Tuesday, June 20, Day 3: Monistrol d’Allier to La Clauze (19.2 km/12 miles)
Our heroine has the habit of getting into trouble on the third day of her Caminos. We recall her first Camino when, at the suggestion of new Camino friends, she walked past her intended stop of Zubiri in favor of a promised nicer town: Larrasoaña. Her friends were right — the town was nicer than the gritty Zubiri, but the only restaurant in town was closed, and there was a question as to if the market would open that evening. But the worst part? The next morning she woke to find she was unable to put weight on her left foot. But that’s another story.
Three years later, it was on the third day or her third Camino that she and Lois were turned away from the albergue they had reserved because they arrived five minutes late. Our heroine couldn’t believe it, and tears sprung to her eyes. Lois took over and found them a beautiful place nearby–whose food and hospitality was so good that they stayed for two nights. Friends that stayed at the place from which Lois and our heroine were rejected (ironically called Corazón Pura— “pure heart”) were also mystified as they ended up being the only two people staying there that same night. When they asked the owners about turning us away, they were told something about not having enough food. I guess there was going to be no loaves and fishes miracle at that Corazón Pura that night!
Our heroine, however, had forgotten all of this when she began her third day on the Via Podiensis.
She knew the day began with a climb out of Monistrol d’Allier. The town sits on a river and she knew from elementary school that rivers often ran at the bottom of valleys. Thus, the ascent. She started out at 7:10 a.m., crossing the Pont Eiffel, and appreciated that the heat had not yet descended.
She followed the red and white trail markers. She reached a chapel built under a large rock overhang, the town now well below her.
At every fork, the trail markers always directed her to the higher road.
Three hours after she began, she had walked just 4.2 miles. She knew normal walking pace was 3 miles per hour. She was not happy. She was very hot. Her pack pulled on her back, her shoulders. No matter how she adjusted it, nothing helped.
She came upon an Austrian man, sitting I the side of the trail. He began his walk at his home 59 days earlier. They walked together briefly and when she stopped to rest he continued on, saying he would wait for her in the next town. As she continued, she regretted that he was waiting. She had to stop for another rest, some food, water. She thought she’d arrive to the next town in one hour. It became two. At noon, she finally arrived in Sauges.
In the distance she saw a man sitting at a table in front of a bar, waving feverishly at her. Helfreit, the Austrian, welcomed her. “I hope you weren’t waiting long,” she said. “Just for one beer,” he said, indicating his empty glass. She moved to unbuckle her pack but he stopped her. “I have found a place for us to rest and have lunch,” he said. He took her down the street to a covered patio away from the noisy road. She started her meal with ice cream and orange soda. Then a sandwich. With the man who was nearly as old as her father, she engaged in conversations about life and love–more specifically the woman he met a few weeks ago while walking the Camino.
Even after an hour/and-a-half break, she decided she could not walk to the gite she had reserved. Five-and-a-half more miles in the 90 degree was not going to happen. She had started this Camino slowly enough–with 9 and 10 mile days. Her mistake was thinking she could jump to a 14 mile day so quickly.
She called the Auberge Des 2 Pelerins. Too tired to think in French, she asked the host if he spoke English. He didn’t. He let her know she had 2.5 hours more of walking to get to him. “Oh la la,” she said, surprised to hear the French phrase come from her lips. “Je ne peux faire ca. (I can’t do that.)”
“If you can get to La Clauze, I can meet you with the car,” he said. “Six kilometers. One hour.” She did the math in her head: 3.6 miles. At the rate she was going, she was hoping she could make it there in an hour and a half. She wasn’t impressed with Sauges, anyway. And she had heard his gite was wonderful. “Okay,” she said. He told her to call when she got to Le Clauze.
Two hours later she threw down her sticks and her pack and called Jean-Louis. At first he didn’t understand what she was saying. I just called him two hours ago. How could he not know who I am? She searched her mind for the right words. Finally, he understood. A few minutes later, a car slowed and parked in front of her. Out stepped a plump man no taller than her, a smile showing beneath his handlebar mustache. He helped put her pack in the back of the van, and away she went, tired, hot, but happy she didn’t have to walk another step. Until tomorrow.