Via Tolosana Day 16 … and a partridge in a pear tree

Salvetat sur Agout – Anglès 18.7kms … or possibly 20kms, who knows!

That was another difficult night’s sleep. I couldn’t settle.  Maybe it was the people outside, not knowing whether I felt hot or cold, food, legs, bed, bed-clothes or all of the above – it was a challenge.  The alarm went at 6am and I dutifully, half asleep, got up and changed the morning ritual to partly pack first. I followed with writing. It is going consistently well now I’m on my own. The church bell chimes for 6.30am, twice.  I haven’t worked out why that is, but it happens for most bells I hear.

My socks didn’t dry, the nights are warm, but a dew kicks in during the early hours, leaving thicker items like my woollen socks damp.  It felt cool now, and overcast. I don’t know how this day will turn out. I packed up, checked I hadn’t left anything and went down to the grubby kitchen to eat my packet rice pudding and to retrieve lunch from the fridge.

Descending into the dark lobby, through the damp smell again, I unlocked then locked the big old wooden door. This musty smell is so French for me, I’d love to bottle it, but I fear the production of such a smell would take several hundred years to get it just right.  Writing about it now reminds me of that book, Perfume. Seventy-five steps around the corner and I deposited the key and the Office de Tourisme and checked my emails. Gas bills, Facebook messages and a morning/evening conversation with my ex-colleague. It felt strange to be a) not present in my old workplace and b) be talking to a work colleague from the other side of the world.  How close the ethernet enables us to feel.

Walking down toward the river end of town, I partially re-traced my trail of the night before. I followed the GR markers down stairs, across a bridge and along a major road with a steady upward climb. The road size diminished as I walked further away from the town, asphalt at first for 20 minutes up hill, then a single lane paved road, then dirt. The town outskirts gave way to more cows, farmland and the way eventually took me into the forest again.

On the big main road a jogger passed me. I wonder if he was smelling the fresh smells. It may have even rained overnight, no wonder my socks didn’t dry.  There were apples on the path today. Fresh silence. The sky seems to have cleared and wispy clouds are present now.

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Ever smaller roads

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Ever smaller roads

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Ever smaller roads

The tracks turned into dark ones, and commenced a stony descent into thicker forest. I walked resolutely. I’m not scared.  Pine trees on one side and thick green bushes with large leaves on the other.  I turned a corner then crossed a creek. I walked for what seemed like ages before seeing a marker, and I was getting worried that I was lost or had missed one. Rounding the next corner I saw the familiar red and white and said “Thank God” out loud, I was so relieved.  Firmly trekking in forest country today, I started to notice many small birds.  I also hear this banging sound in the distance. It is coming closer, weird.  I emerge into a cleared forest area and at the same time notice a small 4WD-like a Lada coming towards me, with a small trailer banging behind it.  Obviously here to collect firewood. He asked if I was hot and I told him yes, I’d walked from Salvetat.  He asked if I was heading to Angles and I said yes.  Angles is the last high town, then it is down hill to Boissezon,  Castres, and flatish for the rest of the walk until I climb to Somport.

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Ever smaller roads – in the shade

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St Jacques champignon

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Wet track

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Where once stood a majestic tree

A little later, I stopped on a tree stump to eat my peach.  Three women on mountain bikes rode past. After starting to walk again, I heard a chainsaw.  I walked through more of what I thought were elm forest (later found to be beech). They really are my favourite, calm and serene. In this one there were many that had been chopped down and it disappointed me somewhat, they are such elegant trees. Three creek crossings today. After the second one it got warmer all of a sudden. A four-wheeler raced along a track across from me, the young rider probably not even noticing me, he was going fast.  Then onto a logging road and met an old man with two sticks, out walking.  Back onto a smaller track and after a while I come across a middle-aged couple all dressed in white mushrooming by the looks.

