Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 47. Pilgrims

I forgot to mention yesterday that as Septimus and I were walking through the streets of Alresford in search of Tiffins, we espied a walker, rucksack, maps and all. He had set out from Winchester the day before, on his first multi-day walk, to follow the Pilgrims’ Way. He intended to average 10 kms or miles a day, his companion had already deserted after one day, and he had just found out that the Pilgrims’ Way goes to Mont St Michel in France, not just to Canterbury. The key point to me is that in 1,300 kms of walking, in France and England, on major trails, this was the first walker I had seen.

Septimus went home yesterday, straight from the finish of the day’s walk in Brown Candover. This morning Gay ran me back to that same spot and I carried on. The Wayfarers Walk, which we have already found to be very overgrown in places, not showing much evidence of use, was a veritable jungle in places - nettles up to my shoulders (and of course wrapped around my legs) and far too much bramble over the track.

In Dummer I asked a group of young mothers if there was a café nearby. Nothing doing, but we had a bit of a conversation about VBW. One of the ladies had lost her mother to pancreatic cancer and has already donated via my JustGiving page.

As I was passing Basingstoke on an incredibly straight road which was clearly once a Roman road, another lady with a bike asked me if I had seen much. I think maybe, having seen all the equipment dangling from me, she thought I was a bird-watcher. Of course, in 1,300 kms I have seen much, so we talked about that for a while.

I marched on to find Gay waiting at Sherborne St John, as arranged. She was parked in a pub car park, so after I showered, we went into the pub and had our wedding anniversary lunch.

Then we plunged into Basingstoke in search of a PC World, where we changed the dongle for one which can actually do the business.

Today's walk was 21 kms. Total now is 1306 kms.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 46. Taking Tiffin

When we examined the maps in light of yesterday’s experience, it was clear that today we were heading for another walk of 40+ kms.

So we shortened it and walked from Kilmeston to Brown Candover. This was a mere 22.5 kms, giving us an average for the two days of well over 30 kms, and a total to date of 1285. Today’s climbs were a mere 919 metres.

A very nice lady called Abby in Cheriton told us that, although there was no café in the village, there lots in Alresford, that we should go to Tiffins, and say she sent us.

At Tiffins we had a splendid time talking to some people who informed us that Alresford is the centre of the watercress industry in Britain, and that there is a private railway line, with several steam engines (we had just seen one), just to take the watercess to market.

A very kind couple said they would be donating to Pancreatic Cancer UK via my blog or JustGiving web page.

After yesterday’s immense walk, I tried to activate the UK dongle which I bought in March especially for this purpose. I had carefully explained at PC World why I needed it, the project I was undertaking, that I would not be wanting to activate it until June, and that I did not live in the UK. I was assured that the dongle package from “3” was fully fit for this purpose.

When I got home and examined the package, I saw that I had to activate it within 13 days, and that I could not use it unless I had a UK address. I spent many a long hour trying to sort this out with both PC World and “3” (the latter being in India, of course, and completely unable to understand my problem. I was assured from all sides that, whatever it said on the tin, it would work for me. Of course yesterday, crunch time, I was told that, unless I had a UK address which was linked to my bank account (and of course I do not, as I had explained many times, because I live in France) the package which I have bought and paid for will not work.

This leaves me up the creek without a dongle. As it happens, there is a Holiday Inn next to the campsite, so I can go there, buy a drink, and use their WiFi. After tomorrow I will not be able to do that, so posts on this blog may be sparse. I am of course going to try to find a pay-as-you-go dongle, which is what I asked for in the first place. I don’t know whether they exist. Watch this space.

Day 45. The Longest Day

Septimus met me off the ship at Portsmouth so that he could walk the first two English sections with me. What a day he picked!

It was very hot – 30 degrees I was told later. The estimate for Portsmouth to Kilmeston was 30 kms. We walked almost due north through the streets of Portsmouth (we had not left the city when a kind lady at a bus-stop, after we asked the way, gave me a £5 donation for Pancreatic Cancer UK) until we met the Wayfarers Walk, which we were to stay on for the rest of the day. This route, like many long distance footpaths, swings east and west, in some cases heads south again, and we had found the distance difficult to estimate. We bought one of those electronic gadgets which you run over the map and which comes up with the answer. I now loathe this device.

We passed through few habitations, which to me represent the possibility of a coffee stop. When we reached Hambledon, which is where cricket was invented, we enquired of a lady whether there was a café in town. She said yes but it is closed because it is Monday but I will take you home for a cup of tea. She then drove us in her BMW back up the lanes down which Septimus and I had just walked. She produced a full lunch on the farmhouse table. I wasn’t hungry and restricted myself to the cup of tea. Septimus was quite restrained also. She then drove us back to he spot where she had found us. Her husband hadn’t turned a hair at two waifs and strays being brought into the house.

The walk dragged on and on. The trail was very up and down, overgrown in many places, badly signed in others, nonexistent at a couple of points. At one stage the track crossed a very large field. At the entrance to the field was a sign warning of bulls. The field was so big, and the track across it so steep, that if a bull had approached us in the middle, we would have been completely helpless. Fortunately, all bovine life-forms were cowering from the heat in the shade of a wood at the edge of the field.

Eventually we arrived at the rendezvous point in Kilmeston after six in the evening. This was the longest walk I have ever done. It was 43 kms, longer than a marathon. Although there were no big climbs, the total of the many minor climbs was 1861 metres, the most of any day on this trip. Although we met and talked to several people, all of them kind and friendly, we did not see another walker.

The distance measurer is so unreliable, the estimate so far from reality, that we now have to completely replan and reschedule all the walking between here and Oxford – it is easy to estimate distance for the canal walking. We shall be arriving in Reading 1 day late. I suspect that for the rest of the trip we will be two days behind. There is plenty of slack later in the walk, but the rescheduling will affect all the arrangements we have made for people to meet us and walk with me for a stage or so.

A slight dingle with the dongle

Hi everyone, the Surrogate Blogger here again - Heaney Minor (there being more than one Heaney Junior!). Dad's first day in UK turned out to be a little problematic. The planned route turned out to be 43km and not 30km as planned, so some heavy reworking of the routes will be done, hopefully, in the next few days. Also, Dad's English dongle for Internet access proved to be a dodo, showing no signs of life whatsoever, so there may not be many blog entries by the Big Walker for the next few days. I shall try my best to keep you up to dates with the facts, if not the anecdotes. One thing that must have been nice for Dad today was that his youngest brother, Paul, met him off the ferry and walked the entire first UK day with him. I think (although I may stand corrected yet) that this was a surprise visit, not planned by the Big Walker. Good Work, Uncle Paul!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 44. Au Revoir France

Today I walked with Dale Heighway from Fleury-sur-Orne to Ouistreham.

