Via Tolosana Day 21: Walking with the runs

Revel to Les Casses – 17kms

I had a restless nights sleep in which I would have been lucky to get two hours kip. I think I know why.  The little group room had a considerate green ‘Sortie’ (exit) light placed strategically above the door.  This green light was bright. So much so, that I couldn’t sleep.  Once again I missed my eye patch and rued that I’d sent it back to Paris. However, I still don’t understand why I am so very tired, and yet I just don’t sleep.

I’m awake now. Maybe I’ll catch up tonight.  I wrote distracted morning pages – I couldn’t concentrate for the coffee table book of 365 days of the Camino at the table where I sat plus lots of interesting reading from the pilgrims who had left their comments in the guest book. My left shoulder is very achy. Another tourist map about the Midi-Pyrenees – Grand Sites steals my attention.  I start thinking about other routes. I haven’t even finished this one, and already I’m thinking of which I’ll do next.  Maybe Le Puy.  Word on the ground is that it is busy, so it will only get more so, if the Camino Frances in Spain is anything to go by. Better to do it sooner rather than later.  I reflect on the fact that this pilgrimage has been such a different one to the Vezelay cycling trip I did.  Tonight it is Les Casses, then Montferrand, Baziege and Toulouse.

I’m so slow today – there is so much reading material.  But it is educative.  I find out that the last day of my walk to Col du Somport will have me ascending from 400m – 1500m above sea level. Wow!  That’s quite a climb.

I had a yummy breakfast with Bernadette and Patrick. They made me fresh coffee! They are a lovely couple.  I packed up and left at 8.30am after taking the little lucky-dip quote – “Le silence c’est quelque fois se taine, mais le silence c’st toujour ecouter” N Delbiel. (Something about the silence is sometimes … but you can always hear silence – I’ll need to consult a French speaker, as Google translate doesn’t quite cut it). I realise any quote about silence is going to be apt on my walk.  A short walk to the boulangerie had me buying a mini broccoli quiche to have for lunch.  I got a little lost leaving the town, but I found some interesting shops and art. I never quite found the shells to follow, but eventually, after heading south-west, I made it to La Rigolle, the little channel/canal I would follow for the rest of the walk that day.

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Life was meant to be … colourful

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Bookshop

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Graffiti art

It was a coolish morning, you’d call it slightly fresh, and there were many people out jogging, riding and walking along this popular path.  Despite going to the toilet before I left, it wasn’t long before I was needing to go again.  The number one need was combining with a rather nasty number two diarrhea-ish need as well, and I really needed to find a suitable ‘spot’ to ‘go’.  This was the big dilemma of the day.  The canal was a small creek size, raised above the surrounding paddocks, houses and crops, with a path both sides, and flanked by a continuous avenue of tall trees. In some parts there was a little cover of bushes, but not much.  Certainly not enough to get lost in, to do one’s business.  I walked and walked, either coming across a cyclist, other walkers or joggers, who prevented me from stopping to ‘unload’.  These are the days that one dreads.  These are the days that one feels the most like an animal.  These are the days that one must behave most like an animal.  I eventually did it – not very elegantly I might add. No. 1s are easy, they disappear into the camouflage. No 2s, not so much.  I wasn’t able to bury it, and I just had to leave the sloppy pile, amongst ground cover.  It was absolutely revolting, embarrassing and base. Absolutely animal-like.  It is strange that one gets embarrassed about a very basic mammalian trait.  We all do it, but we somehow like to pretend that we don’t.  OK, we don’t all do it ‘au natural’, but today I’d continue on pretending that I didn’t. Well, I tried, except that as soon as I stood up, and pulled up my pants, I knew I’d need to get back to my backpack if I wasn’t to be discovered because yes, another set of people were walking along the track behind me.  C’est la vie!  I’ll try to forget about it.  It was the day of runners and the runs.  Not long afterwards, I needed to do No.1s again, but found a cross-road and a little rubbish enclosure.  I don’t think I was seen by anyone.

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It was a shady walk, not at all difficult, as it was flat, but almost a little monotonous.  I did get surprised by interesting sculptures in back yards, and the most satisfying photo of a dragonfly, but apart from that, this day was turning out a little hum-drum.

