A postcard from Bergerac

Dear All,

When we set off on this expedition, we hoped to have enough time to get to Bergerac, to link up with a previous walk, and here we are, with nine days to spare! This is a glorious moment for us, joining the Loire with the Dordogne at last. Our new plan (we have a new plan every day) is to press on to Condom, and possibly even to Auch, both points of linkage with other walks also.

We spoke too soon in our last email when we said the rain had passed. It did stop, but only for a day. Once again we have been wading through muddy farm lanes and forest tracks, but on the other the other hand, most of our blisters are gone, and we have no more toes or heels left to develop any new ones. We have been staying a lot in refuges provided for the pilgrims, which we greatly appreciate on rainy nights, although the food is hardly cordon bleu. They are subsidised by the commune and/or the church, which makes us feel slightly fraudulent.

At our last refuge, one of our fellow walkers, with whom we had been walking for a few days, came in hours after the rest of us, sat down and started sobbing like a child with exhastion, pain and misery. The doctor was called to look at his blisters, which were deep, old and disgusting. She ordered him to the hospital in Perigueux and his pilgimage was over. It was hard for him because he was very religious.

We are about to finish our traverse of Perigord – we crossed Perigord Vert (farms and forests), then Perigord Blanc ( chalk mines and the pearly white city of Perigueux) and are now in Perigord Pourpre (vineyards). The only bit we are missing is Perigord Noir (truffles). We asked at our latestgîtefor foie gras and truffles for dinner, but the guardians said they had already had that for lunch! We got a sausage and some mash. On the bright side, cherries are now a daily part of our life. The big black ones are now ripe on the roadsides.

We still have not met a single native English speaker on the track. Our companions have been either French or Dutch, and very good companions they are. We had a memorable dinner in Perigueux with two of them, in a beautiful old square.

We are back to camping these days and we have left the main Way of Vézelay, although some of our chums are coming to Condom too, to join the other pilgrimage. Our tent has been thoroughly tested and found to be waterproof! Tonight we are camping on the banks of the Dordogne and all the campeurs have been ordered to move as high as possible above the rising floodwater – a swift brown mass carrying all sorts of debris and sweeping through the lower trees.

We are hoping our equipment will hold together for another week and a half. We have mended packs, sewed on buttons, patched Keith’s airbed, darned Jenny’s shorts, not to mention the morning ritual of glueing her shoes together for another day’s punishment. We may walk onto the plane barefoot, in rags.

With love,

Keith and Jenny