The route took us through the centre of Caen, which is where I took the picture of the yacht basin. There was a large market in full swing just off-picture. Gay would have liked to see that, but she had moved V-Force one to Ouistreham by this time.

From Caen, we followed the wide ship canal. The track was awash with cyclists, roller-bladers and runners. In this country with so many cyclists, I have been amazed by how few I have seen in the last 6+weeks. I certainly made up for that today. I just wish cyclists would learn to make some sort of audible warning of approach before they sweep past pedestrians.

The ship is a rare sight on this canal these days, although probably not as rare as on the Manchester Ship Canal, which I should see on my travels, and which, as a lad, I used in earnest when I was Radio Officer on the good ship Manchester Spinner.

The lighthouse you see behind me indicates the end of the road for Vic’s Big Walk in France. It is outside the window as I type this, and will be put behind us this evening when we take ship for England and 26 more days of walking.

Many thanks to Thérèse and Dale (not forgetting Enzo, their grandson) for the excellent dinner yesterday evening, and for Dale’s company during today’s walk. I look forward to meeting some of his friends, the Walters, as I transit from Cheshire to Lancashire in a few weeks time.

Today's walk was 22 kms. Total in France therefore 1219.5. Even on such a flat walk as today, the minor ups and down added up to more than 400 metres.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 43. Dust.

The first day of the seventh week of VBW. I have walked for 43 days without a rest, although today was the shortest walk so far. 13 kms – I should have walked a further 2.5 to bring the total so far to 1200 exactly. As it happens, the total is 1197.5 kms. Tomorrow should be 22 kms, which should bring the sum for the French leg to not much over 1200 – the estimate when we set out was 1300 – Gay’s navigation has chopped it down.

As you know, we are just dallying around because we are ahead of schedule. We could have caught the ferry a couple of days ago, but this would have made a mess of all sorts of arrangements in England.

We have fetched up on the edge of Fleury-sur-Orne. There is no campsite available. In fact we have spent the last two nights at Thury-Harcourt because there seems to be nothing in the campsite line between there and (almost) the coast. We are heading off to spend the evening in a layby outside the house of a new friend we made as a result of him making a donation to Pancreatic Cancer UK through my blog. Dale and Thėrèse have also invited us for an evening meal. And tomorrow Dale will be walking with me the very last section of the French segment of VBW.

The pictures show the monument to miners in May-sur-Orne, which I walked through this morning.

And the dust? For the first time in weeks, I ended up with dusty legs. It’s the first time in weeks that I have walked somewhere with really dry ground. The weather is hot and sunny – I think we have had about a week of dry weather now – and I am informed that in England it is 30 degrees C - hotter than here, and expected to cool off only by 4 degrees C. - and remain so for the foreseeable future.

Ascents scaled down today to a measly 422 metres.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 42. A Cockstride.

Six weeks walking under my belt, or rather, under my soles.

Nothing much to report today. I walked only 16 kms, to Mutrėcy. Some of the walk was quite testing as I followed the GR 36 as it tried to follow the twists and turns of the river Orne. The GR, of course, twists and turns up and down at the same time. All hard work, especially in the hot weather which has suddenly come among us.

At one point, I was walking close to a fence and saw a fox shoot away on the other side. It was about two feet away from me when it started to go. I didn’t see it until it moved – I always walk along with my eyes glued to the track, especially when it is uneven.

At one point I was in the small village of Brieux. More in hope than expectation, I asked a man if there was a bar or café in the village. No, he said, not for a long way. I thanked him and walked on. He called me back. There is a hotel, where you could get a coffee. Is it far, I said. Nobbut a cockstride, he said. Actually, he said about half a kilometre. This was a diversion, you understand, not on the route. So I walked to the Auberge du Pont, as indicated. Door open, young blonde sweeping up outside. Are you open, says I. No, she says, not until midday. I was just after a coffee, I says. We don’t open the doors until 11.30, she said. What a difference from the woman in the boulangerie who went to so much trouble to coffee me up the other day.

I saw a second fox just before Brieux. This one was well dead, though. Not much left but its skin.

So, 1184.5 kms so far. Just 772 metres of climb today.

We are getting very close to the coast. Tomorrow’s walk will finish on the outskirts of Caen. Sunday’s walk, during which I will have company, will take us directly to the ferry port.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 41. Old Fossils.

Did I mention that when we spent the afternoon yesterday with Alex and Mark and Cassie, they kindly treated me to an ice cream? Here is the evidence of me demolishing the evidence.

This area – Suisse Normande – is a bit of a revelation. I think we are not the only ones to be surprised to find such a hilly area this far north in France, not far from the Channel. The river Orne meanders famously, and as a result, so do the roads and tracks. This river, and its ancestors, have carved their way down through the rock for hundreds of millions of years to create this spectacular landscape. The cliffs which loom over Clėcy are the oldest exposed rocks on the planet. They find fossils here that otherwise we would not wot of.

I experienced some of the result of all this carving this morning. Almost straight out of the campsite I was confronted with a very steep road. Forunately, because, like most roads, it twisted and turned, I could not see the whole of it or I may have fainted on the spot. The climb, on this one road, was about 250 metres. At the top I was fairly steaming. When I set off it was fairly cool, so I had donned one of my excellent Columbia lightweight waterproof jackets. At the top of the hill I had to remove this because it was clinging wetly to me.

I was then walking along a ridge high above the long views of countryside which I could see in every direction.

Today’s walk to Thury-Harcourt was short and I actually arrived in the town before Gay, who was delayed by a haircut she had booked for 9 am in Clėcy (I had one yesterday). Because I knew she was not yet at the campsite, I installed myself at one of the many bars in Thury and proceeded to consume coffee until she turned up.

The campsite is quiet but reasonably busy. As is frequently the case, almost everybody else here is Dutch – they do like their caravanning, and their hilly areas, possibly because a speed bump would count as a mountain in their own country.

