From 19 August 2022, I rolled from Le Puy-en-Velay to Rocamadour. Last year I ended in Le-Puy-en-Velay and so I started there now.
You can read all about that journey on the Blog and partly already on this page (here it comes in order from old to new while the blog is always read from new to old) but it is still under construction at the moment (not completely translated).
And if you want to subscribe to my Newsletter you can do so on the homepage, I’ll send you an email as soon as I post a new blog and about any updates on my next trip.
outward journey day 1
outward journey day 2
outward journey day 3
outward journey day 4
outward journey day 5
Pilgrimage day 1 Le Puy-en-Velay to Bains Pilgrimage day 2 Bains – Monistrol d’Allier
Pilgrimage day 3 Monistrol d’Allier – Saugues
Pilgrimage day 4 Saugues – Chanaleilles
Pilgrimage day 5 Chanaleilles – Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole
Pilgrimage day 6 Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole – Aumont Aubrac
Pilgrimage day 7 Aumont Aubrac – Nasbinals
Pilgrimage day 8 Nasbinals – Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac
Pilgrimage day 9 Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac – Saint-Côme-d’Olt
Pilgrimage day 10 Saint-Côme-d’Olt – Estaing
Pilgrimage day 11 Estaing – Entraygues-sur-Truyère
Pilgrimage day 12 Entraygues-sur-Truyère – Cassaniouze
Pilgrimage day 13 Cassaniouze – Conques
Pilgrimage day 14 Conques – Flagnac
Pilgrimage day 15 Flagnac – Felzins
Pilgrimage day 16 Felzins – Figeac
Pilgrimage day17 Figeac – Cardaillac
Pilgrimage day 18 Cardaillac – Lacapelle Marival
Pilgrimage day 19 Lacapelle Marival – Gramat
Pilgrimage day 20 Gramat -Rocamadour
return day 1
return day 2
Return day 3
return day 4
Return day 5
Today is finally real departure day!
Normally I just leave from home but actually I have been leaving since Sunday. The past few days I was in Helmond with the musical group KISI. Last year I was also there for a while before leaving but now for a few days. I myself am not on stage but help out behind the scenes with costumes and props. The children, teenagers and leaders practised hard for a shortened version of the musical Ruth (performance 25 September in Heiloo, tickets available here) and the short musical Spector.
The latter musical is kind of appropriate for me, it’s about how a blind person in a circus discovers he can do more than he thinks and discovers talents he didn’t know he had. Something I also expect to experience (again) during my pilgrimage. Unlike previous years, this year I am a bit reluctant to make the trip, well, actually not the trip itself, I am looking forward to that too, but I am a bit reluctant to the mountains of the Massif Central over which I will roll. But like the blind man in the musical who can do what he never thought he could do, I also want to trust that things will turn out all right, just as in previous years I have always done well and conquered slopes I never expected to climb, and that at times when I had problems the right help suddenly arrived. There were already many special events in past years.
But so, as mentioned, I drove south today. I am now pitching my tent at the campsite in Revin, France, the campsite where I stop almost every year on the first day of my car journey. 2018 also saw me passing here during my pilgrimage, I was on my way to Revin then.
After busy days at KISI and a long car journey to France, I am now very tired and going to sleep soon.
From now on I will write a daily blog again, if you don’t receive the newsletter yet you can subscribe on the homepage.
See you tomorrow!
Last night I met another cycling pilgrim at the campsite. He was doing the route “along ancient roads”, a route I will probably pick up from Rocamadour (next year) as well.
I went to bed quite early and woke up early. I enjoyed sleeping in the tent again, actually much nicer than in a house, nice fresh air.
After waking up this morning, packed everything, had breakfast and then drove on.
The first part really went through the Ardennes with lots of forest, but then this changed. I passed through the Champagne region and saw many vineyards, in every village also a Champagne castle and merchants.
Then the landscape consisted of fields on rolling French hills, fields of mainly wheat, maize, (rope) hemp and sunflowers. Interspersed with small meadows with French beige beef cows, old villages and beautiful churches (the ugly industry that is also there from time to time, such as grain-processing factories with huge silos, I am of course not going to mention, suddenly sounds a lot less romantic ).
I wanted to visit churches today but all the ones I tried along the way were closed. Try again tomorrow.
