Tuesday, April 25th, 2016
I found this walking holiday with Franse Valleientocht after doing a google search in Dutch instead of English, and the idea of staying with Dutch speaking hosts appealed to me. It’s a ‘chambre d’hotes/table d’hotes’ formula whereby you walk from house to house, via different routes, all in the same neighborhood; luggage gets transported. My hosts at La Bouysse where Anne and Wilfried.
After a good night’s sleep (2 additional blankets helped) I joined the others for breakfast at 9am.
There are usually a couple of walking routes to choose from between the houses, varying in distance. This day I’d opted to start with a leisurely 10-ish kilometers. So the late start (in my walking book) around 10:30 was ok. By the time I was on the trail it was closer to 1am. I was driven to a point from where to make it a shorter walk, and the moment I got out of the car it started to rain. At first it looked like it would blow over, which it actually did, only to be followed by another bout of heavier rain shortly after. And so it went on for most of the walk. Turned out I brought the wrong shoes…. I’d decided against my heavy full leather boots and instead opted for my medium boots. These are good boots and do repel some water, but continued walking through long gras and growth, in the rain,…. not so good. So in no time I had water in my shoes. I ignored it as best as I could and kept telling myself my feet would dry while walking. Which a few times almost happened until the next rain shower accompanied with tramping through the next bit of high grass. Yes, I should have know better. But really ‘South of France’? I’d expected better from you at the end of April going on May! It looked like there would be more of the same the next day too. You could take a lesson from Wales: see my Offa’s Dyke walk the first half of October last year! Sunshine! In Wales! In October! Later on I learned, from Marijo at La Libaudié, that a week ago they were walking around in t-shirts.
I’d downloaded the tracks on my iPhone (3.99USD Galileo app) and Garmin before traveling here but some of them didn’t seem to work properly. Every day on this trip you get a map and a route description for the day to come and good thing I had those as this was one of the gps tracks that didn’t seem to work. However the ‘old school stuff’ worked and I did have the region map and other tracks on my phone which helped at some confusing places. I crossed one field about 4 times trying to figure out where to go, until I spotted the gate mentioned in the description, and I took a few wrong turns, but nothing too dramatic. It always takes some getting used to a new style descriptions, but I got used to it. Route distances given were also more approximations.
I encountered no issues, except for rain, and one growling dog. Once at my destination, La Libaudié, I heard from another female walker that she was almost attacked by that particular dog, and at another instance she had a very unpleasant encounter with two other dogs – this from someone who actually likes dogs. After arriving at her destination a few days ago she took the owners smaller dog for a walk, and that dog was attacked and bloodied by two big dogs. Fingers crossed I wouldn’t run into any situation like that. I walked without my knee braces that day, but decided I’d have to wear them the next day as my knee felt a little tender on some of the downhills at the end of the day’s walk.
Upon arriving at La Libaudié I was welcomed by my hosts Kees and Marjo. In my room I didn’t waste anytime putting my soaked boots on the heater, then had a coffee, followed by a shower. The internet was pretty good and everywhere – as opposed to last night where it was on for about 10mins – so got in touch with Stephen and updated the blog before dinner. Kees heard the dog stories and got onto the phone to try and find out who the owners were to avoid further potentially dangerous situation with other walkers at the start of the season.
Dinner was quite late as we had to wait for two more walkers to arrive from Albi. Not only had they arranged to arrive late there, it also turned out that the trains in the Albi area went on strike.