I covered 17 kms today, the shortest walk of the trip so far. I am enjoying these short ones in the knowledge that when we hit England on Monday, I will be straight into a week of 30 kms days. Distance to date is 1168.5 kms, climbs today 855 metres.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 40 Extra. Plonk-It Seats

One of the things I have noticed almost daily while walking through France is the severe lack of places to sit and rest awhile.

In New Zealand they have an organisation, originally founded, I think, by a lady called Plunket. This organisation provides, all over the country, Plunket Rooms for women and children, safe havens where they can do womanly and childrenly things, undisturbed by the brute male of the species.

I propose to start a similar organisation in France. I am looking for a man called Plonk-It, ideally Lord or Marquis Plonk-It, who will act as patron and figurehead of the Plonk-It Society. But don’t you worry, Lord Plonk-It, wherever you are - I will do all the work.

The objective of the Plonk-It Society will be simple. It will provide, at every country crossroad in France, and down every country lane, a seat where weary walkers can Plonk their best features, henceforth to be known as It, while they chew the cud, slurp their water, and generally give their legs, and It, a wee rest.

This idea is the culmination of almost 70 years of education, experience, thought and consideration. It is my masterwork.

The picture shows the prototype of the standard Plonk-It seat. I saw it today – a very rare example of the very few existing Plonk-It facilities, and the only one I have ever seen with full sun protection.

Day 40. Douillet, d’Ouilly and Dooley, all jolie.

I have now spent 40 days and 40 nights wandering in the wilderness, and am wondering when the wisdom and wonderful insights will arrive. Maybe, because of inflation, I will have to wait until I have completed the full 70. One month today.

It was a short walk today, only 17.5 kms, although some of it was rather testing. This is where Gay’s savagery with the navigational axe is paying off. And a day off which had crept into the schedule unannounced has also been sacrificed. We decided it was best to keep moving and to shorten some of the other days instead. I have walked 1151.5 kms since leaving home and there will be five more walking days until we hit the ferry on Sunday.

Today’s walk took me first to Pont d’Ouilly, obviously a very canoey place, where I took this colourful picture of the boats waiting for their customers. Pont d’Ouilly was my only coffee stop today and I was rather hoping to meet Alex and Mark there. Alex is from Manchester, Mark from Blackpool. Alex e-mailed me yesterday, having just discovered my blog, about which she said complimentary things. She also said they lived near Pont d’Ouilly, and could I let her know when I was coming through, so we could meet for a coffee, and that she would also be donating to Pancreatic Cancer UK. I e-mailed back to say that I would be passing through this very morn. However, we had failed to make telephonic contact before I had scoffed my bun and coffee. No sooner was I a couple of kilometres up the road than my phone rang and it was Alex. I said I would get hold of Gay about maybe meeting up at Clėcy, which is where we are now and for tonight.

A bit further on I was musing about Pont d’Ouilly – d’Ouilly – Dooley? You may remember that the koala made a break for it in Douillet-le-Joly, thinking this is where it would be reunited with Ang Dooley, who donated the koala to us as a mascot. So here we were again, at another place named after her. This reminds me of Alexander the Great, who went round the world conquering, plundering and founding cities named after him. As far as I know, Ang does not conquer or plunder, but is there no getting away from the woman? But who would want to? I was thinking about all this nonsense, thinking I might enter it on my blog, when the phone rang. It was Ang! It seemed that when I rang Alex (above) and left a message on her answer machine, asking her to contact Gay in order to arrange a meeting place, I had inadvertently phoned Ang. Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Ang and Paul are on their way to England, where we hope to meet them in Winchester – and Gay has successfully arranged a meeting this afternoon with Alex and Mark.

Clėcy is another place with lots of canoes, lots of cafés overlooking the river, lots of groups of kids being shepherded about to be involved in activities of both water and rock, and lots of sunshine. Yes, it has been another sunny day. I think that makes three on the trot. It’s a bit unnerving. Our friend Rod in Reading tells us that southern England is desperately in need of rain. Don’t worry, Rod, I’m sure we can fix that.


p.s. We had a very nice, relaxing afternoon with Alex, Mark and their daughter Cassie. As Lorenzo told us long ago, we will make new friends during this trip. How right you were, Lorenzo.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 39. Another Milestone

This stone marks the boundary between the Orne and Calvados departements in Normandy. Calvados is the last of the many departements that I have walked through in France. It contains Caen and Ouistreham, our ferry port, so this is clear evidence that we are getting somewhere.

When I saw the marker, I had just left Mėnil-Hermei, where I had hoped to find a café-bar, having been disappointed in Rabondanges. As these were the only two villages I was passing through today, my hopes were high, as Mėnil-Hermei was the bigger of the two. My hopes were even higher when I spotted a boulangerie. I went in, ordered a croissant, and asked if there was a bar. The answer was no. It seemed that I would eat my croissant while walking along, and that my legs would not get the rest they were seeking.

But the woman said, “Did you want a coffee? I can make you one.” Asked me if I took milk and/or sugar, left customers waiting in the shop while she went off to make the coffee. Clearly didn’t have any cups there, because the coffee came in one of those glass jars that prefabricated desserts sometimes come in. I asked if there was a seat anywhere in the village. She got her husband to take a chair outside for me (it was a tiny shop). Then she said the coffee was a gift. How kind was that? I was really knocked out. The price of a coffee will go into our collecting tin for Pancreatic Cancer research, as does the “cost” of any act of kindness like this.

One of the customers was an old man, who came out with his bread, prepared to mount his trail bike, and was asking me about my walk. I think I should stop being surprised that somebody I have categorised as “old” is actually younger than me.

We are in a campsite between St Philbert-sur-Orne and Mėnil-Hubert-sur-Orne. Today’s walk was only 21 kms, with climbs of 788 metres. I have been taking it a bit slowly today as I have a slight injury in my left knee. I have a known problem with my right knee – the injury which stopped me running, but have not had a problem with the left one before. I think I know what caused it. The roads have a very sharp camber in the last metre or so at each side. Of course that is where I walk, generally on the left side, facing the approaching traffic. This means that my left leg is constantly striving to be longer than the right (it is best to alternate sides to avoid this problem, but the interests of safety are paramount), like a haggis. Result, misery. The problem came on yesterday as I came down a very steep descent into Putanges-pont-Ėcrepin. It didn’t bother me a lot while walking and doesn’t seem to be any worse than it was when I started out this morning.

