Tony, Tim, Betsy & Ray's (not forgetting Geoff) 2014 Camino

GR65 (France), GR11 & Camino del Norte (Spain)

The Great Cherrystone Spitting Contest

The Great Cherry Stone Spitting Contest. A short day and pilgrims have to rest and find simple amusements so shopping is done for evening meal. Tthe whole team milling around in a supermarket Ray is found outside with fruit snd veg and a bag of lovely looking cherries. As we return Tony tells of an all night cherry stone spitting contest he was involved in while waiting at a night hike scout checkpoint and claims supernatural abilities with respect to distance. A tourney is decided upon and Betsy, strongly suspecting she is outclassed declines to take part. Chairs are linned up and spitting, and eating begins. It quickly becomes apparent that Ray is also not up to the standarf involved and he becomes the finder and judge of distance. A hard fought battle between Tony and Tim ensues. After a lucky bounce shot puts Tim well ahead Tony claims to be at a disadvantage as his previous competition had been on a down gradient and this is upward. Ray in his role of adjudicator declares "change ends at half time" Betsy after a couple of seconds says " thats disgusting", after another couple of seconds the whole team collapses laughing, this is so unlike Betsy. At the end nothing is left but a few cherry pits in the leaf mold of the forest floor a the ghosts of laughter among the oak trees.


17.05.114 Saturday Cajarc to Limoges en quercy. We find the campsite lateish yesyerday but the weather is still warm and fine and the washing is dry by the time we are back from town. Dinner involves ratatouille and Forcas from the charcuterie. These were good but we are still discussing just what they contain. The night is warm right until 5am and the tents dry while we have breakfast. As usual the route takes the direct way up onto the high ground over the Lot and a steady climb though oak woods leads eventually to a coffee stop run by a Koi pond by Pierre at St Jean de Laur. This stop has built by one who considers the needs of pilgrims it is s cool spot by water with a wealth of local information about Phosphate mining in the 19th C, though the trsnslations are very dodgy. We continue along across the Causse, the French term for limestone uplands and stop for lunch in a field with different orchids to the granite uplandsand fritillarys one of whom shows an interest in Betsy's rucksack. After a littleup and down we arrive at Limoges en quercy where the bar is heaving and we are ingnored for 20 mins so move on and pitch up st the campsite. 18.5 km 600 m ascent 400m descent


16.05.14 Friday Figeac to Carjac. A large walk today 34km so this will be brief The weather was clear blue skies hot at mid afternoon especially up hills. Lots of butterflies including swallowtails and clouds of blue butterflies and a red squirrel. Last night on the camp site Geof saw another and also a hoopo. He , Geof , has gone home now we miss him but he should rejoin us in a few weeks when he stops stunning people. We saw a lot of bories round farm buildings in fields with rooves of flat concentric stones without any supports. The general terrain has changed and we are now in limestone country, as we descend finally into Carjac there is a classic Derbyshire type overhang cave that obviously often has more water coming down it than at present.


15.05.15 Thursday Livinhac en haute to Fiigeac. A good night and a heavy dew mean that tents are soaked againe we pack and start to walk in the mist from the river into town. Any leave the empty bottle outside the little Alimentation as Tim promised in lieu of a deposit. And get some Tresses d.'Ange and a Pakin ai Rasin for Ray. Plus a baguette and then walk a long way till lunch there are no really big ascents but still we undulate up and down. Highlights are many Red Kites trying to rise on thermals after catching small beasts in the hay mowing process. And stopping for lunch at a village football pitch and seeing, maybe, the team captain on his tractor turning the hay mown on the pitch the previous day maybe by their striker. Who knowsmaybe this is another camino fantasy. Later two green blue headed lizards vanish into a ditch and a grass snake alarmed by Tony rushes out in front of the rest, thankfully Ray got the best view. Eventually we make landfall in the campsite outside Figeac and Betsy crashes out while the boys pester a surprisingly helpful young lady in the Tourist office.


14.05.14 Wednesday. Conques to Livinac le Haut. After pizzas not as good as those who stayed here before remember and a good warm nights sleep we have a petit dejuner on campsite an cross the old pilgrim bridge over the Lot and go up up up half way up we find a chapel with a stainef glass pilgrim and stop to gasp for breath we are not alone the couple with thier kitchen sink on a travois are working even harder. This seems to us to be carrying suffering a bit far. Much of the day is on high ridges above the Lot Valley but we have rise and fall to covet a shorter distance than the river who we end beside. In theean time Tim have got a new pair of shoes in Decazeville. A Long day but excellent walking country. 27km 1240m ascent 1300m descent


13.05.14 Tuesday Golinac to Conques. Yesterdays report was a bit short as time needed to be taken for emergency repairs to Tims shoes these were bought and trialled for this trip and have been very comfortable but are falling apart after a 100 miles or so. They will be going back but the problem is getting them home and a new pair. Various options are being considered bhut in the meantime surgical sutures are holding things together. Today was a day of donkeys several at various times including one gracious enough to accept sugar lumps from Betsy who will be returning later with dental advice and a toilet brush for his teeth. Eventually we decended from the high plataeu down into the hidden valley containing Conques a very old abbey and well preserved medieval town. After a brief look around on down to the campsite in the valley bottom. On arrival in blue skies we start to put up tents, the wind howls the skies open two tents are up two scuttle off to the toilet block. Is this divine retribution should we have lit a candle in the church to St Roche? Who knows we seem ok and the skies clear but remain threatening so little drying of washing is achieved. Another day of washing on our packs tomorrow. 22km 700 m ascent 1000m descent

