Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Distance 24 km
Duration 4 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 173 m, descent 403 m
Map 141 of the TOP 100 lime-green series
The morning bus in the direction of Tronget left the bus stop near our camping place at 6:40 am, and we had time to walk the couple of hundred metres to the spotless public toilets that we had found last night, to perform our ablutions.
It was a lovely feeling to be sailing along in the bus, with all our worries and travails behind us, and the prospect of breakfast at the Tronget hotel.
It was not quite 7 o’clock when we stepped off the bus, and the place was still locked up, but monsieur saw us through the glass door and let us in.
He enquired whether we had slept well, and we smilingly said that we had, not wanting to provide any more details of our accommodation.
Although it was not officially time for breakfast, he politely ushered us into the empty breakfast room and we had an enjoyable feast of pastries and coffee, refilling our cups several times from the machine.
We were in a light-hearted mood as we set off up the road, past the church which was the most interesting building in the village (the eastern end is from the twelfth century, while the facade is a modern mock-up) and out into the fields.
We descended to Rocles, a modest little place consisting of a Mairie, a school and some cottages, and turned onto a thread of a road which brought us, after half and hour, to an even smaller road leading to a farm (Trapière).
Here the road veered suddenly to the left, but straight ahead was a track that our map showed as a good short cut. It was a well-worn farm track going past fields of sheep, but after a while we came to a rope barrier with a “No Entry” sign.
We were tempted to ignore it, especially as we had not seen a soul at the farm, but in the end we turned back, remembering a couple of recent debacles caused by over-confidence on tracks.
The road was only slightly more circuitous and was hardly more than a track itself, with its bitumen surface overlaid with lichen.
We crossed a gushing stream (which may have been the obstacle on the farm track) and started to climb, then as the road began to twist down through a forest, we took a short cut, probably on the original road, now deemed too steep for modern cars.
Rejoining the road at the bridge, we walked up into the prosperous looking village of Buxières-les-Mines, with its pale stiletto-like church steeple.
At close quarters it did not look quite as prosperous. The first couple of bars that we came to were derelict or closed, and it was only when we turned into the main street that we found a café.
Actually it was only a boulangerie (and it had run out of croissants), but it had a coffee machine and a few tables and chairs on the footpath outside.
There was a little market in the street, and people were bustling in and out of the supermarket next door.
We were pleased enough with our small plastic cups of coffee, although the only shade was from a banner dangling limply nearby. It was 10:30 am and we had been walking for three hours.
Leaving the village, we walked due west on the D290 for an hour, mostly along a ridge, after which we entered a plantation of tall deciduous trees and the road degenerated into a forestry track, as mathematically straight as a Roman road.
The forest in its summer glory was a pleasure to walk through.
We passed the central point where several of these ruler-straight tracks met, and in due course emerged from the trees onto another road, the D22, which was not such a pleasure, but did the job of getting us to our destination, the town of Cosne d’Allier.
Having crossed the little river Aumance in its emerald green meadows, and walked past a long stretch of suburban houses, we got to the main street, a veritable canyon of thriving shops.
It looked just what we had hoped for. However, on closer inspection we found that the restaurant (le Globe) and the bar next to it were both closed for renovations, and we could see nothing better than a take-away pizza shop for our evening meal.
We turned dejectedly towards the camping ground, which was a good kilometre away on the northern outskirts of the town, and immediately came to a long market square going off to the right, with trees and a bandstand at the end, and trucks parked in the middle.
To our great delight, there was a restaurant/bar/hotel there (l’Escale), and lunch was in full swing. Most of the diners were large, meaty men, no doubt the owners the trucks.
We stopped for a very welcome coffee of arrival at an outdoor table, and confirmed that the restaurant would be open in the evening. It was part of the Routiers chain, set up especially for the comfort of truck drivers, and we had previously had the pleasure of their hospitality several times.
Pressing on up the road, we found the camping ground after passing many houses and then a great expanse of sports fields. It was attractively shady and grassy, and adjoined the town swimming pool.
Nobody official was in sight, so we set ourselves up, and just then the owner arrived and invited Keith to go with him to book in.
He said that we would need to be patient with the camping showers, as the hot water came all the way from the swimming pool change room.
He was not wrong – a good five minutes passed, not to mention countless litres of cold water, before the warm water arrived.
When we got back to the tent, a family was playing a game of boules nearby, and the woman kindly explained the rules to me. She said that she was Swiss, but her husband had been brought up in Cosne d’Allier and still had parents here. She was a bit of a walker herself and asked us how much our packs weighed on such a long walk. Naturally she was impressed when we mentioned 7kg.
Later, nicely dressed in our so-called evening clothes (long pants and a clean T-shirt), we walked back to l’Escale for dinner.
The large front room included both the bar and the dining tables, and we sat inside, as it was a bit too cool to eat on the terrace.
Our waiter was a gigantic prize-fighter of a man with a mild and courteous manner. He was so huge that he had to duck his head to get through the door of the kitchen.
We began with a plate of charcuterie and another of crudities, simple but delicious fare, with fresh bread to soak up the juices. Then we both had paupiette de veau with sauce forestière and pasta, which was warm, flavoursome and satisfying.
To finish the meal, Keith had a cake and I had an elaborate spread of cheese.
As we were paying the bill, the giant waiter asked us where we were going and was horrified when we said Poitiers, but one of the other customers reminded him (and us) that it was only two and a half hours away by car. It was a shocking thought in all sorts of ways.
We were not surprised to learn that the bar would be open early in the morning, and once again blessed the name of the Routiers.