Via Gebennensis

Via Gebennensis
Via Gebennensis

Friday, 25 May 2018

Day 9. May 25, 2018. Bevenais to Faramans. 21 kms.

Very spartan accommodation Chez Danielle. The meals were simple fare indeed. She was lactose intolerant and shunned animal products, so the entree was raw grated carrot, the main cause, a vegetarian quiche, and the desert, a kind of apple jelly. For breakfast, there was no butter for the bread; in fact there was no bread at all, just nuts and rusks and those circular white rice things.But it was probably a healthier meal than the night before and vegans would have loved it. If you like simple fare, then I recommend Chez. She was a most genial hostess. And although Carnivorous Alain from the night before gave us her name, i can’t imagine that they socialized at all. Neither could eat at the other’s house.

I noticed in the livre d’or that Lorna from Victoria had stayed there.

Heidi asked me at dinner last night what Canadians thought of Trump. I said that 80% to 90% of Canadians would dump Trump. I hope I was right.From there, the conversation turned to the rise of right-wing nationalism in Europe and it’s possible consequences, problems far from the idylls of the Camino.

After a second breakfast at the bar opposite the church down the road from Danielle’s, I rejoined the rural road running along the valley. Several kilometers later I passed a church, then a chateau, and followed a farm track running above and parallel to the road.

Myrtle Esso and Agatha gazed down on me as I walked past, wondering why I wasn’t up there with them enjoying the sweet grass. I wondered that too. I think we underestimate cows.

I passed a cemetery and noticed the huge tombstones towering above me. The quick and the dead. Around noon I came to the bustling little town of La-Cote-Saint-Andre. With its vieux quartier, this would have been a good town to visit, but it was too early to stop. 

I wasted half an hour seeking a little towel To replace the one I had left behind (another one). Some one sent me to the petit Casino but they didn’t have one. Just as well really, for it was quite a large little supermarket, if you know what I mean, full of shoppers, with only two check-outs open. The lines extended to the back of the store, and had I joined one, I would just be going through now. 

I walked on alternating between minor roads and rocky tracks leading from one to the other. I was noticed a field of poppies, traditional red ones, but some yellow ones as well, rather like our Californian poppies.


Just before Faramans the trail passed into one of the most beautiful parks i have  ever seen I walked around a large lake where a souple were contemplating going for a dip. And on into the woods where little streams ran hither and thither crisscrossed by little wooden bridges. People we’re picnicking in the open places, and a couple were plaging tennis onthe courts in the distance,

I left the park, walked into town, just as a bar was opening.i was intending to walk five kilometres further, but I was tired and the day was hot. Along withPhilipp and Heidi, I am staying at the Gîte à la Ferme, just past the church. A wonderful place! More tomorrow.

Day 8. May 24, 2018. Les Abrets to Bevenais. 28 kms

What a difference a day makes!

A gentle breeze, birds singing, cows flopping their tails lazily is the sun. This was more like it.

I can recommend this place highly. We each had a room, the food was excellent, and all the proceeds go to a good cause. Alain and his wife Florentine, formerly from Madagascar, use our contributions as guests to buy school, medical supplies, etc., for the children in that country. They are extremely poor, he said. He told us about a little girl who would not accept a new school uniform as a gift. “Je ne peux pas l’avoir. Je suis trop pauvre,” she said. Florentine had to spend half an hour persuading her to accept it.

It was up and down all morning, gentle hills rolling away to the north. I was anxious to cover a fair distance, as ahead of me was a mountain that would dwarf the eighteen-hundred-foot climb of a couple of days ago. Along the way, I stopped for a few words with Cyril. He was very friendly, anxious to be patted, but I wondered about the strap around his jaws. Perhaps he was prone to take a friendly bite.

I passed through the village of Valencogne and on to Le Pin where I joined Heidi and Phillipp for a beer.

Usually I wait until the journey’s end, but I suspected this might be the last time I would see them.

Fortified by a large blonde, I floated my way out of town, my feet occasionally touching the ground, until I came down with a thud, when the GR perversely took off to the right up the hill. Instead, I continued down the dirt road until the GR descended from the hill.

