Saturday, 8 June 2002
Distance 22 kms
Map 61 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded) or
La Haute Provence par les Gorges du Verdon Topo-Guide (Ref 401)
Unfortunately I had developed blisters yesterday. My boots were not new, but I had not had time to walk about in them before we left, with the result that they were hard and unyielding. It was my heels that had yielded, inevitably. For this reason we spent the morning in the town. The local pharmacy sold us the first of many packets of bandaids (“pansements”, a useful addition to our French vocabulary).
It was market day and the square was full of fresh produce: vegetables, cheeses, bread, sausages, lavender, soap and tiny Provençal olives. After a couple of rounds of coffee and patisserie, I felt able to face the road.
We went along a pretty riverside path, then up the GR4 into the hills, which were dry but full of flowers. The rocky blades of the Cadières loomed above like ruined castle battlements. We were on a Roman road, relentlessly straight despite the rough terrain.
Lunch was a picnic beside the track, then we crossed a saddle and descended steeply to the village of Chasteuil, where we had an unexpected coffee break at a little rose-covered cafe, all the more welcome as it was starting to rain.
The rain swept up and engufed us as we traversed a wide valley full of sheep, past deserted huts and collapsed stone walls, cold rags of mist swirling around the hills. It was a wild, beautiful, atmospheric scene.
With our raincoats streaming, we picked our way down a rough road towards the charming perched village of Rougon.
Once we arrived it seemed less charming. There was no camping area and the man in the cafe (which was just about to close) looked at us suspiciously and said that ”le camping sauvage” was forbidden.
Smiling blandly, we set off down the track until we were out of sight of the houses, then selected a corner of a field, hidden from the track by bushes, to put up our little tent. Soon we were dry and cosy inside, eating the remains of our bread, cheese and sausage and finishing the wine.
The worst part of the evening was waiting for darkness to fall. For once we did not appreciate the long twilights of the European summer, expecting at any moment to be accosted by an angry farmer. But eventually we slept well.