Saturday 8 July 2017

The Le Puy Route - Part 6

Long Days, Short Days & Rainy Days - Cahors to Moissac

Day 7: Cahors to La Clos de Gamel

30.00k (18.67 miles) / No Ascent or Descent stats

We were up and breakfasted quite early, first setting off back through town to pick up lunch stuff for the next couple of days. Having run low on picnic food, we took the opportunity to stock up.

Setting off

Returning to the Louis Philippe bridge, we made our way beside the loop of the river to the Pont Valente, an elaborate fortified bridge that has carried pilgrims out of Cahors for 700 years.

Pont Valente

Since reaching Cahors, there had been a noticeable change of atmosphere about the route, and one which would remain with us for the next few days. Up until now, that feeling of being “on Camino” wasn't necessarily always there, which may have been down to the relative dearth of villages and towns through which the route has passed. The GR65, whilst broadly following the pilgrimage route, was also designed to skirt more civilisation than the more direct Spanish route.

Crossing the bridge out of town

After crossing the bridge (and passing the Three French Ladies – TFL) we hit the steep climb up to the Croix de Magne on the ridge above town. The route then takes a lengthy detour to pass under the busy N20 motorway, before following quiet lanes and paths towards the hamlet of Les Mathiuex, where we stopped at the gite for cokes and a rest. The TFL were there too.

View from the Croix de Magne

We dropped down into the valley, heard planes race by low in the sky and climbed towards Labastide-Marnhac where we stopped for lunch at a handy picnic table. After the rain of the past couple of days, it was nice to have good weather again.

Lunch stop, Labastide-Marnhac

Exiting the village, we again passed TFL and began a lengthy stretch of some 12k towards Lascabanes. The walking here is through woods or open spaces and is much, I imagine, like the South Downs. One section, we were brought to a stop as a cuckoo broke from its normal two-note song to entertain with a rarely-heard three-note version.

Continuing with the woods / heathland mix of countryside, we kept high on the ridge for a while longer, before dropping into the valley towards Lascabanes.

On reaching the village, we began to look for our accommodation, only to find it was actually another 3.5k away. So, we trundled on, through more nice shady woods and along a level tarmacked lane, until we reached the Chapelle St-Jean-le-Froid, where we called in for some cool.

The last kilometre was off route. This place had better be worth it, we thought.

La Clos de Gamel

And it was. La Clos de Gamel is another farmstead, with the out-buildings turned into guest rooms, two swimming pools, and a great setting. We were made very welcome by Chantelle and David, offered complimentary cold drinks and use of the pool (taken – it was glorious on such a hot day) and allowed to settle at our own pace.

Our room

We had a swim, rest, and tidy up, then joined our hosts plus other guests, Patrice and Marie, and neighbours Rene and Anita (originally from Holland) for a lovely meal with wonderful relaxed company. We chatted in a mix of French and English, and all got on so well. It was a fun evening, not least because Rene came in a restored bright yellow Panhard car, which was a great talking point.

This 1952 Panhard has been lovingly restored

Such a beautiful car

It seemed a shame to call it a night, but more walking beckons for us and the others tomorrow, so with some reluctance we headed for bed.

Day 8: La Clos de Gamel to Lauzerte

22.25k (13.80 miles) / Ascent 520m / Descent 668m

After a lovely breakfast outside, with coffee, juice, bread, jam, and yoghurt, it was time to take our leave of La Clos de Gamel – a sad moment, as we had had such a lovely time.

It was already sunny and quite warm as we got underway, taking a slight detour back to the GR65. The walking was superb, some of the best of the week, chalk uplands with views far and wide.

On the way to Montcuq

Our first objective was Montcuq, a hilltop town some 8k away and apparently the half way point of the Route St Jacques. From now on, we would be closer to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port than Le Puy.

If you were thinking of a small town in France, where folks come from round about to do not much in a relaxed and unhurried manner, and where incomers would choose to sit in cafes to acquaint themselves with the locals, this would be the place.

Village centre, Montcuq

We had cold Cokes in a market square café, bought a sandwich for lunch, and whiled away a delightful half hour.

