Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Day 9. June 14, 2014. Marseillette to Carcassonne. 24 kms

G'day, G'day, how yer goin'?
Whadya know? Well, strike a light.
G'day, G'day, how yer go-o-o-in'?
Just say G'day, G'day, and you'll be right. (Slim Dusty)

I slept well in my barrel. Adjacent barrels also had their occupants, but they were fast asleep when I climbed the stairs early this morning to heat up my coffee. The others were eating late, and the hospitalier wasn't going to make a special breakfast for me, so she left me some coffee, a few crusts of bread, and a strange jar of syrupy liquid to which, I think, I was expected to add water to make orange juice. I let it be.

The whole building is a veritable wine-making museum with its barrels and presses, and all the other related equipment.

I left the gite early, walked 600 metres to the 300 metre sign, and headed back to the canal. Then I marched on towards Carcassonne into a strong breeze.

I passed a fellow packing up his tent after camping on, or just off, the bank of the canal.

This year I am wearing Darn Tough socks. I like a challenge, don't you? When someone offers a replacement guarantee on a pair of socks if you wear them out, I like to wear them out and get them replaced. Every so often I replace my Tilley socks. They have a three-year guarantee. But this year I am trying Darn Toughs. They have a lifetime guarantee. I have two pairs which I switch from day to day as I walk. I'll let you know how they work out.

The village of Trebes where I had my real breakfast was as alive as Marseillette was dead. People bustled about in the shops and caf├ęs that lined the street along the canal. Flowers added colour to the waterfront.

After that, the canal path was very busy. Walkers, joggers, innumerable cyclists. A family with a baby in tow in a little cart. And a young man in a wheel chair, also pulling a cart. And then the riders on horseback.

There must have been a hundred or more of them.They came in successive files, many of them looking rather nervous, obviously not accomplished equestrians. I stood well back, careful not to spook the horses and end up in the canal.

I had to tread warily after that. I remembered how our mothers used to send us out with a shovel to scoop up after the baker's cart and put it on the roses. Today, for the same purpose on Mayne Island, I visit the little farm with a sign out the front saying "Free Horse Poo".

I must have said "Bonjour" a thousand times today, and 999 responded in kind. Except for one fellow on a bike. "G'day," he said. He was tired of saying Bonjour. 

And then, at the outskirts of Carcassone, from behind, another loud "G'day." What could have prompted that, I wondered. My Tilley Outback hat?

It was the Queenslanders. They had turned around. Had they continued, a train strike might have prevented them from travelling back to return the bikes they had rented. They thanked me for advice I had given them yesterday: that they would have no trouble riding along the towpath. They had been told it was too rough for bikes. They had also been told that the French were  aloof and "up themselves". We agreed that nothing could be further from the truth.

It is curious that only the Australians have adopted an English equivalent of Bonjour. It is really a very sensible greeting, particularly around midday. How many times have you said "Good morning" only to realize a few minutes later that it was well into the afternoon?

I arrived at Carcassonne, and found lodgings at Notre Dame de l'Abbaye, at the foot of Cite Medievale.

I found the Cite chockablock with tourists buying trinkets and speaking a Babel of tongues. Some loud, crude Australian lads, with attendant admiring lasses, were drinking beer and keeping the Ocker image alive. I retreated outside the walls and sat in the calm under a plane tree. 

A word about the Canal du Midi before I leave it tomorrow. It was built, not under the direction of Napoleon as I had thought, but earlier, between 1666 and 1681, to provide, by meeting the  Garonne at Toulouse, a link between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Seas. It was probably the biggest engineering feat of the century. Some of the banks are 20 to 30 feet high, and the canal passes over a number of rivers along the way.

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