Today was the first day in six days that we did not need our ponchos. It was overcast for the morning with grey skies - perfect weather for walking.
Once across the old Roman bridge it was very steep for a long time out of Conques through the mountains. We took a short break at the little Chapelle of St Foy. It was muddy and slippery under foot. A person we got to know in the gite last night, who was walking on her own, had a fall in the deep mud this morning - flat onto her face. She was quite cheerful about the whole experience, though, and seemed to look on it as one of life's little adventures. The weight of a pack can make you quite uncertain on a slope and tip you off balance.
Hospitality is one of the features while walking a Camino that we truly appreciate and surprising hospitality we certainly experienced today. After our steep ascent we walked across undulating farmland and for a while along small roads. Right out of the blue we came across a middle aged farmer on the side of the road alongside his tractor. He had a picnic table on which were flasks of tea and coffee and beautiful cake that his wife had baked this morning. He would only take a pittance for coffee and cake and while we were enjoying our fill other pilgrims stopped by to enjoy the same. The farmer and his wife weren't doing this for pocket money but they were extending good old fashioned hospitality and continuing an ancient Camino tradition.
After walking through small villages or hamlets for another hour we came to a junction and discovered a picnic area that another farmer had created on the edge of his farm. It had three wooden tables and chairs that he had made, a sheltered area with flasks of free coffee, a notice board and a WC that Lyn believed was 'a total experience'. It had photos on the dunny wall - even a funny Aussie postcard - and there was a container of sawdust to cover your offerings down the long drop. There were several bins for recycling. This farmer was a great recycler.
While we made and ate our delicious salad baguette, three to four other pilgrims came and sat down at the other tables. The farmer hovered around and at different times he drove his tractor back to his home to top up our supplies. You could see that he found great delight in our enjoyment of his picnic area, 'cafe' and innovative toilette.
After 18 kms of walking the plateau and ridges we descended steeply to a town and then ascended just as sharply.
In the afternoon the sun appeared for the first time in almost a week, first gradually, then enough to form a shadow and later it shone in blistering fashion, almost enough to start us cursing what we had yearned for all week.
Seeing the sun emerge today made us want to sing the Beatles number:
Vien le soleil, vien le soleil
et je dis, ça va tout bien.
The total distance we knew we had to cover today was a comfortable 25 kms but it is not the distance only that shapes the rigours of the walk. The muddiness and slipperyness slow you down and sap your calm. The steepness of the initial ascent certainly got our lungs pumping and we were saying again how grateful we were for all the ascent and descent walking we did at Ferntree Gully before we left Melbourne.
The last 5 kms were also tough with major ups and downs and this in the blazing heat of the sun. There were many people huffing and puffing as they arrived at the hostel this afternoon and several were quite sunburnt.
We are in the Gite Communal tonight here at Livinhac-Le-Haut. At a Gite Communal (which is right in the centre of the town surrounded by the church, Mayor's office and shops) we get a small room with 2 beds but we share with several others on this floor a bathroom and a separate toilet. We get laundry and kitchen facilities plus there is a dining room, an outside garden and picnic area. For this we paid 15 euros each. Because the late afternoon sun was so hot, we paid an extra 3 euros to use the washing machine and now we have most of our clothes well washed and dry. Simple pleasures.
When we were walking the Camino Frances in Spain we stayed at a modern pilgrim hostel in Leon. We remember how the guy in the opposite bunk looked at his feet so lovingly and said out loud, "Thank you, thank you feet."
After our first week of walking here is our expression of appreciation to our feet:
Salutation to Our Feet
With every kilo on our backs and girths,
we pound you mercilessly into the ground.
With our shoes and boots we crush and constrict you.
With blisters and bunions we injure and boil you to swelling point.
Often neglected, little honoured, unsung heroes.
You enable us to walk the Way.
With toes you give a foothold on the rise.
You dig in your heels on the slope.
You plant us on the slippery stone.
By our unsandalled feet we know we are on holy ground.
Through our feet we become grounded on the earth.
Proudly you give us a place to stand.
So we shower you with our love.
We towel you with our thanks.
We soothe you with oils and perfume you with delight.
Burden bearers, tandem travellers, sole mates:
We salute you.
Geoff and Lyn Pound