The third man

Well, I suppose last night’s accommodation was OK(ish). The food was average – along with the standard lack of green vegetables. The cellulose / paper sheets weren’t too bad (though Laurie chose to use his sleeping bag) and I at least had a reasonable night’s sleep.

We had been warned that today would be wet and this prognosticatory prophesy appeared to be predictably prescient when we woke this morning as the ground was wet, with the sky overcast and misty. We ate possibly the poorest breakfast we’ve had until now in the company of two French guys we dined with last night, then headed off for the start of our last section. The French chaps had been saying it would be a difficult 27K, but we were right (or, to be fair to Laurie, he was) that it was only about 21K. There were some steep long-hauls, but after so many days’ walking we were like moufflon, leaping from rock to rock. We were quite chuffed to pass our fellow diners who had left some time before us, but the shine was somewhat taken off this achievement when it turned out one of the pair had twisted his ankle some days earlier and was struggling a bit.

We stopped in a small village for a cup of milky coffee, which had the advantage of being warm and wet, but little else. After this, the long pull up to the Col de St Pierre meant there was little breath left for conversation.

Laurie has suggested that I should mention that there was a third presence on our walk today: he tactfully called it a “miasmic aura”, but basically he means I stank. Even I was aware of it, but Laurie has been kind enough to suggest it was my long sleeve t-shirt. If Sonia reads this, she may wish to get the washing machine primed! Things are better now I’ve had a shower and changed into cleanish clothes.

However, the significant thing is that, despite there being a 24hour weather channel over here, the “Meteo” was wrong and it didn’t rain! Admittedly, there were a few spots whilst we were celebrating the end of the walk with a third demi of beer, but by that stage we didn’t give a damn! I should explain that we were forced to go and drink beer as the gite didn’t open until 3:00pm and we had 90 minutes to kill.

The gite seems pretty good: the showers – wet room style – are excellent, the rooms comfortable (though we needed our own sleeping bags and towels). Unfortunately for Laurie, he’s left his shower gel etc. at the last stop: from my point of view at least I won’t have to put up with walking with a clementine all day!  Modestine is one thing, but orange-scented shower gel is another.

Talking of smells, we have become more and more aware of herbal aromas as we’ve made our way south: the undergrowth, as we brushed past it, has increasingly released smells of rosemary and thyme. Chestnuts abound still, but mulberries and quince the size of tennis balls litter the paths. We heard a woodpecker today and we had our beers under a magnificent plane tree on a nearby hotel’s terrasse.

The gite is about 1.5K out of the town, so Laurie has just set off to see if the track is passable with a wheeled suitcase. I have a large rucksack, so it’s not so much of a problem for me, assuming I can carry it! I can’t remember if I’ve already mentioned La Malle Postale who have been transporting our main luggage from gite to gite to hotel etc.: they have been, to use Laurie’s description, “exemplary”. No mistakes, no delays: everything has been spot on.

It’s a funny feeling, coming to the end of the walk: if I’m not mistaken, the Chemin de Stevenson continues to Ales, but we – and he – have stopped here. Both of us have found our thoughts turning to home: Sonia’s october break starts for her on Thursday, the very day I get back to Inverness, so that ties in well.

Tomorrow we cover the last short distance to St Jean du Gard (our gite is just outside the town), where we will catch a bus to Ales, then wait for the evening train to Nimes, change for Charles de Gaulle airport and spend a night in an Ibis budget hotel before catching a mid-day flight to Glasgow. After that comes the parting of the ways as Laurie meets up with Tina and two of his sons and I continue by bus to Inverness.

Despite some differences in our personal philosophies – or perhaps because of them – we get on very well and I look forward to him being sufficiently tolerant to join me on a similar project in a couple of years’ time.

In case you’ve not noticed, I’ll just mention there are a few photos in the Gallery accessible from the menu at the top. More may follow later.

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