Path climbing out of Montcuq

Moving on, we covered about another 3.5k to the church at Rouillac, where we had a quick look inside, taking refuge from the heat of the day before joining the TFL at the picnic table for lunch.

The afternoon was shaping up to be quite hot, and as we continued we were glad of occasional shade to offset the heat, especially on a couple of the climbs. After the rise up to Montlauzan, we opted to miss the village and rested instead in the shade beneath a large tree.

Crossing the valley, we entered the département of Tarn et Garonne for the 7k stretch to Lauzerte. After an initial climb, the walking was level in the main, but the final descent into Lauzerte was very steep and slippery, and would have been treacherous in wet conditions.

Topping up at the spring

Arriving in Lauzerte, we stopped for an ice cream, then followed a busy and dangerous main road for half a mile to the hotel. And what a hotel. On the plus side, the host was nice and there was a swimming pool which we took advantage of. On the other hand, it was a bit run down and there were some odd characters hanging around. The meal was basic but fine, but it was obvious that it was living on faded glory and the whole place had seen better days.

Local football match

We went to watch some local football afterwards, and we were happy enough in the end – when you are tired, you can cope with anything as long as you get food, water and a bed.

Day 9: Lauzerte to the Auberge de L’Aube-Nouvelle

13.75k (8.50 miles) / No ascent or descent stats

Thunder during the night had given us a strong clue as to what to expect this morning – rain. Varying from steady to quite heavy, we set off for the climb up to Lauzerte, had a quick look round the little town, and bought cherries in the market.

Marketplace, Lauzerte

Already a bit behind the clock, we left the town and dropped into the valley. The way was pleasant but unremarkable, and after a sweaty climb the far side the rain had abated and we were able to shed hot waterproofs.

Colourful hedgerow

Eglise St-Sernin-du-Bosc

After a steep descent on a stony track, we reached the restored Eglise St-Sernin-du-Bosc, and popped in for a quick look round. Moving on, we followed a succession of muddy tracks, quiet lanes and busier roads.

Crops in the fields

We had descended into another valley just beyond Mirabel when the darkening skies finally released their contents. Only just in time, we donned waterproofs again. As the rain became heavier, the going became more difficult as already wet ground became awash with water.

As the intensity of the rain reached a crescendo and water ran freely down the hillsides, the tracks became increasingly muddy and slippery. I fell, and with one side covered in mud we splodged along for a bit until we reached the Auberge de L’Aube Nouvelle, which thankfully was open – but only just!

We were invited in and brought hot coffee, dripping water and mud all over the tiled floor as the deluge outside continued, thankful for their kind hospitality even though not properly open.

Another pilgrim was ensconced in the lobby, though he was stopping there for the night.  

Weighing up our options, we came to the unpalatable decision to end our walk there and then, and pick up again from this point next time. It was a bit defeatist, but anything other than walking the roads would have been impossible – or at least very slippery and muddy.

It was a shame, but on the plus side it did give us a bit more time to look round Moissac. We called a cab and were whisked into town in minutes, while the rain fell.

Streets of Moissac

Safely installed in our hotel, we rested up and dried out for a bit. By late afternoon, the rain had stopped, so we went for a look round Moissac and something to eat. As if to endorse our earlier decision, the heavens opened again as we had our meal, and as the water tumbled from the awnings all around, we were glad to have opted for a sheltered spot.


With almost a full day at our disposal, we had chance for a good look round town. Heading for the market and delis to pick up food for lunch, we first walked along the side of the canal before climbing up to a viewpoint where we sat and read our books for a while. Pottering round some of the nearby lanes, we began plotting our next visit.

Walking by the canal

Looking over Moissac from the viewpoint

Back in town, we had final drinks and eats in the main square. A brass band started playing – hilariously, outside the Abbey and on the pilgrimage path of the Route St Jacques, they played a version of Highway to Hell. AC/DC never sounded quite this way before, nor quite as ironic!

Then back to hotel ready for pick up and home. We know we will most likely be back again, although we are not sure quite when as yet. This Camino business gets under your skin, and we have plans afoot to do some more. St Jean-Pied-de-Port awaits, then other routes across Europe - more than enough to keep us busy for the foreseeable future!

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