12.05.14 Monday

12.05.14 Monday. Espalion to Golinac. The bread to go with the breakfast at 5e arrives ar 6.30 we are walking by 8am and pass down the bank of the Lot and start to climb steeply after the convent at St Pierre, this is not the only climb of the day but it is the biggest up through oak woods and occassional meadows until we are high above the Lot valley. After a bit of high level walking we descend down to the Lot again at Estaing where that scion of nobility Gistard sprang from but the statue on the bridge is of a forbear Francois. We proceed down the Lot and then start to climb again up to plateau level. The route undulates a little and arrives at the village of Gollinac where the Alimentation opens for 1 hour even on a Monday evening to allow walkers to buy food our gamble has paid off and we have not carried a quantity of food up 1200 m unnecessarily. Tim found this day quite hard and is glad there is a bar on the campsite. 28 km 1200m ascent


10.05.14 Sunday. St Cheilly d Aubrac to Espalion. A night warm enough but with rain in the small hours sees us up and fighting fit except for Betsy complaining of a poor nights sleep due to Tims snoring. No one else heard anything but the stream and the rain. Yesyerday we crossed the departement boundary into Aveyron and the watershed in to the Lot valley, today after a lot of descent we croosef the Lot at St Clome d Olt a town with a twisted spire to its church and both Tony and Tim independently were pleased to note its membership of the society of bent spires of Europe! This does exist and we have seen some before, many of them were deliberately made with green wood to produce the imperfection that was felt more appropriate at the time for a tribute to their God. We find a bar open on a Sunday opposite the fountain just off the route through town it is full of walkers two young dogs playing and quite a quantity of flies, a bit worrying at this time of year. But the town is quite pictureque with a lot of old narrow streets. After crossing the Lot and leaving the Sunday quiet streets behind we part company and Tony Ray and Geof haul themselves up a route via a Virgin on a hill and add a gratuitous 400m up and down a very muddy motor cycle cross route. Betsy and Tim amble by road into into Espalion finding the first sicnificant roaf kill for Betsy' s cauldron. On arrival the bad news is the campsite opens tomorrow! The Gite d etape communale has beds and so we have an expensive night at 20e inc petit dejuner, it's not even cold as an excuse. We discover that the town claims ss it's famous son a Luitenant Denayrouze who invented the first independent diving machine which was trialled in 1864 in the River Lot. A meal in a pizzaria is excellent but the kitty yet again needs feeding.


10.05.14 Saturday Nasminals to St Chiely. Last night we arrived at the campsite about a km out of town and found it open and with a comunal area that is warm and useful however the french youff on his 250cc bike zooming along the footpath at the edge of the site was less than spiritually up lifting. He was fortunate he gave up for his tea before we placed Tim's washing line at neck level on his track. Afraid we are old geysers who want our rest. A reasonably warm night inspite of the altitude and a misty sun appears briefly at 6.30 we walk back into the village to get pastries and bread. We brew up on the trusty MSR petrol stove and are admired by all those passing from gites in the village. Most of whom we pass again on the route that once again follows a line over grass just getting into its growth spurt. We see a good few of the 2000 odd species of plants covering the area. The invasion of cows from the lowlands, has not yet occurred and this traditional transhumance is scheduled for 2 weeks time when a few thousand people will flock to the area for the ceremony. In the meantime orchids cowslips and a host of other plants remain uneaten and untrampelled. After 3or 4 hours we descend a little to Aubrac the site of a pilgrim hospital in the Midfle ages and still a religious retreat today. The cafe there has a selection of pastries that we have to beat Geof off as lunch in an upland meadow is only half an hour away. The orchids roll by and we descend into the vallegy of St Cheilly in the departement of Averyron. As we go down time seems to speed up to normal as we pass through the zone of dandelion flowers into the area where they have already clocked off. Occasionally rough the way is well graded and we tramp on down to the campsite at good speed except for Geof who's ankle is giving problems. Still it doesnt have far to go for this part of the trip. It is also time to thank those who have made, soldier or donated kit for the trip. First thanks to Andy M for the macrame bag for the pans then thanks to Gemma and Mark for sorting Tims shoes a second Camino started with a whingeing Tigger would be too much and finally Henry Spires for a tent that seems to be ideal for the trip. 18km 500m up 850m down.


9.05.14 Friday . Aumont Aubrac to Nasbinals. A good night in the warm of the Gite Route D'Aubrac with coffee on donativo (honesty box) in the morning and a boulangerie next door open at 6.30 in the morning. This is useful as Ann and Jane catch the bus that is replacing the train to Clermont Ferrand and the link from this area to the rest of the world. We walk off across the temporarily dysfunctional rail tracks and join the GR65 up and out of the world over the granite upland that is the heart of the Massif Central. We hit the high spot of 1295m and are at 1100m tonight in the confusef Municipal campsite just outside Nasbinals. It is confusing to have a Municipal sign saying camping opens 19.5 and the Tourist Office claiming it open, we were in doubt and this did not help, but such is normal in small town France. The walk starts in sunshine and just as it is getting a bit warm clouds roll over and a perfect day over fields of boulders wild daffodils dandelions Anemone pulsatila and afew yellow orchids. We climb 660m and decend almost as much in out undulationss across this country at a hieght above that of Snowdon. After 26 km we arrive in Nasbinals and get food and a couple of beers before going on to the nice little site and a hopefully warm night. Not as far tommorrow.