I woke up the next day and the tent was actually pretty warm, a light drizzle made a soothing sound on the outside my little domain off the ground. I felt wrecked, my feet were absolutely destroyed and so were my shoes. It turned out the long trek over the tundra had scraped off the outside layer of the leather of my shoes, small holes appeared near the nose of the shoes but I was happy that I was dry now and decided to take a small rest day.
The grocery bag had lacerations all over it from the ice and the groceries cutting the side of the bag, still good to have food for the day though, the bread didnt turn into stone and I had a nice turkey bread and a coffee to start the day.
The town itself was really nice but due to construction works being done it looked like the Gaza strip. The Office de Tourisme was open to get a stamp and also a nice boulangerie. Also found a bar to do some writing, sadly they didnt have any more food but they did have nice wifi.
Not a whole lot happened that day and I had a good recuperation day.
The next day I left and it was still raining a little here and there, fog. The baker was nice enough to give me a good deal on a bag of croissants and I thanked him for it. The road was nice enough, mystical almost. I wanted to walk on the roads but got enticed to walk the normal route (up the hill and down for absolutely nothing) and after an hour I regretted it. Yesterday I had sent out a Couchsurfing request to a guy in Estaing, the next town on the list and I was kind of struggling to make it there that day. The guy was nice and patient enough however and weekend was about to begin so tranquil was the name of the game. Still that didnt keep me from holding up my thumb after approximately 20km to hitchhike the last 10km.
I arrived in Estaing and it was gorgeous, a river, a nice bridge, houses on a hillside and a nice castle overlooking it all. I had a feeling I would run into Francesco in a bar and yes indeed, there he was.. We talked a little and I send a message to my Couchsurfer, he said to meet between the church and the castle and it was close by. Francesco and me agreed to keep each other posted on what and where and I went to the my Couchsurfing host called Pierre.
An interesting guy to say the least, designer by trade, running for mayor or something like that (language was a bit of a barrier but only slight), and also designed robots to clean up the Fukushima plant, really fucking cool. We got nice and drunk after I got a shower and did a laundry and he made a traditional regional meal, I forgot the name but it was mashed potatoes mixed with cheese in a certain way. Definitely a 2 man job since one needed to stir the mashed potatoes on low temperature while the other one added the cheese. Yea good luck with that while on alcohol. It still turned out great though and I was happy to share a nice local meal with an awesome guy. A good night sleep was what followed and Pierre already offered to host me another day, an offer I couldnt refuse. Looks like Ill be Esta(y)ing another day.
The next day we walked around the small town a little, drank a coffee. Lucy made a male dog shit all over the bar where we sat for a bit because he was so anxious, yea she does that.. There was a service at the church that evening that we attended where we also ran into the real mayor. Funny..
The next day I went back on the road and Pierre and me said our goodbye’s. Great to meet extraordinary people. I left on a Sunday and there wasnt a lot open, the road itself didnt really take me along villages anyway. Up a hill, down a hill, following a river. When I walked on top of a hill I could see Espeyrac in the distance, the river had thrown up a big fog bank around the village and it made it look very mystical as well. Such a good area for hiking and walking (apart from the fucking mountains lol).
I put up my tent next to a gîte on a grass lawn and it promised to be a watery night. The next day the fog had all but cleared and I hung my tent up to dry in a public toilet. The clouds later on also dissipated and it turned into a really sunny and warm day. Sunshine, birds, a coffee in the sun. Conques was coming up and Manon from Le Puy already recommended it to me as being a great place. The town itself was mostly left medieval and it was dominated by an abbey. Now a popular pilgrim town and like Estaing, one of the more beautiful villages in France. Something that I heard before and even though all the villages were truly inspiring and gorgeous, none of them deserve the title of most beautiful (yet). The country is just breath taking, and the villages make the country.
I entered Conques through the back, which made it all the better. At first you see nothing and then the trail becomes cobblestones with crooked house roofs, smoke coming from the chimneys. Old roof tiles and houses and roads built from the local quarry’s. Really, really, beautiful and the weather just made it all the better.
I went for a tea in the local bar and there were already some French people smiling at me. Of course I smiled back and drank my tea and did a little diary writing. A Spanish couple talked briefly to me, of course they knew the way to Santiago. Then the French group of people left and asked me if I was a pilgrim, I told them I was and they dropped 20 € on my table, ‘Ill just leave that here’ the man said. I thanked them but was so flabbergasted I didnt ask them for their names.
I went to the abbey and there werent any people there. The abbey store was open though and the lady said that she could let me in. Lucy wasnt allowed sadly but our combined charm made her rebel against the rules. For 1 night it would be no problem but we would have to keep it quiet (not sure how Im going to manage that..but sure, thank you very much!).
