Walking without a donkey: Travels in France 9

Bas-Courtils to Mont Saint-Michel to Pontorson 9.5.17.

In this part of France I would suggest that it’s always better to go by the randonnées, Sentier de Littoral (coastal path), than by the road, as there are rarely pavements.

I left Bas-Courtils at 8am on a gloriously sunny morn. Beside the sea, the land stretches level affording a distant, nearly unbroken view.

The very long line of sheep is in the background of this photo (as close as I could get) but if you can enlarge it you will see -it’s amazing.

What a racket! Sheep: many, one after the other, having been let out (perhaps after the winter?) moving slowly in single file across the field, over the grey clay. A female and her lamb were leading, with not a human in sight, and yet they were reminiscent of the group of us who crossed the bay yesterday, though we did follow a guide.

Unlike the walks I had been making in the days preceding this, the path crossed numerous obstacles. To be honest it was a trial to have to climb and clamber over fences with a huge backpack. What with that, gates which do not open, and crossing deep, wet grassy fields, well, really this way is not pilgrim-friendly.

Thank goodness it was so very beautiful.


Mont Saint-Michel is clear in the distance. My human eye (rather than the camera) can see the shuttle buses, like black and white caterpillars on the horizon, the place I walked along 14 hours earlier. They are in contrast to the luminous spring green of the fields.

It is cold, exposed like yesterday, but still I have bare arms. I did not even think about it. It was more that I moved instinctively towards the Mount.

I crossed rivers by planks, sidled round deep pools, and struggled to follow the way which did not seem clear to me.

Another surge of black-headed sheep ma maaa-ed their way from their farm onto the plains.

I arrived at the M S-M service buildings: restaurants, shops (though I followed the signs and found none),  toilets (equally hard to locate), and so on. And then having completed the ‘Chemin de la Baie’ I launched straight, alongside the River Cuesnon, a new ‘randonnée’ in the direction of Pontorson.


After the hubbub of the tourists, the peace of the river was potent. Birds quietly mentioned, incongruous chariots raced silently round the track nearby, dogs were carried patiently in the backpacks of two cyclists, and just me making my way along a hard path beside a swollen river with butterflies blue.


I was continuing to take care of the way I walked, the parts of my feet on which the weight landed, and minute details of my posture. This walking provides ample time to pay attention to long-practiced bad habits.

More glorious weather.

Hush reeds in the wind, like witches whispering. It was a very short 10 kms to the next town, so I gave in and lay down, with my mind all but clear and just the sensation of the sun on my back.

An ant’s view.

My feet were throbbing, my ankles had felt quite unpleasant for a stretch. Now I listened lazily to the ducks, the farm machinery moaning, and felt the grass dampen me. Seed pods sailed down and piqued my thigh.  I was not exactly pushing myself. There was no need to be in Pontorson before 5pm when the youth hostel opened.

Random thoughts passed through me: When you wait, you see more around you. There was no signal so no sending or receiving. It was the hottest day so far, and I needed a hat and sunglasses for the first time!

There was nothing to do when I arrived at 1.30 – all was closed. So I had a peaceful beer and sat in the main square opposite the Hôtel de Ville. It is a comprehensive town with a thoroughly helpful tourist information: there was free wifi where I could wait as long as I wanted in order to book trains and send messages. The only down-side were two men who would not leave me alone as I picnicked so I had to move on.

Old places with character.
Smart town houses.
Eglise Notre Dame

It was 22 degrees. I was impressed by the pharmacy because it sold herbs and homeopathy too. I was surprised by conversations in English at the next table. In fact it took me a while to realise, while I sat and wrote, that it was the English language I was hearing; about dogs and living here in Normandy; believe me, it was about the M25!

Handsome youth hostel.

There were a couple of women with rucksacks at the hostel: the first time I had seen other trekkers since I started walking. They did not stop and exchange despite my smile. The very young man in charge of the hostel was welcoming and helpful. All was clean, and I had a room with bunks to myself and space to do my t’ai chi.

 

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