In some sense, Monday should have been an easy day. And it was, physically speaking. Although there were significant uphill sections, this stage of the walk had an overall elevation change of over a half mile down. It was far more downhill than up.
At the risk of sounding like a 20-century French existentialist playwright, Monday morning, my hell was other people.
Sunday was Victory in Europe Day in France, and it seems like a lot of people had Monday off. I got something of a late start Monday, so instead of being ahead of the crowds, I ended up having to walk through them. Many had a limited sense of trail etiquette and absolutely no sense of situational awareness.
For some, social distancing meant spreading out all over the trail so that no one could get by. People were literally sitting down in the middle of the trail in some cases.
In other places, the trail crosses private grazing land. Common sense tells you that if you have to open a closed livestock gate, you have to close it again behind you. For those with no common sense, there are also signs. When I saw someone behind me leave a gate open, I imagined some herder’s profit margin walking away.
Perhaps I should have just kept my eyes forward, but that wouldn’t really have helped either. Shortly after seeing livestock gates left open, I saw a guy taking a dump on the side of the trail. Not directly on it, but definitely not far enough from it. Hey buddy, there are trees 50 feet that way!
Fortunately, by late morning, I had gotten past the unwashed masses and was enjoying a bit of solitude. The weather was gorgeous. Partly cloudy and cool, although it warmed up considerably as the day wore on and the elevation got lower. I prayed a rosary and included intentions for the folks I’d just passed — and for a thicker skin for myself.
By early afternoon, I was starting to get very hungry. I passed through a village called Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, where I stopped for a long, delicious lunch. I’ll save the food pictures for another post.
One of the things I’ve noticed on this trail is that a steep descent into a village usually means a steep, sweaty climb back out. Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac was no exception. As I headed out of the village with my full belly, I saw the village cemetery and wondered how many graves belonged to pilgrims passing through.
The rest of the afternoon was just a pleasant walk. Mostly downhill, through cow pastures and occasional leafy forests, with a brook or stream here and there for good measure.
I arrived in Saint-Côme-d’Olt just in time for a shower before dinner. I saw some familiar faces at the dinner table, as well as some new ones.
Upon discovering that I’m an American, people at the table want to try to speak to me in English. One of the guys who’s seen me a lot always interrupts them to let them know I speak French “very well.”
Approximate distance walked: 21.5 miles.