19 April 11 – Into the Gorge of the Alliers

Only 14 km today, but a very difficult trail. With Karsten, I am heading for Monistrol sur l’Alliers. Over the distance it descends about 400 metres, but most of that, near the end of the day, is a precipitous and extremely dangerous descent – about 30 degrees down – into the gorge of the Alliers River. It is a rock-strewn trail in a forest, bare tree roots, lots of opportunity to turn an ankle or break a bone. This is worse than any portage I was ever on in Algonquin Park and worse than anything that I walked on the Appalachian Trail. This can NOT be the old pilgrim trail. Some pilgrims rode horses and no-one ever rode a horse down this. I think that the intention is to keep the pilgrims off the winding road down, but whoever made the decision is doing the pilgrims a grave disservice. My shoulders and back hurt a lot from using my poles to control the descent and my quad muscles are shaking with fatigue. For the last part of the way down I am concerned that the big thigh muscles will give way. I am so concerned that I neglect to take a single photo of this portion of the chemin. Karsten is somewhere behind me. I realize that neither one of us could help the other if we were to encounter a problem on this portion of the chemin. 

When I get to Monistrol I am absolutely exhausted. I just want to stop where I am, not move another step. Karsten helps when he points out the gite, just a little bit ahead and above us. In the gite I shower and sleep for two hours. I feel like a new man, except that my back and thigh muscles are very sore. I do not realize that this bodes very ill for the next days. There are only three of us in this gite, Karsten, me and a Frenchman named Regisse who is planning to walk the whole distance to Santiago – about 1500 km. The delightful and friendly young hosts here are Nicolas and Coralie. They have wireless here, down in the bottom of the gorge, so Coralie gives me her user name and password so that I can use it. The food is excellent, which I am finding is usual on the French part of “le chemin”. The young couple visits with us for an hour in the gite. The conversation is in French, of which I get only bits. One of the bits that I get is that she is pregnant with their first child, which gives me an opportunity to show off my grandchildren pictures – I never miss a chance.

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