John

I walk the Camino as part of my healing journey.


Posts by John

East of Carabyn to Momuy – June 23

I’m surrounded by corn, more corn, and still more corn. Today I walked kilometre after kilometre of fields filled with just corn. This area has be the corn bowl of Western Europe. I must have passed thousands of hectares of the stuff.

At breakfast as I ate my bread and cheese (Yes, yesterday I bought my first lot of cheese since entering France.) I contemplated how satisfying it was to eat very basically. I’m not suggesting we should all eat bread and cheese for breakfast. I, for one would not like it. It then got me thinking about waste. Take, for example, a French salad menu. It’ll have a dozen variations. Why do we need so many? It has to lead inevitably to waste.

Vital, the man who invited me to stay at his house a couple of weeks back told me
about his mother who invited a couple of homeless people into her house to live for a while. He said they taught him and his mother some survival skills, one of which was to collect from garbages unsaleable food thrown out by supermarkets. At breakfast on the day I left his house Vital told me that the jam we were both eating was made from fruit sourced from those garbages. It tasted great and it caused me no
complications. The story does emphasise the amount of waste that occurs. I’m very conscious of waste on this journey. My moto is, ‘If I buy it I eat it’, even if it’s stale.

Today I did something quite odd and somewhat contradictory of my thoughts about
waste. It occurred in Samadet. I only got to be there because I took a wrong turn, but with little cost in distance walked. I saw a shop where I eventually bought a few things. Before doing so I did my usual and scanned the street to see if I could see a bar or cafe or some place to recharge my iPad which only had a little battery life left and certainly not enough for tonight’s blog and maps tomorrow. I couldn’t see anywhere so I ate up with what I had bought and other food from my pack. I then left carrying an extra couple of kilos of water and food in my backpack. Not 100
metres up the street was a bar/cafe which was offering a a��10 Menu de Jour. I decided to eat again while my iPad recharged. I spent the next four hours walking off lunch. I looked at it this way: if you’re going to sit somewhere for an hour and
use their power I should at least buy something.

The last couple of hours walking were hard going. 22km per day will get me to the Spanish border on the 28th. This is very manageable and I did it today, but it was the extra kilos that made the backpack a beast of a thing to carry. I think I was in hernia territory with today’s load.

On the way into Momuy I saw some freshly mowed grass on a large block of land near a building that looked like it wasn’t used very often. It has a large bush to
provide visual obscurity from the roadway which is only 25 metres away. I spent about 15 seconds contemplating the situation. It’s now my campsite for the night. This is my fifth night in a row camping. I’m feeling pleased with myself about this achievement and will try to camp each night until I reach Irun.

By the way, this is my 100th post.

Apple engineers have packed app install tracker close to four times more pixels in the new iphone 4 display compared to iphone 3gs

Saint-Germe to East of Carabyn – June 22

Last night’s lightning was quite startling, but I felt safe inside my little tent. It fascinates me how something as fragile as a tent could make me feel as secure as I did. There was a little rain during the night. I woke to a dull day with the prospect of more rain. The rain came just as I got to Barcelonne-du-Gurs. Fortunately I was alongside a giant supermarket when the rain started so I made my way inside, did some food shopping, and then propped on a bench seat in the entrance area where I ate while my iPad recharged on a power point I’d seen on the way in.

While under shelter at the supermarket I called my friend Naomi in Sydney who has spent the past ten days in St Vincent’s Hospital following emergency surgery. She
has been dealing with a particularly difficult cancer for some time now and more was found during the operation. I’d like everyone who reads this blog to send Naomi a prayer, or healing energy, or a get-well thought. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. It all helps. Anyone in her situation can use all the help available.

After my call I stepped out into the rain but by the time I got to Aire Sur d’Adour it had stopped. I found a pharmacy where the assistant spoke English so it made getting vitamins particularly easy. On the way through this town I saw four other pilgrims. On the footpaths were attached numerous plaques with the name of the
town and the Camino scallop shell within a triangle with the apex pointing in the direction a pilgrim should take. I followed them for a while. I think they were leading to Pau, a town through which pilgrims walking one of the French paths would go on their way to St. Jean Pied de Port.

I allowed myself 24km today but by the time I had walked that distance there was no suitable campsite so I continued on for another 2km until I found one. I’m surrounded by corn on three sides with a giant, thick hedge on the fourth side. The hedge is the rear boundary of a property that I’m going to camp behind. I can hear
it’s occupants but they’re unaware of my presence. I’ve got a small area about 4m x 4m where the tent will go up.

It’s now gone 7.30pm. I’ll eat and then hoist the tent. There won’t be much more happening in this neck of the woods tonight. It’ll be an early one for me.

Every artist responded to www.admission-writer.com/ the tragedy in his or her own way

Aignan to Saint-Germe – June 21

The internet was very poor where I stayed last night so I didn’t get my blog completed until around 12.30am, and it was after one before I got to sleep. Not waking until 8.30am guaranteed me a late start. To top things off I still had my washing to do. I finally started walking shortly after 10.30am with a very heavy pack made more heavy with wet washing.

Today was one of those rare days when I didn’t feel like walking. This is where self-discipline comes to the fore. I’ve decided I want to cross the Spanish border by the 28th June so I have to walk each day to make that target manageable. As of tonight it’s 159km to Irun, my first Spanish destination.

I commenced to write up my notes for this blog around 8.00pm sitting at a park
bench with my tent pitched beside it. When I tell you about this afternoon’s part of the walk you’ll agree that this camp site is gold, pure gold. Mind you, I’m only about 20 metres from the road and well within view of it. I could have gone into an adjacent wooded area but the ground was too rough. Where my tent is now is lush, green, soft grass. Pure gold. It’s still quite hot. I was sitting in shorts and thongs until around 9.20pm when I started typing the blog. The sun’s now gone and as I look to the south the sky is filled with rain which is moving in my direction. It’s been a real summer evening.

It was a good camping ground I was at last night. Then hosts we generous and hospitalable. The facilities were clean. It had lots of trees and plenty of shade. The proprietors are Dutch and it appears to attract a lot of Dutch tourists. Despite all the benefits of a camping ground I still prefer the side of the road. It’s more adventurous, not that I need too much adventure at age 63, and there is a feeling of freedom doing it this way. It’s me and my few possessions and I’m responsible to just to myself.

My first stop today was at Fusterouau where I got my washing partially dry while I ate. The drying got finished off this evening by spreading it out on another park bench in the fading sun. The feeling of not wanting to walk today was exacerbated late this afternoon after I’d completed my first 11km. It was then I got onto another gun-barrel straight road for the next 9km. To make things more difficult, it was flat as the proverbial pancake. All the ingredients were there to make it a miserable part of the walk: straight, flat road, hot afternoon and plenty of approaching traffic. It must be a couple of weeks since I’ve had to face a barrage of approaching cars and
trucks. I think they suck the energy from me as they pass.

I’ve started to think that my body might just be tired and the nightly rests are not enough to get it back to where it should be evey day. After all, I’m now well over the 1,500km point. But then again, I have days like yesterday when I knocked out 28km and felt on top of the world at the end of it. And yesterday’s walk was full of hills.

I’ve noticed the crops are more advanced this side of Toulouse. The sun flowers have full heads and some are beginning to flower. In the last two days I’ve seen crops being harvested. Vineyards have re-appeared.

I’m not more than a kilometre west of Saint-Germe tonight. On the way through I called into the only business in the village, a bar/Tabac (tobacconist) where I smashed down an iced tea, half a litre of water and two chocolate croissants. The fluids were needed and the croissants were just to satisfy a desire to not be disciplined all then time.

I’m going to finish off here. The storm clouds have been building while I’ve been typing and there is lightning flashing all around me. I’m sitting at the park bench
using my headlamp to read my notes. I’ve started to feel a little uncomfortable about a possible connection between my iPad and the lightning. Got to go. Samsung has also conceded cell phone tracker at www.trackingapps.org/ that the retina display on iphone 4 is marginally better than the super amoled screen on samsung galaxy s

Le Brouilh-Monbert to Aignan – June 20

It was a day of kindness. Firstly, I was kind to myself and I also received kindness from lots of people. I said, “I forgive you” to Bernardette and I apologized to her for any grief I may have caused her. Yesterday’s encounter at the cathedral with the altar dedicated to St. Bernadette was the catalyst I needed to bring this issue to the surface. It presented me with the opportunity to finalise it after all these years. Forgiveness is powerful tool, and so is saying sorry. It’s a pity we don’t use them more often. Our lives could be less complicated. It has made me feel emotionally much better today.

I was on the road for eleven hours today, but only seven of them walking. I had more breaks than a rodeo rider’s arm, stopping at Baziak, Toudelle, part way between Toudelle and Lupiac for a food, Belmont, and Lupiac, even though I was well rested. One of the joys of camping by the side of he road is the long sleeps I manage. Even though it was 9.00pm before I pitched the tent and watched the sun go down over a nearby hill, I was asleep by 9.30pm and slept for nine hours. This is unheard of for me if I stay at a hotel where I’m not asleep before midnight. My open campsite allowed me to feel the warmth of the rising sun as I woke.

It was a very hot day for walking. I was drinking lots of water. I knew I would run
short before the end of the day. I called into Braziak. I saw absolutely no one. It consisted of just a church and a few houses. I walked on. I reached an intersection. It was either continue on to Belmont or call into Toudelle. I chose the latter.

