I am up at 6:45 and ready to go, except for breakfast by 7:30. I have breakfast with the two Italians and head off on a perfectly beautiful day. The sun is shining, there is barely a cloud in the sky and it is cool, just perfect for walking. Maybe, just maybe, the weather has changed. I am only going 9 kilometres today, the equivalent of a rest day.
The only bad news is that I have lost my power adapter, again. Somewhere in the last two or three days I recharged my camera battery and blithely pulled the plug from the wall, neatly leaving behind the adapter plug in the socket. I did this last year in Paris before I even got started, so I am improving. It has taken two weeks this time.
I have about 100 minutes still on my camera battery, so it is not an immediate problem. I am heading to Moissac today. It is a pretty big town, about 12,000, so maybe I can find an adapter there, except it is another holiday weekend in France, so everything will be closed, and so it turns out.
For the first hour the walk is on roads and much less muddy path and I am, as always, hopeful that this will continue all the way to Moissac. Then I hit an incline on a path in a forest and start to climb. It is a five rest stop climb and as I reach the top, there is a little clearing. I look around warily for the low bench, but there is none. Once bitten …
The rest of the walk is through farmland, vineyards and fruit trees. I ask someone in an orchard what type of fruit and he responds; “Abricots”. There is a lot of this white plastic sheeting over the rows of vines and low trees. I discover that they are primarily for protection from hail, with a secondary purpose of protection from bird predation.
I arrive at the gite in Moissac before noon and it is a marvel, a former convent built around 1860, with an interior courtyard and garden, absolutely beautiful. The reception here is very friendly with a young woman – another Fanny – helping me make reservations for the next four days. There is another former convent like this in Condom, where I will spend two nights a few days from now. Well, no I won’t. I have just been informed that it is full already, so Fanny is looking for another spot in Condom for me.
I have run out of Euros, so I walk down into the town centre, find an ATM and discover the huge Abbey of Saint Pierre, more than 1300 years old, founded in legend by Clovis and located on a small square where there are little restaurants open. I meet the Italian who speaks French – we were at the same gite last night – and we have lunch together.
He tells me that he started in Le Puy with two other guys. The first dropped out at Conques with eye problems, the second is dropping out today with a foot or leg problem and he has developed a problem leg as well. He is hanging in, but doesn’t know how much farther he will be able to go. He comes back to the gite with me and gets a bed without a reservation, but I am thinking he is lucky. And here again is my quiet friend from Vichy.
Back at the gite, I meet Stephanie, a young Quebecoise with a severe limp, a muscle problem in her lower leg. She is staying here a few days to recuperate. Stephanie has a power plug adapter, which I have borrowed and recharged my camera battery. Another Canadian arrives, this time with a sprained ankle. He slipped sideways in the mud and his ankle is badly swollen. He won’t be walking anywhere for a few days.
It is a powerful reminder that the body only works as well as the least functioning part, so it is incumbent for me to pay attention to my physical surroundings. You see, Carroll, I am listening, even when you think I’m not.
As I sit here, people keep coming in. Already my room of four beds has been fully occupied. This is obviously a very popular place to stay. Families come in, one group of 9 travellers, some Americans on bikes.
Things are getting exciting, in an uncomfortable way, on the accommodation front. Fanny has been calling the gites in Condom and is having trouble getting a place. It is almost 7 PM. Apparently there is a big fete in Condom this weekend and many many people are reserving space. She is hopeful that she can find something for me this evening. We shall see. She has been extraordinarily helpful today.
She finally, just as dinner is called, has me a spot. It’s only for one night and the person at the other end of the phone in Condom tells her that I wouldn’t want to stay in Condom two nights. The fete will be very crowded – 30,000 in a town of 10,000 – the streets will be full of drunks and the noise will be awful. What’s not to like? So I will stay in Condom one night and move on the next day. I will take my break a little farther along the route.
At dinner I sit with my Vichy friend, another who remembers me from Conques and is dinner is finishing, here are two pilgrims whom I last saw in Estaing. It’s like old home week in … Moissac (I had to think for a moment about where I actually am at the moment). They have a spirited discussion about the French presidential election. Hollande, the socialist, has beaten Sarkozy, the right of centre candidate and the sitting president.
It’s a strange environment on the chemin. There is this stream, sometimes a river, of people all heading in the same direction. Some drop out, some drop in, some are planning on going all the way to Santiago (and it’s funny, as we get closer to the Spanish border, the names are becoming interchangeable; St. Jacques and Santiago, as are the terms “camino” and “chemin”).
It’s after 9 and I have to go to bed. Another longish day tomorrow after an easy and happy one today.