16 Sep 10: Estaing to Golinhac

Route: 13.6 km with 1020 ft climb

Tour: The morning begins with a level road-shoulder march along a country byway for the first two hours, following the banks of the Lot through the morning mist. I was underway at 0830, made two 15-minute lunch stops, and arrived Golinhac around 2:30. The morning climb alternated trail and road shoulder up to the plateau. Late in the morning the mist cleared and things warmed up a bit, until low stratus clouds moved in, first giving shade and then threatening precipitation. A group of French walkers adopted me for mid-day coffee. The afternoon walk was through mostly chestnut and oak forest, mostly good track, mostly undulating with some final climb.

Lodging: Pole touristique Bellevue. The lodging tonight is the first real gite d’etape (hikers hostel) I’ve stayed in. Our room sleeps 6, and there are four dorm rooms in this building. The washhouse is downstairs, with laundry sinks and racks outside. Sure hope the rain holds off! There is a younger set here, both staff and guests, with more English being spoken.

Cuisine: The hotel breakfast was the usual menu, plus applesauce, which makes its first appearance on this trip. Dinner is demi-pension with my dorm-mates in assigned seating. The starter is gazpacho, followed by a salad of haricots vert vinagrette (similar to the dish served in Kandahar – I must learn how to make this!) The main was oven-roast chicken quarters with mashed potatoes – the crisp and juicy chicken is a real treat. Dessert is a baked apple in a thin pastry crust, with caramel sauce. An excellent dinner!

Grace: The yearning of every heart is for community and belonging – and today the French came through. I run into the French AA member at lunch, and my dorm-mate from Brittany assists with reservation calls, and the mid-day group invited me along for coffee. It’s nice to be looked out after by strangers – an unearned grace.

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