No complaints about the weather. It started out a bit cool, but was clearly going to warm up as soon as the sun started to climb. And it did. The flies have been a bit of a nuisance, but they have probably been waiting for months for a bit of warm weather so they could harass a walker, and I just happened to be handy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 38. “Captain On The Bridge”.

Longest day of the year. As far as the northern hemisphere is concerned, maximum warp for sunshine. Result? 5 degrees – 5 bleeding degrees! That was the temperature when I set out this morning.

On last night’s campsite we were the only guests. At one time we thought this was about to change when we saw a young couple approaching V-Force One. They were probably going to ask us how to contact the gardienne, so that they could bring in their caravan or tent, or whatever. That would have been an interesting experience for them. When Gay arrived yesterday she read the sign at the campsite, which said contact the bar. She did so, but the woman at the bar knew nothing. She did not even know who the gardienne was. One of the customers said it was somebody who lived in that house over there. And so it went on. Eventually contact was made. But back to the young couple. They were spared all that detective work. Gay was able to answer their question very easily. The question? “Can we hire this vehicle?” Guess the answer.

If we had rented it to them, they could have frozen to death in here, instead of us. Middle of the year, first action of the morning was to switch the heating on – only the second time in this trip. Then, instead of casting clouts and setting off for a brisk walk in the sunshine (and it was sunny today!) wearing nothing but a loincloth and a pair of hippy sandals, I clapped on a Helly-Hansen, zipped the legs back on to my shorts for the first time in over a month and set forth with teeth chattering.

Within 5 kms, the rising of the sun in the sky, plus the heat generated by me charging along trying to stop the icicles forming, made me so uncomfortable that I stopped, removed everything (well, almost everything) and stowed the Helly-Hansen in my rucksack. After stopping in Ėcouché (does that mean “recumbent?) for the best pain aux raisins of the trip, and a coffee, I zipped off the legs and removed the waterproof jacket, because I was well warm enough. As long as I kept moving – because although it was a sunny day, wherever I was not protected from the wind, it was a bit touch-and-go, warmth-wise.

After encountering a couple of places where the track was blocked (once by barbed wire, which your hero climbed under, and once by a “Private, no entry” sign, which he ignored but then met the owner, resulting in a detour of several added kilometres) I arrived at the wonderfully-named Putanges-Pont-Ėcrepin, where this picture was taken of the captain on the bridge.

I walked 29 kms. Total to date 1113 kms. It’s getting hilly again – ascents 1163 metres. And we are just entering an area called Suisse Normande, the name being not unconnected with hilliness.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 37. Vlad Is Back

Today I plunged deeper into Normandy and nearer to the coast. 7 more days of walking in France then we take ship for England.

My walk of 25.5 kms finished in Boucé and brought VBW to 1084 kms so far. Most of today I was on forestry tracks, some of them very steep – at one time my forward progress was reduced to 1 kph. My upward speed was probably a little above that. I climbed 1109 metres today.

It was also very cold. When I started out the temperature was 8 degrees. I don’t think it improved much from that, and later in the walk the pleasure was added to when Vlad sent the north wind back to haunt me. I passed through only a couple of tiny villages, so there were no coffee stops to insert springs into my legs. As you see, a very enjoyable day, culminating in us checking in to by far the grottiest campsite of the whole trip, so far. We are in Vieux Pont because once again there is no campsite nearer to today’s finish. I don’t think we shall be coming here for our holidays.

If that sounds like a lot of complaining, I should mention the good news, which is that today, so far, it has been dry. And I believe a sunny day is forecast for tomorrow.

And generally all is OK with the world, my world that is. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

Oh, there was one incident. I was walking along a narrow country road when I heard a car behind me. I tucked myself into the side to let it pass, or rather to safeguard my person. It stopped behind me, then it drew alongside. Three young men started to question me about what I was doing. One said he had seen me yesterday in St Denis-sur-Sarthon. Then two of them got out of the car and came close. At this stage I realised they were drunk, and of course I wondered what would happen if they became agressive. How could I explain 3 dead French bodies lying in the road. Fortunately they just wanted to shake my hand and wish me Bon Courage and all those things.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 36. Weather In Perspective

I forgot to say yesterday that I walked 25.5 kms. Today it was 26. Total so far is 1058.5. I have been walking through an area called Alpes-Mancelles, which, as you may expect, means that the hills have been creeping in again after a few days of flatness. Today’s climbs totalled 965 metres which is nothing to my legs battle-hardened by bigger hills in the middle of France.

It’s been another wet one. Very wet. We had a late start because the campsite would not open its gates to let us out until 8 a.m. So by the time we got back to Sougé-le-Ganelon it was about 8.30, and well raining. It was also cold, below 10 degrees I think, so I set a cracking pace just to keep warm.

First stop was a very scenic little town called St-Cénéri-le-Gérei. It was raining quite badly at the time so I didn’t get any pictures, although there were people snapping away in the wet. This was also the first place on the GR36, which I have been told is the M1 of walkers, where I have actually seen any walkers. They weren’t walking, you understand, just milling about waiting, I think, for a restaurant/bar to open. It was about 2 minutes to 10 so some rule was obviously being adhered to in true bureaucratic fashion (Gay yesterday asked the man at the campsite why he couldn’t let us out before 8 and he said “because it is in the rules”. And the rule exists because … ?)

I managed to get a coffee in St-Cénéri-le-Gérei, at the bar tabac which was open, but which did not deal in croissants. I noticed in this town that the car number plates had changed, that I was now in departement 61, which is Orne, and that I was in Normandy. As I pressed on, I was in departement 53, which is Mayenne, and which is back in Pays de la Loire region. By the time I finished the walk in la Roche-Mabile, I was back in Normandy. Because the nearby campsite is not yet open for the summer (it is the second half of June!), we are camped in Alençon. I don’t know which departement or region Alençon is in but it is a big town and not very much to our liking.

While I have been moaning about the cold and wet summer (although I think I have also made it clear that this has played into my hands by not being too hot), I have also been aware that there has been a catastrophe, weather-wise, in the Var departement in Provence. Many people have been killed and thousands are affected badly by floods resulting from horrendous rainfalls. Apparently these have been the worst rains since the early 1800s. To put that in perspective – since before New Zealand was colonised. France gets much more than its share of natural disasters. This is the second one this year, after the storm and floods near the Atlantic coast earlier in the year, which also resulted in many deaths and many more losing homes to which they will never be able to return.

