Friday, 28 June 2002
Distance 25 km
Map 57 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
It was clear from the map that the best way from here to Cahors was straight down the Lot on the GR36-46.
The usual early start had us swinging along the river flats below the village by 7 am, through fields of asparagus and sunflowers.
Then a rocky promontory, rising sheer from the water, barred our way, or seemed to, but our path entered a sort of recessed shelf in the rock just above river level.
This was the ancient towpath, chipped out laboriously by hand in the days when the Lot was a busy commercial highway, before the railway killed it.
After this impressive passage we were amongst crops again, although the track was overgrown with nettles, which reminded us that we were no longer on the well-trodden pilgrimage, We had to stop and zip on the lower legs of our convertible pants.
Past the houses of Bouziès another rocky promontory barred our way, but this time there was no Chemin de Halage and we had to exert ourselves clambering up to the plateau (the French verb ‘grimper’ is one we do not like to see in the guidebook).
Once there it was flat enough, with scrubby oaks and fields of black-eared Quercy sheep. The track joined a small road and we sat down for a bite of food.
One of our fellow walkers came by, a Belgian that we had chatted with a few times before.
He was doing the religious version of the walk, staying in lonely gîtes or presbyteries, not eating very well. He had not had bread for two days, so we nobly gave him the half-baguette we had got in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, and had unadorned cheese and sausage for lunch.
The way dipped down to the river, then climbed slightly to Pasturat, pretty but deserted.
From here, to our disgust, we found ourselves labouring back up to the causse and traversing a long undulating track through the oaks, with occasional glimpses of the river far below.
The GR36 parted company with the GR46 here and we took the latter, which plunged in business-like fashion to the village of Béars and crossed the river into Vers.
Although it has been hacked to pieces by a main road and the railway, Vers has also benefited from them and is now a well-visited place with restaurants and cafes, one of which we happily patronised for the first coffee of the day.
In due course we wandered down to the camping ground on the riverbank, conveniently close to town, and established ourselves on the grassy verge under a tree.
Returning later in search of dinner, we chose the old travellers’ inn called la Truite Dorée. The dining room was deserted but the terrace was packed with enthusiastic diners.
We began with an elaborate salad crowned with a small goat’s cheese, then partook of the crock of paté that was making its way from table to table.
Next we had steak and a confit of fowl and finished with coffee and prune icecream.
I heard the bells of the church striking the hours as I tried to find a comfortable position in the tent. The hip-hole I had dug in the turf to accommodate my hip was in the wrong place and I had a hip-hump instead.