We are trying to stay on our original schedule which included several almost 30 km days across the flat part of France. That was overly ambitious. We managed to get almost two days ahead of our original schedule and by spreading those days over a week of long days, we can reach the Pyrenees on schedule. We needed one long one. That was today. 27 km is our longest hike. We are tired but still smiling. There are no more plus 20 km days until Spain.
We have had no problem with reservations until this week. Evidently there are two 3 day weekends this week and half of France is taking the week off. Gites are very full. We are finding a place to stay, but we have to call a couple of places to find a space. So far so good.
Left Montreal about 7:45 and entered the city of Eauze before noon. We had done 16 km and sat down in a cafe for a Jambon, fromage and tomato sandwich under the shadow of a 17th century church that had to rebuilt following the Wars of Religion which raged with ferocity in this region in the fifteen hundreds between Huguenots and Catholics. The Heroic king Henry IV is from this area and is celebrated today as one of the great kings of France. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism to end the civil war. He then granted limited religious toleration to the Huguenots. His grandson Louis XIV undid this and brought about the rebellion in the Cevennes. Anyway, nice break.
We then slowly started our afternoon. It worked. we got back to our 4 km speed after a half hour or so and reached Manciet by three. We were helped by no serious mud and no serious ups and downs. We walked for seven km along an old railroad grade which was really nice. The sky was overcast all day until we needed to don out parkas in a light shower for the last hour. It is raining harder now but the beer is nice and we are dry.
Did encounter our first group using a burro for transport. Peggy has some cute pictures of the burro and his shell. She did not retrieve her camera in time to get a picture of a real Gascon woman climbing into the biggest tractor we have seen.
The Gite is a converted bakery that was abandoned for a number of years before being turned into a Gite by energetic young people. We find many examples of this profession that allows young adults to make a living in these small French towns. The La Porte name still works wonders. We go through the family history and we are suddenly cousins. Of course being crazy old people who carry packs instead of having them transported by a service is part of the amusement. When they find out that we have done over 550 km this way, they bend over backwards to help us. Tonight we have the bridal suite in the Gite.
Since we are in a bar and the cable to upload pictures is in the Gite, pictures will have to wait until tomorrow. The bar could be from the “Year in Provence” book. There are rows of Pétanque trophies and the good old boys are really big just like in the book.
The bottom line for today is that we made a bunch of Kms and can still move around. Good trail conditions and better pacing have made all the difference. We are closing in on the Basque region in France and the Pyrenees are right there. We are starting to actually believe that we can do this.