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La Rigolle

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Companions take photos of me

I stopped at about 11.00am for a rest and was already hungry for my quiche.  I ate it and attended to the blister that I still had on my little toe – the left foot. There was a whole lotta lovin’ going on in bird world today above me in the trees.  Birds were hopping between branches, chasing each other around, calling provocatively to their mates – or wannabe mates. I can see pigeons and other larger birds. I was just sitting in contemplation, when Bernadette and Patrick wandered along.  They were walking quite briskly, but I decided to draw my pause to an end and I walked with them all the way to Lac de Lenclas, and chatted in broken French.  They asked whether I’d booked Montferrand, and it surprised me a little, as I thought they had said they would book it for me. They hadn’t, so I would need to ask that night if my host could book ahead for me.

While we were walking, Bernadette sang me the Tournasol song, because once again, there were endless fields of sunflowers.  I recognised the tune, but I didn’t know it was about sunflowers.  Getting back to civilisation, I find an interesting thing.  Le Tournesol was a song sung by Nana Mouskouri, and the French version is below. In English however, the lyrics of Turn on the Sun (the song I know) are very different. I prefer the French words.

Le Tournesol, Le Tournesol

Le tournesol, le tournesol
N’a pas besoin d’une boussole
Ni d’arc-en-ciel, ni d’arc-en-ciel
Pour se tourner vers le soleil

Le tournesol, le tournesol
N’a pas besoin d’une boussole
Alors ma belle, alors ma belle
Regarde un peu vers le soleil

Voilà le discours
D’un garçon qui mourrait d’amour
Pour une demoiselle
Qui dormait tout le long du jour

Le tournesol, le tournesol
Vers le soleil tourne le col
Mais toi monsieur, mais toi Monsieur,
Tu ne sais que fermer les yeux

C’est ce que chantait
Un oiseau qui parlait français
A un anglican
Qui passait du côté de Caen

Le tournesol, le tournesol
Couvre les filles de sa corolle
Et le soleil, et le soleil,
Lui fait cadeau de ses merveilles

Une fleur qui nous fait la mousson
Le tournesol, le tournesol
Une fleur qui nous fait une chanson
Le tournesol, le tournesol

La la la; la la la …
La la la; la la la …

Le tournesol, le tournesol
N’a pas besoin d’une boussole
Ni d’arc-en-ciel, ni d’arc-en ciel
Pour se tourner vers le soleil

Sunflower, sunflower

Sunflower, sunflower
Did not need a compass
Neither rainbow heaven or arc-en-ciel
To turn to the sun

Sunflower, sunflower
Did not need a compass
Then my mother, then my beautiful
Just look at the sun

That speech
From a boy who died of love
For a lady
Sleeping all day long

Sunflower, sunflower
Towards the sun turns the collar
But you sir, you sir,
You know blind eye

This is what singing
A bird speaking French
At an Anglican
Passing the side of Caen

Sunflower, sunflower
Cover girls of the corolla
And the sun, and the sun,
He made his wonderful gift

A flower that makes us the monsoon
Sunflower, sunflower
A flower that makes us a song
Sunflower, sunflower

La la la; la la la …
La la la; la la la …

Sunflower, sunflower
Did not need a compass
Neither rainbow sky, nor rainbow
To turn to the sun

Turn on the sun, turn on the sun

Turn on the sun, turn on the sun

Light up the world, come everyone
Turn off the wind, thunder and rain
Turn on the sun, let’s smile again(twice)

Thinker, tailor man
Radiate all the love you can
Lawyer, engineer
Let your heart be a pioneer

Turn on the sun, turn on the sun
Open the doors, come tell everyone
Bad times are out, good times are in
Turn on the sun, let’s smile again

Minors, steeple-jack
Warm emotions are coming back
Sailor, stevedore
Here’s a message you can’t ignore

Turn on the sun, turn on the sun
Light up the world, come everyone
Turn off the wind, thunder and rain
Turn on the sun, let’s smile again

Gather up all the goodness in you
Turn on the sun, turn on the sun
What a world when we all thinking good
Turn on the sun, let’s smile again

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Beautiful lake.

We stopped by the lake, enjoying a shady picnic table just near the water. Not far away there was a restaurant, with a helpful public toilet out the back. The squat variety – that doesn’t happen so often, I thought I’d come across more of them in the back-blocks.  No toilet paper, so I was glad that I brought some.  Bernadette and Patrick ate some lunch, and I watched.  They had to be back at the gite by 3pm, and I wondered how they’d get back in 2 hours, when I had taken 3-4 hours to get that far, but they were faster walkers than I, so I hoped they’d make it.  They may not get any customers at all.  All their hurry might be for nothing.

