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. 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.