Then across the fields, up a brutal hill, over into another broad valley with ominous mountain ranges and snowy caps ahead. Down a steep stony track and along the highway into Les Grands Lemps. A further few kilometres along the road brought me to Bevenais where I am staying at an Acceuil Jacquaire, Chez Danielle. About half an hour later Philipp and Heidi arrived as well.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Day 7. May 23, 2018. Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers. 17 kms

Good night, sweet Mince.

May bites of angels put thee to the test

I have finally bade farewell to my sausage from Lyon. I gave its remains a decent burial.

I am perhaps in the minority in preferring Lawrence Olivier‘s Hamlet  above all others. I can see him now, saying to Horatio, “Nay, let’s go together.” A good motto for the Camino.

This was an easy day, most welcome after the travails of yesterday.

I didn’t manage to leave town until 9:45. As I crossed the bridge, I noticed the water below, raging down a concrete slip, fed by yesterday’s storms. Buffeted by the current, a stranded log struggled to be free. I followed a minor road along the bank of the river for four or five kilometres. 

For those of you who are into apps, I had been using, which uses the phone’s GPS and not cellular data. But Philipp the Swiss put me on to Osmand maps which allows me to import a hiking trail. I open the app and see where I am, relative to the Via Gebennensis. So I will never be lost again. Marvellous! I know, some will say, learn to read the map and follow the signs.

Speaking of gadgets, and forgive the dangling gerund, my watch is full of glee as it congratulates me each morning for doubling or tripling my movement goal.

I left the river, crossed over a motorway, and walked up hill, bypassing the village of Romagnieu.  On through a cluster of houses, through the forest, along a minor road, past a few farms, and then down into a gentle valley through barley and hay fields.

I passed a l’avoir where the water was so muddy it would have turned all the clothes brown.

Mummy, why are my clothes so dirty? Because I washed them, darling.

Up a grassy track, through a couple of hamlets, and on to the town of Les Abrets, where we waited several hours, for our host wouldn’t be back at his gîte until five o’clock.

We are staying at a Chambre et Hôte Pèlerin - Le Juvenin (Alain et Flo Chevaux) recommended by my friend Richard. It was three kilometres after Les Abrets, and according to the description submitted to the guide, 300 metres off the Chemin, but the signpost said 500 metres, and my watch 620 metres. I was just confirming my belief that the French always underestimate the distances to their establishments, sometimes outrageously.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Day 6. May 22, 2018. Yennes to Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers. 26 kms

Who would fardels bear

To grunt and sweat under a weary load...

What a day! Rain, hail, thunder, and an eighteen-hundred-foot climb, to boot.

The accommodation at the Centre d’Accueil was good value, if a little expensive at €46. The room could have been in a hotel, and the food was excellent. At breakfast this morning there was everything from muesli to baguettes.

I left the church at 8:45 and walked beside the Rhone for several kilometres. Then I began to climb, steep rocky ascents alternating with easier slopes, and from time to time the path would emerge from the woods to offer a view of the Rhone. 

The path became a forest track, easier going for a while, and passed a hunters’ refuge where I stopped for a snack. Then I started to climb again, up and up, until the trail levelled out at around 850 metres. A light rain followed by sunshine left the stacked logs steaming.

Just as I came down from the hills towards the village of Pigneux, it started to rain again. And it pelted down. I managed to find shelter at the village school, but not before I was drenched. 

Twenty minutes later, I was able to set out again on the last five kilometres to Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers. I was enjoying the easy walking on a level road, when suddenly the path took off to the left up a hill. I debated whether to continue on the road, but not knowing where it led, I played it safe and followed the track. I reached the top, crossed a field, and arrived at a road, the first sign of civilization since I left in the morning.Then it started to rain again, and the rain turned to hail. I saw a barn ahead, and dived inside. This time it was a serious storm with very short intervals between the lightning flashes and the thunder. I remembered that sound travelled at 1100 feet per second. Water poured in torrents over the gutters.

Thinking I would put the lost time to good use, I telephoned to find a place for the night. His response was deafened by the storm.

“I can’t hear you. I’m caught in a storm,” I said. “Oui or non?” “Non. Complet. Désolé.” I tried several places to no avail.