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Shaggy tree

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Nothing better than a forest like this

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More wood piles

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Early lunch picnic spot

I crossed a road and found a little reserve/car park where they had parked their car, with a picnic table and benches with the bonus of a water tap.  I decided to st0p here to have my pizza with added avocado and tomato on top. Yum!  I filled up my water bottles and had a good pause.  The couple got into their matching white car and drove off, not before she stripped down to her bra to change her top, right there in front of me. But, unlike most everyone else I met, they didn’t acknowledge or greet me at all.  An older, slightly dishevelled guy on a scooter was filling up his bottles from the continuous fountain at the far end of the clearing and looked like he was a bin-checker. Not a vagrant, but someone working for the council.  Then I walked past him a little further on, chatting to a woman in a little village, and he seemed to be collecting leftover food from her, so he probably was a bin checker, not employed by the council. Social security is very personal here it seems.

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Wide open road

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A husband and wife passed on their mountain bikes, then two women in matching fluro pink and yellow gear rode past, then I passed a family of four adults, 2 kids and dogs. It was starting to feel like a day from the Twelve days of Christmas. Either that or Noah and the Ark.  I saw La Poste in Caussillols and then in Angles, two more cyclists and yet another cyclist. It is only a Thursday – have I missed a public holiday or something?

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More wide open road

On approach to Anglès it looked like a well-off town, but the buildings look neither old nor new.  I rested a couple of times during the walk. Once for a little bit in a meadow that sloped gently away from the road. I was admiring the diversity of different flowers and grasses when a man and two women, and two Shetland dogs wandered past. I always call them Collies, because that’s what they look like, but smaller versions. The other time on a park bench, well-placed next to an oversized pond just outside of the town.  It was a hard day of roads today, probably at least 10kms on asphalt. It takes a toll on my feet.

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Not this way – go back!

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Oversized pond

Thankfully it was a gentle downhill into town.  Strange little centre of town. I checked out the church, and the Mairie for the key – that’s easy. I climbed the stairs and a woman greeted me at the top, then got her small daughter or grand-daughter to escort me the short distance to the gite. I noted on the way past that the epicerie opens at 3.30pm.

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Angles

Stopping in at the bar for a Diablo Menthe and an ice-cream that I regretted was as much as anything a bid to sit in shade, but still outside. Why is it an ice-cream is never as good as it promises.  Note to self – stick to iceblocks.

After showering and hanging my clothes in the sun outside, I went to buy supplies for the evening meal and tomorrow. I bought up big.

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Vintage bikes

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Nice knocker

The only drawback about this town is that the Office of Tourisme is back out of town about 500 metres. It is cute though. A little wooden chalet-type hut with a wooden decking out front.  It sits in the triangular grassed area between two roads that meet at a roundabout. It has a shady tree outside which suited me perfectly for a place to sit under and attempt to blog.  I tried booking for Castres, but had no luck.  I’ll try again tomorrow with my host, or maybe I’ll just wait.

I got day one of my trip posted – at last! Into Great Silence.  I was just getting ready to pack up from my sunny deck spot, as I’d decided to call it a night, when I saw a guy walking down the road. He had the requisite shell so I called out to him and asked if he was a pilgrim.  He said yes, but that his French wasn’t so good. He didn’t seem to notice mine wasn’t either.  We continued in English. He was German.

It was 6.45pm, so the Mairie was long closed, and he asked me whether I could let him stay in the gite. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with that, because it wasn’t my decision to make, but that we should go and see what could be done.  We went to the Bar Chez Marie-Jo et David as this was where the key resided on weekends.  They were kind enough to take his money and stamp his credential.

I was going to write to Bettina in the morning that it would be nice if there were some company in the gites at night, then Manfred appeared.  Some of my wishes seem to get answered quickly.  He thinks he was lucky to meet me. I agreed.  I think I am lucky to meet another pilgrim, given I’d been walking for several days alone now.

Back at the gite I cooked dinner, made left overs for the next day’s lunch and wrote my journal. We chatted a little.  Manfred is an Occupational Therapist and it was interesting to compare notes about provision of supports for people with disabilities. A big day, but a good one.  It felt good sitting on the deck blogging. Copying and pasting seemed to work well.

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