Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tuesday April 23 Saint Guilhem de Désert to Saint-jean de la Blaquière

Bon Courage! On the Camino Frances as you set off everyone wishes you Buen Camino. Here in France everyone wishes you Bon Courage which we really needed today. What a tour de force! First of all we took care of the most important meal of the day, which I bought in the main square at 7:30am from the pâtisserie truck that shows up every morning and which consisted of three decadent pastries; a maple pecan Danish, a chocolate croissant and an elephant ear...oh and a demi-baquette. Not exactly the Fiber One or Greek Yogurt with fruit that we usually have but it takes care of business. When we left our gîte, it was only two short picturesque blocks before we reached the end of town and stood at the foot of the most majestic and formidable rocky cliff and naively crossed an innoocuos little bridge to set off up the mountain not realizing what was ahead for us. Those decadent morning calories were burnt off before our first rest break, ten minutes up the hill when we needed to shed two layers of jackets and sweaters. For the next two and a half hours it was relentlessly walkingup mountain switchbacks with only the sounds of heavy breathing and boots crunching over rocks. A wee bit treacherous too. One wrong step to the side and you risked tumbling head over heels all the way down back down. However, it was a glorious day. Blazing sun and magnificent views. And going uphill means your feet are always in dorsi flexion so toes are not jammed into the ends of your boots and ' if feet are happy', everything else can be happy. I took out my iPod to listen to some music but after only a few beats of Adele I turned it off and put it away. I didn't want anything to disturb the quiet peacefulness of this marvellous walk.

Last Fall, Dayton and I were participants in a medical research project with the hypothesis that walking over 10,000 steps a day and getting one's heart rate up to one's maximum target for 150 min a week improved cardiovascular health. Well, let me tell you, we are doing that and more on this walk. I am counting over 35,000 steps (to Dayton's 25,000) a day and our heart rates had to have up for eight hours straight today. If only one could 'bank' fitness!

With the terrain so rocky, I tend to keep my head down looking at the ground and my boots. At one point I was startled as I looked up to find a massive stone wall in front of me, the ruins of an ancient castle. Ten more steps and I would have barrelled right into it. We stopped there for a quick lunch and then started walking again, up and up. Around 2:30pm as we saw a sign that said pelerins (pilgrims) had a 2.1 km uphill walk for an estimated 1 1/2 hours (that's taking in difficulty). Dayton sighed and said, "If I quit right now, this would still be the most difficult hiking day I have ever done...ever!" But we didn't quit and kept walking for another couple of hours.

Other than the splendidly marvellous views, the highlight of the day was turning a corner in Arboras, another lovely quaint French village, and seeing a café. All along we have been so considerate of one another with decisions, "Would you like to stop here?" " Oh whatever you want is good with me"." Oh you decide and that's fine." So polite ad nauseam. This time I just said " I'm having a drink." However, everything I had hoped for was not available. The owner was rather affronted when I asked for a Diet Coke or failing that a Coke Zero, saying that he didn't do crass commercial drinks. He didn't have lemonade either but he did have limonade naturelle (la même chose) which turned out to be so refreshing and perfect. We only had three more hours of walking up hill and we finally 'peaked' and started down. We walked over eight hours for 26kms which with elevation equates to 32 kms, just like 22 C with humidity can feel like 35C. It sure felt like 32kms or more honestly 42kms. Is that because of age or lack of training? Julia told us that when Ricard left last night he gave us a back handed compliment, he said, " I hope I am as cool as those two when I am old like them." I'll take it!

In Saint-Jean de la Blaquière, we found a gîte, which at first we thought was 'complet' (full) but the lovely hospitalie offered us spaces in her maison. The bathrooms and kitchen living areas are great but the beds are in a sort of loft area. We must remember not to sit up in bed. We will hit our heads against the low roof. Seriously! We showered (and Julia had a bath in the second bathroom!!!) then went out to buy some groceries to make dinner. Another little bonus is that this is a wine making area and there are wine tastings at several wineries over the cocktail hour and the French version of a wine tasting is a full glass. We were definitely all over that. We really didn't even need to purchase a bottle of wine after the tasting but we wanted to be polite so we did. Surprised?

Dinner was pasta, chèvre frais and a tomato sauce and it was wonderful. We are sharing the gîte with an English couple who are now debating whether they are going to quit walking tomorrow. The wife has had enough and their agreement is that if she's unhappy they quit. Wish we'd have had that sort of a pre-nup. Actually today was as wonderful as it was tough and tomorrow is a short day so it will all be good.


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