Breakfast just out of bed was delivered at 5.25am by the owner in her maid guise. She then went back to bed. Chambre owners (those who let rooms in their home) have gone out of their way to provide unusual requests, this was one of those. In this case Jacqueline had walked the camino and understood our need for early food. We usually don’t eat until our first 5kms or so because we are not hungry, but in the case of the last 2 mornings there is no cafe/food for more than 10kms.

Our unusual request for no rain was ignored as we wandered out into showers. The last day of the Massif Central had more in store for us as it joined forces with the rain to dampen our criticism of poor weather reporting. Water streamed down the normally difficult ascent so our blasé walking days suddenly came to a halt. Two French men, one pulling a cart joined forces with us as we planned strategies and executed plans. As it was appropriate, we helped each other through creviced paths, up eroded banks, all the time trying to avoid new waterfalls. It reminded me of my nephew who organised an event for hundreds called ‘Tough Mudder’ where people organised themselves into teams to compete in a rugged obstacle course. The focus was not so much on winning as ensuring all your team finished. This was a ‘mini-mudder’.

Once we reached the top it was similar coming down, the focus more on ensuring no slipping as it is downhill where the serious accidents occur, so it was slow. The weather seemed to be playing games with us as it stopped while we had a welcome coffee in one of those villages that the French call ‘beau’. You guessed, it started raining again as soon as we walked out of our ‘cosy cafe’ or is paranoia setting in? Over the ancient bridge of ‘Beau Veriere’ and up into our last long Massif climb, a few more smaller hills and villages, and we arrived 8 long hours later. Usually it takes 6 for us oldies to walk this distance of 24 kms

Regina a councillor on the village, or officially, ‘commune’ council was our hostess, and even though her English speaking husband was at a work meeting in Paris, this French German teacher spoke enough for us to converse. She gave us the usual French welcome of cakes and tea and we sat at her table chatting about her council work, renovations and her two dogs while taking in the views over the now misty Lot Valley. She then personally took us to the local restaurant where the diners next to us were a foursome with the fourth member a labrador sitting obediently happy at the table, eating when his master offered. Despite the tut tuts from a non-European, I believe it is common in France.

Regina later invited me back to her home so I could write my blog. The French people’s immediacy in hospitality and friendship, even though you might struggle with their language is superb

If you look closely the ‘lab’ is on the far left of the photo