Day 28: Chateau Puyferrat to Mussidan

Today was by far the worst day of my life. But first  Chateau.

When I first arrived I thought wow, a real Chateau. Look at this place. Once inside though things took on a more sinister tone. The owner or caretaker met me at the door. He told me to follow him. He had a sinister look about him, long black hair, as black as hades itself, curly too and fell back over his shoulders into one ot those man buns. He wasn,t tall, perhaps just shy of  6 feet. His mustache and beard were unkept and he seemed to walk with a slight limp.

”This way” he said

I followed him up three flights of stairs into the tower. Everything had a morbide look and feel. The air was heavy, dank and stale. The smell of death! It was a gloomy dark staircase and when we got to the top he had to swipe a veil of spider web to clear the way for me. He then blew on the shelf by the door where the key was lept. A cloud of dust filled the air. He coughed and his cough was bronchial and deep. He started to hack and hack, unrelentlessly and as fast as it began it stopped.

”This way”was all he said.

We walked down a very long and dark corridor. The walls were painted blood red, but faded into a pasty looking tone of pink and purple. The curtains were old and stank of mildew. The floors creaked and creaked. Suddenly I thought I heard moaning, a soft cry, then laughter. But not the ha ha kind of laughter but laughter that was maddening, sick, tomented.

” This way” he said again.

Finally we stopped at a massive door that was locked with gigantic shackles. All I could do was look around me….and gulp, and gulp again until I could gulp no more.

” This is your room” he said to no one. I gulped. Slowly he pushed the massive door open. Caaaaaaawwwww-reeeeeeeek, caaaawreeek followed by a squelching noise, then that moaning again, screams but from where? Not my room I hoped. All I wanted to do was turn and run. Run and get the hell out of there.  But I could not move and then the door swung wide open. And then my host reached for a torch. And then we walked inside. And then, and then and then……….


I left the Chateau at the witching hour of 6 am. It was dark but, as you can imagine I had a restless sleep. Hopefully a nice day. But the weatherman scewed up again he called for a high of 26. Not bad but what did we get? 36. Awful. And what made it worse were the hills. One after the other. Only this time short but very steep. By 8am I was covered in sweat. My shirt was soaked, my glasses fogged up and my hat drenched. Not rain – sweat. I have never, ever sweated like this. Not with playing hockey, football (American) or anything else. And the hills? Well imagine a staircase with 10 steps. Now  look at those steps from the side. Each step equates to a hill about 1 km in length at a grade of about 20-30 degrees. For my Mill Bay friends walk up Noowick from Mill Bay road to the highway and do it 10 times. Or walk up Mount Doug 10 times. That is what I am dealing with in 30 plus degree heat. No wonder I am crazy.

This is not fun. It is no longer a pilgrimage in my mind but an endurance or survival test. I was really worried about water today for the first time. And I had no time for that pilgrim rite of self reflection, self expression, well being, sense of belonging or how and why the sun comes up. No, for me today it was all about how I was going to make it up the next hill, and the next, and the next. Step after torturist step all the while the sweat was stinging in my eyes. And, as an added bonus today, we had those small black bugs. We call them smidgens. They abound in the north late August, early September. They don,t bite. They swarm around your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. They are annoying.

So, it was a great day for hiking……NOT!

I need something to cheer me up and make me happy:

Day 27: Perigeux to Chateau Puyferrat

Before I even get started today, you will not believe where I am staying tonight. In a real Chateau- Chateau Puyferrat – my destination. Check this out:

That,s my room in the tower. And the front entrance you may ask:

Those are my servants you see there. They are taking my rucksack up to my suite. They wouldn,t touch my shoes though. Radio active they said. I gave them the day off. Hey Marg!

Back to Perigeux. Our host last night was a Quebecois from Riviere de Loup. He told me that his ancestor was born in France in 1640 and came to Quebec from St Rochelle back in 1670. Obviously he never returned. So Michael decided to close the loop and return to France and to the very village where is ancestor was born and baptized. I forgot where it was. Full circle.  I told Michael that I was a Toronto Maple Leaf fan ( I am not ). That got him going.