I did visit a First World War military cemetery. Here lay soldiers from England and what belonged to it at the time like India, Australia, etc. Always impressive to see.
Last week, I had an interview with the youth section of the Catholic News Paper (Katholiek Nieuwsblad) for an article for their website. This morning I heard that it was posted and will also appear in the paper. Very nice!
You can read the article here.
I am now at the campsite in Ferrières-en-Gâtinais, about 500 km to go.
Thus I will go back to sleep and continue tomorrow.
This morning I woke up around 8.00. I was in no hurry as the campsite gate did not open for cars until 9.00.
I packed and then had a leisurely breakfast. Yesterday I had bought blueberries at the supermarket and I got free vegetable yoghurt with it. Was the first time I ate this, quite reasonable but real yoghurt is still a lot tastier. Luckily I had some very nice berries with it, so it still turned into a tasty breakfast.
Around 9.30 I thought it was time to go and I left.
Today the landscape was again very beautiful, French and varied.
I also finally found an open church this afternoon. There I sat, rested and sang for an hour. The acoustics were very good, as in most old churches.
An hour later I saw signs saying “brocant”, which happened to be on my route and soon I saw where I wanted to be. A nice antique/brocant/rumble market. Lots of old stuff, fun to look among and search for treasures (nothing found).
After a few stalls, an older man spoke to me and asked about my wheelchair wheels. It was the first time I had to speak French again (only saying hello and “supermarket” French I had spoken) and it was a bit awkward again. On the road, I do listen to a listening course of French and that does help to pick up some but this was trickier. But I managed, although grammatically completely wrong, to convey nicely how they work (I have e-motion wheels, with an auxiliary motor like in electric bikes). After that explanation, he treated me to a glass of juice. Delicious. And I talked about my pilgrimage as best I could. Then I thanked, said hello and went back across the market. Unfortunately, he kept hanging around and I got a bit restless with him, eventually he even walked with me to the car. He said all sorts of things I didn’t understand (spoke too fast). i tried to get rid of him but when I sat down he stood between my doorstep and asked for a kiss. He could forget that so I said “no!”, and again said I was going to leave, started the engine and managed to slam the door. Leaving him disappointed. I was glad to be rid of him!
I have sometimes been asked if I don’t find it scary as a woman travelling alone, except for this man I have fortunately never encountered pushy or scary types. Once I was a bit scared, a few years ago. I was rolling through the forest at the time and at one point I had the feeling that someone was watching me. I looked around and didn’t see anyone and nothing happened, it was just a feeling. Until the evening at the pilgrim hostel, when I met 2 other pilgrims. They told me that they had seen me on the way, they were resting, out of sight, in the forest, they had deliberately said nothing and had stayed quiet because they didn’t want to scare me. Was exactly at that spot. so apparently I had felt them after all!
Other than that, I happily meet only nice and friendly people.
Now I am lying in bed in my tent at the campsite in Evaux-les-Bains. I like those the best. They are almost always simple, but for me fine campsites, and they are usually very cheap. that’s the best and if the quality is a bit less I take that for granted. This one, by the way, is good and clean but yesterday’s was less so (only had 3 French “hole” toilets and 1 normal one that was so dirty you want to hang over it).
Tomorrow morning, I can go to church in this village and will continue to look around here. It is a village with a lot of history. More on that tomorrow.
Furthermore, I also expect to reach Rocamadour tomorrow.
After that (Monday I think) I need to get to Le-Puy-en-Velay. I hope to find someone with whom I can ride to Le-Puy-en-Velay but chances are I will have to take a bus and/or train. That will be another challenge because there is no direct bus/train and there are many changes. (Should anyone know an easy way to make that trip I’d love to hear about it).
After waking up early at the campsite in Evaux-les-Bains, I took it easy. I wanted to go to church this Sunday and had seen that the Catholic church had a mass at 11 o’clock. I wanted to leave a little earlier so I could have a look around. As you might see from the place name, there are medicinal springs here. Already in Roman times people bathed here in the hot water (60°Celcius I read) and even today there is a modern spa. Remains (not many) of the Roman baths are still there, I looked at them.