In our time in France there have been two catastrophic flooding incidents in the Aude, where we live. Days before the turn of the century two hurricanes slammed into France on consecutive days, causing damage, an example of which is that 29,000,000 trees were felled. In the winter of 2008/9 another hurricane caused colossal havoc in Northern Spain and Southern France. And so on, and so on.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 35. The Great Koala Escape

Did I mention yesterday that when I clocked up the 1,000 kms, this was, with my stride of 0.80 of a metre, my 1,250,000th step of VBW? That is 625,000 steps with each foot, including the left, arthritic one, which is increasingly making me aware of all the hard work it is doing

Today I felt tired while walking. Maybe this was a bit of anti-climax from yesterday – after all, I still have half the walk to do. Or maybe it was just a tired day – I have mentioned before that some days I feel tired, most days I do not. Mark Knopfler put it very well when he wrote “Some days you’re the windscreen, some days you’re the bug”. I know exactly what he meant.

It seemed as if it was going to be a day without a coffee stop, but as I pulled into Montreuil-le-Chétif I spied a combined épicerie and bar-tabac, where I enjoyed a coffee and a very nice croissant in the smallest bar I have seen in France -3 tables. I felt amazingly rejuvenated by this experience so that the second half of the walk was much more frisky than the first half.

At Douillet-le-Joly (which reminded me of Ang Dooley, our Ozzie friend and neighbour, who is a very jolly person) I saw this interesting garden, with the birdwatcher peeping out of the hedge. The garden was also replete with bears, horses and other large ornaments. I have noticed during the past 35 days that the French are very fond of filling their gardens with fake animals, geese, ducks, rabbits and other not very wild life – what’s that all about?

When I reached Sougé-le-Ganelon (don’t you just love these names – it was worth today’s walk, just to be able to say I have been to this place), today’s terminus, I realised that I have at last lost the koala which Ang and Paul gave me as I left home. A few days ago it lost its boomerang, which did not come back, and now I feel it has leapt from the brim of my hat in Dooley-the-Jolly, probably because it felt it had reached home. Sorry, Ang and Paul. I will now revert to the backup kangaroo.

Gay picked me up in Sougé-le-Ganelon (I just can’t stop saying it) and we came to the campsite in St. Leonard-des-Bois, where I am not sure if the telephone signal is strong enough to load the photographs.

And that marks the end of the fifth week and the first half of Vic’s Big Walk For Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 34. 1,007 kms

We are at Beaumont-sur-Sarthe. Today I walked to Assé-le-Riboul, where there is no campsite, which is why we are in Beaumont.

The first 8 kms of my walk saw me back in la Guiérche, which is where we had spent the night on a very quiet farm camp. I paused in la Guiérche for coffee, then marched on through Souillé, which is where I saw this very interesting velocipede.

As I was coming into Ste-Jamme-sur-Sarthe, I received a phone call from my daughter Karen, in Saudi Arabia. I haven’t seen Karen, or any of my daughters, this year, as they are scattered to the four winds and three continents. She told me that where she is the temperature is in the mid 40s, Celsius. Also that when she went out with friends to a flash hotel recently, there were bottles of water on offer for £140 - each!

A little later, I passed through the 1,000 kms barrier. Unfortunately, there was nothing of note on the spot, nothing to photograph to mark the occasion. I did think of starting a cairn, but there were no stones available. A bit of a damp squib, really, for such a milestone in VBW. But at the exact second that the counter on my Satmap clicked onto the magic number, my phone buzzed and there was a message from Karen to congratulate me. Brilliant timing.

As I walked along the one bit of main road, coming into St-Marceau, a woman in a car slowed down, honked, waved, and gave me a big smile. Almost as if she knew me. It is possible there has been something in the papers. I know Columbia Sportswear have been regionally drip-feeding their excellent press release to newspapers as I have progressed up the country. They have been a wonderful support to me in this enterprise.

Total kms for the day were 24, bringing me up to 1,007 kms. Climbs for the day were a meagre 814 metres.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 33. Vlad The Impaler

Today was dry, but very cold. The coldest day since I started VBW. The temperature just before I started out was 11 degrees Celsius, and that was inside V-Force One, which had been heated all night by two portable 2KW heaters. So outside it must have been much less. This lack of heat was being pushed from the North East by a strong wind. I blame Putin for all this. I have never liked him – or anyone called Vladimir, for that matter. The name didn’t get off to a good start with that Impaler fellow, did it?

I walked today from Ruaudin, where I finished yesterday, through Yvrés l’Evêque (where we spent last night), to near Neuville-sur-Sarthe. The campsite at Neuville where we had planned to spend the rest of the day was closed, so Gay had found another one, on a farm, at La Guierge. The farm people said that the other campsite had been taken over by some Brits and promptly closed.

We are in an area of many horses. They obviously breed them round here. Is there anything more beautiful than a horse, except for a baby horse? I had just passed one “Poney Club” and texted Gay that I was 2 kms from the rendezvous, when I found myself wading through what looked like the Amazon delta. This was the worst bit of track I have come across in almost 1,000 kms. Liquid mud, over a kilometre of it, the track being too narrow to escape onto the side, and the mud stirred by lots of cycle tracks. This slowed me down a bit, made me, as Billy Connolly would say “skite about” and made a right mess of my shoes.

More songs have been suggested. Nicola’s favourite is the already-suggested “Take me home, country roads”. I like that one as well, especially as I have been known to play it in public (as part of a large band), but the trouble I have with it is that I don’t feel as if I am walking home. I know I am walking back through my life to the root of it all, but I feel very strongly that Puivert is my home, not Blackpool.

Another one Nicola suggests, for when I reach the channel, is Neil Diamond’s “Walk on Water”. Which reminds me – I have perfected a groan which emerges when somebody, learning about VBW, says, with an air of “caught you out!” – “so what will you do when you reach the channel?” What do you think I will do, I’m not going to swim across, am I? Then it is implied that I should walk round and round the ship until it lands, and that somehow I am cheating if I do not do so. Well, I’m not cheating, because I make the rules up for this unique event, but the real answer is – “If you say you are driving to England, does that mean that you are going to drive round and round the ferry until it reaches the other side?”

Valerie, perhaps remembering that Gay and I go by different routes to the same point each day, has suggested “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road”. And there is a Scottish connection – the day after VBW finishes on my 70th birthday, we shall be in Scotland for a week or more.

