Sunday, 22 June 2008
Distance 13 km
Duration 2 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 28 m, descent 156 m
Map 60 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
The weather had turned at last to full summer, but even so we did not make our usual early start. It was 7:30 before we set off, back along the dirt road to the highway, where we continued as we had done yesterday, beside the bitumen.
Before long we came down a long hill and crossed the border into the department of the Drôme, at the same time changing to a new region (Rhône-Alpes).
At the bottom of the hill was the village of Verclause, clustered around the bridge, attractive but completely devoid of amenities except for a big warehouse-like supermarket, which was closed.
Poor Keith needed to stop walking but he could not. The highway continued beside the river and we struggled on as the heat intensified. At least it was slightly downhill.
At 10 o’clock we came to the turn-off to Rémuzat, where there were several signs to bars and restaurants, so things looked hopeful.
As soon as we crossed the bridge we saw the entrance to the camping ground, looking tidy, flowery and inviting. We booked in and threw down our packs under a tree. Although we did not know it, we had taken our last steps on this year’s walk.
Stopping only to change into sandals, we took the footpath behind the houses to the village.
Through stony lanes with fruit trees leaning over the walls, past the church, where a baptism was taking place, we emerged into the square, a wide paved area shaded by plane trees, with two flourishing cafés.
Relieved and grateful, we sat down for the first coffee of the day. We were worried about how we were going to proceed tomorrow, but for now we just indulged in the moment.
At the next table were a couple from Yorkshire, who heard us speaking English and introduced themselves. They also were staying at the camping ground, in a caravan, and offered to lend us two folding chairs when they found out that we had none.
Back at the camping ground, we spent the rest of the day doing as little as possible.
After showers, we set up our tent and had lunch sitting on the chairs that our excellent neighbours, Pat and John, had lent us, under an umbrella that they had also produced.
Then we lay down until 6 pm, when we were summoned to have a beer with this admirable couple.
For dinner we walked back to the village and ate at the hotel restaurant. Keith had an entrecôte as usual and I had aïoli, which was lovely although we were no longer in Provence.
We fell asleep not knowing what we would be doing in the morning.
If you are not lucky enough to meet saints like Pat and John, there is a school bus each weekday morning to Nyons. From there, take another bus to either Avignon, Orange or Montélimar which all have railway stations. From there you can go to almost anywhere in France.
It was clear next morning that Keith’s walking days were over for this year. He could hardly move without pain, and was in the depths of despair.
We had a day’s rest in Rémuzat, being looked after by our Yorkshire friends, and ended up sharing a splendid home-cooked dinner with them that night.
We told them that we would get the school bus next morning down the valley to Nyons and make our way to Avignon from there.
Suddenly and unconvincingly, they announced that they, by chance, were going to Nyons tomorrow and could give us a lift. Before we left the next morning we had a true British breakfast outside their caravan.
Driving down the hot highway, we felt like royalty as we skimmed effortlessly along. The Huntingtons dropped us at the camping ground and the next day we got a bus to Avignon, hired a car and spent a month touring the Camargue, the Rhône valley, the Vercors, the Alps, Beaujolais, Burgundy, the Jura, the Vosges, Alsace and Champagne.
Keith was never out of pain and when we finally got back to Australia he was told by his doctor that the operation to remove his kidney stone had not been successful, and that he still had two large sharp fragments embedded in his kidney.
Another operation was needed to remove them, after which he returned to perfect health.