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

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

24.05.14 Sn Average Day

24.05.14 05 Friday Mouissac to Valence. It is a clear night the blackbirds stop talking at dark and very occasional trains pass about 1km away, so a good night is had by all. The tents sre slightly moist with the dew from the Tarn that is about 10m away.We have coffee and get our breakfast in a patisserie that claims to be famous for the towns macaroons, a bench just outside town provides space for us to eat it. Tim is looking forward to an Average day (as defined by Tony when Ray rather plaintively asked having dealt with his blisters, 20km) and flat along the canal. The others have a different agenda, a variante takes us up the nearest steep hill before rolling up and down over some lovely countyside. We are descending for the final time back to the canal now by the Garonne, it having joined the Tarn about 4km below Moissac when we are over flown by a flight of French army helicopters on their way to a mock (we hope) battle we can hear in the distance. As if to reject military intervention it starts to rain but not for long. We come back down to the canal at Malause and get coffee but find the route back to the towpath on the opposite bank is blocked, a bridge is in the throes of replacement. An extra kilometer and the Average day is looking a bit stressed and it seems Tony a bit like certain UK Education ministers would like to see no days below average! But after a few more km and lunch at a lock gate that operates to allow a boat past with no human intervention. The team decides the locks are operated by a man in Dusseldof over the internet, Ray finds this unacceptable for many reasons and would like to reconvene the age of the horse. Or the donkey! It starts to rain again as we arrive at the municipal campsite outside Valance, which is of course on the opposite bank of the canal. Rapid erection of tents occurs and a wait for better weather while showering and the doing of minimal washing takes place. Now time to think about food Again. 22.5km 500m ascent 510m descent


21.05.15 Wednesday. Gamel to Lauserte. Really a very nice gite/chambre d'hote a good meal quiche sausage and lentils, the lentils with cumin and herbs. Cheese and fresh cherries from the garden. Plenty of local vino malbec and merlot. A dark quiet night with petit dejuner at 7am gets us ready for the off and soon we are racing the wind, or being blown around by it ad it gradually strengthens over the morning. We know there is a cold wet frontal system quietly drowning Bordeaux but the meteo men seem unable to send it our way. We march acrossthe limestone scenery that is necoming lower and more farmland, unfortunately the rain lsdt night has left the hround in a clingy state and it builds up to a certain level and then drops off. Tony snd Tim teminoss about a similar day on their first camino when Geof joined them for an awful fsy when he hot bitten by mossies and exaggerated tales of the depth pf mud prevoously adhering to boots are told. We pass a restored chapel with 13 th C friezes on the ceiling and and Betsy spots a butterfly just hatching from a cocoon later thought to be a Cream spot tiger moth. Eventually we arrive in a warm moist gale at the campsite below Lauserte ....... to find it closed apparently recently and in a hurry Perhaps this is just as well we rise up the syeep hillside to the top of this very defensible town and find the tourist office who are surprisingly helpful and book us in to the gite communal only a street away. The rain is aproaching so we go out to find food and have just bought wine nuts and tomorrows lunch the skies open we dive into the bar opposite result!!!! its still raining and set for a few hours. 23km 640m up 700m down

20.05.14 Tuesday

20.05.14 Tuesday Cahors to Gamel. An early night and a dry dawn, we rise pack and race/stumble according to ability, down to the bus stop for the first little bus of the morning. It is driven by the same lady as yesterday who bids us a cheerful bonjour and bonne journee. We get giant pain au chocolate at a patisserie 4 for price of 3 (whats french for bogof? ) and head out across the medieval fortifief bridge spanning the Lot Charlemaine Chrissy and Patricia are already there having not had to come in from 2km out off town. These are the three ladies travelling together 2 from SA and one from Canada who we keep meeting along the way who will hence forth be known as CC&P. We are all impressed by the bridge and even more depressed by the vertical cliff up which go the steps we must follow. A bit of a climb later we are back on top of the limestone Causse thst wr stay on with the frequent orchids raptors and a charm or goldfinches feeding on seeds already starting to ripen in the dry fields up here. Some of which have already been mown for hay. We manage a couple of coffee stops along the way but have had enough by the time we arrive at our booked lodging for the night. This is a very nice converted barn with its own pool which everyone but Tony, who claims a note from his mother, goes in very briefly. It is still not very warm. With rain forecast tonight and tomorrow we are glad even at the price to have found this place wild camping in the rain with no prospect of home is not fun. 27km 740m gained 620m lost.


19.05.14 Monday La Peche to Cahors. After a meal (cassoulet) a good night for most of us in a dormitory with us four and three pleasant ladies two from SA and one Canadienne, though thete were some complaints of snoring, the walk in to Cahors is not too bad and is enlivened by a donkey party with a French family walking. The usual avians and flora sre seen as well as s good view coming down the shoulder to the bend in the Lot that protects the ancient city of Cahors. Over tje bridge with a route of bronze scallop shells and we are in the old quarter. After the usual visit to torment ladies in the tourist office who deny all knowledge of a town 50 km away but are very pleasant and helpful we find the great little free bus that wanders the back streets of Cahors narrowly missing wing mirrors snd pedestrians, this drops us about half a km from the campsite on the outskirts of town past the extensive rugby pitchs. We check in and return to town, we are early enough at 1240 for a proper French lunch. Our combined camino experiemce pays off amd Tony soon spots a Menu de jour for 12 euros. We get soup, carrots grated with a touch of horseradish, roast chicken with pasta, a great cheese board and dessert with wine complete. We are well fed by the end amd wander roud the cathedral and cloisters in a surfieted daze before shoppng for a light salad for the evening and the little bus back to the campsite. Althougj the day is a bit cloudy and not as hot as yesyerfay we are glad to wash clean and crash out by the tents hopefully there is time for drying clothes as there is rain on the way. Tomorrow there is no camping and hopefully we will be under cover for the rain. Today. 13km up 300 down 430m

18.05.14 Dolmen with a Causse.

18.05.14 Sunday Limoges en Quercy to Le Peche Labourgade. Another hot day across the Causse de Limoges sees some new orchids icluding a bee orchid spotted by Betsy. A cross roads in the shade provides a pair of donkeys to be talked to by Betsy and birdsong which may well be a nightingale. Earlier there is a dolmen at which the team worship otherwise the day warms up steadily and many more butterfies are on the wing.We find a Gite de equestre with no one with a horse staying and are made very welcome with biere on an honesty box at 1euro a pop. Tomorrow is Cahors with its dark red black Malbec based wine recomended by Peter the Great.

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.

Photos - cherry spitting ...

.. and dodgy translations.


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.