I began by speaking about the kindness of others. Toudelle was where it first occurred. This village consists of two streets. I saw a man unloading a golf buggy from his car. I walked up to him and asked if he could give me some water. He spoke English. He led me through his house to a rear patio area overlooking the garden. He filled my water tank, a spare bottle, and I had as much as I wanted to
drink. He introduced me to his wife but i didn’t get her name. We all chatted for about a half hour. Jean-Louis was a Le Meridian hotel manager in Tahiti, I think he said. It’s fascinating for me how a spontaneous decision to go into this village ended up in such an extraordinary result. This wasn’t just about me getting a supply of water: I felt the kindness.

Jean-Louis told me that a village on my route, Lupiac, was the birthplace of one of the Three Muskateers, Artagan. I thought them to be a romanticised Hollywood creation, but apparently not. There is a museum in Lupiac dedicated to this man. I decided I would stop there to take a look. When I arrived it was closed, but around
the village you could see references to this musketeer. In Lupiac I walked into the bar around 3.30pm to be told by the chef that all food was off. I can’t believe how hungry I was even though I had eaten an hour or so earlier. I sat at a table and began to drink a litre bottle of mineral water and eat some nuts from my pack. A little while later the chef appeared with a vegetable tart and offered some to me. I had two slices. It was delicious. I then treated myself to a bowl of ice-cream. Unusual for me, but gee it was good. I walked away feeling well satisfied with my second food break. The young woman behind the bar let me recharge my iPad while I was there. She is Dutch but had lived in France for many years. She told me she had learned her English by watching TV programs with English sub-titles.

And finally I arrived at a camping ground on the outskirts of Aignan to be greeted with warmth by a Dutch woman, who operates the park with her husband. I was told I could settle in and fix up my payment later. I did this and left my iPad in the dining area to recharge. Later I was in the dining area when the operators were dining with other campers. When they had finished I asked if there was any soup left. Earlier I had noticed a sign saying that if you wanted to eat tonight you had to advise the operators by 3.00pm. I didn’t arrive until after 7.00pm. My request was no problem. I was soon tucking into a bowl of the most delicious tomato soup which
I mopped up with lots of bread. Yes, it was a day of kindness and I feel blessed to have received so much.

Eine positive lebenseinstellung, spa an hausarbeit schnell schreiben der recherche, die freude, mich in neue themengebiete einzuarbeiten und natrlich am schreiben knnen ihnen zugute kommen

Auch to Le Brouilh-Monbert – June 19

Before writing this blog I didn’t know how much of it I would include because of it’s personal nature, but I decided to go ahead with what I had included in my notes.

I’m feeling very sad tonight having said goodbye to Vincent this morning in Auch. I think my sadness is accentuated because I am by myself tonight camped by the side of the road with my thoughts as my only company.

I visited the cathedral before leaving Auch. I’ve seen grander churches but it is still impressive. A service was about to commence while I was there. One of my reasons for the visit was to light a candle in thanks to all those people who have sent me
healing energy and well wishes. I selected a candle, lit it, and placed it in a stand. It was only then that I noticed that the side altar where I had placed it was dedicated to St. Bernadette. Bernardette was Vincent’s late mother’s name. It causes me great sadness on occasions that this young man has been denied his mother since age five because she made a choice to prematurely leave this earth plane. At one point today while walking I remonstrated with Bernardette for not being here to see her boy grow up into a fine young man. I cried then and I’ve been crying as I prepared my notes and typed up this blog.

I’ve cheered myself by thinking of the joy that Vincent is experiencing in France, especially the time he has had in Paris and the feeling of excitement he must have at the prospect of returning there on Monday where he will catch up with newly made friends, both Parisians and those from oth countries, as well as exploring the city some more.

I’ve certainly chosen a path less trod, hardly having seen anyone since leaving Auch. The country I walked through today couldn’t be more rural. I’m camped near one of
those giant rolls of hay at the edge of a field, with a panoramic view of the hillsides
to the east as they climb away from the valley I came out of. My position is a little exposed to the wind but it’s the best I could do at 7.00pm when stopped walking.

In the past 1,500km I’ve seen countless signs warning that deer may cross the road. I hadn’t seen one until today when I rounded a corner. It became startled by my presence and ran off into the undergrowth. I was met along the way by a group of four horses. They were busy grazing as I passed them. The next thing I knew they came running along the fence line to catch up with me. They stood and looked in my direction. I stopped and talked to them. I may not speak Italian or French but I do
quite well at Horse.

It’s been a hot day for walking but I’ve taken my share of breaks. Not far out of Auch there was a beautifully quiet forest where I stopped to eat. The silence was only interrupted by the sounds of the birds.

My maps suggest there is not a sizable town, just a few very small villages, for about 80km. I’m assuming I can’t get water or food for three days. I’m carrying enough of
both for that long, but sometimes the very small villages have a habit of surprising
me with what is available in them. I wait in expectation. Now, new high resolution pictures of iphone 4 published by prominent silicon valley blogger, www.besttrackingapps.com/ robert scoble seem to confirm these claims

Gimont to Auch – June 18

I felt sad first thing this morning when I thought about this being my last day walking with Vincent. The feeling soon passed as I got on with my day.

It was another late start because we weren’t as prepared as we should have been, not having gone to the supermarket yesterday and stocked up on food for today. We had to wait until nine for it to open. There is one thing that is important on this journey and that is to be well prepared, especially going into a Sunday when just about every shop is closed, except for bread shops which will open for a few hours in the morning.

We managed 12km before our first food break, outside a closed for good restaurant which looked like it once catered for truck drivers. There were a couple of drivers taking a sleep, much the same as you would see in the vicinity of those 24 hours a day country Australian service stations.

When looking at the maps it first appeared as though we would be walking beside a main road all day, however, for a lot of the way we managed to use a road now
under construction. It was still a dirt base. There was more of that beautiful countryside in shades of green and gold. It rained a little, but not enough to trouble us.

Vincent walked ahead of me for most of the day. He has found a pace and rhythm that suits him. Every now and en he would wait for me to catch up to him. Everyone should walk at their own pace. Cardinal rule of walking.

Today felt like one that just ground away. I knew we had to reach Auch from where Vincent will get a train to Toulouse tomorrow. It was a hard day for me doing about 4km more than what I like to walk in a day. I was so pleased to reach a hotel
around. 5.30pm. Our room has a bathtub so I had a good soak.

I’ve looked at the map for tomorrow for the last leg from here to Irun, a Spanish city just inside the border with France. The path I’ve chosen is not on one of the traditional routes which take pilgrims down to Pau and onto Saint John Pied de Port, or further south where the path enters Spain on a different route over the Pyrenees. My route is almost due west. I can’t see too many villages, but a lot of villages do not appear on Google maps. This has been my experience to date. All this amounts to a bit of camping. I’m actually looking forward to renewing my friendship with it.

Scoble has said that the close-up shots of the iphone 4 and iphone 3gs display screens were taken http://celltrackingapps.com/ using his canon 5d mk ii

L’Isle-Jourdain to Gimont – June 17

We had some beautiful walking conditions this morning after clearing L’Isle-Jourdain. There were dirt tracks between fields of wheat, sunflowers and corn. The wheat won’t have long before it is harvested, while the sunflowers and corn have some way to go. I looked closely at the sunflowers which are more advanced than any crop I’ve seen in the past week. When I looked closely I saw that at the base of each of them they looked like they had been individually watered around the base of the stem. What I think happens is that moisture from the night air gathers on the leaves then
runs down the stems to the ground watering the roots. How clever is that! Isn’t nature wonderful how it finds ways for living things to survive.

Our first and only food break was after just two hours of walking. Vincent didn’t make breakfast and by this time he was starving. We had a beautiful view over the fields and a crop water storage dam which is one of the very few I have seen. This afternoon’s walk into Gimont was three straight stretches of about 3km each, joined with a bend or two.

At our meal break Vincent and I had some great laughs by recalling scenes from comedy movies we both love. This afternoon I shared with him some of my
experiences from Vietnam. I’m o’kay to talk about it now but it took me the best part of 35 years to get to this point. Vincent has met quite a number of the members of my platoon by attending a couple of Anzac Day reunions at country towns. (As I re-read this paragraph my eyes filled with tears. I guess this is a legacy I may always have to deal with.)

I had a horror time yesterday with my right leg. I’ve self-diagnosed (with the help of the internet) and come to the conclusion that it is an inflamed tibialis anterior muscle, the big one that runs down the outside of the lower leg from the knee to the
shin. Obviously I can’t give it a long rest which would heal it. I’ve bought some deep heat ointment and a bandage. I’ll experiment with the bandage tonight. Anyone who would like to send me some healing energy I’d love it to be directed to this point. Last night I needed four pain killers to help me get an uninterrupted sleep, which I got. What is so curious is that it gave me no problems today.

Last night’s hotel was very expensive, certainly so compared with tonight’s. It got me thinking about the law of diminishing returns which all you economists will identify. I explain it by the example of the person who gets to eat 10 ice creams on
a very hot day. The first will be absolutely delicious but by the time they get to number ten ice cream the amount of satisfaction obtained from it will probably be zero. It’s the same with hotels. I get a lot of satisfaction by getting a clean room, fresh sheets and a hot shower. Whatever the price, all hotels provide this and it doesn’t matter (at least to me) how many bells and whistles they add in the form of decor, fittings, floor coverings and the like, my level of satisfaction does not increase accordingly. Why am I bothering to mention this? Because there is an ego aspect involved here and Vincent and I were talking about ego today.

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Leguevin to L’Isle-Jourdain – June 16

It was an early start for me getting the Legobus (yes, correct name) into Brax from where I got the SNFC into Toulouse. It’s interesting to return to places with which you have some experience. Familiarity is very comforting. So it was this morning getting the Metro from the Terminus to Capitole where I had breakfast while waiting for the Orange store to open at 9.30am, only to be told they did not have what I wanted. However, I was directed to a nearby store where I sorted out my Internet service in a short time. I then waited until after eleven thirty for a return train. Of course there were no taxis or buses from Brax at that time of the day I got there and so I did what I’ve been doing for more than two months and walked the 2km back to Leguevin.

