Day 23 – the mystery of the pilgrim ghost

The Madame of the gite “Le nid des Anges” last night went to a lot of trouble to look after us. She produced a fine meal, a wonderful salad with warm sheeps cheese then a local chicken in vinegar dish followed by prunes and ice cream, a French favourite. She was up at 6am this morning serving breakfast for 20 and in the middle of that she had to jump into her ancient Clio car and drive across the village to rescue me from returning to Cahors. The GR signs are 2 way and were confusing (at least to me) in the village. She cut me off at the junction, wound down the window and said “you-are-going-the-wrong-way”.

After that humiliation I settled into another beautiful walk across wheat fields with fine views and spring flowers. After 8 Km I reached the day’s only village and joined the pilgrims drinking coffee. I bought a sandwich in the baker and a pain au raisin to eat with the coffee.

Not long after applying the sun cream the sky turned black. That was followed by 3 sets of lightning and crashing thunder. The heavens opened. I took shelter from the huge thunderstorm in the porch of a farm house. Pilgrims generally hate being out in the wilds during a thunderstorm and I am no exception. Three other pilgrims joined me, a French Canadian, a German and a French. We had a picnic lunch and when the storm passed we set off through the pouring rain to Lauzerte.

Lauzerte is a defensive town perched on a summit. It fell to the English during the 100 years war but all that is now forgotten and the Madame of the Gite Communal gave me a very warm welcome. I think these Madames are phoning each other with chatter about the pilgrims.

I solved a mystery yesterday afternoon. It’s the mystery of the pilgrim ghost. Almost every day since the beginning I’ve passed a man with a generous white beard who looks like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The mystery is that he is always coming towards me, apparently walking the wrong way. At first I assumed there were several of these men who perhaps belonged to some fraternity. I started to extend my bonjour into a “how are you?”. On the morning I started from Limogne-en-Quercy at sunrise he came towards me out of the mist in the woods and I was tempted to challenge him as to why he walked the earth in such fashion but the exact Shakespearean lines escaped me. I could have recited the whole of Hamlet when I was taking Eng Lit at school. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I saw him sitting in a camper van parked by the village green. He told me his name is F and he drives his camper van every day, walks back to where he parked before and then walks back to his camper van. In this way he is walking from Le Puy to Compostela in both directions. Extraordinary but he better not mention the camper van when he claims his Compostela. I saw him again today and we are now firm friends. “Bonjour Tim” he says.

I have also met a Korean photographer who is walking from Compostela to Le Puy to photograph the pilgrims coming towards him. And a young man who is bound for Compostela with a tent and a hammock. He is a regular sight swinging in the trees in the afternoon. This morning I found him sleeping on the floor of a small chapel (see photos).

Sleeping in a chapel
The little chapel
Today’s walk started well
Apparently this thing was used to put shoes on oxen
The church in Montcuq, today’s coffee stop.
A church in Montlauzun
Clouds start to gather

The rain is lashing down
Impromptu lunch stop at a wayside farm house

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