The rain eased off, so I continued down the road, suddenly shattered by the loudest thunderbolt of all, marking the end of the storm. I arrived in town, just after six, thinking to ask for help at the Office de Tourism. “What time does it close?” I asked someone. “Six,” she said.

A little worried by now, I ventured on, thinking that I might have to stay at a hotel if there was one. In the depths of the town I came upon a pompier about to go off on a call. He sent me to a bar, and said he would be back in an hour to find me a place. True to his word, he returned and found me a berth in a motor home at a nearby campsite.

Day 5. May 21, 2018. Chanaz to Yenne. 18 kms

So all day long the noise of battle rolled

 My genial host from Le Moulin dropped me back at Chanaz. Always the purist I would begin this morning where I finished yesterday. Not so, my companions. They would walk an easy ten kilometres to Yenne. 

The gîte was comfortable enough, with Wifi, by no means the rule on this walk.

Our host is a art teacher, conducting his lessons in the gite where we stayed. On the drive into town I asked him whether anyone could paint: “Some music teachers say that anyone can sing. Is the same true of painting?” “Yes” he said. “If they love what they are doing.” “What about talent,” I asked. “Love is talent,” he said, or perhaps it was the other way round.

The walls of the gîte were lined with his students’ paintings. One was particularly impressive: a Turneresque mass of colour that would’ve graced the wall of any gallery.

He bade me farewell and warned me of the climb ahead. 500 metres he said.

How unpleasant for the birds this morning! Their cheerful song was drowned out by the roar of motorbikes. The booming of a loudspeaker that must have been heard in Geneva was punctuated every ten seconds by the snarl of machines racing up through the gears, everything from the thunder of Harleys to the strident wail of small engines.

After an hour’s climbing I reached a high plateau and strode purposefully between fields of clover and vines.. Then up a steep track onto a road through the hamlet of Vetrier.

I must’ve blundered into the rally, for motorbikes came whizzing by, their noxious fumes lingering in the air behind them. I continued to hear the sounds of the rally all day long. From tome to time a few bikes would race by, and sometimes I could hear the distant tones of the rally announcer. This was a a veritable invasion of bikers.

I left them behind and passed little village of Montagnin, within a couple of hundred yards of the gîte where I had stayed last night.

An old lab lumbered towards me along the trail, wheezing all the way. I have been having pleasant encounters with dogs this time. Yesterday, a young German Shepherd came racing out towards me, stopped to be patted for about ten seconds, and then dashed off again from whence he came. What was going through his mind?

G’day, mate. How’re you goin’? Just came to say hello. OK, on your way. I’ve got things to do.

I have been reading a book by a naturalist who imprinted himself upon a batch of wild turkeys, sitting with them when they hatched, spending all day with them, taking them on walks into the woods, until they came to accept him as one of their own. He observed their developing personalities and came to regard them as sentient beings. If this true of turkeys, then how much more so of the larger animals, and especially dogs!

Mind you, some animal rights groups would not have approved of his project. There is a group in England which maintains that we do not have the right to keep pets.

We bring to your attention

That your little dog’s detention

Does not accord with our beliefs at all.

Your dog’s domestication

Is just colon-isation

For which we’ll put you up against a wall.

(Marxist Animal Rights League (MARL))

Then a bewildering contradiction of signs with the arrow pointing one way and the shell the other. I made the right choice and came to the village of Vraisin which offered a panoramic view of the Rhone below. Down the side of the hill into a broad valley of vineyards with several wineries, and up again and through the village of Jongeux.

A further climb up a steep hill brought me to the little chapel of Saint-Romain, in front of which was a curious juxtaposition of Pagan and Christian traditions. 

The chapel itself was built next to the ruins of an early Christian church dating back to the fifth century. The descent was treacherous. A narrow path zigzagged down the steep slope over sodden leaves and slippery rocks. This was perhaps the most dangerous path I have experienced on any Camino.

Finally, I reached a road, crossed a highway, and then strolled along the Rhone to Yenne. I checked in at Centre d’Accueil, Clos des Capucins.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Day 4. May 20, 2018. Les Côtes to Chanaz. 26 kms.

My forgetfulness is chronic

So I made up a mnemonic 

To help me to remember what to bring.

But I find it quite ironic,

And some would say, moronic,

That I forget to say the bloody thing.

