Saturday, 26 June 2004
Distance 24 km
Duration 4 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 355 m, descent 348 m
Map 63 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topoguide Le Chemin d’Arles (blue cover)
As soon as we opened our eyes, we could see the ominous glare of a hot day to come. It was the first time this year that we really needed an early start, but by the time we parted company with our excellent hosts it was already 9 o’clock and scorching.
To rejoin the GR we had to go half-way up to the village and back down, which took time.
We hurried along on farm tracks for a while, then crossed the river and the road and toiled on.
We were almost swimming in our own sweat as we tried to follow the GR signs.
We ended in a ploughed field and had to struggle up through it to the hamlet of Pouylebon, a pretty little place with a portal and a church. Fortunately we found a tap there and refilled our empty water bottles.
Plunging down again, we found ourselves in a field of wheat with no sign of the track, so we had to trample our way out to the stream and eventually reached a little road on the ridge, where we had lunch under an oak.
It was time to abandon the overgrown, meandering GR and take the road directly into Marciac. The road was downhill all the way and devoid of traffic.
We swung along at a great pace and at last came to the town through an alley of plane trees and past two slender-steeple churches.
It was a lovely bastide, with a vast central square and arcades covering all four sides. Dropping into seats at the nearest bar, we called for coffee and water, took off our boots and luxuriated in the feeling of a job well done.
From our position in the shade of the colonnade, we could see workmen out in the square setting up a marquee for a concert tomorrow night. The work was punctuated by water fights amongst the shirtless men, egged on by the onlookers.
The camping ground was not far away and was everything we could have wished for, with lush grass, spreading trees and strong hot showers, not bad for €8.
As the heat declined we went back to the square in our sandals and had glasses of cold rosé at a different café, then moved to la Petite Auberge (recommended by our Montesquiou friends) for dinner. The tables were filling up fast but we got an excellent one under the arcades. Although the sun was slanting in, we were shaded by a wide pillar and later by the rooves opposite.
We had a three-course menu, starting with the usual large salads, then veal cutlets beautifully presented, and finally two scoops of coffee icecream. Two baskets of bread, two jugs of water and a carafe of wine vanished as well.
Never had we eaten so many meals of steak, but our strenuous life seemed to bring out the carnivore in us, and even so we were finding our clothes starting to hang off us.