Saturday, 15 June 2002
Distance 25 km
Map 50 of the
Topo-Guide (Ref 651) Sentier de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle Le Puy/Aubrac/Conques/Figeac
A night’s rest had wrought the usual miracle and we were ready to spring away at 7:30. We were gradually getting the idea that an early start is the secret to success, especially in hot weather. The rule going around is: every hour of walking before noon is worth double; every hour after is worth half.
Crossing the river into the lower town, we scrambled up steeply out of the gorge, in a forest of pines.
At the top we emerged into bare open country strewn with boulders. There followed several miles of easy walking, our only difficulty being the heat. We drank from a hand-operated pump in one of the hamlets on the way.
As we crossed a road and began to descend into the town of Sauges, a wooden carving of the Beast of Gevaudan dominated the view. This commemorates the great wolf, the size of a donkey, that terrorised these treeless wastes for three years in the mid-eighteenth century.
It had a taste for human rather than sheep flesh and killed close to a hundred people, mostly women and children, before being done away with.
Lunch in the busy street of Sauges was followed by a nap in a wood just outside the town, nursing blisters, sunburn and heat exhaustion. When we woke from our brief nap a breeze had come up and we proceeded more comfortably.
In a lane we had to press into the hedge to avoid being threshed by a huge harvester going past.
Our goal was les Vernets where there was a gîte, but it was derelict so we limped on to les Chanaleilles a few hard kilometres further on, where we found our prayers were answered with a fine gîte and a café.
The enjoyment was the greater for the agony of getting there. When Keith took off his shorts to have a shower, they were so caked with dried sweat that they stood up by themselves.
Later on we had a communal meal, consisting of soup, then salad, followed by a mountain of mashed potato with sausages made from the family pig. We finished with cheeses and a crème caramel.
Wine flowed freely and the conversation amongst the travellers was lively and multilingual.