We left St Chély in glorious sunshine and crossed the Pilgrim’s bridge, so called because it was the only place for miles to cross the rushing mountain stream. As usual it was a steady ascent through quite magnificent Beech forest. The leaf litter is so deep and of such warm autumn colours that it looks soft enough to sleep on.
Soon the forest track changed to muddy, stones and tree roots but kept climbing. Then of course a descent! We are actually coming down off the plateau into the Lot Valley but it involves lots of ups and downs until we finally reach the valley floor- the Lot river at Côme d’Olt, a charming medieval town with twisting streets and many beautiful homes. We stopped for lunch at a Crêperie. Everything we had was delicious. I had a crêpe with goats cheese and honey, walnuts and salad. Andy and Karen had Bruscetta and Peter had an omelette. We followed with dessert of pear and caramel crepe, vacharin of strawberry and tiramisu.
We were joined by Susanna a Swiss walker/pilgrim who we had met along the trail. She was feeling quite dispirited and had found the going hard. She was going to stay at the village but couldn’t find a suitable place. Andy and Karen told her we were taking the low route along the river instead of another hill route and it was only 6 more kms to Espaniol. We invited her to come with us as she wasn’t sure of the route. Off we went and it seemed like we had entered the garden eden down here.
It was very warm, there are poppies and different wild flowers with a sweet herby fragrance more associated with summer. The river is rushing past with late snow melt, bees are buzzing, cicadas humming, cow bells tinkling and agricultural pursuits such as planting and hay cutting are in full swing.
As we were leaving the village dark clouds started to amass over the far hills and soon we had thunder rumbling louder and louder.
We were heading for the camping ground but just about 1.5 kms out the storm hit fast and furious. First we were pelted with hail stones about the size of large peas. They were large enough to actually sting when they hit! We scrambled to get our wet weather gear out but we were engulfed in a massive downpour. The road flooded. I was laughing so much because it seemed incredible that we really had little warning. Barely a raindrop before the deluge. Susanna was a bit overwhelmed but our laughing helped her see the funny side and we helped her with her poncho and umbrella. I had been wanting to wash the mud off my shoes but now they are clean but soaked again. We pressed on in the pouring rain and decided camping was a bad idea. We found a bar and booked into a Gîte which despite a gruff manager and dubious exterior has turned out to be a good place.
After getting the washing sorted and into dry clothes we started exploring the town. It has a famous bridge and very original medieval buildings, a chateau (in ruins), a museum of the history of scuba diving! It is Pentecost and another holiday so the entry to the museum was free. We visited to kill time waiting for our dinner reservation. Apparently the breathing apparatus for deep sea diving was invented by a local engineer.
While we were waiting for dinner Susanna appeared and so she joined us and we got to know more about her. She has invited us to visit her in Switzerland and will travel with us tomorrow. She is also a widow and ex-primary teacher. She is good fun and insisted on paying for our aperitifs. Sometimes you just meet people and it clicks.
I have been feeling a deep sense of calm and feeling centred and really relaxed which I find comes with these long walks. It is an unusual alertness to beauty and small things but not the hyped up alertness I get at home.