Vincent was sitting outside the albgue waiting, but surprised to see me back so soon. I later asked him what time he got up. 11.00am. This is unheard of in albergues where pilgrims start shuffling around in the early morning dark and those who run these places have everyone out by eight. The only exceptions are the sick. The woman who ran this albergue didn’t live on the premises and hadn’t arrived by the time we left. We didn’t start walking until just aft 2.00pm by which time it had started to rain. The rain didn’t last, although it was overcast for the rest of the day.

I’ve introduced Vincent to benefits of eating in bus shelters. They’re great places to
take refuge from the elements. They’re free, readily available and seldom used by commuters. On day one together he was introduced to the park bench. These are preferred to bus shelters, but joyously accepting whatever is available is an important part of the journey.

Today’s walk was more in keeping with my previously experiences on the Camino when the path was well marked with the ubiquitous yellow arrow, a lot of which were painted on the road.

Walk your own Camino. How many times have I heard this said. Today I got some
gentle ribbing from Vincent for not walking as fast as him. I plod along at MY pace, not anyone else’s. It gave me an opportunity to speak about ego and how it brings people to grief. Some very painful lessons are learned. There was no better example to point to than the Spanish man back at the albergue whose feet were absolutely trashed. He had the remains of giant blisters, a big toe from which he had lost a nail, blood blistered toe, and swelling around both ankles as a result of infections. He was waiting for his feet to heal before moving on. Earlier he walked with a much younger man who was completing 30 plus kilometres each day. The Spanish man tried to keep up with him and his feet were the result. On this path the
heart is the ruler, not the head. Some expressed term paper writer anger toward the attackers, vitriol for the culture that seemed to spawn them, and jingoistic patriotism in support of good old fashioned american retribution

Toulouse to Leguevin – June 15

There was great excitement for me this morning as I came upon a Camino plaque (stylized scallop shell and arrow in yellow on a blue background) pointing to the way out of town. I’d seen one on the day we visited Musee Augustin, but did nit think I would be linking up with one so soon on the walk out of Toulouse. We followed them until we passed through Saint-Martin-do-TouchA� when we lost sight of them. Up to then they were few and far between. So we found our way to tonight’s destination without them.

On the outskirts of Leguevin we stopped at a supermarket for a cold drink. Vincent collared a local who spoke English. He gave us directions to a pilgrim albergue. This was a totally unexpected development which caused further excitement for me at the
prospect of meeting other pilgrims. What was fascinating for me was that last Monday I mapped our route to Auch. There were a couple of ways we could have gone but I chose to pass through Leguevin, L’Isle-Jourdain and Gimont to get there from Toulouse. I did this without reference to any written guides, but I accept that I was guided because these are the precise towns on the marked Camino way, all with albergues.

Tonight’s albergue has just seven beds downstairs. Vincent and I make up the five pilgrims in residence. There are two other men, one from Italy and the other from
Spain, and a woman from Switzerland. The woman who runs the albergue has been very helpful by getting me a bus timetable for my return trip to Toulouse tomorrow to get internet service for my iPad sorted out. I’d run out of credit and didn’t realise it before leaving Toulouse. I should be back by 2.00 pm for a late start for our walk to L’Isle-Jourdain.

Vincent went really well today. He has a long-standing left shoulder problem which gave him some pain early on, but it seemed to settle down as the walk progressed.
His feet are just fine, which is not always the case on day one of a walk like this one. He got a foot massage from me before we had dinner.

We both purchased our pilgrim passports/credential at the albergue. This is a document that mainly gets stamped at each albergue stayed at on a walk. The albergues have a symbol that presents them. It provides ‘proof’ that you have walked the path. It raised an eyebrow from the other pilgrims when they found out I had not got one in Rome. I hadn’t given much thought to having one up to today, but it is one of those things you get on the Camino that helps to remember where you stayed and when you stayed there. I suppose I’ve got the blog for that.

Government’s impending military response, fear of its growing intrusion on personal privacy, and protest in the face of expanding executive anybody could try here powers

A Second Day in Toulouse – June 14

It’s a slow news day. Vincent struggles to make breakfast. To do otherwise would require a sudden transformation of his Paris lifestyle of not getting to bed until 5.00am and sleeping for just a few hours until eleven when he is required to leave the hostel so it can be cleaned.

We did all the necessaries today like getting Vincent’s return train ticket to Paris on the 20th (my shout), both of us having haircuts (mine was easy to explain – I just needed to show a photo of me taken on the day I left Australia) (my shout), and booking Vincent into a hotel on the night of the 19th in Toulouse. (my shout). I don’t understand (tongue in cheek) why he does not want to stay longer on the walk sith all this largesse. Yes, Vincent is still walking with me to Auch from where he can get a train back to Toulouse on the 19th. He’ll stay in the same hotel where we have been staying, and he’ll be able to leave all his excess clothing at the hotel while he’s absent.

Vincent tells me that prices are cheaper here in Toulouse. A standard beer costs
a��2.90 compared with a��5.00 in Paris. I haven’t noticed a change in the price of food, which is what I buy the most of, in Toulouse, compared with the rest of France through which I’ve travelled this past month.

Vincent doesn’t know quite what to expect on the walk. Whatever the state of his feet after day one, which is often the problematic day for most people, I’ve limited day two to 13km, however, day four will be 26km. It’ll be a steep learning curve. I suggested to him that he join me in Spain for a couple of days in mid-July when I’m in Spain. This suggestion was not enthusiastically received. I can’t work it out!

I miss having a good book to read. E-books are really out of the question because of the power used by the iPad which I need for maps, emailing, and the blog. Today I
bit the bullet and downloaded 80 pages of Spanish language notes I’d compiled through a number of courses I’ve attended in the last couple of years. I’ll brush up over the next couple of weeks before crossing the Spanish border. I crave for something to read when I’m sitting by myself eating a meal. Now I’ll be able to conjugate a few verbs.

I’ve begun to categorise drivers whose behavior differs in response to my presence at the side of the road. Here are some of them:

Shruggers They look with eyes as wide as saucers while lifting their shoulders to their ears. At the same time they think, ‘Why are you taking up 50cm of my (emphasis needed) road’. The elite performers in this category lift both hands from the steering wheel, flatten the palms and face them skywards while making the previously mentioned facial and shoulder movements.

Yellers. These are always young males who are in a car with other young males. What they yell is always incomprehensible, even in French. What they think
when they are yelling is, ‘Why don’t I yell something really facile because it will make me feel good and Ill get a laugh from my mates’.

Gawkers. They just stare, making sure they take both eyes off the road for as long as possible. To them, someone walking by the side of the road is as unusual
as a two-headed dog.

Horn Blasters. They readily identify themselves with a continuous four second blast of the horn, which is also an assertion of their belief that roads are for cars, not
walkers.

Friendlys. They wave or smile. Some actually do both simultaneously. The number in this category are few, unlike the other categories which are as common as roundabouts.

Considerates. This is the major category. They move over to make room for walkers. Friendlys also fit into this category.
Distinct among academic writing expereince these expressions was bruce springsteen’s

A Day in Toulouse – June 13

Vincent and I are staying in a hotel near the rail terminal which are often located in the poorest areas of large cities, such as Toulouse. Opposite the hotel, between it and the rail line is a tree-lined canal. Looking out of my hotel window yesterday evening I could see a large number of people gathered around the trees surrounded with all the paraphenalia associated with the homeless. Later on the reason for the gathering became obvious: from a van food was being distributed to these people who were a mixture of men and women. Walking around last night and today I couldn’t help but get a sense of Toulouse being a city with a large number of homeless or otherwise underprivileged people. The van was not there tonight. It might only happen each Sunday.

It was a public holiday today so only a fraction of the shops were open. Nonetheless, Vincent and I set out around midday after the rain had cleared. We tried our hand on the Metro to get to Musee des Augustins, originally a monastery of the Augustine order of monks. The oldest part of the building dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries, but there were some more recent additions in the 19th century. It is classified as a national monument and became the home of the museum in 1793, which is very shortly after the Louvre was established. The museum has over 4,000 works which has been built up around a core seized during the French Revolution.

The museum has three main galleries, one housing gothic sculptures from the 14th and 15th centuries, a Romanesque sculpture gallery containing 12th century works, and a painting gallery which mainly houses works from the French, Dutch and Italian Schools. One unusual aspect is that much of the cloister garden is being cultivated with vegetables. The church, which is also a painting gallery, was closed today.

One thing you quickly notice in France is the number of people who are cigarette smokers. Their cigarette packets contain warnings but nothing a graphic as you
would encounter in Australia. My observation is that cigarettes are sold by everyone to anyone. Laws have been introduced banning smoking in places like restaurants and public buildings, but if you want a smoking room in an hotel you can still get one, and outside seating at restaurants remain smoking areas. Too bad if you want to eat outside: you can’t help but become a passive smoker. Cigarette smoking seems so solidly embedded in French culture.

I’ve done some planning for our next five days. We’ll have another day in Toulouse and then take four days to walk to Auch together. Following these four days Vincent
will return to Toulouse where he will spend a night before going back to Paris. I can’t see any hotels on my maps for the first three days of our walk so it might be some interesting camping given that Vincent is not carrying a tent.

