Fra(i)ncia XXIX – Bird Spotting <3

I woke up and I was wayyy too late, putting the blankets over my head put me in a complete bubble where time didn’t exist and when I woke up, the sun was already shining and the next day arrived. Cussing and slightly anxious, I prayed that there was nobody there yet. I put on my shoes, told Lucy to come and I went down the stairs.

Nobody was there yet and when I looked on my phone I found out it was about 0830h even though I intended on leaving the place at 0600h, lucky.. I went to the square where I hid my backpack and saw that a little shop was already open and some French people were sitting on the terrace. I did the French thing and shook their hands and joined them. Much to my delight they were as weirded out by this as I was.

I chilled a bit and my backpack was still where I left it. I talked to my new amis about the weather and my trip. Friendly as ever. They told me they did not see that many pilgrims on this route since the other one is more advertised (normal GR-65 continuation (even though this one was shorter and flatter)) and clearly used by olden pilgrims back in the day.

The sun popped through after a quick breakfast and some coffee’s. I went to the church to burn a few candles and I thought I’d forgot my tobacco at the little shop, went back but found out I had it in my other pocket..Sure.. Whatever.. Why are you delaying me Most High? Something must be up

I left town and it really started to heat up. I was going to continue on the normal road instead of following the meandering of the GR-651 through the same valley. The weather was nice, I was pumped to be on the road and not getting caught by either an evil spirit or the owner with a machete in the antique store (shoutout to Vledder) and at that point I heard a voice behind me, a nice girl on a bike struck up a conversation with me and we hit it off immediately. She was on this crazy trip of biking around Europe for the foreseeable future. She had left her home 12 days ago and she was also planning to go to Cahors today, it was only a good 45-50km and we both had good hopes to make it there today. I suggested we should get a lunch together and she agreed.

We talked and sat next to the river on my Mexican blanket, she shared her food with me and we exchanged stories and experiences. Her name was Manon (which is the 2ndgreat Manon I got to know in France) and her 2ndname was Lucy WHICH IS JUST WTF.. She was quite smart and adventurous. I literally had only walked one bend from the town I started but I didn’t really care. She had started just in front of Figeac and had already done around 30km that day. Yea, no Im not that disciplined lol.. At some point I took out a piece of chocolate that she offered and it had a camino shell on it, Manon looked at the other pieces and we came to the conclusion there were no other chocolate pieces that had a camino shell on it. Life is beautiful.

Manon made her way through France using an application called Warm Showers. Too bad not available outside of France but its basically a Couchsurfing application for bicyclists. She had her next one in Cahors and after I told her I wild camped everywhere, she insisted we would wild camp somewhere along the route instead and she cancelled her stay there.

We decided on a plan, I was planning to walk but why not hitchhike as well, I mean I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with her either way and she’s not going to bike alongside me the entire way.. Just as we decided on a plan, a car pulled up on an empty parking lot. The guy parked the car and I greeted him and we just asked him right away if it was possible for me to hitch a ride with him. He said; Yea Sure! He was first going to look for birds in that area but continue on later towards Cahors. Manon biked on and I walked into a field with Jean Pascal. JP was looking for some eagle that used to be in the area, then left because of pollution or something but was slowly reintegrating into the local fauna. Cool stuff my dude, cool stuff. Lucy and me enjoyed the weather and I already had my monocle to look with him. We saw other birds but we didn’t find the one that JP was looking for. 

We went back to the car and we talked a bit, my French was pretty decent at this point and we got along fine. Along the way to Cahors we stopped at another parking spot and continued our routine of walking into a field and look for some cliff eagle.. And.. HE FOUND ONE. A beautiful greyish bird that gave out a typical eagle call settled on the side of a beautiful cliff. Jean went from a stoic man to a little boy and insisted on showing it to me, offering me his binoculars even though I had my own. He told me that the farmers used a pesticide that killed off some beetles that the eagles used to eat, when they were gone they weren’t able to make the hard shell that covered their eggs so the eggs were not feasible for life. I also asked him where and why they would nest and he explained that owls in particular don’t give a shit about your conservation efforts and absolutely decimated the up and coming reintegrating population. We went back to the car and he put a note in a little brown book. Bird spotters..funny people.. I once again realized that there are worlds under this world or rather MY world, different etiquettes/mannerisms for all sorts of hobbies/jobs..

We continued and found another parking lot along the road in the valley, surrounded by beautiful cliffs. We crossed a river, went out into a field again and he found another few. Awesome stuff and I was happy for him, even though he thought it was too early in the season, apparently they were back in bigger numbers than the year before. JP snapped out his little brown book again and smiled as he wrote the date/name/location into it.