Then it was time for the celebration. I was too early (10.30) but that was just right. It turned out that it was a feast day of “Our Lady of Evaux”. This was celebrated by a procession. In front the statue, lifted by 6 men, then the priest and the rest walked (rolled) behind it through the village. Along the way, there were several stops and then the priest told something, what he said I don’t know because my French is unfortunately too bad. Furthermore, there was singing, some songs I knew in Dutch (for those in the know, I think they were songs of the Emanuel community).
The Mass followed, and although my French is not good, I was able to follow it (apart from the sermon) because I had a Dutch and French missal (missal book containing everything that is said) on my mobile phone.
It was also a beautiful church, over the centuries things have been changed all the time and those different styles are good to see.
Then I drove on. I rode through very beautiful areas, it got rockier and rockier and there were beautiful rivers. There were many beautiful cows with horns in the meadow today, nice!
Now I’m camping in Rocamadour. I have arranged a safe spot for my car so that is very nice.
I’ve been worrying for a few days about how to solve it in terms of transport from Rocamadour to my starting point. Public transport between Rocamadour and Le-Puy-en-Velay is rather cumbersome. At least 4 changes.
I had made an appeal on facebook a few days ago on a page for Dutch people in France to see if anyone could help, but unfortunately it remained silent. Until tonight, when I got a message. Tomorrow morning I will be picked up at 11.00 and then someone will take me to Le-Puy-en-Velay by car! Such a relief that is! Another problem solved!
So tomorrow, 1 more travel day and then the day after tomorrow I will really start! Looking forward to rolling!
Last night I luckily got the good news that I could ride along, what a relief!
Last night I sorted out all the stuff I had brought with me, some of it for the pilgrimage and some to stay in the car. I had taken extra clothes and medication for the outward/return journey and that could stay behind, as well as other things I don’t need along the way and things I was in doubt about and had initially packed but which I think I can do without.
In the morning, I drove 200 metres to the place where I park during my trip. I had agreed with a Dutch hotel owner that he would keep an eye on things, a nice thought.
At 11 o’clock I was picked up by my lift. He drives this huge distance especially for me, and actually even further because he does not live in Rocamadour either but a lot further on.
For lunch, I was also treated to a treat. It took us over 5 hours to cover the 250km or so, small French roads don’t drive that fast. It was a nice drive though, beautiful scenery and the occasional castle in the mountains. On the way we had a nice chat about my pilgrimages and his, so that was fun.
So special that he wanted to do this for me. (If you read this, thanks a lot!)
Now I am at the campsite in Le Puy-en-Velay. The tent is up and I am about to lie down and hopefully sleep early.
Tomorrow it really starts!
Le Puy-en-Velay – Bains
distance: +/- 14 km (gemeten via maps, fietscomputer had het niet opgeslagen)
lowest point 614m
highest point: 1039m
Today is the first real day of my pilgrimage.
After packing everything and leaving the campsite, I first wanted to get a stamp. For this I went to the tourist information. There I got my first stamp! Then it really begins!
I had already seen that today was going to be a tough day, very steep uphill, not just for a moment but all day riding uphill.
Still in Le Puy-en-Velay, I first rolled up to a big statue of St James (the superior).
This was already a steep climb, partly I had to roll backwards because otherwise I would not reach the top. Next to this statue, I came across more pilgrims’ art, statues of pilgrims and one even a pilgrims’ crossing.
After taking a photo, I rolled on, even more very steeply up the mountain. From a viewpoint, I could see the 4 main points of Le Puy-en-Velay. The cathedral, the chapel Saint-Michuel d’Aiguilhe, the big statue of Mary with Child and lastly the statue of Saint Joseph with Child. The latter is the somewhat more unknown one that stands outside the town.
Then the climb continued, soon after that my wheelchair wheel started beeping. That means my battery is almost dead. Normally, I can ride about 25 km on 1 set of batteries but now I had only ridden about 2 km with it, uphill and it had taken me about 2 hours to ride those 2 km! Average slope was over 10% incline!
Luckily I had spare batteries, 3 sets in total.
But it was 14km to the nearest campsite, so I was getting a bit nervous whether I would make it.
With the 2nd set of batteries in my wheels I rolled on, pretty soon I came upon a dirt track, which wasn’t quite as I had planned. Still rolling on, dodging big boulders and dents. This too went uphill but fortunately less steep than the first part of the route, and after a few hours it became less and less steep. Occasionally pilgrims walked by, it was steep for them too but they managed to go up easier than me. 2 pilgrims from northern France were picnicking and invited me in, I was given bread with cheese, tomato from their own garden, tea and when we said goodbye, I was given an apple from their own harvest for the road. Delicious!
