Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walking The First Stage - Backwards ...

... and 593 days early.

Yesterday Gay and I walked what is almost certainly the first stage of VBW. But we walked it in the reverse direction, from Mirepoix to Puivert, 29 or 30 kilometres.

We have been wanting to do this for a while, but the difficulty was getting to Mirepoix so that we could set off walking. Of course we could go by car, and often do, but this would leave the car sitting 30 kms from home. The other long walks I have done have been when we have happened to be somewhere, such as Limoux, on other business, then Gay has driven home while I walked.

Public transport, I hear you say. To summarise the public transport available in Puivert. There is a bus service, which goes from Puivert to Quillan (16kms) every Tuesday morning, one way, and there is another bus which triumphantly returns from Quillan to Puivert on Friday afternoon. That's it - I can think of no reason why anybody should want to spend all that time in Quillan, but those are the arrangements.

Monday is market day in Mirepoix. We know of one couple who go to that market sometimes and we had been thinking of trying to catch a ride with them, but have not got round to it. But just lately a notice at the Mairie caught our eye. An enterprising taxi company from Chalabre has set up a taxi-bus service to take people to various markets on the appropriate days - and to bring them back the same day. We homed in on this and telephoned to reserve a seat to Mirepoix yesterday. The taxi will leave Chalabre (8 or 9 kms) at 9, so should be with you about half past, we were told. The taxi would come to the door.

The taxi arrived at 8.50, which is fine for us, but we know people who would not even be out of bed at that time for a scheduled 9.30 departure. We were pleased because it meant we could probably set off early for our 5-hour walk.

Off we set at breakneck speed down the road to Chalabre, which is very sinuous. It was all very alarming. From Chalabre, instead of taking the road to Mirepoix, we headed towards Limoux. Fortunately there was some slow traffic in front of us, which moderated our minibus and made life more comfortable. It also enabled us to observe some extremely alarming overtaking by other vehicles. Even our driver, clearly not averse to a bit of Lewis Hamiltonery, was zutting and throwing his hands in the air.

We turned off the Limoux road and had some exciting times down a single lane track to pick up an elderly woman and her son, then back down some more roads new to us, stopping once more for another woman, arriving in Mirepoix at about 10. Apart from the fact that we were itching to get some breakfast and start the long walk, it was all quite interesting.

I was amazed by the cost of all this. For the two of us, one way to Mirepoix, including the entertainment and tour of the countryside, the cost was 5 Euros. Considering the number of passengers, we can not believe that this service is profitable or that it will be available for long unless more use is made of it.

We went to the splendid boulangerie and bought our breakfast - a pain aux raisins for me and a croissant for Gay - took these to our favourite cafe (there are many in Mirepoix) on the square, had a quick look round the market, then, with a full fuel load, took off.

From Mirepoix to Chalabre the route was off-road, an old railway track. The total number of people we saw on the 21 kms of this track was 6 - 3 lone cyclists, a couple on a tandem, and a woman walking her dogs.

It was quite a warm day, the walk was uneventful, we stopped in the beautiful village of Camon to eat our sandwiches, again in Chalabre for a drink, and arrived home tired but happy, after 5 hours walking

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