Fra(i)ncia XX – Path to Le Puy

Quentin had to pick up a new gas canister in a town that crossed the GR route to the place Im going – Le Puy en Velay. Le Puy is one of the official starting points and also a town that I visited 5 years ago. Theres a bigass Maria statue on top of an old vulcano chimney made from cannons seized by Napoleon, a cathedral built over some ancient druid ruins and also a chapel built on a chimney. The whole town is one big UNESCO heritage sight and a nice place to visit in general. The people are genuinely friendly and last time I had a blast there.

We had a quick stop in some town and I bought a pack of tobacco while Quentin got some ‘pain au chocolat’ for us, one of my guilty pleasures when Im in France. I always thought chocolat and bread was a waste of both until I ate these little rolls of happiness, and now Im borderline addicted. Quentin drove a little further and dropped me off, we hugged and said our goodbye’s and I started walking. I had little supplies but it was fine, after such a long period of eating like a king, maybe its time to cleanse myself and go back into survival mode. 

The area was absolutely stunning and reminded me Scotland, long outstretched golden grass fields with pine tree forests. Very calming although the weather was windy. 
It didnt take long before I took my first break and ate the only supplies (2 clementines) that I brought along. Too bad Pelagie took the last pasta to work this morning, a nice compliment but that would have been nice to have for breakfast. Im more glad with the compliment maybe though and I had enough pasta the previous day anyway.

To my surprise I came across Santiago shells soon enough and I realized that they were leading to Le Puy en Velay and I decided to follow them. Now this spells out a couple of things that would be typical for my journey up ahead – its more touristic, more towns that live (and thrive) off pilgrims AND SADLY MOST IMPORTANT, they were all closed because its not the season.. Its whatever. I can handle it. I noticed that the wool socks that I got from a friend were way to thick to be wearing together with hiking socks and I took them off soon. The road took me up and down several mountains and I felt like my bag was lighter than before I arrived at Quentin, a very good sign. Ate a bag of nuts on top of the mountain in an abandoned church (the other supplies I had) and got a stamp from city hall.

The mountains were beautiful but going up and down really takes it out of you. Still I did about 20 – 25 km on the first day and I ended up sleeping near a little nameless village bordering a forest. Not ideal but the other option was somebody’s garage and I didnt feel like they would like finding a hobo in their storage area. Still had a pretty good sleep and the weather stayed soft but windswept.

Next day I walked to a little village that actually had a store and some lady that refilled my water bottle was kind enough to tell me that everything opened at 1500h. I wasnt going to wait but then I saw a nice bar just when I left town that swayed my mind, maybe just have a tea, wait here, get some more supplies for the road ahead. All the towns I passed didnt seem as lively as their ‘on’ season and I didnt want to get stuck with nothing, not just yet.

That day I ended up in Pontempeyrat, smack dab on the border of Auvergne again. I didnt even realize but Quentin dropped me off over the border and now I had to walk back into the province I came from, 50km south but still. I found a grass field next to the church and there even was a little spot to hang my tent from to dry the next day and a little sitting area. 
The next day I went to the local boulangerie and it was a cool store, the lady even offered to fill my water bottle, I made an insane omelet and even made Lucy an egg while my tent was hanging to dry. 

It was still 52km to Le Puy en Velay and I was fully committed to reach it. Rain was on the program and I did not look forward to walking in the rain, so I set out for Le Puy with a fire in me.

The route again was pretty beautiful, a lot of fucking mountains though and it was harder than expected. Having had the shortest daylight day at the 23rd, it was a very welcome sight to see the days becoming gradually longer again. That being said – its still fucking dark around 1730h. Its whatever. Ive grown used to walking through creepy forests in the dark now. 

I was smoking a cigaret and it was still 22km to Le Puy en Velay, around 2200h and yea I could make it. Just as I finished up and started walking again I saw a caravan by the side of the road. Still on some property mind you but still just left there. The door was facing a little drop down ditch, which lead to another drop down and to a river. Maybe the owner insured it and now just left it there to crash into the river someday, so he could cash out. I opened one of the doors and saw there were also some cushions inside that I could use as a makeshift mattress, this would work for a night. This thing was probably the jenkiest thing I’d ever seen, the caravan shook a little bit during strong winds and at some point I was afraid it was going to topple right in the river during the night. But I was too tired to really care.

I slept great and the next day it was indeed raining like crazy. I waited it out and then continued my journey. 

I took a little break in a cafe in one of the villages in front of Le Puy en Velay, called St. Paulien. There were shops and I did bought some bullshit and food and just as I was about to pack up my stuff, this fella comes up to me and asks me if I needed a place to sleep. My French is so fucked still that I thought he asked WHERE I was going to sleep and I said I had a small tent. He said, do as you wish, one time offer.. I apologized and said I would be honored to stay with him. 
We left the cafe and went to his house which was a stones throw away from the cafe. I took a shower right away and he made dinner. Fun guy called Daniel and apparently he had Galician blood running through his veins, his father being Spanish and his mother being French, Santiago de Compostella (where Im going) is in the province of Galicia, Spain. Funny coincidence. 

Very nice to sleep inside and the cherry on top was that he needed to go to Le Puy en Velay the next day and he offered to take me there in the morning…just…fucking…perfect. And a spot for you on my memorial good sir!

The next day he woke me up and he already got breakfast, so really nice! We drove to Le Puy en Velay and he dropped me off near the city centre. Another small blessing, I looked forward to being in Le Puy en Velay and taking care of some minor stuff and exploring the city.

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