Saturday, 30 June 2018
Distance 15 km
Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 109 m, descent 120 m
The night had been warm for the first time – summer was on its way at last. We packed up and left about 7:45 am, at which time the barrier gate was still locked, but we climbed it without too much difficulty.
We had not gone far when we saw a sign for a boulangerie pointing off to the left, and, hoping that it might also have a coffee machine as many bakeries do these days, we followed it.
The boulangerie appeared, but the coffee machine did not, and we had to content ourselves with a couple of croissants, which we ate while walking.
Our plan was to leave the road at the entrance to the château of les Robins, but when we got to the turn-off, it was barred by a gate, so we felt it would be rude to go beyond it, although it would have been easy enough to climb.
Fortunately, a short distance further along the road was another track, un-gated, that joined the first one, and we soon arrived at a tiny tar road, crossed the river Dore, and climbed into the village of Dorat.
There, to our surprise and delight, was a bar, with the door wide open and people sitting outside. We hurried to join them and indulge in our first coffee of the day.
We had saved a bit of meat and bread from dinner, and that made a good little accompaniment.
Two cyclists arrived and ordered a full breakfast. With the camaraderie of the road that includes both walkers and cyclists, we went over and asked them where they were going today.
The reply was a blank stare. It turned out that they were German and spoke no French, but they were very good in English, so we had a pleasant conversation in the end. They were going south, the opposite direction to us.
We left Dorat on a zig-zag succession of small roads and tracks, traversing patches of forest as well as farmland.
We are no longer quite as amazed as we used to be at the sight of enormous farm buildings entirely roofed in solar panels.
Just before midday we cruised into Puy-Guillaume, a large, prosperous town perched above the river Dore.
We were now closer to the Allier than we had been for several days.
We stopped for coffee at a busy bar on the main square, where five roads met at a public garden.
The camping ground was a few hundred metres down the road and we felt the need for lunch (a meal that we often forget).
So we went into a boulangerie on the way and bought a large ham-and-cheese feuilleté to eat when we arrived.
As we turned into the camping ground, the air was full of shouts and squeals of laughter, but they were not from fellow campers (there were none). They were from the swimming pool next door.
A friendly groundsman said that the office would open at 3 pm, and meanwhile we had showers and put up our tent.
It looked very lonely in the great empty expanse of the place, which was all immaculately mown and shaded by fresh young trees.
The feuilleté was evidently meant to be eaten hot, and was unpleasantly stodgy when cold. We got around this problem by laying it out in the sun while we did our washing, after which it was much nicer.
When the responsable arrived we paid our dues (€13.60), and she invited us into the games room, where a large TV was broadcasting a World Cup match. This passed the time very well, while outside she attacked the windows with a thunderous high-pressure hose.
The swimming pool closed, the happy chatter ceased and it was time for dinner. We had noticed on the internet that there was a restaurant nearby, on the banks of the Dore, called le Beau Rivage, so we crossed the bridge and found it , but it did not look at all lively – in fact it was defunct.
This was a disappointment, but not a major one, and we marched back up the road to town, to see what we could see.
Apart from a couple of bars and a take-away pizza shop, there was precious little on offer, and we ended up, with some reluctance, at a kebab restaurant (the reluctance was not because of the food, but because of the lack of wine to go with it). In the end it was a very pleasant meal.
We began by sharing a bowl of smoked salmon salad, which was fresh and flavoursome.
Then we both had “assiettes”, Keith’s kofta and mine chicken.
As we walked back to the camping ground, I was hoping that some other campers would have arrived, but it turned out that we were still the only ones.
Ever since the episode of the creepy man lurking in the deserted camping ground at Chabanais, I have been frightened of camping alone, whereas before that I did not mind at all.
Consequently I hardly slept, especially as the lights in the camping ground went out after a while, and some atavistic fear of the dark compounded my misery.