Wednesday, June 2, 2010
This post appears a day late because yesterday I could not get a signal for my dongle.
France is big. I knew that, but this walk is underlining it for me. Also, it is not flat, or if it is, I have not yet found a flat bit.
VBW is long, and a huge undertaking, but I am regarding it as an elephant task. You know what that is. Not many of us could look at an elephant and think “I’ll eat that”. But it is possible to say that you will eat a bit of an elephant every day and, over a period of time, to consume the whole elephant.
So, a walk of 2,000 kms is a bit daunting, so I regard it as 70 shorter daily walks of about 30 kms. And each daily walk I divide up into three 10 kms walks, intersected by coffee stops. It’s not so much the coffee I want, as its assistance with my elephant task.
But for the past 3 days (wet days – there was another of those today) I have not seen a coffee shop or bar during my walks. So imagine my delight when I saw this sign today as I enter St Estephe (Saint Steve), after my first 10 kms. Imagine my disappointment when, much more than 200 kms later, I found the Café and Brocante – firmly closed. Never mind, at the other end of St Estephe (a small place, where I had expected to find no cafes) there was another one. It was one of those places with a shop and a bar side by side, with one person hopping between each. But there was no such person. All the signs on the door, about opening hours, although confusing and contradictory, led me to believe that today it should be open.
I hung around a couple of minutes and a man came hurtling up in a car and leaped out, clutching a big brown paper bag. He had been to fetch the bread, he explained.
I asked for a coffee and a croissant. He had no croissants because the boulangerie was closed – even though he had just been for the bread.
As I sat with my coffee, he asked if I am on holiday. No, I said, and explained that I am walking from my home in the Pyrenees to the house where I was born in northern England. 2,000 kms. Walking for 70 days, to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.
He was knocked out. “You are very courageous,” he said. “Bonne courage. Bonne chance. Formidable!” And he kept saying it. He must have said it ten times, again as I left.
Apart from that, and another encounter in another bar at about 20 kms, run by an old man who was clearly well over 80 and dear, it has been just another miserable trudge through the wet. A day in which I saw few crops (I haven’t seen a vineyard for days). A day in which I was regarded by insolent cows and ignored by arrogant horses. A day, also, in which I passed from the Dordogne departement into Charentes, and from the Aquitaine region into Poitou-Charentes. A day in which I inserted the fourth mapping card into my Satmap Active 10 navigation device, which is proving invaluable in keeping me on track.
We are at Roussines. I walked 29.5 kms (don’t begrudge me these half kilometres – I have to work for them), and climbed a total of 1343 metres. So far I have walked 566.5 kms and am now past a quarter of the walk, in terms of time.