It was an easy day, and fine, as I walked along the bank of the Rhone with occasional ventures up the valley to the left. It was memorable for several incidents.

The dead rat I passed as I left the gîte could not have been a bad omen, for after a quick coffee at the Pont de Fier I was walking along the road beside the Rhone when a car pulled up beside me and the lady from the bar gave me the two guidebooks I had left behind at the café. This was another one of Wordsworth’s “little nameless unremembered acts of kindness” that I keep encountering on the Camino. “You’d be lost without these,” she said. I would have been.

What’s the use of having a pneumonic to help you remember if you don’t remember to follow it! “Please, God. Where am I? Help a lonely traveller.” The G for God is to remind me not to forget my guidebook.

About five kilometres before Chanas I was walking with Philipp when we were caught up by a man on a  bicycle wearing a luminescent vest. At first I thought he was an official, for we had ignored a sign directing us away from the obvious path along the bank of the Rhone. The map, too, wanted us to walk two sides of a triangle rather than cover the shortest distance between two points. 

But no, he was simply curious. Where were we from? Where had we begun this morning? Where had we started? Where were we going today? When we told him we were heading for Chanas, he said, “Oh, then you’d better hurry.” “But you keep asking us questions,” said Philipp.

He wheeled his bicycle with us all the way into Chanas, and I wondered whether he was on the make. But no, he was lonely, a widower, and simply enjoyed company.

On the left of us, across a ditch, was the reason we couldn't find accommodation in Chanas. Extending for about a mile was a line of stalls and vans catering to the participants in a motor bike rally.

We arrived at Chanas, a rather chintzy town selling artisan products to eager tourists. There was a sweet scent in the air coming from all the natural products. Philipp bought a three-euro bar of soap.

An Oxford-Foods incident occurred as we were having a beer at a bar by the canal. As I was illustrating to Heidi how Philipp and I had arrived before her because she had walked the two sides of a triangle whereas we had walked one, I made the point with a grand gesture and spilled the remaining two-thirds of my glass of beer. The waitress seemed sympathetic,  mopped it up and disappeared. The next time she went by I said that where I came from the server would have given me another glass of beer to replace the one I had knocked over. She protested a little but finally went to fetch me another glass of beer, two-thirds full.

We are staying at Le Moulin, a gîte in Montagnin, six kilometres after Chanaz. We have taken the demi-pension. It is quite satisfactory.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Day 3. May 19, 2018. Chaumont to Les Côtes. 17 kms

Ode on a Sausage

Each day at noon

I find it a boon

To gnaw at my sausage from Lyon.

This amorphous mass

Appears rather crass

But its meat would please the Pan-theon.

It’s a shape quite absurd,

Like a fossilized turd,

Its brown and white skin quite scabulous,

But I have to admit

I enjoy every bit,

For the taste of this sausage is fabulous.

Down the treacherous steps to the street, past the squatter, down the steep stony path to the highway, across the field, down the road, and then along a track through the forest, down to the town of Frangy. I would pay for this loss of elevation, I thought.

A nice town with all facilities. I kind of wished I had stayed there. Only an extra half-hour downhill. But it happens all the time. You stop for lunch on a log infested with ants and around the next bend is a picnic table.

And indeed it was uphill all the way to Desingy. As I walked through the village, the church bell began to sound. It was perhaps the most magnificent bell I have heard. So often the church bells in France are cracked or dull, but this was a bell which spoke, which sang. Our onamaopeic words could not do justice to the quality of this sound, with its overtones and harmonies, the ding, the dang and the dong blending into each other, and the “ng” stretching out forever until chopped off by the next chime. I don’t think I’ve heard a bell with such character before. I listened in wonder. Perhaps the churchbell carried by the cow yesterday had been a premonition.

Just after the village I sat down with my back against a calvaire and retrieved my Swiss cheese and the sausage which my dear friends from Lyon had given me as I changed trains for Geneva at Lyon-Part-Dieu. Truly a magnificent sausage that fills a void but leaves me a little sluggish as I walk on during the afternoon.

After an uneventful day I arrived at the Gîte Edelveiss at Les Côtes, across the river from Seisshel. It’s a huge gîte that caters to larger groups as well as pilgrims. It has seen better days, but was, as the French say, correct.