Saturday, May 3, 2014

Day 8: St. Chély d'Aubrac to Espalion (22 kms)

St Chély d'Aubrac waking up

We awoke this morning well rested, and started to get ourselves together. I slipped out a bit early to check the weather, and take a couple of photos. I noticed one of the girls from the hotel heading back from the bakery, located just across the street, with both arms full of baguettes. Breakfast was soon to be served. Fortified with the usual high octane mix of coffee, sugar and bread we offered our thanks, and made our goodbyes, and stepped out the door and back onto Le Chemin. It was the start of a new day so that meant you have to climb. Up we went, step after step, trying to top the hill so we could start our descent into La Rozière where we planned to stop for lunch. As this was our first time walking this route Robin and I had no idea what to expect (déjeunez ou non....lunch or not). I'll come back to lunch. We had fresh legs and we clomped along up among the most fantastic collection of rocks known to man. There were big ones (mostly) small ones (hardly) and everything in between. Fortunately, the rain had moved on to douse some other group of struggling pilgrims (sorry, it just goes where it goes). So we climbed (and climbed) in drying mud (there is a difference).

Eventually we topped our hill and started down to La Rozière. On the way we passed through a very small (something). What do you call a locale with a couple of buildings? A town, a village, a hamlet. On our map it is called L'Estrade (reminds me of Sherlock Holmes). In the center of L'Estrade there was a little shack with a nice lady serving coffee or tea to passing pilgrims. One euro en boîte thank you very much. We caught up with a Swiss couple there that we had been walking with for the last couple of days. Very nice folks from Zermatt, close to the Matterhorn. This is their first trip down the Le Puy route and they seem to be having fun. They are heading home after Conques. A quick coffee, and le toilette? "Mais oui" behind the shed. So off Robin went in search of relief. Mission accomplished we saddled up and continued our descent to La Rozière. Today's forecast was for dry weather and a high in the low 60's F. Well part of that played out as the day was dry, but a 20-25 mph cold wind kept whipping around every knoll and crevice making us feel like summer was still a bit of a way off. Nonetheless, down we went with the temperatures improving. I saw 65 F at one point. So we finally hit bottom, not emotionally (there is always hope), but geographically. I saw a creek, and the bridge in the guidebook, and thought we are almost there.

But, why are we still climbing? Forget the elevation maps and be joyful, you are alive and climbing. It is a very simple reduction in priorities, and remember it could be worse. I can, therefore I will (or something like that), comes to mind. At this point no one is thinking about lunch. Everyone is thinking where can I find some extra oxygen! As it turns out La Rozières is just atop this quite steep little hill. Once you get up there you are rewarded with something akin to a ghost town. But, this is where all those prayers we have been uttering come into play. Upon arriving in "Ville Desolation" we found a white van that belonged to an American tour group. We have had the pleasure of meeting them at several points along our route. Today they truly blessed us. As we approached the van to simply say hello, Judy, the team leader, asked us if we would like something to eat. All their clients had been fed and Robin and I could enjoy what was left. What grace. Bowls of delicious squash soup, with a dash of Tabasco suddenly appeared along with sandwiches and cut up oranges. This was regal fare for the pilgrim road. As it turns out Judy spends half her year in Colorado, and half of it in Asturias, Spain, with her a Spanish husband, and leads Camino tours, through her company, Spanish Steps. The group she was currently with was walking from Le Puy to Conques. What a kind and thoughtful lady. Nonetheless, soon after lunch we were rock hopping again (and burning up lunch) as we descended to St. Côme d'Olt. This is a very pretty town situated on the Lot River. We decided to pull over for a coffee, and rest Robin's leg. We were now close to Espalion (our destination for the day) 6 kms away. Judy, had suggested that it might be better to simply walk the road from St. Cômes d'Olt to a Espalion rather than follow the GR 65 route. We heeded her advice and spent an hour or so walking along a peaceful river bank into Espalion. In contrast, our Swiss friends took the GR65 route and got swallowed in serious mud. It is now 9:00 pm, we are back from dinner and ready to crash. It has been another in a series of spectacular days walking this very special pilgrim road. My eyes are closing....Bon nuit.

Ask about our rocks!
Coffee break in St. Cômes d'Olt
Leaving St. Cômes d'Olt
Arriving in Espalion
River Lot in Espalion



  1. Notice how greener it is than on the Plateau d'Aubrac. Spring is well on its way here! If you decide to stop in Moissac, may I suggest Ultreia Moissac? Run by a very nice Irish couple, Aideen and Rom Bates - tel. If the weather is very good, they set supper up outside. And if you do, give Mathieu-Jacques a hug for me.

  2. Yes, many hills.... 'to every descent there is an equal and opposite ascent' was my motto. But once you have climbed the hill out of Conques, the hills (generally) are less frequent/long. The day you leave Conques, just make sure you take the second part of the alternative route to Livinhac-en-haut ie don't decend/ascend to Decazeville, unless you have a necessary reason for going there.
    I think most people take the flat river road to Espalion- a lovely route.

  3. Nomad has given me the tip and I am following along. The memories!

    Bon chemin