After the picnic, the paved road was also soon in sight and although I was still rolling uphill, it was less steep. Yet even the 2nd set of batteries ran out faster than hoped and I swapped them for the 3rd set. Fortunately, the road only kept going up a bit and not as extremely steep as it was at the beginning. On the way, I stopped briefly at a little church and then at the supermarket for bread, cheese and fruit. Then I rolled to the campsite. Fortunately, my third set of batteries got me where I needed to be.
The campsite near Bains fortunately had room for my tent and a power socket. The campsite is in a kind of large backyard of an organic farm and, besides camping, nice other options like a tree house and a greenhouse made into a house where you can stargaze at night.
My wheelchair is charging now, tonight I will have to wake up once more to change batteries but if all goes well, everything will be full again tomorrow!
It’s about time to go to sleep, my body has worked (too) hard and tomorrow is another day with lots of climbing.
Bains – Monistrol d’Allier
lowest point 597
highest point 1136m
Today was a very nice pilgrimage day.
Although the first part of my hike was uphill, it was not as extremely steep as yesterday. So that wasn’t too bad.
Already after about 2 kilometres I came to a chapel, Chapelle Roch-de-Montbonnet, a beautiful chapel. the priest was present and I got a new stamp in my pilgrim passport.
Here I also met 3 German pilgrims whom I had also encountered yesterday when I rolled up the slope.
After a chat, I continued on my way. Uphill at first, but fortunately also downhill at some point!
In the village of Saint Privat d’Allier I climbed up another steep slope, this time not because I had to but because I wanted to have a look at the castle, the church and the view. A very beautiful and old church, a castle (which unfortunately I could only see part of because it is private) and a great view! The climbing may always be tough but the reward of the beautiful view is (almost)always there!
After I was done looking I rolled back down. As I rolled down, the Germans came up. Nice to meet up again.
Then I passed a mini supermarket, fortunately I just fitted in and after the basic shopping (bread, cheese, fruit/vegetables) I was provided for today.
Along the way, I was also lucky enough to occasionally find some tasty blackberries and I also found another grape growing wild. 2 bunches were hanging at the height I could reach. Tasty!
Then it went fast, the road went downhill quite fast, it was a good thing I could brake with my wheels and with a bicycle brake on my handlebars. If I go faster than 12km/h my wheels disengage and then only the bike brake remains, so I always try to make sure I stay under 10km/h when rolling down a mountain.
The views were tremendously beautiful as I rode through the mountain landscape. I’ve been to the mountains quite often and I’ve also crossed this region on holidays, but because I ride so much slower (instead of by car) through it now, I have much more time to look.
It was very hot today, well over 30°C. Before I reached the campsite I was pretty much overheated. But fortunately the campsite is next to a river, so I was able to cool off there. And after a shower I was back to normal temperature.
The camping boss also gave me a stamp. He also warned me about tomorrow, which is one of the steepest stages.
My wheelchair is already back on the charger so tomorrow I’ll be ready to go again. Today I hadn’t used much anyway. Because I rolled uphill first, my first batteries were soon almost empty. Fortunately, when I was at the highest points and then rolled downhill, they charged back a bit. And at the end of the day, because I rolled downhill for a very long time, my battery was almost fully charged again.
So I’m pretty much ready for tomorrow’s climb . Now to recharge myself, so early to bed.
I do notice that I am not well trained yet, in a few days it will be easier and I will also have less muscle pain.
Monistrol d’Allier – Saugues
lowest point 594m
highest point 1058m
When I came out of my tent around 8.00, it again proved that I am a late pilgrim. The field full of pilgrims’ tents was completely empty, only I was still standing there. So I quickly loaded up my wheelchair and left.
When I arrived at the campsite yesterday, I had a nice descent to the campsite, now I had to climb that part. After about 20 minutes of climbing (it took 2 minutes to go down), I was back at the top. At least, as far up as I was yesterday. Actually, today’s long steep climb really started.
Some 14km up, about 600 metres up.
