Mental start!! Several hours of walking round in circles – nobody has a clue where the French border is let alone a pedestrian route there! Thankfully a young lad stops and pulls out his mobile Sat/Nav. and thanks to his intervention all is well as I progress to the border via Carouge. At dusk I camp in a field which lies between the river and road – freezing cold and a few hours after settling I have a police visit. Thumbling in the dark for my passport amuses them and after commenting on my accent they leave me to shiver for another few hours.
Camping on wet mud gave little comfort and at dawn I continue my walk as far as an hotel where the proprieter offers me a free breakfast. We chat for awhile and in between serving her customers she sorts me out with a decent route in the form of ´The Famous Camino de Santiago´ – many of these paths I have walked before during my travels around the continent.
Day 2 Charly to Frangy
A 2-mile hike from the hotel leads to Charly where there is in fact a Gite dÉtape for pilgrims – a hostel for pilgrims providing a free bed and stamp for your passport. From here I set off up the steep, muddy lane which I´m glad to say is clearly marked. From a height of 760metres the pilgrim route – GR65 takes in La Motte, Charnouy and Contamine-Sarzin. Despite being very damp and muddy – similar to conditions you´d expect in the UK right now, it became warm once away from the cold wind that is prevalent in this stern mountainous region. By 3pm I come to a standstill at Frangy and book into a hotel for 35eu – at least I can enjoy a ´policeless´peaceful warm night´s sleep.
Day 3. Frangy to Chanaz
The Swiss alps continue to dominate the landscape bringing the cold winds which dispel any thoughts of camping. The terrain remained muddy and a steep rural blast between Le Grand Pont and Syssel is enough to blow out the cobwebs of a good nights rest.
The afternoon session encounters the small places associated with Le Bourget du Lac, and at Pont de la Loi I am overtaken by an equestrian group. There were many cyclists too – largely following the National Cycle Route which at times interracts with the Camino de Santiago. There is a pleasant river section that leads to the village of Chanaz which seemed like a good point to break off for the day. At the Gite de Chanaz I pay 10eu to camp but in fact spent most of the night in the warm changing rooms where I am able to get a few hours sleep – frost suggests it is still too cold for camping!
Day 3 Chanaz to St Genex Region
Leaving around 7am, I manage to purchase a coffee at the village and then I make my ascent away towards Yenne – 18km. Pausing momentarilly I capture the mountains poking through the mist evoking yet another scene of unvisited beauty. As the cold air disperses it becomes another glorious day but I have difficulty in obtaining food and water as shops are scarce in this region. As the afternoon drifts on I get tired and thirsty – often knocking on doors to obtain water from locals. The mountain route was desolate and at times unforgiving – winding throughout the forest where snow lay all around. Eventually I descend from Mount Tournier yet there is little that ressembled a community let alone a shop – only the churches remain prominent here. On my next ascent I stop at a solitary cottage which was in fact a guest house still closed for winter season.
The lady, Annie stopped her painting chore to refill my water bottles and on hearing that I planned to camp suggested I stayed at the cottage – this was a far better option to camping and although not yet open and heated it was a great comfort to me and Annie was very kind ensuring I was well nourished after a gruelling day on the GR65.
Day 5 Guiers-Cotenvert (Annie Latge) to Voiron
It would be another month before Annie can expect visitors walking the Camino most of whom hail from Austria and Germany, so she was happy to stamp my pilgrim passport and acknowledge me as the first walker of the ´season´- God Bless her.
After a lovely breakfast at Annie´s I made short work getting to Saint-Genex-Sur-Guiers and was soon walking up the river bank to Aoste where fishermen were enjoying a calm sunny morning. The Camino route proved difficult to follow at times and in the afternoon I found myself on the cycle route which led me on a massive excursion to Les Abrets which should have been just 5 km away and yet took nearly 4 hours to walk! Unhappy with this and not certain of the direction to Lake Paldeau I completed the evening section on road as far as Voiron where I camped rough on a farm track just beyond town.
Day 6 Voiron to St . Hillaire-du-Rosier
Happy to continue by road today, I would endeavour to rejoin the camino either St Antoine-lÁbbaye or Valence where the path follows the Rhone for the remainder of its course.
After walking 13 hours yesterday I feel tired – not helped by another cold, sleepless night. It is quite hot today and I stop frequently for coffee and water, as the sun nears the top of the mountains I enjoy a tiny little knap at a picnic park between Teche and St Sauveux. Passing St Marcellin I take a wrong turn but thankfully realise and retreat and make good in the final hour. At St. Hillaire du Rosier I see a small hotel along the thoroughfare and am lucky to stay there for 30eu.