I got a little worried we weren’t going to catch up to Manon in time. JP and me talked and he told me about this magical town that he made out to sound like some crazy beautiful place, nested on the side of a hill overlooking a valley, called St. Cirq – lapopie. He asked me how I met Manon and found it hard to explain to him what the hell was going on. The day was passing by and we drove past some beautiful houses carved into the cliffs, a waterfall and the sun slowly dipped everything in shades of gold. At the end of the road there was a crossroad and I could already see Manon from a distance. We got out of the car and JP and Manon conversed (too fast for me to understand) but in the end we decided to go towards St. Cirq – Lapopie, which was left instead of right towards Cahors. I kind of hesitated since Cahors was still a good 35 km from the crossroads and the day was already progressing, making hitchhiking (generally speaking) harder. Manon and JP insisted however and I just went along for the ride.

The town made of unicorns and sparkles wasn’t that far of a drive to my relief, and we pulled up on another parking lot with a great view. JP had some more bird spotting to do and it wasn’t long before he found a couple, he wanted to show them to Manon as well but she had a hard time finding it. I went for a piss and a little walk with Lucy admiring this beautiful town. When I came back JP had an agitated look on his face and tried to keep pointing out to Manon where to look, I must admit it didn’t help that the bird had the same color as the side of the cliff in the shade. I looked at the town and I must admit, it was pretty gorgeous. A big church/castle on the side of the cliff with little, quaint, typically medieval rooftops of the town surrounding it. JP offered to drop me off at the edge of town while Manon took her bike (Sunrise). Such a weird and nice day and it felt a little bit dreamy, the town itself being straight from a fairy tale complemented this feeling.

St. Cirq – Lapopie

JP dropped me off just as Manon was coming up the hill and we said our goodbye’s, I thanked him and he waved goodbye to Manon. I left my bag at Manon her bike and we decided to walk around town a bit. Manon collected tourist guides from all the towns that she visited and I collected stamps and the office de tourism had both. The town was cool, weird but beautiful atmosphere, winding streets and old stone buildings. Weird thing happened on the way back to where we came into town, the street was now closed off and some monsieur was doing some work there, he told us the road was closed but we went through another path and tried to pass the red tape further on, he yelled at us but I said to him that its the only road and we literally walked in on that street 5 minutes ago. Ill swing back to this later.

Manon and me eventually found our way out of town and decided not to camp near St. Cirq – lapopie since it was still a pretty long way to Cahors and we wanted to end up as close to it as possible, I had my ride back to Figeac in 2 days and I also wanted to do some writing and get some work done in Cahors. Not saying that Manon wasn’t just the most perfectly timed distraction ever. Who cares about blogging or diary writing when you can spot birds and visit Grimm villages.

We decided to meet in a town called Vers. Only 10km away from Cahors. I would continue to hitchhike and Manon would ride on ahead. This was all very sketchy in terms of timing since hitchhiking is never a guaranteed thing. But as soon as we (again) decided on going down the hill towards a supermarket to get some food, a guy with his young son walked by and asked if we needed some help. I said, uhh yea, can I ride with you down the hill towards the supermarket and he said yea sure. His son all excited and shit.. He dropped me off at the bottom and Manon already went by the bakery. I joked about the guy who told us earlier in the town who was working on the street told us not to pass just went inside the store, he came outside and I asked him if I could hitch a ride with him..He said yea sure even though he lived close by but thats the thing about hitchhiking, first ride – most important ride and as soon as you’re on your way, you’re on your way and the whole thing just flows smoother – We drove passed Manon and the guy was actually pretty nice and chill. He went to his house and Manon drove passed me blowing a kiss at me. The spot I was didn’t feel right and I just decided to walk a little further on. The sun was properly setting now and I was a little worried I wasn’t going to make the rendezvous. The whole day was going pretty spectacular so far though and I had a positive attitude about my chances. Sure enough, 2 cars went by and the 3rdone pulled up and gave me a ride. A clear Blablacar ride and the people were quiet but friendly. We passed Manon and I arrived in Vers pretty fast. Manon still had to cover a little bit and I already went looking for a spot for us to wild camp next to the river.

I found a very nice spot soon enough on the actual campsite (even though it was closed now). Manon arrived soon enough and she was happy to see me, she looked at every car but didn’t catch me whizzing by since the Blablacar driver didn’t slow down. We put up the tent, took a shower in the river and had some food in town. Very, very interesting girl and very, very special day. Not to mention this is the first time this trip that Im actually showering in a river. It was as cold as it was refreshing. Manon had a massive tent with her (Buckingham) and we had a very good sleep when we finally did decide to go to sleep..

Morning tent view

The next day I woke up slowly and we had some good fun. I was slower than Manon was and we decided to push our luck one more time. Manon sent me a message that she arrived in Cahors right at the time when I found a ride and we met up again and walked around the sights of the city together. A beautiful bridge, a nice cathedral and a very delicious croque monsieur at a local cafe before we said our goodbye’s which hit her harder than it hit me. To me a goodbye is never goodbye and Im sure I would meet her again someday.

Really special, really thankful, very blessed all in all.

I grabbed my little brown book from my bag and wrote her name/location and date in it..

Beautiful day, beautiful people, beautiful life!