There was also a young couple there. I would say they were recently married. They were doing the Camino in stages and were now about to go home to Paris after a weeks worth of walking. It seems that everyone I meet is going home.  Could it be my smelly socks. They are very keen on the Camino life and would love to open a Pilgrim,s Refuge. Good luck to them.

You know, there is a huge interest in doing the Camino. A world wide interest. Amazing. I had never heard of this until I talked to my friend at home.

I noticed from the hostel log book that Guy, the Anorexic Pilgrim, had stayed there the night before. That means he is now a day ahead of me. That also means he walked 41.kilomters. Unbelievble. You know, Guy is skin and bones and he looks like death itself. Totally unhealthy looking. I,ll never under#tand why people at our age feel they have to look like they are in their 20s and not their 60s or 70s. After all why did god invent suspenders? And if he wanted us to look like the walking dead he never would bave invented beer or…French cooking, or…..Orangina. Never.

The walk today started badly. I had to navigate though 4 major hills. By 9am I was soaked in sweat. I could wring out my hat,s perspiration. Awful. Two of the hills were so steep and the terrain so bad with strewn rocks, pebbles and loose soil I really was worried I was going to sprain or break an ankle. That would be the end of my Camino. Finally it flattened out for the back half and I arrived at my Chateau safe. – 25 kilometers later – but the last kilometer was straight up. By the time I arrived at my Camino I was beat. There was nothing my servants could do. I was not happy with the pilgrim gods. They are letting us down. I can still her Gill the mathematician model screaming to the heavens:

”Sacre Blue. You gods think you are so smart with us pilgrims. You are not. If you think you are so smart you come down here and you try to do this…you….you pilgrim gods you. Sacre Blue”

Or something like that. Gill cracked me up.

Oh yeah, here is the view from my bathroom, shower area:

Now this is what I would call a mushroom

All for today.

And for all those hills out there:

Rest in peace Tom Petty


Day 17: La Souterraine to Benevant Abbaye

Had a wonerful day in La Souterraine. Lots of cafes and shops were open…yay! My Dutch colleague and I had a few pils before heading to our pelerin hostel at 1630 (430 pm). The lady at the hostel would not let us in early. Na pas problem.

Great evening sitting outside with another French family having dinner. This was fantastic as dinner and breakfast were included in our 35 euro tariff. But it did take a long time to be served. The place was run by an English couple from England! Duncan was the husband and he talked a great deal to us. Given the hard slog we had I asked him how tough the terrain was between La Souterraine and Benevant Abbaye. He said that it would be a breeze, flat all the way… pas problem!

Good dinner and good wine. My friend Berry was leaving for home in the morning. I would now be by myself for the first time in about 5 days. Na pas problem. That is Duncan the owner standing.

I left at 730 am the next morning. Today, the 17 th of aout. I said farewell to Berry and  was off. Bon chance.

It was a gloomy overcast day that threatened rain. About 21 C but the humidity was through the roof. It was not long before I was soaked from sweat.  It did drizzle a little bit but not much. The moisture in the air was reflected into the landscape which was lush. It almost seemed as if I was walking in a rain forest and not central France. It was another brutal climb.  It became so bad that I had a fantasy to return to La Souterraine and strangle Duncan. But I didn,t want to walk back 20 kilometers. “Duncan, you are a lucky man today” I thought to myself.

To put things into perspective for my Victorian friends, the brutality of the hills yesterday can be described like this. Put yourself on Dallas Road and then walk all the way to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay and do that walk going uphill all the way. That is what we are dealing with here.

As I was walking  beside a field of cows I started humming out loud the theme from the Great Escape movie. It was loud. Well, all of those cows came running in my direction and then followed me to the end of the field. That was cool and funny. I seem to have a way with cows. Don,t know for sure though!

