For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 21 October 2011

Saint Genix To Le Pin

This stage of the route was not as demanding as yesterday's, and I easily managed 30 km. Any traces of early morning mist vanished as the sun climbed, and the day turned fine and warm. I passed a lavoir, or public washing-place, where, in the old days, women of the village would congregate to wash their clothes. One can imagine it must have been a social as well as a laundry event...


Not far from the lavoir I came across this old stone barn...


... and this cross, la Croix du Brocard...


In Les Abrets I drank a cup of coffee, and in Valencogne appreciated this homespun but lovingly tended Camino 'tower'. Who says that something which looks at first glance like a public toilet can't be a temenos? The coquilles were unmistakable...


... and another small statue of Saint James occupied the niche...


The countryside became softer and flatter now, with gently rolling hills and shallow, populated valleys. Cows grazed placidly in green pastures, and I noted crops of maize, sunflowers and the occasional strip of millet. The landscape here reminded me of Burgundy, but with more trees...


This view of cultivated fields and scattered homesteads was particularly pleasing...


I saw a dead snake lying crushed on the road. The road margins were lined with yellow St John's Wort, the well known medicinal plant. Back on the path, grasshoppers bounced out of my way, flashing the blue (sometimes red) undersides of their wings (I thought they were dragonflies for an instant). I peeked down a private track at this old farm...


After Valencogne the Way followed a ridge densely forested with sweet chestnut trees. The path through this arboreal paradise was quite magical. Split chestnut husks crunched beneath my boots. A red squirrel scampered daintily past and shimmied up a tree. (Red squirrels are rare in England, where they are on the run from the ubiquitous and aggressive grey squirrel, an American 'import'.) A vocal, lone raven flew directly overhead, discussing something indecipherable with itself. Buzzards mewed and drifted across the sky. And jays - those avian guardians of the forest - screeched raucously at my approach, sounding for all the world like the noisy parakeets I'd heard a year before in Málaga.

Every now and then a lizard skittered through the fallen leaves. And a dormouse - blue-grey above, white underneath, with huge eyes and ears and a very long tail - careered brokenly across the path, veering now left, now right, then freezing and gulping air uncomprehendingly. It was obviously suffering from some serious injury - perhaps a brain injury, as its body looked unmarked. I hadn't the courage to put it out of its misery, and walked on, vaguely troubled. I had never seen a dormouse before in the wild - they are so rare in Britain - and was grieved to find my first one in such a lamentable state.

Once I was out of the forest, the views opened up again. Here's a shot of distant cliffs taken from a field of harvested maize...
 

Towards the end of the afternoon I dreamt my way down to the village of Le Pin. It's lovely, don't you think?


Here I stayed the night with Roland and Elizabeth, a most kind and friendly retired couple who open their house to pilgrims at a modest recompense. They were so generous to me, the Solitary Walker, and I will never forget them. I had a shower. I washed my clothes. I dined with them, and we talked long into the evening. (I had to speak in French, for they spoke little English - so it was pretty exhausting!)

For dinner they gave me an aperitif (they'd already pressed on me a couple of refreshing beers on my arrival), a salad entrée, a main course of spiced chicken and rice (with wine, naturellement!), a selection of a dozen local cheeses, an ice-cream, chocolate and cream dessert, and a Chartreuse cocktail digestif. When I asked how they could possibly afford to give all their pilgrim guests such an expensive digestif, they replied with a wink: 'We don't give it to everybody. Just the special ones!' I felt so touched and moved by this...
  

8 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your daily blogs on this gentle walk are havens of peace and tranquility in a world which seems to have gone mad at present Robert.

George said...

What a day to keep in your memory, to replay over and over when you are trying to recall the happiest moments of life. Roland and Elizabeth seem like such a terrific couple. Based on my own experience, I'm struck by how a single, brief encounter with special people can create such rich and happy memories.

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Robert I am not sure it was all the village women who worked at the lavoirs. From what I was told by a couple of Frenchwomen at a couple of lavoirs I saw on the Le Puy route, it was some of the poorer women who did this job for others. And they did it in all weathers even when the water was icy. The women who told me about it seemed to find lavoirs to be very special places, and they seemed to admire the poor women who did all the washing.

Goat said...

They really know how to eat over there, eh?

A really enjoyable piece, SW. I loved your description of the birds and other wildlife.

ksam said...

Reading all that...I need something to settle my stomach!

semi live stories said...

very nice blog. wonderful photos :)

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Karin (ksam): what you need is another camino. With pulpos. Semi live stories: thanks for visiting, and hope to see you again!

Ruth said...

So delightful . . . the scenes, the naturalist writing, the new friends who treated you so well, and even that dreaded imported aggressive American has his charms. ;)