For some reason we decided to repeat our water woes on the last day. After waking to a strange buzzing noise caused by a blanket of insects throughout the forest we failed to refill our bottles at the stream. Half an hour later we made the same mistake and then, after drinking almost the last of the water, continued in the same vein.
Part of the problem was caused by a failure of map reading. We thought we were a lot closer to Lourdes than we turned out to be. The other part was caused by vastly underestimating the heatwave sweeping France.
The last hill seemed to go forever and on the other side there was a cool forest. But a dry forest as well. Eventually we were rescued by scouts. Angelynn was a little ahead of me and she said they came towards her telling greetings and waving bottles of water but upon getting closer realised they didn’t know her and got slightly embarrassed looks on their faces.
This was because the had nicked the water. We forgave them as they showed us where to steal it as well.
About a km on there was a pilgrim’s water source with cross and all. I sort of got the feeling that a statistician for the catholic church had carefully worked out where to place it in order to gain maximum converts. Without the scouts I would have been showering the church with blessings by the point.
It took roughly three hours to reach Lourdes from the point. Strange place. It really only exists because of the grotto. Before that it was a small village and a castle to defend the seven valleys. Now it has the second highest tourist numbers in France with something like 6,000,000 visitors each year.
We visited the grotto. Rocks and flagstones worn smooth by petitioners. One of the curious things about the Catholic church is due to the success of their missionaries. There were people from everywhere. Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, everywhere.
We have booked a train back to Paris tomorrow. Time for some rest and recovery. Thirteen days with no zero days and especially, I think, yesterday with its lack of water have left my legs and knees sore and in need of a lie down. It is raining.
I awoke to the buzzing of machinery, imagining that forestry operations had started at dawn. It was the machinery of thousands of wings, drone-like insects, hovering between the pine trees in some noisy summer Ritual.
We set off after breakfast, for what we expected to be a quick four-hour or so, mostly flat walk to Lourdes. We were wrong on all counts. And the worst factor that we had not considered was the heat- already by 8:30 it was in the high twenties. The canicule was only at its start. On our endless climb to the ridge line the temperature too rose, and we stupidly had no more water. Beware the dehydrated, frustrated, pregnant lady! And so began the long, hot and dusty descent into Lourdes on exposed hillsides in the scorching heat.
Luckily, once we had reached the valley, we met two Boy Scouts who led us, trespassing, to a private farm’s water faucet. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We arrived in Lourdes by 15:30 (some 7 hours later) and happily checked into our air conditioned room to recover. T celebrated with cider and tobacco, and I by stretching out on our bed, in our 24 degree room, showered, with my big belly, watching a TV program on Fouquet. We had a lovely dinner at de Marco (recommended).