Posting 11: 03/06/2006, Gimont. (1623 km's to go)
So there I was, happily striding away, having delayed my departure a little by having a most agreeable coffee, the sky was blue and populated with little fleecy clouds that gave the impression of a scattered flock of sheep, when I spied the ruins of a building. 'That looks familiar,' I thought to myself, 'I'm sure I saw that yesterday'. Yes, I had been walking for 2 hours towards Marciac instead of away from Marciac and towards Auch! 'How could such a mistake be made?' I hear you ask. Well the previous day I had found the Camino a little difficult. Although it was very pleasant walking across rolling fields and through woods, the path was uneven and my feet were objecting in no uncertain terms! So I decided to take the relatively traffic-free road option for the second part of the journey. So I did not actually enter Montesquiou on the Camino. Instead of doing the sensible thing and reading the instructions for leaving in my guide, I had spotted one of the GR markings and decided to follow it as it did seem to be going in the direction opposite to that in which I had arrived the previous day. When I realised my mistake, there was nothing for it but look on the bright side. It could have been pouring down with rain and the Camino could have been full of steep climbs with precipitous drops like around Somport. As it was, the day was pleasant although now getting a little warm, and the walking had been lovely. I needn't have taken the road option yesterday as the Camino was a flat, even surface through fields and some woodland along a valley floor. I shrugged my shoulders, turned round and started to retrace my steps, resigning myself to the fact that there was no way I would make Auch which was just over 31 km's from Montesquiou. Ironically I had earlier felt something was wrong as I could see the Pyrenees in the distance, and the Camino seemed to be taking me towards them, which didn't make sense. I hadn't seen a way mark for some time so I had retraced my steps for about 20 min's until I found a sign. I have now learnt (the hard way) when in doubt and there has not been a way mark for some distance, there's nothing for it but to go back to the last viewed sign and then notice what had been missed the first time. Eventually
I reached a small village called L'Isle de Noe in time for lunch. A pilgrim I had met en route had told me the (only) restaurant there, did a Pilgrim Meal for only 10 euro. It was a very good meal. I sat and contemplated the next part of the days walk and I have to say I just couldn't face going any further. I had now been walking for nearly 5 hours and it was getting very hot. I had seen an advert for a B&B just up the road from the Bar/Restaurant so I decided to see how expensive it was. Joy of joys it was very reasonable - only 25 euro so I stayed. It turned out the proprietress was English and was very welcoming. She had only been open four weeks and had had several pilgrims stay.
So that day I only traveled 8 km's closer to Rome!
I did stay an extra day in Lourdes in the end. A very kind hospitalero had advised me to rest after 1000 km's. He said my mind would be racing on and want to keep walking but my body would need a good rest. He said I should find somewhere that I liked, that was calm, and stay. When I calculated how far I had come, it was just over 960 km's so I decided that was near enough and that Lourdes was the right place. After that it was quite a hard slog back to the Camino - the Chemin d'Arles. On the second day after leaving Lourdes I managed nearly 35 km's though my feet haven't forgiven me yet!
Weather continues sunny, scenery varies between field after field of crops, or being in forest or being able to see for miles and miles and miles (having just climbed up a hill). Meeting 4 to 6 pilgrims a day, though not so much in the evening. At Maugourget I met a lady who was also going to Lourdes so I was able to give her a map I no longer needed and for which she was very pleased, kissing me on both cheeks in gratitude. I was more pleased to be able to give the map a good home! A day or so later, I was able to pass on to another pilgrim a small section of map that I thought I had already thrown away. It had been given to me a couple of weeks previously by a young German pilgrim who now had no need for it and showed an alternative route between Sanguesa and a village the name of which I've forgotten, but that took you on a very pleasant, scenic walk through the Gorge of Lombier. It was great to find a recipient for the map instead of throwing it away.
The day after my monumental error I reached Auch, a Cathedral city that I had been looking forward to visiting. Also there was a pilgrim refugio in the Cathedral Presbytery there which had been recommended to me by a young French pilgrim I had met before leaving the Camino to go to Lourdes. It was nice to stay again in a place specifically for pilgrims. Also I was able to get to Mass. On a completely different note, would you believe I found TWO pubs selling Guinness! Naturally I had to try them both. This morning I left Auch good and early at 6:30 intending to walk just 22 km's. To my horror when I arrived at the Gite D' Etape (similar to a Youth Hostel) it was full. The nearest accommodation was Gimont, another 8 km's along the Camino. It was just as well I had left so early as by some miracle I managed the extra distance without getting to the point of total collapse and actually arrived just after 15:00! So here I am enjoying a nice cool beer and my feet are reasonably content!