Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 7: Nasbinals to St. Chély d'Aubrac (17 kms)

Our typical breakfast

This morning we rolled up the shutters to look out onto a damp landscape, crowned with low hanging stratus that looked like there was still some moisture left in them. Robin and I started our usual morning routine of gathering gear, having breakfast, and swinging out the door for another day walking the Chemin St. Jacques. Our stay in Nasbinals was fun, but it was now time to get back to business. Today was our last day on the Aubrac Plateau. We set out from Nasbinals around 8:30, joined up with several other departing pilgrims, and started climbing. It is curious how we always seem to start the day climbing. Maybe that is good as it warms us up. Today's temps were hovering in the upper 30's as we walked out of town. They didn't improve much until later in the day, when we finally descended from the plateau. At that point my little key chain thermometer was reading 45 F. Weather wise the story had two parts, wind and rain. A cold wind dogged us all the way along our climb to the summit of the Aubrac Plateau (1324 meters). The rain held off for awhile, but mists gathered and thickened during the morning, and by noon they had decided to just become rain. The entire afternoon's descent was done under continuous light rain. While this was manageable for us it did create a drainage problem that came to light further down trail. More on that in a bit as I am getting ahead of myself. Back to the climb to the summit. As we wound our way back and forth we moved off trails to simply walking across fields. The mists stayed where they were and we just climbed up to them. As we enjoyed the distant views there was a bit of a somber bleakness that came through. I actually like that. All the while the moan of the wind reminded us that this area deserves respect as it would be easy enough to run afoul of a storm and runout of luck and ideas at the same time. It was indeed a beautiful, bracing morning, that Robin and I will long remember. We stopped at the only cafe open in Aubrac (thank you Lord), and tucked into two steaming bowls of vegetable soup, coffee and even a glass of red wine (when in France as the saying goes..). Suitably fortified we set out on the second half of our day, "le descent."

The aforementioned rain now came into play. While it never really became a downpour it was still enough water to start filling the trails as we went down. The further down we went the worse it got as the watershed seemed to drain everything into the Chemin. And BTW, the trails today were actually more like rocky stream beds, than trails, just waiting to be filled up. They are also very narrow so if it really started to pour down, you would be just out of luck and would be forced to slosh through. A wise pilgrim, in those conditions, would be encouraged to walk the road. I would do it in a heartbeat. So down we went (very slowly) hopping from rock to rock, tuft of grass to tuft of grass simply trying to avoid getting soaked. All you can do is stare at your feet and hope they are going where you want them to. Downward we went looking Iike cowled monks under rain jacket hoods, with heads bowed to the task at hand. This was when we met the circus. As we rounded a bend we came upon an extraordinary sight, a little colorful hobbit army of mini campers, pilgrims (who knows what). In their lead was one of the adult chaperones who was in turn attached to a donkey. The donkey was carrying all their camping gear, and was seemingly having second thoughts about this gig as the trail steepened. There was much singing, from the children (who seemed to enjoy the mud), much coaxing of the donkey from the leader, and much slipping and sliding by all hands, including the donkey. Enough was soon enough for us and at the next available spot on the trail we stepped aside and waived good bye. Mercifully, we soon arrived at St. Chély d'Aubrac, our destination for today. We found a very nice small hotel, Les Coudercous, and settled in. The couple who run the hotel are wonderful hosts, and have been extremely kind and helpful (did I mention patient) as we sought their help with lodging further ahead. So the muck of the day is now down the shower drain, our clothes are in the wash, and I am in the bar catching up on our blog. All is well. Robin did well today, but we will continue to transport her backpack for a few more days before testing her leg again. Off to Espalion tomorrow, about 22 kms from here. Méteo France (weather service) shows clearing conditions for the next few days so spirits are now inching up after today's slog (maybe it's the beer).

In closing I want to thank all the faithful readers of our blog and offer my apologies when I am not able to respond to all your kind comments. Most days just getting the blog post out is my limit. But thanks for thinking of us, and even if we do not respond we are also thinking of you.



I am having trouble posting the photos so I will post the text and try to post the pictures separately.

Robin following the donkey



  1. I am so enjoying every minute of reading your blog and the pictures are fantastic.

  2. Got to love the weather huh!!! We had drinks in the hotel you stayed in at Nasbinals. We stayed just out of town at an equestrian gite. I'm really enjoying your photos, recognizing most every one from 2010. It's great how your hosts will call ahead each day and reserve your next night for you. Hope the knee continues to improve Robin. Dayton