We said our goodbyes and I watched them disappear along the canal.  12:12. Nice reflections in the lake. There is silence, of a kind. Sitting here on a picnic table, it is beautiful. The breeze is getting stronger.  So gorgeous.  Lovely sunny day. My blister is a little aggravated. Calm.  Gently. Go gently. Yield it. Yield it!

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… even if a little green.

After a little rest, I walked on along a straight edge of the lake that fell away via an embankment to a park below. The canal continued out of a corner of the lake and I again took the path next to it –  this time a smaller path, sometimes crossed by matted tree roots.  It was more like a well-worn goat track.  More cyclists, day walkers and dog walkers passed me along the little rivulet/canal that the stream now became.  The path meandered for many kilometres. Roads crossed it, and larger roads wind nearer and further away from it so sometimes you can hear the traffic hum, and sometimes you can’t.  There were a few walnut trees today.  The long and winding road.

After nearly an hour, I came to the road junction that crossed the canal and would take me up the hill to little Les Casses.  However, a sign caught my eye. Site du Fort Memorial Cathare (Cathar). Fascinating.  It took about 5 seconds to decide, despite the blistering noon-ish sun, to take the left hand turn and climb the grassy vehicle-width track that wound around the hill. It took a few minutes to walk it, (with a pee stop, quite exposed but not a soul around for miles). I was recollecting my conversation with Bridget.  Did I have a former life as a Cathar nun?  Then, there in full sun – a classic hill fort. It was introduced by a couple of information boards that set the scene for the memorial. On one board, there was archive text from 1199 – one year out from the date she had said – 1198.  Les Casses signify Chene – the Oak tree!! There’s those oak trees again.  The Oaks. Not to be confused with the one at Military Rd, Neutral Bay.

It is an exposed site.  You climb down and up the troughs around the hill, just as with most hill forts, and when at the memorial, you can survey 360 degrees. It is quite moving. The memorial remembers many sites of the burnings ‘les brûlés’, giving me an entirely different angle on creme brûlée. After pausing for a little moment, and surveying the many towns and dates of the atrocities, it came to mind that every society has its skeletons.  I don’t know how much these are acknowledged by the modern-day Catholic church, but they aren’t the only ones who were witness to such massacres.  I thought about my own experience in doing some research about Western Victoria.  Early Australian post-invasion history isn’t pretty or romantic, as many colonial historians might have us believe.  However, from my experience, there are no memorials like this one to mark the significant numbers of killings of indigenous people that took place.  Maybe there should be.

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An old millstone

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Sit du Fort Memorial Cathare

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Memorial of 60 good men and women burned in this area 20th May 1211 under the cross of Simon de Montfort.

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Memorial and surrounding view

Still in a philosophical mood, and feeling the heat of the sun, I wandered into the town to find my place of rest for the night. I passed a little collection of gravestones. I was conscious I had arrived quite early for a check in, but I found the right street, then knocked on the door.  After a little time I was met by  Christiane, a Belgian from Waterloo. That reminded me, the date of the battle was used by one of the gites as their passcode – Jacques noticed this.  So meeting a fellow Belgian from Waterloo must have been fantastic for him – I can now see why he recommended staying here.  There were workmen up a ladder when I was led through the corridor of the house and out into a courtyard, off of which came the kitchen and the pilgrim’s laundry and kitchen area.

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more stelle discoile

Christiane runs a very tight ship. Everything has its place, and I was organised into the little pattern that her guests all go through. The sac (backpack) gets put down outside on an outdoor chair. A little discussion ensues about where you’ve come from, and where your next stops are, then a tour of the various parts of the house downstairs starts. Boots are taken off, then an upstairs tour follows. A little room downstairs next to the bathroom with a bench made from slatted wood is where the backpacks live in a big plastic tub.  And once again, only the essentials go upstairs. She has been here eleven years – the whole thing works like clockwork.  It is actually good, reassuring and safe in some ways.  I suppose control feels like that sometimes to the person on the receiving end.