Day 7 St Hillaire to Valence
Continuing my journey along the remainder of the D1092 I enjoy a warm morning to Romans sur-Isere where I change route and now walk the cycle track beside the N532 dual carriageway. It is slow progress to St Marcel-les-Valence as I set off in search of another great city. As the road winds through the city I take time to explore and photo the prominent landmarks. After obtaining a geographical fix on my exit across the river to the opposite bank where I can join the Camino to Arles, I retire to the Lyon Hotel where I pay 38eu for a room.
Day 8 Valence to Cruas
A bottle of vin rouge and a good night´s rest was all I needed to recupperate and once across the river I was soon stepping out on the camino route along the Rhone to Beauchastel. It remains warm with an added presence of equestrians and cyclists, who as locals probably frequent the route daily. There was a solitary boat along the river and after the morning stint I stopped for coffee at a club-style cafe where the jukebox played ´We´re all living in America´! After ´´feeling chilled´´ out by that experience I continue my journey to Le Pouzin which is shared by towpath and road.
Everything converges on this place and the session that follows takes me to nightfall and I am lucky to stay at the Cruas Campsite which lies on the Camino Route which is only a few metres from the river bank.
Day 9 Cruas to Bourg St Andeal
It was another night in the changing rooms I´m afraid as the evenings here are still cool, unlike the day which is always full of promise. The first part was a bit misty as I encounter the EDF Power Station. I get lost a few times trying to get beyond this point but once on course I put in a good stint to Le Teil. It was a less enjoyable affair to Viviers where at least I got some provisions for the evening.In the heat I try to focus on the chalk clifs which obscure the Rhone and as the chill of night draws in all was at peace once again. I saw freight trains pass by all day and walked through concrete towns -´literally´ – places that have evolved from the cement industry which now provide a strong economy (at least 3and 1) and good foundations too – I hope! On reaching Bourg I get a room at a local hotel and enjoy a meal of bread and cheese which I managed to buy at the last town.
Day 10 Bourg to Laudin
Using the cycle route I walk on to St Just where I have coffee and Raisin bread for breakfast. At Pont-st -Esprit I sit on a bench and enjoy a picnic and then take photos of a statue which commemorates the local men who fought in the Great War. The nearby Abbey sees me on the way again with a few signposts for Arles to add momentum. At Bagnols I run into trouble trying to follow the Camino de Santiago to Laudin and I find myself on a circular cycle route which puts pay to the evening session. By dusk I find a lonesome hotel in the region of Laudin and call it a day. I was glad of the room but the wine I ordered cost me 20eu!!
Day 11 Laudin to Graveson
A tough day now beckons in order to make up for the previous bad evening session and this time I will see it through along the road. I am able to use the hard shoulder and make light work of Avignon but walk round the town a couple of times so as to be sure I was on the correct route to Arles. Looked more like a motorway but was in fact a modern dual carriageway which eventually diminished into the usual bog-standard secondary route which at times can be a bit too narrow. After collecting provisions at Graveson I walk on to a peaceful location beside the canal and set up camp just before dusk – it was lovely – and warm for a change.
Day 12 Graveson to Arles
Good sleep and a great start – no traffic until reaching the industrial outposts of the ´modern Arles´´. A kind lady treats me to breakfast at her hotel and later I spend time exploring ancient Arles. I was so captivated with its charm I spent the night there and got my coach to Spain on Monday instead where I immediately started a 5-day walk from Valencia to Alacant which would take me to completion of a continuous circle of walks around the country! Read more soon -will also be publishing on EBOOKS later in the year, walks on the continent will be available in this section.
WALKING IN SPAIN
Day 1 Valencia to Cullera
Commencing a new adventure in Spain around 7am, I first had to find directions how to get out of Valencia. A road sweeper assists and soon I am walking the underpass which runs through the city gardens. When I run out of city and foot path a young maid points me in the right direction and soon I emerge at a narrow lane next to the motorway. I run into some gypsies who were less helpful but a local guy confirmed my route and I was soon on my way. It was basically a cycle trail weaving in and out of the smaller coastal places the first of which was Pelida where I stop for coffee. At the next stop the motorway becomes the CV500 which caters for allcomers making my journey into El Saler a straightforward one. Beyond here I have water to my right which is strange as I am walking the Mediterranean coast and it should be on the left! There are sluice gates ahead forming a dam, and I wonder whether it is a fish farm.
Later in the day I reach Cullera and get a taste of resort life which is the main attraction of this coastline. I sustain myself with oranges picked from the trees and decide to walk through the town.The idea paid off as I found both campsite and supermarket and spent a lovely peaceful evening there for just 7eu with only a family staying here at the top of the pitch.
