Thursday, 12 July 2007
Distance 18 km
Duration 3 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 484 m, descent 388 m
Map 57 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
When we crawled out, one or two wasted-looking individuals were already up, presumably getting ready for their Transbagages job. It was for them that the one hot shower was still functioning, we realised. It was no longer raining and the tent had almost dried out, so Keith was spared from carrying an extra weight of water in his pack.
To make up for the unsalubrious surroundings in which we had slept, we treated ourselves to breakfast at Le Luzerta. We had arranged with our host from last night to arrive at 7:15, earlier than he would normally have opened, but he seemed happy to oblige us.
Instead of our habitual plastic bowls of muesli moistened with powdered milk, we had glasses of orange juice, fresh bread, butter, jam and warm croissants, as well as jugs of coffee and hot milk. We enjoyed it very much, and most of all the clean, orderly surroundings.
Thanking our host we set off, taking the ring road back to its intersection with the GR, and discovering in the process a large bar-restaurant, hidden by a spreading tree from our previous view. We tried to stick to the GR, but almost immediately got lost.
The route must have changed, as we were led astray by old, half-painted-out signs, but we were soon back on it and began to climb through woods and fields, ever more steeply, until we got to the little bare patch where we had stopped for lunch on our walk five years ago, and had had our first glimpse of Lauzerte.
From there we followed a flat forest path, carpeted with leaves, which eventually joined a little road. A while later we began to lose height and realised that we had not seen a GR sign for a long time, but we put this down to the fact that we were going in the contrary direction.
We were falsely encouraged by a hand-painted sign saying “GR65”, with an arrow pointing back. What it should have said was “You are off the GR65 – go back”.
On we went, down and down, until we came to a river road, from where we could see a bridge.
Keith took a compass bearing and we discovered we had been going east instead of north, and were in the valley of the Lendou instead of on the ridge between that and the Barguelonne. That happens when the sky is cloudy.
Disgusted, we slogged back up to the ridge and saw where a GR sign pointed off the road onto a stony lane. The sign was covered by a leafy branch which nobody had removed, because nobody comes in this direction.
After that we continued without trouble on this lane until we came to a muddy, slippery descent to the road near Montlauzun. The sign said “Montcuq 8”. It had only been 10 kilometres by road when we left Lauzerte.
We were getting worried about how long we were taking, as we had told our friends in Montcuq that we would arrive for morning tea, so instead of persevering on the GR as it climbed towards the church, we took the descending road to the left, crossed the stream and turned up the right bank on the D45 as far as Rouilhac, where we rejoined the GR.
After a cursory glance at the church, we hurried off and soon came to where steep forest gave way to a bald, grassy plateau.
We walked along the D28 a short way, looking for the GR to Montcuq, which the map showed turning off a little after the variant GR. However, the map was wrong – both these branches left the road together and only divided after 100 metres or so.
We had to back-track slightly up the road to get it right. As if in confirmation, a pilgrim came struggling up as we started down, the first of the day, and was followed by several others, all mystified no doubt by our contrary conduct.
The last part of the track was a rough and precipitous decline, in a sort of green tunnel, that brought us out in the lowest street of the village, so that we had to climb slightly to get to the centre.
We remembered the town as we walked through it, the two bars face to face, the statue of Marianne, the little square above, the rising laneways to the church, and the street door of our friends’ house. It was 11:25 and morning tea was waiting.
For the rest of the day, we talked, lunched, washed, mended our clothes, shopped and finished with a fine Turkish meal in the evening.