated to 4km of wonderful mountain bike trails, forest trails and farm tracks.

Sadly, this only took us to the 9km point of the day and then we were back on the tortuous bike path. Another kilometer and a half though gave us a pleasant site. We reached Saint Julian’s bridge which supposedly was built by the Romans as part of the Via Domitia. There we met up with a bunch of school kids with a couple of teachers out for a mountain bike ride. We could hear them when they were several hundred meters behind us and we passed each other several times as we went to cross over the bridge.

Guess which one the Romans built

After the bridge, we had a short walk through a vineyard before coming to the 12km point of the day. From there on out, all the way to our hotel, we were either on the rail line or on a path right next to the rail line. Fortunately, much of the rest of the way, it was possible to walk on the adjoining gravel track or unused road. Due to that, the mix of roads with trails was tolerable.

It was forecasted to be a cloudy day and they got that prediction correct. It even spit down some drizzle for a kilometer or two. For the first time on this Camino, I actually had to put on a rain cover over my backpack. Luckily, it never came close to requiring our raincoats.

The rail lin is elevated on the right side of the photo

The only real incident of the day happened at lunchtime in Beaumettes. We had about 5km to go for the day but we were getting hungry. We saw signs directing us to bars and restaurants on the other side of the highway. We crossed under the road and immediately saw a cool looking bar, L’impréau, which was surprisingly full of people at 2:30pm. The population of the village was only about 30 people and it appeared that all ere having lunch together at this bar. The posted menu included a club sandwich, fries and a salad for a decent price and that sounded perfect for us to share. We ordered that and some drinks then sat outside the main door, in plain view of the bartender and waited, and waited and waited. At the stroke of 3pm, the hostess came out and asked if we were waiting for a club sandwich. We said we were and she just replied with the most snootiest voice ever, “Non, finish”. What??? She stated again, that our club sandwich was not going to be served to us. Melanie asked if we could get a salad. The woman walked inside for a tenth of a second before coming back out with an even snootier voice, she said “No, no food at all”. We paid our drinks bill and got out of there before I could get into trouble. I wanted to smack the smirk off her face. That’s the last time I go in that rat hole. When I paid the bartender, he didn’t apologize but only shrugged his shoulders and said “Cooks!”

Now angry-walking, the last 5km went by fairly quickly. We pulled into the hotel and the owner could not have been nicer and more helpful. He didn’t exactly make us forget the lunch incident but he reminded us that there are good people in the world too.

It’s late, I’m writing jibberish and I have to get some sleep.

Peace y’all.

This is what boring looks like on an elevation chart

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