Day 31: Vallon-en-Sully to Préveranges

Walking in France: Lingering over breakfast at le Sull'ys, Vallon-en-Sully
Lingering over breakfast at le Sull’ys

Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Distance 37 km
Duration 7 hours 35 minutes
Ascent 420 m, descent 256 m
Map 140 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

We were pleased that our first day of walking after our holiday in St-Amand-Montrond was not going to be long – only 14 km. That being the case, we dawdled over breakfast at the bar.

The energetic young barman was not too busy and stopped for a chat, during which we discovered that he was not really a local – he was actually Swiss, from Martigny.

Walking in France: The château at les Prugnes, and its mighty cedar
The château at les Prugnes, and its mighty cedar

It was almost 9 am when we hit the road, first going up to the church and then out into the countryside on a nameless small road.

Passing a pretty little château at les Prugnes, which was guarded by a cedar at least as old as it was, we crossed the autoroute (the A71).

Our road then faded to a wheel track, pleasantly shaded for the most part, which wandered circuitously across a stream before entering a wood carpeted with flowering thyme.

Walking in France: A flowery walk in the Bois du Délat
A flowery walk in the Bois du Délat

This wood, le Bois du Délat, was dissected by the usual starburst of forestry tracks, and when we emerged we joined a road that went up steeply to the village of Chazemais.

The village centre (if you could call it that) was at the intersection of five roads, with the church off to one side, looking slightly lonely.

There were no shops, but we saw a sign inviting passers-by to take refreshments in a small community room nearby.

It was only 11:30 am, so we thought we would do that, before walking the last few metres to the promised luxury of the camping ground.

Two smiling matrons welcomed us into their little tea-room, which was sparse but freshly painted, and which also sold newspapers, bread and a few tinned and bottled supplies. A little plate of biscuits arrived with our coffee and was much appreciated.

Walking in France: Refreshments in Chazemais - thank goodness the day's walk is done!
Refreshments in Chazemais – thank goodness the day’s walk is done!

Setting off at last, we saw a defunct municipal camping ground, of which only the wreck of the shower block remained, and immediately beyond that, our destination, the four-starred Domaine M.A.E.V.E.G.

On their website they had advertised camping, a covered swimming pool, convivial dining, take-away meals and a bar. We soon discovered that in reality, only the covered pool existed.

Apart from that, it was a parched piece of waste ground with a line of mean-looking cabins along one edge. There was no restaurant or bar, and when the woman in charge appeared, she told us that camping was not permitted.

Walking in France: Unbeknownst to us, this was lunch
Unbeknownst to us, this was lunch

We now had to decide what to do. Keith favoured going back to the defunct camping ground for the night, but as we had hardly any food, it would be a dreary way to spend the afternoon and evening.

Another possibility was to walk back to Vallon, which would mean giving up the rest of this year’s expedition (we were presently three days away from la Châtre).

Perhaps my mind was crazed by the heat of the sun, but I had the bright idea that we should keep walking to tomorrow’s destination, a mere 23 km further on. Our natural aversion to going back on our tracks also played a part, combined with my horror of lonely, desolate camping places.

We prevailed on the woman at the “Camping” to refill our water bottles, then strode off, feeling quite fresh and adventurous.

Walking in France: Getting very hot
Getting very hot
Walking in France: Feeling the heat
Feeling the heat

Taking a succession of small roads, wheel tracks and paths, we made good progress, but there was not much shade and the sun scorched down with ever increasing ferocity.

At about 2:30 pm we stopped for a rest beside the track, and ate some bread and cheese.

We were only about half an hour away from the village of Viplaix, which was supposed to have a bar, so we set off hopefully.

At the bottom of the rise leading to this hilltop town, we could not resist taking a little shortcut that was shown on our map.

Not sure this was a great idea

It turned out to be muddy, slippery and overgrown, but after pushing painfully up through a forest of nettles we reached the houses.

The bar was just around the corner, and as we walked up to it, a hostile face looked out and the shutters were pulled down from inside with a clatter.

There was not a soul in sight in the village, and we had no choice but to refill our empty water bottles from the fountain at the crossroads, despite the “eau non potable” sign.

We preferred to have an attack of gastro tomorrow than die of thirst today. We found out subsequently that the temperature had been 37°C that day, and yes, we did get the runs a couple of days later.

Walking in France: About to collapse
About to collapse

Another interminable trudge (actually only an hour) brought us to a rough, rising track that at least had the protection of overhanging trees.

As we hauled ourselves slowly upwards, Keith started to feel giddy and weak. He drank some water but to no avail, and soon he lost his balance completely and had to lie down.

It looked like heat stroke and I was very afraid, as we were in the middle of nowhere, far from help, with only a few mouthfuls of water left. After a while he rallied a bit and we crept onward.

The farmhouse at the top of the track was deserted, and although we walked all around it, we could not find a garden tap.

Walking in France: Saved in St-Palais! Two rounds of Orangina and a basin of crushed ice
Saved in St-Palais! Two rounds of Orangina and a basin of crushed ice

The only good thing was that we were now on a tar road, and after a while this joined a bigger one and I began to hope that we would reach the next village, St-Palais.

Keith was still shuffling along grimly as we got to the edge of the village. Meanwhile I saw a sports field with a sort of canteen beside it, so I went across and clambered over the counter into the kitchenette, where there was a tap. It was only then that I noticed that its handle had been removed.

Back on the road, I saw Keith waving from further up the street. When I got within earshot I heard him shout “We’re saved!” – he had found a little bar tucked away among the houses.

With great glee we went inside and ordered two rounds of Orangina, to which our sympathetic hostess added a basin of crushed ice. She was a plump old lady who was playing cards with her other customers at the next table.

Walking in France: Heading for Préveranges at 6:35 pm
Heading for Préveranges at 6:35 pm

It was after 6 pm and we were very tired, but happy. Madame refilled our water bottles and we only had to walk another five kilometres, half of them on grassy farm tracks, before entering the streets of Préveranges.

It looked prosperous and pretty with its rows of little white houses set in gardens, and we came to the camping ground before we got to the centre.

There was only one other tent there (unoccupied), and no campervans, but the grass was thick and the plane trees overhead were beautiful.

Walking in France: The award-winning Préveranges camping ground
The award-winning Préveranges camping ground

There was a certificate on the wall of the sanitaires, proudly announcing that they had won fifth prize in the Tidy Camping Ground competition, or some such, and we could well believe it.

We were in a hurry to get ourselves ready to go to the restaurant, as it was already 7:30 pm when we put our packs down, so I had a quick shower, and then Keith went to do the same.

After a few moments under the hot water he started to feel giddy again and had to stagger out, which showed how close he was still to heatstroke.

The main street was only a couple of hundred metres further on and we quickly found the little restaurant (au Moulin de Préveranges) with its shiny red sign, across the road from the Mairie.

Inside were a few old drunks and no sign of anyone in charge, but one of them shouted “Nicole!”, at which a tough looking woman appeared and announced, in answer to our enquiry, that they did not serve meals in the evening. No, there was nowhere else in town to eat either.

Walking in France: Our biggest meal of the day
Our biggest meal of the day

Almost too shocked to think, we started walking away, but then we decided that if we could not eat, at least we could drink, so we went back and got a carafe of wine and settled down to make the most of our situation.

In the end we had quite a cheerful conversation with the other customers before going back to our solitary vigil at the camping ground.

The only food we had was some cheese, a few scraps of bread and sausage, and half a cucumber. It did not look appetising and we found that we were almost too tired to eat. Consequently, I spent most of the night lying awake, probably from hunger.

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