Yesterday, we reached the Aubrac plateau on Le Chemin de St. Jacques. It’s best described as high moor country, complete with pink heather. The land undulates at about 3,500 feet, Almost no trees, just cleared pasture lands with dairy cows.
It reminds me of Northern England with its stone walls. But unlike the preciseness of the British rock fences, these rocks seem like they could tumble down as soon as you touched them. The few stone buildings we pass may have been herders huts in the past but they have long been abandoned. Now farmers check on their cattle with their vehicles and go back home for lunch.
We know that this scenery isn’t natural, that the land has been been cleared centuries ago to create these grassy fields. Yet the walking feels wilder than if I was on a Smokies trail between two sets of trees. I can see for miles and keep taking pictures, as if the next picture is going to be better than the last.
The trail passes a couple of hamlets. Route de la Chaze has a beautiful church but not enough residents to warrant a priest. So, as I understand it, a traveling priest comes every three months and the church stands empty the rest of the time–except for visitors and pilgrims. The only restaurant is for sale. Other hamlets are almost dead, without even a war memorial or cafe.
We reach Nasbinals, a town with 500 residents. But it feels large and full of life. It has a large church and the requisite war memorial in the town square, several restaurants and at least two hotels. Here, we are with Gwynn from New Zealand.
Dinners are heavy on meat and cheese. Salads and vegetables are served only in better places.
The specialty is aligot, a dish made with potatoes, cheese, cream and garlic. There’s so much cheese that the dish develops a stringy consistency when you try to serve it out. Here I am trying to serve myself a portion while Beth is looking on, wondering how I will get myself out of this predicament.
15.6 miles, 1,700 feet ascent