Monday, 17 June 2019
Distance 15 km
Duration 4 hours 15 minutes
Ascent 450 m, descent 109 m
The morning was fine when we woke from a deep, satisfying sleep.
Having discovered yesterday that the village was almost totally defunct – little more than an assembly of sad, peeling relics of former prosperity – we decided to have breakfast at the camping ground, making use of the table outside the reception, the one that had been crowded with drinkers until late last night.
Our supplies of muesli this year were very small, as we intended to have a proper French breakfast of pastries and coffee whenever we could, but this was a morning when they were needed.
After that we strolled down the street in hopes that the grumpy woman had opened her bar, which she had, and she seemed a lot friendlier this morning.
Indeed the whole place looked brighter, with the blue-painted chairs and tables basking in the early sunshine, and a scattering of locals arriving for their first coffee of the day.
We sat inside, as the air was still cold, and had two rounds of deliciously hot, milky coffee, and the remains of the mighty sandwiches from last night’s dinner.
We even sampled a bit of dried fruit leather, made from apricots from our own garden.
It was almost 9 am by the time we set off again, crossing a footbridge over the Sioule and finding ourselves in a rather more salubrious, neater part of the village, and shortly afterwards, on a stiffly rising wheel track through a pine forest.
This cut off a long deviation on the road, and when we rejoined the bitumen at the top, we left it again almost immediately on another steep short-cut, past a château which was entirely hidden by trees.
We emerged onto an expansive upland and took a succession of little roads and tracks, all of them gently rising.
At a crossroads, an old man was waving a hoe ineffectively in a weedy vegetable bed.
I stopped to compliment him on his garden and he replied ruefully “Je ne peux plus!” (I can’t do it any more). Whether he was referring to his advanced age, or the fact that it was time for morning tea, we were left to wonder.
Later we stopped for a rest under a tree and I went off behind a blackberry bush to answer the call of nature.
Hidden from sight under some weeds was a deep ditch, into which I tumbled, and I had great difficulty getting out, with only the vicious spiny canes of the blackberry to hold on to. Luckily, nobody witnessed this undignified struggle, not even Keith.
Just past the hamlet of Gagne we lost our way, or rather the track we were following ceased to exist, but we found another, slightly longer track that went the same way.
When we passed the other end of the missing track, we saw that it was fenced off and ploughed over, and we realised that the farmer had done away with it.
A bit after midday the fields suddenly gave way to a newish housing estate, the precursor to the village of St-Georges-de-Mons, our destination.
It had been a short day’s walk, but necessarily so, unless we wanted to do a very long one to the next town.
The camping ground was at the end of a side avenue. It was a charming place with a circular drive enclosing an open grassy area, and hedged plots around the edge, facing the middle. A few caravans and tents were already in residence.
Throwing our packs down under a tree, we went back to the main street and called in at the hotel to check that we could eat there this evening.
The shocking reply was no, they would not be serving meals tonight. However there was a supermarket at the end of town, where we could buy food.
We set off straight away, afraid that the supermarket would close at 12:30, and after quite a long way we had still not come to it.
A couple of locals that we asked pointed encouragingly onwards, so we kept going, but had almost given up hope when we finally caught sight of it at the bottom of a long hill.
Luckily it was still open when we arrived, and we hurried around the aisles, collecting sausage, a soft cheese, a baguette, two tomatoes, a cucumber and a bottle of wine, plus some olives to add a touch of class to our evening picnic.
On the way back we were much more relaxed and stopped for coffee at one of the several bars.
As usual we asked at all the bars that we passed what time they opened in the morning, and the earliest by far was the hotel (7 am).
At about 1:30 pm we arrived back at the camping ground. The office was closed and a sign said that it was only open from 10 to 12 every morning, which meant that our stay would be free.
After ablutions we lay on our mats and ate some of our newly bought supplies, then stretched out for a rest.
In no time we were blissfully asleep, no doubt still catching up on the 43 hours of sleepless travel from Australia.
The grass was soft and the dappled shadows of the trees overhead passed over us like mild breezes.
Our evening meal was slightly grander than lunch, in that it began with olives and glasses of wine, or more accurately, plastic jars of wine.
For the main course we finished off the baguette and the wine, and made great inroads on the rest of our supplies.
We were just tidying up when a young couple walked over from the opposite side and asked us whether we would join them in a game of belote, the national card game of France.
They were from the vicinity of Nantes, and the man, Martin, was in the tourism trade, so he was pretty fluent in English.
She was less so, but we had an enjoyable evening learning the rules of this rather simple game, which was a bit like the Australian game called 500.