I was able to grab a quick piece of bread before the evening service began and I decided to take a shower after. There was a nice monk who greeted me when I entered the chapel and even though the chapel itself was pretty Luciferian, lights shined in the exact way where the shadows casted dark wings on the center statues. Also the fact there was a goat head above the cross. As well as a lot of duality imagery in the chapel itself, imagery from Revelations as well. Short hair, dont care. They have food and Im not here to mess with their belief and I doubt the monks even knew what most of the things meant (but thats an arrogant assumption).
Black wings & goathead
The monk who also greeted me in the chapel also was waiting in the dining room, assuming I would go to eat or drink (and he was right). He explained to me that they would like to see me for the late evening service as well so they could pray with me.. Sure Ill be there, better not prey on me though..
I grabbed my coffee (haha you thought I was going for food huh) and I went back to my room. The monk had also showed me the dinner in the fridge and after my shower I went to get some, then back to the room to give Lucy all the food she could even want, slowing her down a little bit in the process.. I was just in time before the late service and it was kind of awkward but also cool. 13 monks in white robes, all with specific tasks. One of em called me in front of the group, Im not sure if they expected me to kneel or anything but thats not happening brother bro.. He put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a small book. “The word of Marcus in Gewone Taal”, hmmmmMMMmmMM Ill swing back to this later. He said some words in French and I thanked them. I appreciated this though.. My first pilgrim blessing this time around, last time around I already got it just before I left the Netherlands, this time around leaving the Netherlands seems like a distant dream, although very clear.
SO the book they gave me contained the gospel of Marcus, in Dutch.. Now I dont dislike this but I do dislike a couple of things about it. First off Im reading the bible in English and the booklet they gave me is an insult to the original gospel, a simplified version that just tells a version of events without some of the deeper layer underneath. They leave out several facts for example that Jesus gets called of a house by his family, to which he responds that his family is the people hes talking to right now in the house. Also they give lines of thought in the book instead of just giving you the text. So there you have 2 sins already, first off youre removing stuff that carries weight and meaning and second, youre pointing people in a certain direction instead of them letting think for themselves. Yea this book is everything that’s wrong with Christianity or religions in general nowadays from my point of view.
I walked around town with Lucy a little bit and everything was closed but it was as beautiful during the night as it was during the day. As above, so below..
The next day I woke up and attended the morning service. The brother who blessed me last night overslept and the service itself had a little sand in the eyes all together. Still nice though, good singing and inspiring. Afterwards I had breakfast with 2 brothers and we talked a little. One brother offered to ring the church bell if I climbed up to the chapel and rang the bell there.. I didnt even know I could ring the bell, I didnt even know where the camino left the town.. Still a very cool offer though. I left my stamp and a little note in the guestbook and I went on my way after I packed my bag. I drank another tea at the bar and I didnt get 20 € from random strangers but then again, not really counting on that..
The sun was out, the fog had burned off and I could see a chapel high up on the mountain as soon as I left the Barry’s Gate (true story). The climb began and I felt good and fast. When I arrived at the bell, there was nothing. I smoked a cigaret and ringed it again. The church down in the valley responded! Fucking epic, I must say.
Chapel with Conques in the background
Francesco and me kept in touch and he recommended me to not take a certain part of the GR route, since it takes you up the hill and down for nothing but a supermarket, which is fine but I wasnt planning on doing that. The road took me along some ridges and it was a nice walk all in all. Wind picked up and dodged some small rainstorms preying on me and Lucy.
I walked and reached a field where I took another route that seemed more logical to me instead of the GR route Im following, then I reached a fence and a hillside and I was like whatever, Ill just go over the fence and just…..river… hmmm, Im sure there must be a crossing somehwh…..sticks, sticks and branches.. Thats it? Meheheh sure, get over here Lucy, stick on my back. Lets try and do this. As I balanced over what looked like some washed up sticks and brush in a river bend, I managed to already put Lucy over, then I was able to jump it. Cool, made it. Lets take a left here and follow the riv…fence. HMM, this isnt going the way I want it. I walked back and up a tiny hill. Opened a few make shift fences. The sun was slowly setting and I could see Livinhac le Haut in the peninsula below. I found an old citroen car that looked like it was from a Fallout game. Also a dead bird (that in retrospect I definitely should have taken a claw from (or at least a feather)). Down the hill I found a very busy road and I decided not to walk it, cars were flying by and there was no room on either side of the road to walk. I looked on the internet for local taxi’s, the first one was 200km away from Livinhac but was nice enough to point me in the right direction. The second one could be there in 10 minutes. His name was Thoma and he rushed me to Livinhac where everything was closed. Did find some building site though where I could easily sleep tonight. He told me the town had a little shop that was open during the day but closes in the evening. He also gave me a discount on the journey coupled with a nice conversation in shitty Frenglish deserves him a spot in my memorial for sure.
Had a good sleep and he told me to greet the store owner, when I did the guy thought I wanted to call him but nahh, just regards man, just regards..
I was on a cloud walking towards Figeac and decided to send out a couple of Couchsurfing requests, on account them being so fucking successful. Little did I know I was about to get stuck..
Stuck in Figeac..