I had a delicious vegetarian meal tonight. It’s the one I didn’t get to have last night because the restaurant I selected was closed. My friend Naomi is Sydney gave me the Happy Cow website where you can check on the locations of vegetarian restaurants and health food shops in any country in the world. Vincent enjoyed it as well. It was the most reasonably priced meal I have so far had in France.
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23km East of Toulouse to Toulouse – June 12

Today is about food, at least in part. Which one of these breakfasts did I enjoy more? Yesterday’s in a spacious, warm room with some table service when, I ate fruit salad, muesli, vanilla yoghurt, freshly baked multi-grain bread lightly toasted with a choice of home-made fig or nectarine jams, croissant and hot, green tea, or there was today’s, standing in a wet, grassy field eating a tin of tuna and balsamic vinegar and two rice crackers followed by a two day old sesame-coated baguette with banana, and a sip of water. I actually enjoyed both but if you ask me my preference I think the answer would be obvious. However, I think it important from time to time to remind ourselves that there are huge numbers of people in this world that don’t get sufficient food each day to survive. By doing this we can become more grateful
for what we do have.

I packed a very wet tent this morning: there was no rain, it was just the night air. Some sleeps I have in my tent are really restful. Last night’s eight hours was one of them. The morning sky was the first I’ve seen for a week without a cloud.

Some walks are mentally tougher than others. Today’s was one of the tough ones, at least until I got to the outskirts of Toulouse when I felt extra zest in my step. Around the two hour mark I was ready to stop. All I needed was a place that
appealed. I nearly stopped at this grassy patch but decided to walk around the next bend and there was a church spire off to my left side. Unbeknown to me I took a right fork at Vallesville, an earlier village, when I should have taken the left one. This mistake led me to Dremil-Lafage. I was completely unaware I had taken a wrong turn until I checked my maps as I was about to leave. The mistake didn’t make any difference to the distance I had to walk, but what it did do was lead me to a food palace, something I never expected.

Now I never like to go off track too far, even to seek out food, but because I could
see the church I knew I didn’t have far to go to get to the centre of the village. Interestingly the village looked quite new. The only old building was the church itself. They are mostly always the focal point in any village.

I was in the church, just siting and about to light a candle, when the bells started to ring continuously. It lasted about five minutes. It was to summon the villagers to the service that was soon to commence. I left the church and sat in the square opposite to eat the food I had previously bought (poppyseed baguette, croissant, raisin snail, four tubs of yoghurt, a packet of smoked salmon, and a pear.). I think
I’ve stopped losing weight. You can see I’m working on the problem.

While I ate I watched the churchgoers arrive. The procession kept up for the best part of 45 minutes. Not too many answered the summon. Those who did were mostly elderly women, although elderly men and a few younger ones made a late surge.

It’s very common on French public buildings to see the words ‘Liberte’, ‘Egalite’ and
‘Fraternite’. I saw it today on such a building. The other thing I saw was more of the canvas of greens and golds that are the landscape of the countryside.

Vincent arrived by train from Paris. We’ve just come back from dinner where we shared some of our exploits from our times in France. I’m looking forward to our next week together. We may stay in Toulouse an extra day because Monday is a public holiday and many of the city’s tourist attractions and businesses will be closed.

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Puylaurens to 23km East of Toulouse – June 11

As I was walking into Soussens I took a road leading up to Clinique de Soussens. I’d spied some land that looked like it could have been a good camping area and so I went to investigate. It was perfect but just as I was about to settle on a spot I heard talking on a loudspeaker so I went to see where the noise was coming from in the village. The noise wasn’t from the village which was deathly quiet. I found out later from a banner hung by the roadside that it was likely coming from a nearby village Bourg-Saint-Bernard which was having a fete. Now why give up a perfectly good spot to camp and then have to walk another 3km to find one not nearly as good? The answer is that I secretly wanted there to be a hotel in Soussens which is really why I walked on. When committed to a plan, stick with it as it will probably be
the best plan, at least for the day.

It was a 10.00am start. Breakfast did not begin until 8.15am and I had to try just about everything. The late starts don’t seem to bother me if I know I am going to camp that night. Darkness does not come until around 10.00pm and it’s not like I’ve got somewhere to go after arriving at the campsite. As I left Puylaurens it was sunny with a light, cool breeze blowing. There were beUtifull valley views to the south. As I walked further towards Toulouse I was constantly greeted by countryside looking like it was covered with a tapestry in various shades of green and gold. Just beautiful.

I’ve now walked into a predominantly grain crop growing area, however, there are also vast areas of sunflowers. At first I did not know what they were but later on this afternoon I noticed some of these very recognisable flowers scattered through one paddock, in particular. What a spectacular picture this will make when these crops are in full bloom.

This afternoon I walked a gun barrel straight 4km length of road. A road as straight and long as this one must be rare in a district which is full of valleys and hills. What
made it a little special were the rows of Plane trees that extended its full length on both sides, and beyond. I think the Plane tree must rival the roundabout for prevalence in France.

I’m very excited about tomorrow when I meet up with my son Vincent who is getting a train down from Paris where he has been for the past 10 days. He’ll arrive late evening by which time I will have arrived, booked into a hotel, cleaned up, and be ready to head out to one of the many vegetarian restaurants in Toulouse. My first in France. I’m not sure that Vincent will be all that rapt about my choice of food but it will be a good introduction to what he will be eating on the road with me.
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Castres to Puylaurens – June 10

Sometimes good fortune presents itself in the most unexpected place and at the most unexpected time. Such was my experience today.

It was a gloomy Friday morning when I left Castres. It rained during the night. A good time for that to happen. The temperature was around 17 degrees. Great for walking. Getting out of Castres was simple: one road, one direction, but what I found quite incredible was the amount of development for the next three and a half-hours of walking. It seemed that every commercial and retail business had a spot along the road, in particular, used car lots. It wasn’t long before I was yearning for some open space. France’s love affair with roundabouts was no more obvious than along this
strip: I went through eight before turning onto a secondary road that took me to Puylaurens.

I’m really starting to dislike walking the edge of main roads with oncoming cars and trucks assaulting my senses. It’s a case of hyper-vigilance all the time. I can’t take the risk of not looking at each one of them long enough to to be able to take evasive action in case of emergency. I’m so looking forward to reaching the Spanish border so I can start the Camino Norte where this problem does not exist.

I walked into Puylaurens around 3.00pm knowing from my maps that it had one hotel, but as usual, with no expectations of what it would be like. What a surprise! What a delight to have found Hotel Cap de Castel. The owner, David, a man in his 30′s, greeted me with very personal friendliness. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels these past 70′ days, but not before have I been greeted this way. My room, located in a 16th century house, is spacious, tastefully furnished, and with some little touches that make you feel you are being thought about as a guest. One of the buildings in the grounds dates back to the twelfth century.

Dinner was by far the most beautifully presented and tasteful I’ve eaten in France so far. If ever there was a place I would like to visit again, this is it, but next time it will be longer than an afternoon and night.

I’ve spoken before about the contrasts this journey presents. I expect there will be no contrast more profound than between tonight and what I expect will be my living conditions tomorrow night when I will be camping by the roadside halfway between here and Toulouse. There is one thing I really love about my pilgrimage: these constant contrasts in every aspect of life. The rising was the title track from the first official release by bruce springsteen and essayclick.net the e street band in 15 years

Mazamet to Castres – June 9

It was an uneventful walk in sunny conditions. The grain crops are ripening, otherwise everywhere you look is green. I had a lovely moment this morning when I witnessed five foals with their mothers. A couple of the foals were lying on the grass sunning themselves while the others were nuzzling up to their mothers.

I arrived at my hotel, located in the old centre of Castres, around 3.00pm. It was five o’clock before I got out of the hotel to take a look around. The hotel is very near the Agout River which bisects the town’s old section. Just down from the hotel are the houses built on the river where water laps around the stone arches of their foundations. It’s a great thing just to wander without any destination in mind, taking
a left turn here or a right turn there to see where they take you. I love it as way of exploring a city.

I visited the Goya Museum which houses a collection of art by some Spanish masters. The display also includes furniture, a coin collection, and a 400 piece small firearms collection. The paintings cover a period from the 14th to the 20th
centuries and include works by Francesco de Goya himself. As you would expect those from the earlier periods are mostly religious, but food is a topic with some of
them. Interestingly, a large number of the works are by anonymous artists. It was well worth the visit. From the first floor window you have a view over Le Jardin de Leveche with its sculptured hedges arranged in a pattern resembling one fleur de lys upon another.

Castres was once a principal town through which pilgrims passed on their way to Rome or going the other way, to Santiago de Compostela. I saw nothing about the streets which refers to this part of the city’s history. There was a period when the city was a Protestant stronghold. Around 1560 nearly all of it’s citizens converted to
Protestantism. In centuries to follow Catholicism grew to be an equally dominant religion. The story that caught my eye was when a certain Pierre-Paul Sirven and his wife were convicted and sentenced to death in 1761, in absentia, of the murder of
their daughter to prevent her from converting to Caholicism. They were eventually exonerated 7 years later after being defended by Voltaire.

Have you ever thought how it comes about that people who become so famous at what they do it is only necessary to mention their surname for us to be able to recognise who they are? For example, there is the criminal defence lawyer Voltaire
(who as far as I know isn’t particularly remembered for his courtroom skills, but nevertheless has become a one name person), Picaso, and in more recent times the footballer Pele.

Finally, Castres is the home of the Castres Olympique Rugby Club. I understand that
it is serious rugby territory down here. They’ve won a few titles since being founded in 1898, but it took them 50 years to win their first. I saw a Serge Blanco sports store in my wanderings, but I don’t think he has any connection with Castres. The other thing I saw was a house for sale. Now a house for sale is not an uncommon sight but this four storey dwelling was just two metres wide.

