Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Distance 21 km
Duration 4 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 96 m, descent 79 m
Map 60 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Keith’s cold was taking a grip and he woke with a headache, having coughed all night.
We left the camping ground at 6:50 am, but were still at the telephone box at the gate half an hour later, trying to make a telephone call to Australia.
We finally worked out the system, but it required us to put in 54 digits to make the connection, and then we only got an answering machine.
There was no GR going in our direction (west), so we walked down the road a short way to the bridge, crossed the river and took a minor branch to the left, which wandered across the meadows and deposited us on the D25 a few kilometres from l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
At the big intersection near the town, we crossed back over several strands of water – we were beginning to see why it was called an island – looking for the centre. We had to ask two passers-by before we found it, a single narrow pedestrian street running into the church square.
Our main worry was that we could not find the next map (number 59), and the one we were using only had three more kilometres left.
The first newsagent we went to had no TOP 100 maps at all, but when we turned into the square there was another one with a great array of maps, including number 59.
Clutching our new treasure, we got some bread and pastries and hurried over to a bar for coffee. It soon became clear that our new map was not actually going to help us for several days, as our route was off the bottom of it, so I went back and bought map 66 as well, while Keith sat quietly, waiting for the two aspirins, the coffee and the pain aux raisins to work their magic.
We left the village by way of the railway station. Just over the tracks there was a tiny road running parallel, at first past factories and sheds, then in a tunnel of trees.
It was already hot so I took the opportunity to repair my shoes and sandals with some melted tar. I got a blister on my finger while doing it, but it was worth it.
Instead of going into the village of le Thor, we kept straight ahead and eventually merged with the main road, the N100, as we approached Châteauneuf-de-Gadagne.
Suddenly the road climbed steeply, whereas it had been dead flat before. The village, with its half-ruined château and its ramparts, was on the top of a long north-south spine rising out of the plain like a half-buried blade. The highway laboured up and most of the side streets were staircases.
Climbing one of these, we found a bar with a thick awning of wistaria shading the terrace. We had coffee there in the cool, looking out over the village and all the flat lands to the south-east. We also checked that we could eat there in the evening.
Continuing up the highway, round a wide bend to the top and down past a roundabout, we arrived at the camping ground. It was slightly further out of town than we liked, given that we would have to go back for dinner, but on the other hand it would give us a good start for the road-bash into Avignon in the morning. It was a fine place to spend a lazy afternoon, as it had a pool, surrounded by umbrellas and deck-chairs.
Back in town in the evening, we got a table right at the edge of the ramparts, high above the street. We had simple country fare – a green salad, followed by steak for me and lasagne for Keith.
The lasagne was the size and consistency of a house brick and defeated even our appetites, but we put the remainder away for lunch.
On the way back, I had the bright idea of going up through the lanes to the church, then turning left to reconnect with the highway at the top of the rise.
Unfortunately something went wrong with my sense of direction and we found ourselves in gathering darkness heading out and down into the countryside on a small, dusty road, passing a beggars’ camp with blankets and sheets of iron rigged up as shelter.
We could hear the noise of the traffic on the highway to our left. There was nothing for it but to barge through a vineyard, down a steep bank, across a ploughed field and over a barbed-wire fence to reach the road, only a hundred metres below the turn-off to the camping ground. It was almost fully dark as we scuttled in gratefully at 10 pm.