Leslie Stephens, who says he is a much younger man than me – because his 70th birthday falls on July 31st 2010 – suggests that, in view of the weather I have had for most of this trip, “Walking in the rain” would be very appropriate.

In the same vein, I offer up, on behalf of the people of France, Chris Rea’s “Looking for the summer”.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 32. Onwards, Ever Onwards

We are at Yvrė l’Evêque, even nearer to Le Mans, although I finished today’s walk from Mayet to near to Ruaudin. Tomorrow morning it is back to the same spot near Ruaudin, then I walk on, through Changé and Yvrė l’Evêque. By tomorrow lunchtime, we shall be well north of Le Mans.

As you can see, I walked past the Vatican, so it’s no wonder it feels like a long way. There was one coffee break in Ecommoy, after 10 kms (which is more than can be said for yesterday, so it’s no wonder I was so tired then) but the second one at Teloché – after 21 kms – failed to materialise. What sort of place has two boulangeries (bakers) but no bar? Clearly the people of Teloché have to eat their croissants in the silence of their lonely rooms.

The threatened rain was feeble in its approaches today and did not occasion the donning of a waterproof poncho. But again the temperature did not struggle even out of the teens. These temperatures are fine for me, but the people of France are clearly wondering where their summer is this year.

I think I may have forgotten to say that last Friday, when I crossed the Loire, I also left Centre Region for Pays de la Loire. We are still in that region, Sarthe departement. In a very few days, we shall be in our final region of France, Normandy, and will be preparing for the invasion of England.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 31. No Entry, or No Exit?

When I was answering Jean’s question the other day, I omitted to say that, although I am not generally very tired, some days I am more tired than others. This was such a day. The day’s walk was only 24 kms (have you noticed how Gay’s excellent navigation has cut my average day down from about 35 to 30, by including some days well under 30, although we still end up in the same place as previously planned?) and thank goodness it was no further. I was dragging my feet from very early on. I have had days like this before, and will probably be back to normal tomorrow.

The picture shows a pretty effective “no entry” sign. You wouldn’t be trying to brush that aside, would you?

We are in Mayet, having completed 930 kms so far. Tomorrow we shall land up pretty close to Le Mans, and have so far failed to find a campsite. We may have to go to a hotel, but it would have to be one with good parking, and also one which does not keep its guests locked up until they feel like letting you go, as so many small French hotels do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 30. Outlook Wet (Again)


A quiet day, with nothing much to report. The only matters of note are:

1. I passed the 900 kms mark, having walked 28 kms today, 906 kms in all so far. Total ascents today 874 metres. I walked from Parcay les Pins to near Le Lude, where we are now encamped. We are not too far away from Le Mans, where the 24 hour races are currently under way, so there are lots of enthusiasts cars about.

2. I was dry. This is possibly the fifth day out of 30 in which I have not been wet while walking. I should make the most of it because the forecast for the next 3 days, which is as far as it goes in the newspaper, is wet.

One of the pictures is of the amuse bouche preceding the extremely scenic meal we shared with Rob and Judith on Friday, at the hotel in La Breille les Pins. It seemed a shame to disturb it by eating it, but, heroically, we pressed on.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jean's Big Question

Jean Dolan e-mailed me:

I've just read todays news but you dont tell us how you are feeling. Are you tired, do your feet hurt, what do you think about? Such long hours all on your own, its a good job you've got Gay. Good man Vic. Step you gaily. xxxxx

Quite right, Jean, I have not reported lately on how I am feeling.

I have been walking for 29 days. I feel fairly tired towards the end of each walk, and don’t feel like doing much for the rest of the day. It’s just the legs that feel as if they have done something – apart from that I am not particularly tired or sleepy. I could probably do with a masseur for my legs. I am sleeping no more than usual and by the next morning do not feel any residual tiredness

I gave myself a problem with my feet in the first week, which has left my big toe and the one next to it on the left foot both with nails now hanging off. I also have arthritis in the big toe joint on the left foot – I have had it for a while, but only intermittently – now I have it all the time – I don’t know if that will subside after VBW. My right foot is fine – maybe I should just hop?

Apart from that, everything seems to be in working order, no problems of any kind.

Mentally I am not having a problem. I haven’t even thought much about how on earth I got involved in such a huge physical commitment. I haven’t even gloated much over the fact that this is something which nobody else, in the history of man, has ever done, walking from Puivert to Blackpool, never mind at the age of 70. But I have noticed that it is a long way, and that I am not halfway there yet.

What do I think about? Maybe I should be thinking deep thoughts, but I am not. I expected to spend much of the time ruminating on my life and how I got to where I am now. Maybe that will happen more when I get to England and visit places which remind me of various phases of my life.

I spend a lot of time just enjoying the pleasure of the quiet highways and byways, the silence, apart from bird and animal sounds, the lack of traffic almost every day.

I also spend quite a lot of time wondering whether there will be a coffee place in the next town, if it will be open, and whether I can have a few minutes rest, which is amazingly rejuvenating.

I am dictating extensively as I walk, getting on for 2,000 words a day, which may possibly form the basis of a book. Of course that also has to be transcribed every evening.

I listen a bit to my iPod, which has about 700 albums on it, but I have mainly listened to language courses and am enjoying listening to the speeches of Martin Luther King.

So I am indeed stepping me gaily, and hope to continue to do so for another 41 days.

Day 29. Visitations

This is a picture of something I passed today. If that isn’t evidence that they have landed, I don’t know what sort of proof you need. Mind you, some people say that when they see me charging through this country.

We had a very pleasant visit yesterday from Judith and Rob Fletcher, who made a big detour to see us instead of going straight from Calais to their house in the Creuse. In the evening, they came from their hotel in Breille les Pins, 9 kms away, drove us back to the hotel for a very splendid meal, then brought us back to our camp in Allonnes, where we said goodbye, for now.

This morning I realised that I would be passing by their hotel on my walk, and that in fact it was the only chance of a coffee stop today. I arrived a few minutes after they had departed. But I had a nice chat with two English couples who were still breakfasting. Of course I told them about VBW and they immediately came up with a donation, which I have just put onto the JustGiving website on their behalves. Thanks go to Joyce and Tony, Ann and Fred.