Day 2 Cullera to Olivia Region.
I sleep well despite heavy festivities from a nearby saloon. The constant sound of explosions signal the advent of a bank holiday which the Spanish will celebrate passionately. The cool air was welcome as I eventually leave the town (there was tons of it!) and soon I joined the N332 coast road, my route for the remainder of the journey. By noon it is hot and there is a motorway section to encounter between Xeresa and Gandia. At Gandia I follow the coast road into Daimus and Olivia where the celebrations are at a peak. I had drunk youths driving motorcycles at me and then taking their hands of the steering bars, explosions going off all around and people barely able to walk because they had ´´over-celebrated.´´ It was great fun for most of us!
Leaving here the evening stretch became intense and inconclusive as I had lost a page in my map and unsure whether to take a detour into the next resort. I made the decision to camp rough behind some pine trees along the road rather than risk an unwanted excursion.
Day 3 Olivia to Culp
A sleepless night with dogs barking and traffic belting past followed by an early morning 12 km hike was not the tonic I needed to start the day. At Ondara I get in a mess with the motorway and have to start again to ensure I get on the right road as both are extremely busy at this point. The 2 roads cross at a toll gate and I am unhindered by the interraction heading off to an English Cafe where I stop for a chat and a coffee. From here the day drags on along winding roads- no Camino de Santiago here, though desolate sections remind me of the Otira Gorge in New Zealand which I walked last year.It is a change from the urban sprawl though still potentially a dangerous experience along the bends and the partially built bridges. By evening I enter the busy resort of Culp and am immediately overwhelmed by the spirit of tourism. Each road is a nightmare to cross and after purchasing groceries I escape to the scrubland beyond the town and pitch my tent beside some bushes. Although concealed a dog barks throughout the night!
Day 4.Culp to Benidorm Region
I felt warm and slept well despite the barking hound which I saw on leaving the scrub. I wasn´t even on his land which made me cross and I shouted at him before disappearing into the traffic flow.Straight away I find a cafe and enter for breakfast, coffee and a shave. It was a good interval and after paying my bill I left in search of Benidorm – not that I was gripped with enthusiasm or anything mildly excitable about coming here! Soon the towering flats emerge and I pass inumerable hotels with unpronouncable names! The landscape is dominated by rows of flats and on rejoining the road it seems more like a motorway which at least gave me the hard shoulder. And like a true ´man of the road´I stop to eat my lunch on a concrete plimp next to the crash barrier. Eventually I find a roadside cafe where I chat to a couple who had taken notice of my progress reiterrating that they thought it was a remarkable quest. Continuing a little further I find a newbuild village with a supermarket and with night drawing in I head into the scrub for another night of camping rough.
Day 5 Benidorm Region to Alacant
A few spots of rain troubled me little and by 7.30am I was on the road. Stopping at the first cafe I came to the English owner arrives on cue and lets me in while he cleans up after a party. He goes on to explain that he came out here to look after his dad and decided to buy a pub. He now feels that England has been ruined and turned into a ´Nanny State´´ and in any case has no desire to go back.
Does England have a future I ponder, but thank him for his kindness and from here I kick on to Compello where I have coffee and a muffin. I am now walking the boundaries of Alicante which takes up the rest of the morning. On reaching the city they had moved the Estacion de Autobus and so I had a longer excursion trying to find that, when I eventually found it – it was closed!! I return at night and manage to buy a ticket to Santander for 48eu and once there I can rest in my favourite hotel – Hotel Alisas who have looked after me since my travels began in Europe back in 2004. Anna has booked my ferry to Plymouth and so by Thursday I could be back in England – well Cornwall at least!
Spearheading MOVEMBER at the Coppice Inn.
ALISAS HOTEL, SANTANDER, Tel:+34 942 222 750.
DON´T FORGET TO SPONSOR THIS EVENT!!!!
Please go to:
Catalunya – 1000km – Perpingnan to Santander (then Plymouth to Land´s End.
Basque Coast – 500km – Biarritz – Santander.
Camino de Santiago – 800km – St Jean to Santiago
Camino Portuguese – 300km – Porto to Santiago
Portugal (incl. Caminos de Fatima, Santiago and Atlantic coast) – 7000km
Med coast 1. – 1200km – Faro to Alicant
Med coast 2. – 1200km – Nice to Valencia
Med coast 3. – 200km – Valencia to Alicant
Belgium – 0700km-Ypres to Nantes
Holland – 250km – Eindoven to Ypres
France – 0700km – Nantes – Biarritz
Swiss – 0500km – Geneva – Arles