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Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres to Mazamet a June 8

St. Pons is in a mountain valley. The place looks like it should be cold, and it is. Yesterday I spoke with the owner of the organic food shop who told me that the people of the village were poor and that it was hard to sell her fresh produce because of it’s cost. I suppose you don’t have to live in a poor village to appreciate that organic produce can be a bit pricey. In my travels I have seen a lot of closed down businesses. One comparison I can make is between the cost of living in France to that of Italy: France is much more expensive. By way of example, with dinner I usually order a one litre bottle of sparkling mineral water which costs a��2 in Italy compared with a��6 in France. I’m interested to see what’s happened to the prices in Spain since I was last there two years ago. However, in defence of French prices I hit
the all-time jackpot tonight, just a��8.44 for a campsite at the municipal camping
ground in Mazamet. I suspect it’s heavily subsidised by the Council.

I got away around 8.30am. It was a cold and gloomy morning. Even the locals were rugged up. Before long I had climbed Col de la Fenelle at 459m. It was so striking how the vineyards suddenly stopped at the base of the mountains. There’s not been a sign them today, instead it’s back to seeing pockets of arable land close to the roadway which is either sown with a crop or used for grazing. I saw a number of dairy herds, something rare in Provence. There was one amusing incident as I
passed by a herd of Fresian cows munching away in a lush green paddock. Just as I got close, in unison about a dozen of them looked up and stared at me as I went by.

I set myself the task of getting to Mazamet tonight, a distance of 33km. I arrived around 7.00pm after more than 10 hours on the road, a little more than eight hours actually walking. It can be quite perplexing how my body and mind alters from one day to the next. By my standard today’s walk was a long one compared with my average of around 22km, but my body (read that mostly as right leg) was in better
shape at the end of today’s walk than yesterday, for example. Today, my mind was
adjusted to the prospect of a long walk before I took my first step. I think one of the keys is to get a reasonably early start. When you don’t get going until after ten o’clock half the day has gone before you’ve made much progress.

I took my first food break in a bus shelter and the second in a football grandstand, both times sheltering from the westerly wind I was walking into for most of the day. At food breaks I usually take off my boots and sox to dry. Today was no diffferent, however, I was looking forward to getting them back on because of cold. I thought
I’d left the cold weather behind in th Alpes. Let’s hope the summer returns real soon.
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Saint Chinian to Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres – June 7

It was a gloomy, overcast sky with light rain falling when I set out this morning. I don’t know how I did it but time just got away on me. It was 10.30am before I took my first step.

After about one kilometre the grape vines gave way to the mountains. It was then a two hour climb to a long, flat stretch before the descent. Prior to the climb i took off my wet weather gear. It’s far too hot wearing it if it’s not raining. I decided to have a meal break a little before reaching the summit and just as I was getting out my things down came the rain again. The only thing to do was to keep walking. Eventually I found a tree that would provide me with some shelter. I stood and ate.
The major problem with standing is that my feet don’t get a rest from my bodyweight and this begins to have a impact on them after about five hours of walking. On the descent I noticed the ruins of what was a small stone village. What struck me as unusual was it’s location on the side of a very steep ravine. One wonders what led to the village being established in the place it was, and what led to it being abandoned.

Today felt like one in which nothing happened. I didn’t have to change roads from start to finish. Rain always restricts my peripheral view because of the hood of my rain jacket I wear under my hat. I just walked. But what every day highlights for
me is the multiple-level healing that a walk of this kind provides. On the Home page of my website is a quote: “I walk the Camino as part of my healing journey.”. What does this statement mean?

The integrative approach to healing requires us to not just look at the health of the physical body, but importantly to ensure the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are also in good health. Doing a walk like the one I’m undertaking provides healing for each of these bodies. You probably wouldn’t need much convincing to acknowledge that it keeps me physically fit. Mentally, it has toughened me up. Every
day I feel emotionally nourished by everything around me, including the countryside, the rivers, the mountains, the trees, and the villages I pass through or stay at. Spiritually, it is a wonderful opportunity to connect with those entities with which I feel most comfortable. It’s not just a walk. It’s a wholistic healing experience. In spite of its sobering subject matter though, the rising offers a rousing how do you say i did my homework in french and anthemic refrain

Puissalicon to Saint Chinian – June 6

I had just four hours sleep last night, so I thought I did well today to cover 28kms. I’m trying to get to Toulouse two days earlier than planned so I can meet up with my son Vincent who is in Europe for three months.

The sun peeked through the clouds around 7.00am but that’s all I saw of it for the next couple of hours. To the west, the direction I’m traveling, the sky was looking dark and ominous. By nine the clouds began to clear, the day warmed up, and it remained that way.

This morning was another of those journeys along quiet road and lanes, and walks
beside the vines. This afternoon was different but I took some chances and went off course and was rewarded with more quietness, undisturbed by cars or people. Although the day didn’t fly by it was quite an easy walk given that I was on the road for 9 hours, seven of which were spent walking.

When I look at the street layout of many of the villages I pass through most have one thing in common: the old central part has it’s buildings arranged in a circle. Sometimes there are two concentric circles of buildings. I assume this was a defensive measure to assist protecting it’s inhabitants from attack. A lot occupy a hill
position which would have assisted early warning of attack as well as an attack itself. One interesting observation is that where an old village has expanded, the newer houses often conform to this concentric circle pattern.

A French practice I have been observing is the greeting. Last night at the pizza van is a good example. At one point a young man walked up to a group of about 8-10 men and women. Everyone of them was greeted individually with kisses or handshakes. It is not appropriate to just say “Hi” to everyone present. I have not yet seen a woman greet with a handshake. Three kisses is common with the left
cheeks touching first. I’ve seen men kiss four times, but not women. I’ve seen no one kiss twice or just once. The practice of either kissing or shaking hands looks quite ritualistic and requires some effort to acknowledge a large group. A handshake with a man probably indicates someone who is less familiar than the person who gets kissed. I assume it would cause offence to to not be greeted at all, or to be greeted inappropriately.

I have to report that the leg problem about which I remonstrated yesterday, and which disappeared in the late afternoon, did not return today. Thanks to everyone
who sent me healing energy. I need it on a daily basis.

I’m in a hotel tonight after four days in the same set of clothes. I had to give me a break from myself. The dining room has a wonderful view towards the nearby hills. At 9.30pm there was still so much light left in the day.
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Montagnac to Puissalicon – June 5

I didn’t get to sleep until one thirty this morning so when I woke at 6.00 am I knew it was not a good idea to get up. Back to sleep I wentnuntil nearly 8.30am when I got up feeling fully refreshed. Vital got breakfast. We had talked yesterday about my taste for savoury condiments for breakfast. He had soaked seaweed and combined it with olive oil and lemon juice and sprouted some alfalfa seeds. Extremely thoughtful! We chatted for some time. I didn’t start walking until around eleven.

What a pleasurable collection of paths I walked this morning – country roads, lanes, tracks beside grape vines, and one path which was barely distinguishable. They were much more what a pilgrim path should be like.

Most days my right leg plays up. On the days it does I engage in intense visualisations hours on end to provide pain relief. At times today I was having difficulty walking despite my efforts to clear the pain. At one point I came to a river flowing beneath a bridge I was crossing. Looking down I saw water flowing over a rock ledge about a metre high. I imagined myself in front of the ledge with the water flowing directly onto my troublesome leg. I held this image for two to three minutes while visualising the pain dissolving. When I walked off the pain was gone. But as I have come to learn, this sort of pain relief is only temporary. I have to recommence the visualisation when it returns, and return it did after I stopped to eat.

It’s a curious thing but after I’ve had a break during which I sit for an hour or so, when return to walking the leg can be at its worst. Today was such a day. It got to the point of me remonstrating with my spirit guide. I told him I wasn’t a thirteenth century monk wanting to experience pain for it’s own sake, and if he thought by not giving me pain relief was a way of testing my faith in the efficacy of the visualisation process then forget it because I wasn’t doubting it one bit. Shortly after this remonstration I sat on a roadside bench to check my emails and map. After about 15 minutes I got up and when I commenced to walk the pain was gone and never returned for the rest of the day. Sometimes you just have to put down your foot.

Today was one in which I’ve never seen so much land covered with grape vines:
much more than on any other day. In Abeilhan, one of the villages I passed by, there is a wine producing co-operative to which most of the growers sell their grapes. This seems to be typical, although I did see a number of smaller wineries.

Storm clouds hovered for most of the day, but around 3.00pm the sky began to clear leaving me with quite warm walking conditons.

Ther’s one thing about a French Sunday. Between midday and 3.00pm you won’t find many cars on the road because everyone is having lunch. This is the meal the French regard as the most important of the day.

I pulled into Puissalicon a little after seven with no expectation of a hotel. On the edge of town I saw a space near an abandoned winery. It looked like my campsite for the night. I held out hope for a restaurant. I was kidding myself. However, the mobile pizza van was doing a roaring business in the main street. There was quite a gathering of younger locals. Most of the men were paying bolls. The women weren’t. It’s a male activity. I ordered my pizza which took 45 minutes to arrive. I finished eating around 8.45pm then returned to my campsite after a stroll around the village
centre checking out the shops-all two of them. I was set up before nightfall and sat in my tent writing up my notes and typing this blog. I wonder what tomorrow holds.

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Montbazin to Montagnac – June 4

It was a day full of pleasant surprises.

