Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Distance 26 km
Duration 5 hours 0 minutes
Ascent 242 m, descent 138 m
Map 57 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
In the morning we were none the worse for our enormous dinner the night before, and set off at 6:50, which seems to be our normal hour of departure. We do not plan it, but we usually leave within a few minutes of this time.
In the village, the bar was already operating, as a good highway bar would be, but we hoped for coffee at Lamothe-Capdeville, so we only visited the baker.
We crossed the highway and the railway line and took a small road across the river flats, cutting off a big loop of the Aveyron, on the other side of which was a line of hills.
Once over the auroroute we kept close to the river, although not as close as the map indicated (it was wrong).
The morning was fresh and we enjoyed sauntering along amongst the crops. The last few kilometres into Lamothe-Capdeville were shadier and increasingly lined with houses, until we joined the road from Montauban and crossed the bridge.
This took us into Ardus, which seemed to be a subsidiary village, with a pleasant beach, a park and a few shops, including a closed bar. We pressed on up the hill towards the main village, only to find it devoid of shops of any sort. A local motorist saw us looking disconcerted and stopped to help.
He said there was only one bar in the neighbourhood, the one we had just walked past, and it opened at 9 o’clock. It was 8:50, so we turned back with alacrity to find the bar already open, although unoccupied.
When the barman came in a bit later, he was startled to find his first customers already settled at an inside table, looking expectant. He hastened to make coffee for us, and for himself.
With the coffee we ate the pastries that Keith had carried tenderly from Albias, in a little nest at the top of his pack. We read the paper and chatted with our host, who was keen for us to go up onto the causse to admire the view, until he found out we were on foot.
For the rest of the morning we followed the road at the foot of the escarpment, accompanying the Aveyron on its last dying miles before being swallowed by the Tarn.
Beside the road were orchards of apples, kiwi fruit, peaches, plums, cherries and nectarines, as well as fields of wheat and sunflowers, a beautiful, bountiful scene.
The weather swung wildly from hot sunshine to clouds and cold drizzle.
At the deserted hamlet of Montastruc we sat on a bench among flower beds and had a drink of water, but apart from that we kept on steadily. The road began to rise as the river swung away, and we saw the great looming church of Lafrançaise far away on the edge of the drop.
At Saint-Maurice we began a strenuous climb to the causse, to join another road and continue climbing into the streets of the town. To our considerable relief, we saw a camping sign pointing off to the right – we had been dreading the prospect of the camping being down on the river.
Nevertheless we kept walking into the town, as we felt we deserved another coffee. This we took indoors, then wandered around the two parallel streets that made up the town, looking for places to eat in the evening. All we could find was a take-away pizza shop.
Lafrançaise occupies a spur jutting out of the causse, so that the land drops away drastically on three sides, making urban sprawl difficult.
By retracing our steps a little, we found our way to the camping ground, which was a well-set-up and well-patronised place on a slope, separated from the town by a small forested valley containing a lake and a swimming pool.
The man at the reception said that there was a restaurant down there, and a path leading directly to the town. After showers, we pitched our tent and had lunch, unusually magnificent because of the remains of last night’s feast.
It was getting colder by the minute and the wind started to tear at our washing. We had to take down our plastic capes for fear of having them shredded.
In a nearby emplacement was a sad sight – a Dutchman lying on a deckchair, baring his chest to the clouds, determined to work on his tan no matter what the weather. We soon had to retreat to our tent as showers of rain swept in, and we can only hope that the Dutchman did the same.
At the end of a cosy afternoon in our sleeping bags we crept out, put on our capes and set off to find the restaurant on the lake. Rain was falling and it was half dark already at 7 o’clock. The lake and swimming pool were deserted and the restaurant turned out to be no more than a snack bar.
The only thing we could do was follow the path up to town and look around again for somewhere to eat, with the same lack of success as before. It was starting to look like muesli for dinner.
Then we remembered the take-away pizza shop and hurried there, to find it brightly lit and busy. We crammed in with the other customers and ordered a large pizza and a bottle of Gaillac.
Two girls next to us were fascinated by our rain capes and asked where they could get them, being greatly taken aback when we said Australia.
With the rain hammering down on the cardboard pizza box and the bottle in a plastic bag, we scrambled back down the track and up to the camping ground. It was dry and warm inside our tent and we had a lovely meal, with a whole bottle of wine, before settling down very happily to sleep.