I am now sitting in the gite etage in Benevant Abbaye refreshed, writing this  blog. There is a ”fete” going on here this weekend so I am going to go and check it out. For the uninitiated a ”fete” is a fair.

Oh and I met three more pilgrims today. Michel from Belgium, Sara and Sophile from Paris. They are finishing in Limoges.

Love this photo . It says it all to my non French friends:

The price of pain. Pour moi? Ne pas problem!

Another good hiking tune:

Day 16: Crozant to La Souterraine:

A day in my pilgrim,s life.

As I got up and got out of bed I banged my head against the shelf above. Some books came crashing down on me. It was 0530 in the morning. Damn I thought  I screamed. Over on the other side of the dorm I thought I heard someone say “ Mon Dieu.”

“Darn”, as pilgrims are not supposed to swear. So I go up. It was pitch darkness and I did not want to wake anyone. As I was walking, no tip toeing towárd the heads (toilet), I banged my big toe against the leg of the bed.  “Damn, merde, shit” I screamed again to myself. Owee, that hurts. I then thought I heard my dear wife whisper in my ear: “ John, not only are you a slob you are also a big klutz.” Yes dear. I thought to myself.

I made it to the head only to see or feel that some guy, er pilgrim, was sleeping on the floor by the heads. Oh yeah, I remember. This guy was sensitive to snoring so he moved his mattress by the heads. Snoring or smell? Take your pick. Anyway, I tried to be a quiet as a mouse as I opened one of the doors to the stalls:  caaaw-reeek, the door needed oil. ” Mon Dieu” I heard from th other side of the dorm. I went into a stall and closed the door only to see no toilet seat. No matter. I am a male after all and this is the call of nature for numero uno. Then I tripped on something and fell down and low and behold the toilet was not secured to the floor. With a bang it fell sideways. “ Holy shit.” I said. “Mon Dieu.”I heard again and the guy on the floor beside the toilet just grunted and turned over. Finally, I got out of there, brushed myself off and tip toed back to my bed. Then again my big toe banged again on the corner leg of the bed and I tripped and fell into the bed beside me. That guy was not amused. “ Mon Dieu” I heard again. I apologized to the man in the bed, got my things together, strapped on my rucksack and made my way to the door. I then hit a table as I was opening the door. “Mon Dieu, mon dieu, mon dieu monsieur.” I heard over again and with that I started my day. As I opened the door to leave I yelled back into the darkness of the room: “ Mon Dieu to you too, adieu.” And with that I was on my way.

They are not kind to pilgims. Crozant was at the top of a big hill by the Creuse River. A beautiful site but not to  a pilgrim at the end of the day. We made it to the top, found our accommodations, unpacked, then proceeded to the cafe. I could not believe it. We had  chickenm wings and beer. And they were some of the best wings I have even had. Great. Had some red vino as well and pickd up another bottle for later in the evening. Gawd, how I love this pilgrim life. “ Mon Dieu.”

This is Netherlander Berry. Good company. Pascal from Strasbourg, also joined us. Great evening.

In the morning when I left, the trail had us go all the way back down to the river bed to start our hike. We basically covered off over 100 meters of elevation in less that 500 meters. That was brutal. We followed the river bed into a magical land of streams, woodland and moss. It was cool and very pleasant. The water cascaded over the rocks and weirs and gave it that fresh relaxing aura. It made it even more enjoyable to the senses:

It was a hard slog again today. 24.5 km in 31 degree heat. And it was all uphill. Obviously our elevation was increasing as we headed south. Coming out of the beautiful Creuse River Valley was akin to a death  march, or as I like to refer it to as the Compestello Sweat. We did come into a few villages but I am not going to bore you with that “F” word anymore but it was Thursday after all and everything was………….

But there were also some lighthearted moments:


“You talking to me? Are you talkimg to me? Yeah you, you. Are you talking to me, huh?, Huh? Well are you?  Okay, then how about you guys?”


Pascal from Strasbourg.  He is 64.

Another great tune to listen to as you are doing the Camino Sweat March!