Upon waking I decided I had to do some walking today, despite Mereille’s offer to stay longer. She drove me back to Montbazin. I had the pack on my back and was ready to commence walking when the sky opened up. I hurriedly threw the backpack into the car and we took refuge in a nearby cafe for half an hour until the downpour passed. Rugged up in my wet weather gear I left shortly after midday in a light, steady rain.

I pulled into Villeveyrac to eat after a couple of hours walking. A young boy of about
10 followed me up the hill into the centre of the village. He had a few words of English, all of which he used. I asked for directions to a cafe. When we got to the top of the hill he pointed it out. Language is no barrier. I prepared my lunch in the town square and had to eat part of it under a plane tree because the rain started up again. I then headed to the cafe to finish eating.

About 8km out of Montagnac is the Cistercian Valmagne Abbey that was founded in 1139. The church, in classical Gothic style, was begun in 1257 on the foundations of the original Romanesque chapel. The church is a monumental 83m long and 24m
high. The monks used to rise at 2.00am but in winter they were permitted to sleep in until 3.00am. The only room heated was the one where sick monks were kept. It’s hard to imagine how the monks would have coped with cold winters. This abbey was once one of the richest in southern France until it suffered the effects of the Hundred Years war, and later the Religious wars. The French Revolution of 1789 saw the abbey ransacked, documents burned, and the abbey confiscated as national property. It was sold in 1791 to a man whose descendants still own it. After the sale the
church was turned into a wine cellar which prevented it from becoming a stone quarry, as was the fate of many abbeys during the Revolution. Inside the church
today I saw 18 massive wine vats – empty, of course. When the woman on the reception desk found out I was a pilgrim on my way from Rome to Santiago she waived the a��7.50 entry fee. The hour I spent there was well worth it although it meant not getting into Montagnac until around 7.00pm. There was to be wedding at the abbey this evening. Guests were to wear Medieval costume. To get the place in the correct atmosphere about fifty people in costume were hired to play musical instruments of the day, look the part in chain mail, demonstrate the finer points of sword fighting, and stand as guards with stern expressions.

My last 4km into Montagnac was on a very narrow road which weaved its way through vineyards and rolling green valleys. On the outskirts of town I found the municipal camping ground which I checked before walking into the village to find a restaurant for dinner. I thought I’d return to the ground after dinner. Failing to find some place suitable to eat I went to a grocery store, took my purchases to the
nearby square, and commenced to eat. A passing man spoke to me. We started up a conversation. Vital, his name, is French and from Toulouse. He is working in Montagnac for a week building a straw bale house. He invited me to stay at the
house he is renting in the village. I agreed. I was given this massive bedroom He went off to pick up a friend at a railway station leaving me the run of the place. He was totally trusting of me. The friend, who has just returned from three months in Tasmania, will be working on the same building project. Vital and his friend went out for a while tonight and left me to my own devices. I feel totally comfortable here. Earlier, Mireille had offered to come and pick me up at Montagnac, drive me to Sete for the night, and return me here tomorrow. These acts of generosity overwhelm me. Vital was surprised when I told him his was the first offer I had received to stay at someone’s house. May there be more. Spontaneity rules. Springsteen invokes the idea of order other info rising not just to describe the fireman’s brave final steps toward heaven but to suggest our own capacity for transcendence in the face of unspeakable sadness

Montpellier to Montbazin – June 3

I’m in Sete tonight. How did I get to be here? Read on.

Getting out of Montpellier took nearly three hours of weaving my way through city and suburban streets. I never cover as much distance as when I’m on the open road because I have to keep referring to my maps to make sure I’m still on track. I have my own etiquette when it comes to using the toilet facilities of bars and cafes like I did this morning on my way out if Montoellier: purchase something during these short visits, like a cup of tea or a bottle of water. I would feel extremely uncomfortable if I didn’t do this.

Up to around midday the sky was clear and sunny after which it clouded over and threatened to rain for the rest of the day. Some towns have a really nice feel about them. They’re a pleasure to walk throuugh. Laverune is one of those towns with its mixture of old and new buildings, clean appearance, and proud public buildings. I stopped just outside Laverune and ate amongst a small stand of pine trees.

Beyond Laverune the roads became narrow country strips just a few metres wide. This was an area of very small plots of vineyards. None of the district I walked through today was as intensively farmed as what I have seen so far in France. There
seemed go be a lot of idle land. Different stands of grape vines have different characteristics. There are the unruly vines. They’re the ones where the stringy unproductive branches have not been trimmed from them. Then there’s the proud, stately vines. They’re then ones which stand on strong, mature trunks which are wrinkled with age. And finally there are the dignified vines. They’re very upright and have well formed branches in a symetrical shape.

I was tired today, and as you would expect tiredness gets to me towards the end of the day. Last night I spent a lot of time looking at two different routes I could take
to Chartres and working out distances between villages. It was around 1.00am before I got to sleep. I was awake a little after six. This is defiantkely not enough sleep for what I am doing, but when you get into town arund 5.0pm, which was the time I arrived in Montpellier, by the time I unpack, wash my clothes, shower, and eat, it can be after 10.00pm. Fitting in some relaxation time before sleep can be difficult.

I took a wrong turn about mid afternoon and ended up in a village called Courmonterral. As things turned out it was about the same distance to my final stopping point had I not gone off course. It came as a great surprise to me to see
that pulsating blue dot on my satelite navigation to be not where it was supposed to be. This isnnot the first time its happened.

Last night when doing my course plotting I noticed how close Sete was to where I planned to stay the night. Sete is a large city built on an island joined to the mainland by a long thin isthmus on one side and reclaimed swamp land on the other. My neighbour Mireille, who live across the street from me in Lilyfield and who is French, has a house in Sete. Before I left Australia she gave me her contact details and invited me to give her a call when I was in France. I called her. She picked me
up in Montbazin and I’m staying tonight at her home which has an impressive view to the east towards Marseilles and to the north over a lake. As you might expect, Sete has a history with the sea and so it wasn’t hard to find a seafood restaurant to have dinner.

I’m undecided about my plans for tomorrow. I’ve been invited to stay for as long as I like. I’ll sleep on it. Today demonstrated how spontaneity plays its part in my journey.

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Marsillargues to Montpellier – June 2

It was raining when I started walking around eight this morning and it continued until I stopped about 5.00pm. Rain slows me down a little, but there is something about waking in the rain that I find attractive. In an odd way I feel more like a pilgrim. Perhaps it’s the added difficulty. I just don’t know.

French rain is different to what we see in Australia. An odd statement. Perhaps. Here the rain is fine and misty where often you have to look hard to see it, but it still makes you wet. The backpack cover I’m using wouldn’t hold out a spitting competition. I don’t understand why they are made of such porous material. Fortunately, I have a pack liner that keeps everything inside it nice and dry.

It happens all the time: about when I’m looking for a spot for a meal break, like I was today after three hours of walking, a suitable one appears. I was heading into Lansargues hoping go find a cafe where I could stop, when on my left well out of the town was a disused college where I took refuge under an awning. A gift!

I didn’t look around much today to take in my surroundings. The rain made sure of that, but the countryside was still blessed with vineyards, ripening grain crops, orchards and vegetable crops. France needs this rain. It has been a very dry
springtime. Walking conditions this morning were very pleasant on more
near-deserted roads, but this afternoon was something different, especially the long walk into Montpellier where traffic entering the city was at times near standstill and that going out of the city was traveling at breakneck speed. I had the wide, green median strip to myself.

Many French drivers are mobile contradictions: they think nothing of traveling at high speed ridiculously close to the vehicle in front, even a semi-trailer where they would have no view but it’s rear, yet when they come to pass me they are so hesitant as if the road isn’t big enough for the both of us.

I just love the contrasts this journey keeps throwing up like last nights hotel and tonights; like last nights meal and tonights; or like the people gathered around the bar last night and those in the bar tonight. I should say that tonight I’m at the Mercure in central Montpellier, a hotel that charges well above its three stars. At the same time I’m both participant and observer of this moving feast.

How do you take advantage of a hotel like this? If I thought a hot shower was a treat at the end of a day’s walk, imagine what I think of a hot bath which I had
tonight. The joy of lying back, closing my eyes, and luxuriating in near scalding water, and feeling all those aches and pains dissolve is a treat I’ve convinced myself I richly deserve. But of course there is the practical side of it: you can get your washing done at the same time.

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Saint-Gilles to Marsillargues – June 1

When I looked out of my hotel room this morning I could see the tree tops being pushed around by the wind. It didn’t take long to feel the force of it. I should have known it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day when I saw locals rugged up in sweaters and jackets. The wind buffeted me all day, sometimes pushing me a little ofF balance. There were times as I lifted my walking poles the wind would seize them and momentarily take them from my control. It was northerly. I wonder if this was the famous wind that blows down from Germany and has been doing so for such a long time that people with house walls that face the north will have in them only small windows. Today was a day for walking, not for long leisurely breaks eating salads. It was more a hot soup day.

Just outside of St.Gilles were a large number of stone fruit orchards, particularly apricots. They stretched along the roadway for a couple of kilometres. Most were well tended, but one had thousands of pieces of fruit lying on the ground beneath the
trees. After the orchards the vineyards began. I’ve never seen such vast areas covered with vines. They stretched from both sides of the roadway to as far as the eye could see. While passing through some of these vineyards I experienced another of those horrible stretches of roadway where cars whizzed by at high speed and me with nowhere to go in case of an emergency except into the steep sided drains at the
edge of the roadway. In stretches I took refuge from the traffic by walking along the edge of the vineyards. One of the most frightening experiences I had today, and its happened a few times before, is when a car going in the same direction as me overtakes another car when alongside where I am walking. I generally ignore the sounds of the cars coming from behind on the assumption they on the opposite side of the road to me, but when they suddenly appear alongside during a high speed overtaking manoeuvre, it’s very scary.