I showered and washed my clothes – I’d been the first to arrive of the 6 people staying tonight and I found out later, had walked the least kms.  As I sat out the back watching my washing dry on the single long washing line stretching towards the back of the block, in ones and twos the other pilgrims arrived and the place started to feel like a backpackers – a new experience for this trip. Sitting in my easy chair, in the warm sun, under the ripening fruit trees (pears, figs and apples), I tried to blog and write my diary, but there was too much activity.

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Wet washing, hanging on the line, drying very quickly, when the weather’s fine.

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Fig shade

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The most magnificent pear tree ever!

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Figs nearly ready

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Apples

Leonard (Netherlander), between jobs, and Oscar (Italian), between lives, had probably walked the furthest and came and sat with me after they’d showered and pegged their washing out. They explained their trip so far – they both camped out usually after long days of walking (over 30 kms) so this gite was an unusual stop for them.

Then Jean-Paul, French truck driver joined us. After showering he walked around with his t-shirt off, parading his tats – one particularly provocative back view of a reclined naked woman was difficult not to look at. Despite the tats, he didn’t seem to look like or be like Australian truckies. He wasn’t overly tall, was tanned, had dark wavy hair, and was obviously a pretty philosophical fellow. He had a cheekiness about him, I liked that. Over dinner, we were to find out, he was also a bit of a gourmand.  Stereotypes were falling left, right and centre in this tiny village up on a hill.

Bernadette, a retired French psychologist, and Philippe, a French insurance agent arrived and went through La Passeur-Elle initiation with Christiane. Bernadette was quite a lot older but was small, terrier-like and extraordinarily beautiful. I was to find out later, she and Philippe hadn’t set out together on the trip, but found they tended to walk about the same distance each day. Philippe endeared himself to me, as he spoke understandable French, and didn’t seem perturbed that I didn’t. I don’t know whether he was just good at picking up what I was talking about, or just went on regardless, but over dinner we were able to converse quite happily.

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Dinner was served as the sun was going down, out on the patio overlooking the fully laden fruit trees. We’d helped to set the tables, and although there were two, we spoke as a large group.  Leonard and Oscar ate their own prepared pasta, Oscar being Italian, knew how to cook it right. The rest of us were obviously not on the same budget, so we ate 3 courses. Pumpkin soup with a little pimento, 2 cheese tart – camembert and chèvre and then fruit compote for dessert. Tre magnifique.  Wine if we wanted it.  My understanding of French is getting slowly better and I’m certainly now able to make myself mostly understood – I wouldn’t necessarily say I can ‘speak’ French, but people understand what I am trying to communicate. Except Jean-Paul. In my strange French, I was trying to explain that I thought it unusual for a truck-driver to be doing a pilgrimage.  He didn’t quite understand what I was getting at, but as we talked he eventually said, yes all the staff in the tea room at his work all think he is a little unusual.  I explained to him about my sleeplessness, and realised that my legs walk all night as well as all day.  It is almost like I have to walk something out of myself. Restless legs. Restless me.

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After dinner, the processing continued, and we all paid our demi-pension of around 26 euros and had our credentials stamped.  A small cupboard is stocked with nice bio meals, so I got one of them to eat the next day as well. For all her particular-ness (she had re-pegged all the men’s clothes so they would dry quicker), Christiane was a lovely hostess. She sat with each guest to explain various routes and options depending on what their needs were. The guys wanted to cover lots of kms, and were not worried about walking on roads, not so worried about doing the marked path, so she was able to advise them of the best roads to take.  She is also an active member of a local association for gites in the area, so had great recommendations for good places after Toulouse. All in all, it was a very comfortable experience. I went for a brief walk after dinner, around the corner to find the falling down chapel of Sainte Claire. It was now owned privately, so I couldn’t go inside.

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Chapel of Saint Claire

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I sat outside in the dark outside after everyone had gone to bed and got a little more of my blog done, but found difficulty loading the youtube clip I wanted in it. So I’ll sleep on it, and do it at breakfast. Christiane had made it known that I really needed to go to bed – probably because she wanted to as well. These are the constraints of the pilgrim blogger. Lights out!

I crept upstairs, and into the bedroom I was sharing with Bernadette. The beds were low to the ground, but were really comfortable – the sheets so crisp and soft, however I was still not comfortable. I heard the 11pm church bells, but then not after that, so I am hoping that I slept for the rest of the night – even though it felt like I took ages to fall asleep.

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