I then marched on to Parcay les Pins, where Gay was waiting in V-Force One, right underneath the very loud church bells which I had heard from several kilometres away. Because the drive to a campsite was another 10 kms, we nipped into the local café/bar. When Gay asked for tea, mine host revealed himself to be English, and named Terry. He refused payment for the two drinks. The price will go into the purple PCUK collecting tin we have for that purpose – it now contains a number of small amounts for little kindnesses such as Terry’s – it will be emptied eventually and the proceeds put into JustGiving as a collective donation. Terry is also going to display details of VBW and the need for donations, in his bar. Thanks, Terry.

Today’s walk, the first of the fifth week, was 25 kms. Total to date 878. Today’s climbing practice was 813 metres.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vic's Big Walking Songs

There have been many suggestions for songs to speed me on my way.

Neil Hughes started the ball rolling before the walk started with these:

I walk the line- johny cash

These boots were made for walking – Nancy Sinatra

Walk on by – Dione Warwick

Running on empty – Jackson Browne

Anything by The Walker Brothers or Junior Walker and The All Stars.

Run for home – Lindisfarne

Then Graham Massey sent me this message:

Suppose you have an iPod with " on the road again" ( by Willie) but do you have "These boots were made for walking "( Nancy) and "Keep right on to the end of the road "( Sir Harry Lauder). Perhaps you have a few apt ones of your own ? Or you could ask for suggestions from your followers.

Rod King went onto the Internet to research for this mammoth production:

1. Walk On By

2. You’ll Never Walk Alone

3. Just Walking In The Rain (how appropriate)

4. Where’er You Walk (I believe this one may be classed as a hymn – at least by some people)

5. Walk The Road Again (I like this title because it is appropriately included in a song collection book named ‘The Coffee House Songbook’)

6. Walk On The Wild Side

7. Walk Don’t Run

8. Walking On Sunshine

9. Walking In The Sunshine

10. Walking In Rhythm

11. Walking For That Cake (Yes, really! This title is included in a songbook named ‘Best Loved Songs Of The American People’ – I wonder why?)

12. My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You (This song is specially for you (Vic), to sing to Gay and should be Columbia’s favourite)

Septimus came up with –

Take me home country roads"

Jean Dolan offered

Hit the road, Jack.

Dale Heighway gave me the full words for “Manchester Rambler” and “Thirsty Boots”

John Hayfield came up with: "Walk & Don't Look Back " which I think was Peter Tosh & M Jagger ?

There is of course also:

I'm walking - yes, indeed I'm walking. - by Fats Domino

Day 28. Long Roads

We camped overnight in Candes St Martin, so had to drive back to yesterday’s finishing point near Chinon. It then took me almost 3 hours to get back to Candes St Martin.

Soon after that, at Montsoreau, I walked over an immensely long bridge over the river Loire, which the Vienne (we seem to have been following, crossing and re-crossing the Vienne for weeks) has now joined.

When I got to the church in Allonnes, where Gay and I had agreed to meet, she was not there. It’s not much fun standing around when you have walked two thirds of a marathon, but there was nowhere to sit. And the sun had just come onto the boil after the inevitable daily rain. It wasn’t long before she drove up In V-Force One. It appears that the campsite, 3 kms outside Allonnes, where she had already booked in, is locked up between 12 and 2, and they were reluctant to let her out. Are these places for the benefit of the public, or are they prisons? They admonished her not to come back before 2, so we have sat outside the gates and had our lunch.

Today’s walk was 28.5 kms, with a mere 995 metres of ascents. 853.5 kms so far.

There have been a number of suggestions of songs for VBW, which I will publish soon. But how about “The Long And Winding Road”?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 27. Steeper Work

It’s funny that, a day after saying something about soldiers marching, I should find myself in between two squads on a route march. They weren’t gaining on me, either. The ones pictured are only so far away because I paused to take the photo. In fact they only got past me because I took yet another wrong turn.

It’s also funny that, a day after starting to read a book in which Chinon features, I should find myself in the town itself, as pictured. The book is one of Sharon Penman’s series of excellent historical novels about the Norman kings of England.

I walked to a few kms past Chinon today, although we are camped in Candes St Martin. We have to go back in the morning for me to pick up the thread.

Today’s tramp was 30 kms. 825 in all now. And after 3 days of flatter land, I am back to steeper work, with total ascents today of 1257 metres.

The other picture was taken outside last night’s accommodation and clearly shows why we were there.

And it’s been damn well raining again. Will it ever stop?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 26. Marching

For the past three days I have been walking through flat countryside (while still managing to climb about 800 metres per day) – grain-growing lands. Just towards the end of today’s walk I moved back into wine country. In fact, the farm where we are staying (and seem to be the only residents apart from the owners) makes and bottles its own wine. The wine of the region is chenin, rouge et blanc.

Not much to report today, except for another two occasions where the route I was following disappeared – the tracks were on the map, but not in the fact.

I had another instance today of a man saying to me “You are walking well!” I explained to the old man (I must stop saying that – I sometimes realise when I have said it that the man was probably younger than me) what I was doing, and he shook my hand and said “Felicitations! Et bonne courage!” I really should carry the Pancreatic Cancer collecting tin with me.

I was musing that what I am doing is not all that unusual, or rather it was not, until recently.. Before armies became mechanised, which really happened only during the Second World War, it was the norm for bodies of men to march huge distances, carrying heavy equipment. “The enemy is 800 kms away. Quick! March over there and have a battle!” “Oh no! Whoops! They outsmarted us – they are where we started from – hurry back there!”

Mind you, I don’t suppose many of them were a few weeks away from being 70 years of age.

We are near Panzoult. Distance today 27 kms. To date 795 kms.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 25. Philosophy

How many roads must a man walk down …?

Thank you, Bob, very philosophical, but I don’t think people will buy that sort of dirgy stuff.

Various people have taken a stab at suggesting theme songs for Vic’s Big Walk. Most of them have been fairly obvious, - These Boots Were Made For Walking – I Walk The Line – On The Road Again. But nobody has suggested the above, or, for instance, Maura o’Connell’s Footsteps Fall.

What would you suggest?

A short walk today, of 24 kms, to Nouatre, where I found Gay waiting for me in a place (I just realised how silly that reads - I mean a French place, i.e. a square. We are encamped at St Maure de Touraine, a few kms away. Total distance covered to date is 768 kms. Wednesday next week I will probably go over the 1000 kms mark. What sort of celebration should we have for that?

I stopped off in Descartes this morning. Chief export philosophy – this is where the great philosopher hailed from. It seems a big sort of town for philosophy, a bit industrialised, although quoting Descartes is a bit of an industry, is it not?

