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

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


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.

8.05.14 Thursday

8.05.14 Thursday. St Alban to Aumont Aubrac. The night was cool by 4am and very misty and dewy when Ray and Tim wandered back to town for bread via the off road GR65 route taking in the local cross on a hill. Inspite of a very leisurely start the sun has failed to break through enough to dry out very wet tents. But soon we are bowling along in bright sunshine spotting the obligatory red kite as well as hearing the cuckoo and countless LBJs chirpping in trees and bushes at 950-1000m. Countless stone crosses later we spot another Camberwell Beauty butterfly that Ray is pleased to see this time and a cuckoo flys across the track in front of Tim at point just then. All in all a good days walk to round off the trip for Jane and Ann who return home tomorrow leaving Geof to continue with the hard core of Betsy, Ray, Tony and Tim for a few more days Aumont Aubrac is a nice little town and we have some shopping to do and a longer walk tomorrow.


7.05.14 Wednesday. Chanallielles to St Albans. In a gite last night very comfortable in our dormitory for 7. With an excellent evening meal in the bar, soup salade veal stew cheese and flan. Oh and enough red wine to wash it down. The morning at 100m plus is cool and damp, light rain falls intermittently all morning clearing after a drop in temperature as the cold front passes to the SE. We climb up and down in mixed forest and soon reach the extensive gite of Le Sauvage where we get coffee even though they had no room for us last night when we rang and later the fountain dedicated to our old friend St Roque whose statue as well as being well coloured and has him showing his poorly leg also shows the dog that fed him bread during his illness ftom plague. We have cake and cheese for lunch except as the bread delivery was after we left the gitre and there are no bakers between here and St Albans, except Geof who has his bag of nuts and Tim with 3 bits of yesterday's bread nicked from breakfast. By now the sun has come out and we bowl along spotting a jay and two male bullfinches and decend into St Alban shop and continue out to a pleasant zite on the far side of town.

Day 5

A grey and drizzly start to the day with a trip up the hill to the bar for a breakfast on yesterday's bread. A longish day at over 20km with the most interesting point the fountain and chapel of St. Roch. Plenty of black slugs and dung beetles but it's hard to get excited about them! Everyone relieved to reach St Alban, and quick to dump packs and head into the bar for a drink before shopping and heading for the campsite outside town.

Four days walking completed

Finished the first 4 days doing a fairly relaxing 10 miles or so per day (and no blisters yet!). Weather varied with some rain, wind, a little sunshine and one night so cold there was ice on the tent in the morning. Alternating nights camping with more luxurious nights in gites. As usual I'm forever being distracted by flowers and wildlife. Yesterday we found a poplar hawk moth on a tree beside our tents, today's treat was a midwife toad sitting on our path with eggs. Jenny - yes you are right, the dandelions are amazing, and we also like the daffodils and pansies. Katie & Richard - maybe you should try a Camino holiday (see photo of family with donkey).

6.05.14 Tuesday

6.05.14 Tuesday. Saugues to Chanalailles. A warmer night and no frost on the tent means a happy start and a pleasant amble in very light cloud and a day at a near perfect walking temperature. There are yet more examples of the wood hackers obsession as we pass out of town and a sign to a Celtic stone in a wood which appears no different to the many other stones littering the fields but presumably the local druids know otherwise. The extensive fields of dandelions continue to amaze and cows seem to be being released to graze from their winter captivityso these will soon disapper into milk. We are as well as being on the GR65, on a local round walk of three towers one of which soon appears along with a local legend about two infant deaths and Original Sin and two frogs who bit the sister and got their blessing. Very confused tale about the stone cross just outside the 12th C tower where we were led by Buster the dog of the day an amiable spaniel sort of. Soon after lunch we arrive at our bed for the night a pleasant warm gite and short time later it sgtarts to rain the wood burning stove is fine for drying washing as well as hot showers.


