23rd May 2010
Left Aumont Aubrac early. We set the alarms for 4.45 and it was dark when we woke. I had an extremely restless night – hardly slept. We were right next to a main road and the transhumance festival parties didn’t begin until 11.30pm so all night there were drunks outside the campsite shouting and banging the railings. I was praying they wouldn’t see our 2 little tents. We didn’t want to wake Alain and his wife so we breakfasted at the camp gate on dried apricots and yesterday’s apricot pasties + water. When we left – way before sunrise – there was a thick mist over the valley bottom. We climbed and climbed for several hours knowing that this was the last day we would have the heavy (35lb) loads because we had agreed (long haggling session) to shed lots of stuff the previous night.
Big dream during my restless night. I dreamed I was at Severn Bridge railway station* except it looked exactly like an SNCF station like the ones you see in French films (and in France of course). Suddenly this strange and sinister man dressed like the Sandeman sherry label logo comes towards me. He’s all grey, very large with no face. I start to tear at his clothes and in a kind of fast-forward sequence I tear all these clothes, disguises and appearances off one after another – he’s everyone, everything, and all these flash past in front of me until at last I’m left holding a plucked chicken!
After a stiff climb we reached Les Quatre Chemins which was just a bare road junction such as you might find on High Mendip. Gloriously there was a café (Chez Regine) perched on the corner. It was a proper French bar/café with Regine – if it was her – looking as if she had been hot smoked with tobacco.
Previously in Lasbros we’d fond an immaculately clean toilet complete with paper, which made up for the lack of overnight facilities.
Due to the early start we crossed the Aubrac Plateau before the sun got too hot. Unbelievably beautiful wildflowers – including [this is a misidentification I now realize] gentians which I’d never seen before. Untouched pasture and some of the healthiest and happiest cattle I’ve ever seen. In Lasbros we saw a foal that could only have been born an hour before – just standing up all knock-kneed. It was a hard and hilly day and very very hot. Even I drank 3 litres of water but fortunately there were many taps. Finally staggered into Nasbinals mid-afternoon. Andrew had pulled a muscle and was getting grumpy. Found campsite at other end of town, as always, so probably walked 27K. Put up tent, slept , had a shower and walked back into town at 6.00pm passing a restaurant on the way in. So we booked a table or 7.00 and had a couple of panachés in the local bar. Meal was excellent and shared with 2 Germans and 2 French. Young Frenchman reminded us it was Pentecost.Journal
*Incidentally, although the Severn Tunnel (not the bridge) does have a railway station, on the Welsh side, I’ve never set foot on it – so its role in my dream is just one of life’s imponderables.
This afternoon I realized that I’d already mentioned, out of sequence, an evening shared with a nightjar as well as the worst meal ever. Having laboriously checked the previous seven posts on the Camino I thankfully discovered that neither incident was claimed as a component of the walk we’d already done and so I’ll continue gracefully along the Way but very aware of the fact that even with the aid of exif data from photos, a handwritten journal and a pretty reasonable memory it’s incredibly easy to slip up and transpose experiences from one day to another. Why it should be so important to me to get it exactly right is a question I can’t answer except for the fact that as I write this I’m constantly trying to answer a crop of my own questions. I hesitate to describe this exercise as therapeutic but I would love to think that when I press the last publish button on this group of posts, I might be just a touch wiser. Of course, 30 years as a parish priest taught me that life is irredeemably complicated and is very rarely understood by the people having to put up with it, and even less so by the people trying to explain it. That’s why psychoanalysis is so expensive. Not many caring professionals can resist explanations and keep quiet for as long as it takes for the client to hack their own way through the undergrowth.
The day was, as I’ve described it previously, full of wonders. Watching a transhumance take place is like watching a thousand years of history roll back. On a more mundane level, my mention of the newly born foal took me back to the day and the place so vividly I was able to revisit Lasbros in my mind as if it were yesterday.