2nd June 2010
Getting used to the routine now. Campsites tend to be at the bottoms of valleys – next to the river – so the first task of the day is invariably a long climb uphill to the ridge – which we follow to the next destination (sometimes crossing several valleys on the way).
Raining when we woke up but sky soon cleared for a lovely sunny day. Up on to the Causse – mostly shaded with small trees. Lovely walking and only 18K so we were very relaxed about reaching Limogne en Quercy. Once again stumbled on improvised refreshments and an improvised exhibition about the area hilariously translated into English using Google, we thought. Arrived at Limogne to find campsite not only closed but almost derelict. Back to Tourist Office who suggested we might be able to pitch our tent at the Stade (town football pitch) where there was at least a water supply. Sent us to the Mairie and hinted we might even get them to lend us a key to the toilets. You must be joking. Much Gallic shrugging of shoulders so in the end we just stuck the tent up without permission, much to the agitation of a group of teenage boys whom we considered bribing to look after our stuff while we went to find food. The only food shop in town was closed for an annual stocktake so we had no alternative but the local pizza takeaway – which deserved a chapter all to itself. The owner had managed to integrate his social life (drinking) with his business.
Found a lovely local café with a clientele who all seemed to know each other. Beautiful and very aloof young (30’s) woman dressed in black in charge. Two east London wide-boy builders having a coded conversation about some deal or other. We sat there for a couple of hours with Alain and his wife going through all the books and maps we had. There seemed to be a complete absence of campsites/food/water on the next 40K stretch – bit of a pattern emerging – so we decided the only alternative was to catch a bus down to Cahors.Journal
Des Causses du Quercy, in any other circumstances might have been the very best part of our walk; high limestone plateau – like the Mendip hills but ten times as large – and all the wildlife, all the caves and potholes; everything I love about limestone. Forget the lovely waiter, I called her Sophie but that was just a fantasy name and I wouldn’t have been worthy of a second glance in any case. After nearly 3 weeks on the path my blistered feet stank. There was a moment when I would have sold my soul for a single breath of her – infused (I assumed) with something other than M’s cigarettes and yesterday’s wine, mixed up with sweaty T shirts and socks. Our tent sometimes seemed oppressively small. But I also knew that the sole cause of my sudden horniness was that I was missing Madame.
But today as I pore over the map with a bright orange highlighter line following the GR65 I realize that this 40 Km stretch of impossible terrain for an overloaded pilgrim was the biggest experience I didn’t know I was missing. Two years later Madame and I drove back following most of the route in reverse, but we drove north of the GR65 towards Albi. I’d dearly love to go back there to the Causses with Madame and wander the paths and tracks in Spring. It would probably rival the Aubrac Plateau for wildlife.
It’s strange how sometimes you entirely miss or fail to notice something that under other circumstances might have changed your life. A couple of seasons ago we were down on the Lizard, walking towards Kynance cove and looking for plants. It was fun and we had some success, but in the back of my mind was the possibility that we might find something a bit rarer – Isoetes histrix, Land Quillwort – which, I’d read somewhere, was in the area and likely to be found in one of the pools which dot the landscape. It was prime yomping terrain and I found a pool that was strewn with what looked like the debris from a strimmer, floating on the surface. It occurred to me that it was the oddest place to use a strimmer – especially since I couldn’t see any part of the surrounding vegetation that had actually been strimmed. So without taking a single blade of floating whatever for reference, or even taking a photo for the album I struggled back to the track and we went on our way. Much later I discovered that the mysterious floating material could easily have been the fronds of Isoetes histrix, complete with their spore carrying bases, disturbed and detached by the recent stormy weather.
I’m sure there’s a lesson there about jumping to conclusions. Des Causses – the day we sat in the cafe in Limogne en Quercy – had become a frightening place of deprivation; hot; featureless and dangerous. We just didn’t know enough about it to make a better decision – maybe we could have just dipped a toe in the water with a circular walk. And equally I was expecting a rare plant to announce itself with at least a small fanfare and so because it didn’t assert itself I didn’t bother to take enough notice. I am a ram stamped idiot! It’s known as eisegesis: reading your ignorance and prejudices into a situation; rather than exegesis which is soberly examining the facts/maps/text or whatever and making your mind up only when the evidence comes together.
This revisiting of the Camino walk has frequently suggested that there are times when doggedly refusing to change the plan is plain stupid. For the sake of an extra day’s walking – out and back – we might have ended our Camino with a greater sense of achievement. Who knows? The next morning, with Alain and Daniele, we caught the bus down to Cahors. From memory it took about 40 minutes rather than 2 days. We arrived safely.