Sunday, 20 September 2015

The crazy Spanish cow and a chatty policeman!

Distance from Chattillon 20.3km Distance from Dijon 411.5 

Saturday 1/8/15

Well after an evening without a meal I was a bit hungry when I woke up. Breakfast was a meagre affair and the usual bread and jam but this time with two additional luxuries - orange juice and soft diary lee like triangular cheese. Once consumed, bill paid and stamp for my Credenza I was off. 

I was informed that rather than going back into town the Francigena passes the door, naturally uphill. Before I left the road and entered the hillside the path became a bit unclear so I hesitated to study my GPS and guide book map. No sooner had I done this then a voice was heard.....bonjourno, bonjourno.....I looked up to see a man rapidly getting out of his car and heading my way......Francigena he announced and some very obvious Italian that I did not have a clue about. I apologised and told him I did not speak Italian.........agh you are English......I am like a Spanish cow! He uttered in absolute and excitable enthusiasm... He directed me in the right direction and bid me chow as he returned to his car.

Today's route had been described as less strenuous that the St Bernard's pass day and there was the possibility of breaking the journey half way. I had already declined that option in my mind as my wife was joining me at the end of the stage, hopefully if she could find me.

I continued on my way and the route continued the by now familiar pattern of ups and downs, with what seemed more very steep ups than downs through the rolling hillside and valley terraces. All the time the valley of Aosta laying below me like a lazy gentle giant with the snow capped mountains at its head. In Saint Vincent the guide booked tested my patience and although there are waypoints every step of the way, there were several times when I had to retrace my steps to ensure my route. The final straw that nearly had me heading to the local for a beer was when the I was guided to go a particular route and turn right at a T-junction. Well I know what a T-junction is and I do know my left from right, but could I find the correct route with a yellow marker. I tried every conceivable option. Evtually I resorted to using my GPS map versus the guide book map. I concluded that I was in fact totally in the wrong place and to far below my intended course. I tracked the route back to the main road where hopefully my true path was just above me. As I looked at my GPS, identified that I should take the next write, there on that side of the road was a very bright VF sing and an arrow pointing up the hill. Formidabla.........all the time I had been directed right when it should have been left and the T-junction did not exist.....Over an hour trying to get on the right path! Slightly annoyed I continued and by the time I had reached my half way point I was already regretting not taking the option of breaking the journey, but love was calling me on.

After resting for half an hour with my boot less feet up on my bag resting, I was back on my way. The day by now was hot and sticky and despite only carrying a litre of water, I had taken every opportunity of rehydrating at every fountain I had come across. The route continued to be more of the same with the hills getting steeper and steeper with the valley below me becoming smaller and smaller. I had been warned about the possibility of dogs running loose and was always wary when passing them. During the afternoon I came across a sweet looking one that looked as though it was chained up. It never made a noise as I cautiously approached it, in fact it moved towards me and slightly behind a stone pillar almost out of view. I drew alongside, still no movement or noise, as I just got past it it leapt at me like a Tazmanian devil. Well it's a good job I have good bowl control.....I looked at it laughing my head off. I wonder how many times he completed his party piece at unsuspecting walkers? 

I always walk with on coming traffic facing me and as my path took me through one sleepy village I moved to one side as a police car approached........then stopped. It turned out to be the local forestry police. The passenger window opened and I really did not know what to expect! The driver leaned over his female colleague and the first words he uttered was.........Francigena, Via Francigena and then loads of Italian. Again I mentioned that I could not speak Italian.......agh you are English? We both then have a very lengthy chat about the walk, the route, where I had set off from and all manner of things. His female officer just smiled as if to say...........he's always doing this!

Just before Issogne my path was well above the valley floor and soon I was making a very steep and careful way down on the slippery stone cobbled track to river below. I followed this and was soon finishing the day, now to find a bed for the night. I had tried to book somewhere that had been recommended to me but tonight it was full. I had also asked if that accommodation could recommend somewhere and text me but I had received no message. 

With no knowledge of any obvious place I went in sight of a beer and some divine intervention. I sat down with said beer in hand and looked for an Internet connection, no chance. My gut feeling told me to call the accommodation that was full for tonight and see if anything had been arranged. I stepped outside into the rain and took shelter to don my waterproofs, whilst completing this the landlord stepped outside and presented me with a baseball cap to keep my head dry......how nice!

Fortunate was to be on my side today as unbeknown to me I had been booked into an Auberge in the village that I was not aware of, and even shown where it was...I am starting to find the Italians much more accommodation to Pilgrims than France.

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