When I went to the boulangerie for a bun to have with my morning coffee, I discovered pattes d’Ours. That means either bear’s footprint or bears paw. I can’t remember which, but in pastry form it is the same as the bear’s claws they sell in North America. I have never seen them in France before. And they were very nice – I use the plural advisedly because once again I seemed to end up with two.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day Twenty Four. Moving On

Moving On? A Hank Snow song, also recorded by Elvis. Did you know that Hank Snow was the main financial backer of Elvis’ career? The “colonel” didn’t invest – he only collected.

We are north of Poitiers now, in Abilly. Today’s walk was 29 kms, bringing the total to 744 kms.

As I walked out of Pleumartin, I saw these lovely deer in a field. I assume they are tame, otherwise they are plundering some poor farmer’s hay. The goats were definitely legit.

I am struck by how many immense houses I see, or chateaux, still in good condition, and many still in private hands.

Another thing that has an impact on me is the war memorials. This one, in the very small town of Coussay-les-Bois, has over 30 dead in the First World War, just from that small town. Not many in the Second War, of course.

The countryside is more rolling now and even a few stiff climbs could bring the total ascents to not much over 700 metres. A doddle.

During the walk, I crossed the river Creuse at la Guerche. It was immediately obvious, from the change in car registration plates, that I had moved into another departement – out of Vienne and into Indre et Loire. We have also moved into another region, from Poitou-Charentes to Centre. This means changing the mapping card in my Satmap device, and that in turn emphasises that I am making progress, or moving on.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day Twenty Three. Incidents and Accidents

At last a bit of camouflage. We are at la Roche-Posay. There are so many geriatrics here that nobody will notice me. It is a spa town, full of hotels and apartments which cater, as the spa does, to people taking the waters, which is something which happens on the national health service in France. There are also plenty of restaurants so I think I will take ma honey out tonight.

I didn’t walk to la Roche-Posay. My 32 kms for today finished in Pleumartin – a small town with a massive central square – but this is the nearest campsite. I arrived there via sightings of a pine marten, a hare, a hoopoe (I think) and a big snake (dead). Also via a couple or three accidents.

First, I accidentally bought two pain aux raisins at the boulangerie in la Puye. Of course I had to eat them while I was cowering from a thunder and lightning storm in a café.

Next, as I got up to leave said café, I dropped my Satmap Active 10 GPS device on the floor and it split into pieces. This could have been a disaster of major proportions because I am totally reliant on the Active 10 to find my way each day, after Gay has slaved over the maps the day before. I carry the maps with me as back-up but I am not sure what good they would be because I can’t see the tracks, even with a magnifying glass (I carry one with me). Fortunately, the Satmap device lived – it was just the replaceable (if you scratch it) screen which had voluntarily removed itself, and I was able to put it back in position without calling the AA.

The third accident was one of navigation. I was walking down an impressively straight road for kilometre after kilometre. I was transfixed by this, and fascinated by the many houses which had signs outside like those pictured. I was wondering if this all had to do with the Acadians who went to Canada and then to Louisiana (where they became the Cajuns, who have donated their food and their music to the world). Then I realised that I had not looked at my Satmap for some time. I had gone nearly 4 kms beyond a point where my route should have taken me north-east instead of the north-west I was travelling.

But the Satmap came to my rescue, by showing me a cross-country route, more or less due east, which intercepted the planned journey without me having to completely retrace my steps. Nevertheless, all this no doubt added 2 or 3 unnecessary kms to my necessary journey.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day Twenty Two

Start of the fourth week.

We are at St Savin, although the finish of my walk today was 14 kms from here. This was the nearest campsite. St Savin is twinned with Hartley Wintney, which should interest several of the readers of this blog. I don’t know if that includes the policeman who booked me for speeding outside the police college while my brother was lecturing inside.

Today was a flat walk, at last. The last flat walk was Day 1. This is Day 22. Not a bad average, I suppose, one flat walk every 3 weeks. The first 10 kms was along an old railway track, lovely and shady, trees on both sides, those on the left separating me from the Vienne river.

I then met Gay in Lussac-les-Chateaux for coffee. We hadn’t realised it, but we are familiar with Lussac, having stayed there at least twice, once in the lovely Orangerie Hotel – our chief memory of that is that there were coracles floating in the swimming pool. Yesterday Jacques told us the curious fact that Lussac, which is named for its chateaux, has a few remnants of one castle, whereas Persac – where he lives and we were residing in his orchard – has seven chateaux but no castley suffix to its name.

After Lussac there was little shade. The roads were straight and quiet. Also, as I said, flat, although my gadget tells me that my total ascents today were 896 metres, which is a mere Pennine.

The campsite is hosting a collection of campervans and caravans who are here to celebrate a 60th wedding anniversary. Tonight there will be feasting and accordion music. In town this afternoon there are celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the town being twinned with a German city. We shall walk into town presently and check that out - after all, I have walked a mere 30 kms today, giving a total so far of 583. Oops! Undersold myself, make that 683 kms to date.

We have seen donkeys every day. Of course they are cute, but I was wondering why they are there. After all, farmers do not keep any animal for sentimental reasons – they have to earn their keep. We cleared this up with Jacques yesterday. The answer is simple, really. As that dog on the television used to say – Sausages!

p.s. Did I mention that it was over 30 degrees? Never mind, back to thunder and lightning tomorrow. Then rain the day after. Who needs more than 3 days of dry weather?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day Twenty One

We are at Persac in Vienne departement. We are parked in the garden of Jacques Felix. Jacques is a French Canadian, from Quebec province and yesterday we had never heard of him, which is a shame.

While I was walking to Persac this morning, Gay drove here (having paused in l'Isle-Jourdain to identify a coffee stop for me). In Persac she found that the campsite does not open until June 15th (this gives them a season of two and a half months, which only bureaucrats running a business would find acceptable). She enquired about all this at the Mairie. Also visiting the Mairie was Jacques, who was there for a meeting about his property. He volunteered the use of his orchard (Gay has already plundered the cherries - by invitation) and electricity. He seems a very kind and friendly man.

Today's march was 30 kms, bringing the total to 653.5. Total ascents today were 966 metres, under a thousand for the first time in living memory. I started keeping a record of the climbs when it struck me, after all that talk about Ben Nevis, that I am probably climbing Everest every week, as well as walking over 200 kms. Statistics show that this may be correct.