I stopped at 10.30am to do an interview on ABC Radio National. I was very
disappointed with it. It never really touched upon how I used positive thinking in my cancer management, which is why I thought in was invited onto the program.

About three hours into the walk my maps directed me onto a road which turned out to be an amazing track alongside a water canal. It has been purpose built for walkers and cyclists. I thought it was out in the middle of nowhere, but when I had a closer look tonight I think it runs all the way from St. Gilles to Vauvert, a town to the north-east of where I am tonight. What a pleasure it would have been to have walked it from St. Gilles and missed out on all that angry traffic. I was the only one on the
canal track today. Running along my lefthand side was a disused railway line. Curiously, along the walking track there are little intersections where carefully placed signs warn about the railway track. Given the tracks rusted condition it’s a very long time since a train rolled down its length. The trees along the canal provided me with some protection from the wind and I was grateful for that.

After getting off the canal track it started to lightly rain. I put on my wet weather gear. The rain didn’t last long but the rain jacket kept out the chill of the wind.

Today was a day for being offered lifts. I had two offers and declined both. The second was a man and woman in a car, who originally pulled up to ask me if the road they were on would take them to Marsillargues. It has happened before, and it will happen again, despite me saying I did not speak French the man persisted. I understood enough to assure him with a finger pointed towards the direction of the town and lots of ‘oui, oui’s’ that he was going in the right direction. About forty metres down the road he stopped, reversed up to me and asked me if I wanted a lift.
In the interim the woman probably said to the man, “Why don’t you offer that nice
man a lift?”

There were more avenues of Plane trees today. They were there on the way into Le Cailar, the last village before tonight’s stop, and also in the centre of Marsilargues’s main street. What a curious town is Marsillargues. It’s quite big, doesn’t appear to have a grocery store, has only one restaurant that didn’t open until 8.00pm, and has one very sad hotel. Yet it is full of commercial looking buildings. There are dozens of cars sitting around the streets, idle, and no one is about. What goes on here?

I’m in that very sad hotel. a��40 up front. My room is one of those where it doesn’t matter how many coats of paint you give it, it will always look so tired it could go to sleep for a month. But, as always, I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in.

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Arles to Saint-Gilles – May 31

Before leaving Arles I managed to spend a half hour looking around the Amphitheatre. Some serious restoration work is being carried out. The notice board outside said it was a��107 million. The Romans were quite smart about getting people to their seats or standing positions by using large numbers of entrances to the spectator areas. I’m not sure how they ranked their amphitheatres but this one is ranked number twenty. Well down the order of merit I would have thought, but having this ranking does indicate just how many of these structures they did build. Today they have bullfights, horsemanship shows, and it would seem anything else in the nature of a public spectacle. I loved wandering the corridors, looking into the portals towards the arena and musing what it would have been like to be a spectator all excited about a show
that was about to begin.

I had a late start (10.40 am) but a short walk (18km). My first three hours of walking was such contrast to the final three yesterday. I was on a quiet road with next to no trafffic and am couple of cyclists. The drying grain crops were there, like yesterday, but they didn’t seem as characterless. Yesterday I noticed the first one but today there were vast areas of land being cultivated with rice. It strikes me as odd why this water hungry crop is grown anyway. From my observation rice plays little to no part in French cuisine and you have to grow huge amounts to make it
export viable. I don’t think of France as being a country which could sustain rice as a commercially viable crop.

Everywhere I go in France there seems to be purpose built drains moving water from one unknown place to another unknown destination. I’ve often wondered where all this water ended up. Probably on the rice cops.

At midday (my time) I called a farewell dinner being held for my younger son who flys out on Wednesday for Paris and three months in Europe. We plan to meet up in
Toulouse on 14 June after which he’ll walk with me for a while. I got to speak with all three of my children which was quite special.

Saint-Gilles is not a prosperous town. You can tell by taking a walk along the main street. I did this before dinner which was vegetable soup followed by grilled salmon. I haven’t said a lot about food, but I enjoyed it far more in Italy than I’m enjoying it here in France. I miss a good vegetarian restaurant where there isn’t a different sauce for every possible permutation of a salad. It’s not possible to get something simple like a lettuce and tomato salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. ‘I’ll have to return to Italy for that.
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Saint-Remy-de-Provence to Arles – May 30

Napoleon was at it again today. The Plane trees stretched for at least another eight kilometres on the way out of St. Remy. It’s extraordinary when you think about it: in this one stretch before and after St. Remy there is about 15 kilometres of trees on both sides of the road with a tree every ten metres.

I was packed and ready to leave at 7.30am after what was my worst night’s sleep. It had been hot and my arthritis played up until I gave it a whack with some painkillers. It wasn’t a night for a sleeping bag. I waited around for the bread and croissant order to arrive half an hour later, ate breakfast in the morning sun, and got away from the camping ground around 8.30am. I didn’t get far because I had to stop at a
cyber cafe which I sussed out yesterday evening, to download two documents, fill them in, get them copied, and walk to the post office to send them to Australia. I then stopped at a cafe for a cup of tea by which time it was 10.30am before I got onto the road.

I felt down on energy and it showed in my attitude towards the walk. I didn’t take a single photograph today. The last 15 kilometres into Arles would have had to have been one of the least interesting and difficult of walks I’ve undertaken so far. There was nothing on this stretch to excite my attention. Lots of wheat fields nearly ready
for harvest on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. There’s a sameness about this type of landscape that doesn’t talk to me. The walk was difficult because it felt dangerous. I’ve walked close to oncoming traffic on countless days in the past two months, but nothing like today. The long straight stretches was an invitation to the traffic to reach high speeds, and with me right on the edge of the bitumen for a lot of the time, it felt very uncomfortable.

Walking towards the centre of Arles around 5.00pm I noticed the temperature was still 31 degrees. After a day like today it’s always pleasing to get into the heart of a
town where there is lots of movement. The constant change of landscape keeps me interested, and you need to be that way to finish off a days walking. I had the name and contact details of a woman who takes in pilgrims. For the past three days I had failed to make contact by telephone. I found her house quite near the heart of the old city, rang the doorbell, but no one answered. I assumed she was away. What a treat it would have been to listen to the many stories she could tell of the travelers who have stayed with her.

Arles is another tourist magnet, but one well worth exploring. I think I’ll delay the start of tomorrow’s walk to have a quick look around. It’s a look that should take days. Arles was once known as “Rome in Gaul”. Of course, it was occupied well before the Romans arrived here at the time of Julius Caesar. First, there were the Celtic tribes and then it became a Greek colony. It was after the Greeks that the Romans took charge when Caesar gave the colony to the veterans of his legions. (The McMahon Government didn’t do that for me and my fellow diggers after Vietnam. Why couldn’t they learn from history?). The city was destroyed by invaders in the Middle Ages but rebuilt during the 12 century. Many of the Roman structures like The Amphitheatre which could hold 20,000 spectators, the Roman Theatre with it’s 10,000 capacity, and the Cryptoportico of the Forum, double U-shaped underground galleries which date to 30 to 20 BC, are still here to see. And finally there’s The Espace Van Gogh, a former hospital in Arles where the famous painter had been a patient. Is there no place in Provence where that man was not hospitalised. The Langois Bridge, painted by Van Gogh in 1888, is located south of Arles. You can see why this city is worth good look around. Unfortunately, I’m in places like Arles for just enough time to wet my appetite and then I have to move on, like I do tomorrow.

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Vidauque to Saint Remy de Provence – May 29

This morning we started at the same markets we were at last Wednesday, only this time they were much bigger. At a cafe/deli alongside the markets we had breakfast where Stuart and Alison come each Sunday. I was then driven to where I left off yesterday. We said our goodbyes, then the walking commenced.

The first four hours or so of walking were very uninteresting. I skirted Cavaillon to its south and west passing through semi-industrial areas, crossed a motorway and then got onto the road to St. Remy. I was back in full kit with a 25kg backpack. Ah, it’s good to be back I harness. I got two beep/wave of the hand combos today. I feel good when that happens. It puts a smile on my face. The St. Remy road was full of
long, straight stretches.

Along the way I met a man with a backpack and walking cane, whistling his way towards me. We shook hands and spoke. It’s surprising how much you can communicate even when you don’t speak the same language. He was wandering the local district. He understood when I told him where I was headed and where I had come from. He gave me a single cherry he had in his hand. He said he got it from a local tree in his travels. I took it but didn’t eat it.

On the outskirts of St. Remy there is a cascading water channel that passed under the road. The force of the water rushing downwards was giving off a gentle, cool breeze. I stood in front of it for a couple of minutes. One of walkings little mercies.

If Napoleon was responsible for the planting of the Plane trees I saw today, then he did well. They were on both sides of the road for the last 6km into St. Remy except where they’d been taken out for road widening or a roundabout. The French are crazy about roundabouts. If there is enough land to accommodate one, it’ll be there.

I’m in a camping ground tonight. It’s the best I’ve been in so far with its really clean, functioning showers with unlimited hot water. The grounds are well thought out. There is a 25 metre pool. I went for my first swim of the season. It’s only about 400 metres into town and that’s really close for a camping ground. And the price, just a��12.50. To top things off they take bread and croissant orders for tomorrow. I’ve got my order in.

