Thursday, 29 May 2003
Distance 25 km
Duration 7 hours 5 minutes
Ascent 771 m, descent 631 m
Map 48 of the
Poor Penny had decided that she could not go on another day, but she wanted to get as far as Floirac to catch the train to Rocamadour.
On our way through Carennac, we looked around the church and château, crowded together on the banks of the Dordogne. The GR then took us high above the river in a thick oak forest, followed by scrubby heathland on the causse and an abrupt descent to the village of Floirac.
The local café must be the only one in France that is closed on Thursdays. We had to content ourselves with sitting in the square, admiring the handsome tympanum of Saint George and the dragon on the tympanum of the church. A sign pointed down a street to the railway station.
We gave back all Penny’s possessions that we had been carrying to lighten her load, promised to look for her in Rocamadour, and started off to regain the causse from the south end of the village. Unbeknownst to us, the train had long ago given up stopping at Floirac, so Penny had to hitch-hike.
Meanwhile we were on the airy track at the top of the Cirque de Montvalent, with the wide river flats of the Dordogne laid out below us. Small blue butterflies rose in clouds from the bushes and we disturbed a snake sunning itself on a rocky slab.
Pulling back from the cliff edge, we descended to the hamlet of Veyssou, whose only shop is a fine old bakery, producing great wheels of bread with bits of charcoal from the wood-fired oven embedded in the crust.
The baker kindly refilled our water bottles and we had lunch on a grassy bank nearby, watching a procession of cars drive up for their bread.
Following this there was a pleasant stretch of track on an abandoned road shaded by oaks. When this converged on the highway at Montvalent we realised we were getting short of water again, but there was none to be had. We kept going in the vain hope of coming to a house where we could ask to have our bottles refilled.
The afternoon sun bore down mercilessly on open fields devoid of habitation. Then we met a day walker coming the other way, who said that Rocamadour was less than an hour away, so we swallowed the remaining half-litre, put our heads down and stumbled on, trying not to think of how our tongues were turning into gummy stumps.
We saw the sign “Restaurant” from a distance as we came near to l’Hospitalet, and almost broke into a run. The waitress took one look at us and brought out a jug of iced water, which we drained twice before even ordering coffee. The relief and pleasure of this made up for everything.
Soon after, we saw Penny wandering by, and heard about her hitch-hiking adventure Her benefactors had dropped at the Camping le Roc, which unfortunately was three kilometres out of town, whereas there was another camping just behind the shops of l’Hospitalet. We established ourselves in to the latter, while Penny bought some food and walked back to her abode.
Having washed our tired bodies and all our sweat-soaked clothes, we strolled back to dine at the restaurant that had saved us in the afternoon.
We began with a salade auvergnate, adorned with walnuts, onions and a slice of ham, then chose the plat du jour, which was coq au vin. With bread and wine, this made a thoroughly satisfactory ending to the day.