5.04.14 Monday Saugues to Sauges As was predicted last night was cold (very -3) we are equipped for lightness and warmer climes than 3000 ft in the Massif Central. There was ice on the tents this morning. Tim can report that his new Mountain Equipment Helium duvet is adequate (with every other item of clothing) but another duck would not go amiss! There are mallards on the stream they may be at risk, unlike the crested tits high in the trees around our tents. Today is a day of rest, the plan such as it is calls for us to arrive in Aumont Aubrac in 4days tme so that Jane and Ann who have only agreed to s short pilgrimage can get a bus back the Clermond Ferand and thence a train home. Geof continues for a while longer until his return home to retire and rejoin us later. We therefore have a very slack time and a day in hand to laze away in Sauges. Fortunately the day is beautiful and we laze it away on the campsite warching the crested tits and a red kite wheeling just above us. A walk around town and we see many more wood carvings in prominent places their ceator must have been a previous mayor or relative they are everywhere. Also in the livestock line we spot a Poplar Hawkmoth and a Camberwell Beauty butterfly as well as the small trout in the stream ten yards from our tents. 0 km 0metres ascent


4.05.14 Sunday. Monistrol to Saugues. A good evening meal in the restaurant up the hill from the campsite in Monistrol cooked by the Englishman from Cheddar who talked for England. A cold night and the day starts with rapid breakfast and an early start for Geof and Tim the Sprinter group whose task it is to reach Saugu4.05.14 es before midday when everything closes, one on the perils of walkinvg in France. There is a choice between shopping and carrying or getting to ones destination before midday we opt for the latter and the sprint up 500 m of the cliffs above the Allier is ok except for the steps that go on just a bit longrr than is comfortable. It is ip into the cloud and at 700m the wind is a bit chill. By midday the promised sun appears and things get a little warmer though the wind still bites as we all sit for lunch under the wood statue of the Beast of Gevaudan that ate over 100 locals in the 18th century. The campsite by the river is excellent but this may be more due to the sunshine and relative warmth than any particulsr merit. Further to the story of the Beast of Gevaudan the usual camino fantasy started to erupt over dinner, Geof decided that the particular po int that the beast selected young women and children suggested that it was not a non human beast at all but a serial sex offender, Tim suggested someone in a position of power and Ray said a local priest, protected by the estsblished church. The whole took flight with the suggestion of a screen play that would chome with modern happenings and the posibillity of the priest o question becoming pope and being played by an elderly Peter Cushing descended into farce or certainty depending on taste. The evening ended with a clear blue sky and worries for a very cold night. About 13km and 700 m of ascent.

3.05.14 Saturday.

23.05.14 Saturday. Monbonnet to Monistrol. A very nice gite at the Bar St Jaques out of the cold wind and light rain has given us a good nights sleep. The evening meal was of course sausage and lentils. We have seen the lentils growing but not the pigs so maybe its not only local food that is supplied for tourists Once more in the morning the route goes up and then descends into the valley of the Allier and up and over to the Allier again. Great views across volcanic valleys are again marred by low cloud and mist. However two donkeys at Roche Gude just under a spectacularly placed chapel over looking Monistrol de Allier provide entertainment for Betsy who reslises a little late in her photograph the males obvious intrest in his companion. There is a lot of descent before that town with its bridge built by Gustave Effiel over the Allier is reached, and the paths are steep and slippy. The routr is much more like a GR than the Camino in Spain and we see a couple more signs advising a different route in heavy rain. Monistrol has two camp sites the Municipal in the valley below just off route and another near the church on the route. The latter is closed and appears to be a private site posibly only opened for religious groups in the summer months after a beer we retrace our steps to the deserted municipal and pitch up for the night about 1500 hrs. 15km 500 m ascent 1000m descent

2.05.14 Friday

05.14 Friday After dinner salad nicoise sort of, we finish the 5l cubi of Herault rouge ( not bad really 7people 2nights) and wander round LePuy in occassional drizzle and crawl off to bed. The forcast for tomorrow is not great but we set off in lowish cloud without rain. Up out of LePuy , soon we are above the level of the puys and out on very well signed footpaths. There are a good number of information boards in English as well as French, the GR65 here may well be the most walked in France by many nationalities and even on a Friday in May there are a good number of people on the route. We are traversing the largest basaltic plateau in France and the soil after the rocks are removed supports fields of green lentils with their own AOC status. Most of the rocks are in the walls and a few make shepperd huts called chibouts. Unfortunately none of these are large enough for 7 people and lunch is in intermittant rain in the doubtfull shelter of a tumble down wall. In more clement conditions the views over the plateau would be great. In worse it could well become a nightmare. Along the route are many stone crosses and shortly before our destination in Montbonnet we come across a great little chapel dedicated to St Roque our saint for the journey patron of pilgrims and plague victims. The intermittent rain continues borne on a cold north wind but by 1400 we arive at our Gite for the night at the Bar St Jaques. This is a stunning barn converstion which at 32euro for evening meal breakfast and bed is a pretty good bargain, tomorrow we shall be in tents again.