It’s a very mild night tonight. I managed dinner tonight at an outside table in a T-shirt. St. Remy is a town worth exploring. I could spend a few days here, but that
will have to be another time. Vincent van Gogh spent a year here (1889/1890) in an asylum during which time he produced over 150 paintings. Nostradamus was born here. I went and visited 6 Rue Hoche, his place of birth, or what is left of it. Only the facade remains. Imagine saying, “Yeah, I live at 8 Rue Hoche. That bloke Nostradamus was born next door.” St. Remy is on one of the pilgrims routes that leads to Rome, and for about 2,500 years it has been a town through which travelers from the north to the Mediterranean and vice versa have passed. It has a reputation as an historical, artistic and cultural centre. I’m not surprised it’s a tourist magnet, but this tourist moves on tomorrow for Arles, the real cross-road for pilgrims.

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4km North of Bonnieux to Vidauque – May 28

I’ve walked the Petit Luberon. Today Stuart dropped ime out on the road at the same spot he picked me up on the 25th. From there I made my way to the start of the Foret des Cedres (Cedar Forest). On the road up to this point there are magnificent panoramic views of a northern valley taking in Lacoste and Bonnieux.

As I joined the forest one of the first things that struck me was the sounds from the birds. It seemed like there were many species, all singing away. The track across the Luberon is bitumen sealed, not something I expected. The sound of my walking poles striking the bitumen distracted me from the sounds of the birds so I commenced to walk in the mulch by the side of the road. The poles became silent in
the mulch. I only had the singing birds to accompany me. It seems that the mulch has built up over many years and comprises the tiny leaves of the cedar trees which are not much more than a centimeter long and a couple of milimetres wide.

Another thing I noticed was the condition of the ground. It was extremely rocky where ever I looked. It surprised me how these treees in such large numbers could thrive, as they appear to do, in such conditions. I did see areas of soil, always close to the edge of the road, a rich, dark brown colour. I presumed it got it’s colour and texture from the tree mulch. I could see that animals had been foraging around in it, probably looking for food. I expected wild boar to appear and challenge me at any
time, but nothing as exciting as this occurred.

It took just over an hour to walk through the forest after which scrubland and small trees was the main vegetation cover. As I continued along the top of the ridge pockets of cedar trees appeared. Before beginning my descent I could see to the south a massive farming valley which extended to the horizon. I was told you could see the lights of Marseilles from where I stood, but I doubt it because of a ridge way off on the horizon.

The descent on the western end of the Luberon took me a couple of hours. In some
places it was quite steep, taking its toll on my knees, as usual. As I came aound the edge of the western end I could see Cavaillon to my north-west. From where I looked it appeared to be a city built up against a meseta a few hundred metres long. South of it towards Cauvel Blanc was extensive farmland providing a patchwork of various shades of green and an irrigation canal which has as it’s source a river much further to the south.

Today ended up being a 25km walk, further than I anticipated, however, the joy at
the end of the day was being picked up by Stuart and Alison at Vidauque, and going
back to their home where I had dinner and slept the night. Tomorrow I’ll resume my walk at Vidauque.

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Another Day in Bonnieux – May 27

I couldn’t have relaxed more than I did today. I leisurely got myself up and about for breakfast, took my time eating and chatting, and then it was into Apt for a look around and to buy some supplies for tomorrow’s walk.

Apt is a likable enough city, reasonably big, but not too busy. Had I followed the more traditional route from Barcelonnette I would have walked through Apt. Ochre, which is principally used in the colouring of paints, is something that has been mined in the district for many generations. There is an industrial museum in town with displays of all the different colours that are available. The French love museums: there seems to be one for every product or activity. If your district is famous for
something, for example, growing, and distilling the oils from lavender, then you will find a museum dedicated to this.

After lunch I spent about three hours on the internet at the local bar/restaurant using their wifi. I think they are most generous in allowing someone like me to stay so long, but I do buy drinks while I’m there. I suppose this relieves my conscience a little. After this I got my gear ready for tomorrow’s walk.

Stuart made dinner after which we sat around, chatted and drank tea until it was time for bed. You can see from what I’ve said in this blog that not a great deal happened today. Just the way it should be when relaxation is on top of the list of things to do. When you think about it, we can achieve something quite beneficial by doing nothing. Such is the nature of achieving relaxation. But when it was miles away, your eye couldn’t tell if it was one light or observe full report two

A Day in Bonnieux – May 26

A day of complete rest. It wasn’t until I took a look at my reflection in a mirror that I appreciated how much size I have lost, particularly around the shoulders and upper legs, but it’s all part of the journey.

I’ve become a seriously good eater. On the road I manage a meal every two to three hours in my endeavor to keep up a steady supply of fuel. My metabolism must be racing at 100kph. No amount of food is ever too much. Today I seemed to be eating all day. Literally not true, but it was like it. Soon after eating I’m hungry again. This morning I had a long breakfast with Stuart, chatting all the way. I can’t stop eating the crusty light sour dough bread fresh from the local bakery. Also, I just love
the fresh produce like the salads we had for lunch. I am being so well looked after it’s hard not to feel embarrassed.

In the afternoon we drove to a nursery where Stuart and Alison purchased flowers for their window sills. They also buy and give plants to a number of neighbors, a couple of whom have been widowed in the past two years. I think it a lovely gesture to offer friendship this way.

To the south-west of Bonnieux is a mountain ridge called ‘Petit Luberon’ and to the
east of it is the ‘Grand Luberon’ and further east still is the ‘Luberon Oriental’. They are part of a 185,000 hectare regional park. The Petit Luberon extends from Bonnieux to Cavaillon to the west. Cavailon is a city on my route to Arles. On the top of the Petit Luberon is planted a 250 hectare cedar forest. The first trees were placed there in the early 1900′s. It has been added to over the years to become it’s present size. Some trees get replaced after fires. I think the originl trees came from
Algeria. There is a road from Bonnieux to the start of the cedar forest and a track
through the forest all the way to Cavaillon. Stuart suggested I walk the track. I was thrilled with the idea. Tomorrow I will get driven back to the point on the road where
I was picked up and recommence my walk from there. It’s about a 10km from that point to the start of the forest. A good morning’s walk.

This evening we went for drinks at a neighbour’s house on the corner opposite. Bear in mind that the opposite corner is only a couple of metres away. The house is owned by a Sydney couple Jeff and Lynn Fisher. What an amazing house! What you see on the inside is unrecognizable from the outside. It’s over four levels with huge number of rooms inluding a very big, chilly cellar and a room that was once a chapel. It is one of the few properties in the upper village with enough room for a lawn and
garden. It even has what was once a secret passage where its then owner could have escaped had the village been under siege from a neighboring village. Apparently, these types of passages were common. On the ground level is a section of what was once a Roman road, probably more than 2,000 years old. Coming from a country like Australia it is difficult to appreciate the history that is contained in a single dwelling like this one, let alone in a village like Bonnieux.

A couple of days ago in my blog I mentioned the trees growing alongside the road on my approach to Cereste. I thought they were Maples because of the shape of their
leaves, however, Stuart tells me they are Plane trees and that Napoleon was responsible for their planting along roads to provide shade for his marching troops. I’ve since learned they have been extensively planted in Provence, often being used in a garden as a feature that will provide shade where a table can be placed for meals in the summer. Tomorrow I’ll be marching out of Bonnieux and looking for shade along the way. Perhaps I’ll benefit once again from the consideration Napoleon had for his troops all those years ago.

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East of La Begude to Bonnieux – May 25

Life in a tent isn’t always worry free. There was an access road alongside the picnic area where I camped. As I was typing up my blog last night a few cars pulled up at different times. When they did I turned off my light and closed the lid on my ipad. I’ve done this before. I just sit quietly and listen. When I’m satisfied there is nothing to be concerned about I go back to typing. On one occasion when the lights were out the headlights of a car heading down the main road caught the outline of the picnic table and cast moving shadows over my tent. The shadows looked like an arm was reaching across the front of my tent. I froze with goose bumps all over. After I realized what had actually happened it took some time for my skin to relax.

Tonight I’m in Bonnieux at the home of my friend and legal colleague Stuart Littlemore, and his wife Alison. I have been made so welcome in their home with my own downstairs apartment. What an interesting mountain village is Bonnieux with some of it’s structures dating back to pre-medieval times when the surrounding valleys were once flooded, like its defensive wall around the high village (as distict from the low village which is below the wall).

This afternoon we attended a local growers markets to buy fruit and vegetables. I
tasted wild strawberries for the first time. They were divine, so sweet, full of flavour and very juicy. We then went onto a garden bar at Lacoste which had a beautiful view over a valley towards Bonnieux.

The locals are saying that the season is about one month ahead of where it normally is. This probably means a very hot summer and lots more difficult walking days. Today I saw cherry trees loaded with fruit. They were for sale at the markets and we got some. Delicious.

I had quite a lot of climbing after leaving La Begude, through Castellet and a litle
beyond Auribeau from where the countryside flattened out. At Auribeau I didn’t take a turn when I should have and it cost me about 3km. During the climbing I would go around the side of one mountain and a valley could be seen to the north, then
around another twist in the trail for a valley to open up to the south. Stuart and Alison picked me up in their car about 3km from Bonnieux. I’ll make up the shortfall along the way.

I was prompted today by an email to think about humility and how doing what I’m doing teaches us this important quality. But learning this quality has not only happened on this walk: it’s happened on all my past three Caminos. The lesson is
learned this way: if ever I think what I am doing is special I’m reminded that it isn’t by the efforts of someone else. On the past Caminos I’ve thought what a great thing it was to walk 800km and then I would meet someone, like the two men who had walked from Germany, or the woman who had walked from The Netherlands, or the young German man in Leon who had ridden a bicycle towing a small traioer from Dresden, about 3,000km. In today’s email a mother told me about her son’s 7,000km walk from Canterbury (UK) to Jurusalem. These reminders help to keep maters in perspective. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn.

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