I had beautiful views almost the entire ride. I was enjoying nature. The smell of the forest, the butterflies on the flowers, the rustling of the trees. Although I was rolling on a 90km road all day, it wasn’t annoying, it wasn’t very busy and cars drove well around me and regularly gave me encouraging gestures, many a thumbs up passed. People even stopped a few times to ask if they could help. I thanked them politely but indicated I wanted to roll myself.
As for my batteries, it was exciting, after about 6km I had the first set of batteries empty, the 2nd set held up to 14km, then I grabbed the 3rd set and of these, 1 turned out to be empty, apparently something went wrong with them when charging or faulty (I hope the former).
So the last kilometres (total of 19km) I rolled on 1 good one and leftovers from the other almost empty batteries (and partly even on just the good wheel).
As if that wasn’t enough, just before the descent I heard rumbling in the sky, thunder, moments later the first drops also fell. Quickly packed up everything that wasn’t supposed to get wet and calmly rolled on on the one wheel. Fortunately, the shower didn’t last very long. And I even found it nice to cool down a bit, as it was very hot again today.
Fortunately, the descent came about 2km before the village (town), Saugues, where I am now camping. During that descent, my wheels recharged a bit so I could make it to the campsite.
Before going to the campsite, I visited the church. There I also met some other pilgrims I had met on the way before.
It turned out that this is also a pilgrimage site here. For Saint Bénilde who is laid to rest in the church here.
I didn’t know this saint but they had made a nice exhibition to show part of his life with dolls.
They had done a nice job.
My wheelchair is charging in the toilet block so hopefully tomorrow all the batteries will be full again. Now I am lying in my tent and going to sleep soon.
Saugues – Chanaleilles
Lowest point: 938m
Highest point: 1142
Got up at 3am last night to change batteries, then I slept pretty fast again. At 7.30am my alarm went off and I got to change batteries again. Then it was also time to pack. The one battery I wrote about yesterday unfortunately seems to be defective, when charging it acts strange and, although the lights say it’s full, I can’t get it to work. Fortunately, I still have five good batteries like in previous years, but that one extra would have been nice with all the mountains here.
After getting up and packing, I had breakfast with the neighbours. Last night I pitched the tent next to the same people who had invited me for a picnic lunch on the road a few days ago. Was cozy again. It was their last day so I won’t encounter them any further on the road.
Then it was time to leave. First I went to the supermarket, here again there was a real supermarket, most villages don’t have a shop or only a corner in, for instance, a café or bakery where the most necessary things are available.
Now I was able to stock up on new food again, so I’m good to go. Then I left the village and went on my way.
I got a call on the way for an interview in AlphenCC / Leids Dagblad, which was a nice interview and I’m curious how the article will turn out. And this week I am also in the paper version of Katholiek Nieuwsblad (it was already on the website but they wanted it in the paper version of the paper now).
Today a somewhat shorter day, about 13 km (off the top of my head, I don’t have the bike computer at hand), lots of uphill but not extremely steep and the occasional downhill. Beautiful nature, nice old villages/towns and also saw a castle.
The theme of the day was cows, I drove past enormous meadows with cows (various breeds, French and Dutch cows and I even saw a group of Scottish highlanders) and occasionally some horses. It always strikes me how nice those meadows are here, much more natural than in the Netherlands where almost all the meadows are a dull lawn. Here, all meadows have trees, sometimes a stream or a small lake in which the cows can walk. They also often stand there with the whole family, cow, calf and bull. Very nice to see.
The guidebook (miam miam dodo 2022) said that in this village (le Falzet), near a cheese farm, there was a pilgrims’ hostel where you could also camp. Arriving there (with the 2nd set of batteries almost empty) it turned out that this was no longer the case. The cheese farm was still there. Fortunately, I was still allowed to stay and was assigned a nice spot for my tent, in the meadow where the cows were. Even though the cows have just left, for milking or for the night, I don’t know, but if a cow suddenly looks into my tent, I don’t need to be alarmed. I am a huge animal lover so I like being among the cows. Reminds me of the old days when I often visited farms and went to an agricultural high school. My chair is now also loading up in the barn where I saw calves.
I too am about to recharge, on my bed. I’m going to try to sleep a long night. My muscles are protesting a bit today, riding in the mountains I am not used to in our little flat country, and in the process I am apparently using muscles I was not aware I have!
Chanaleilles – Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole
Lowest point: 929m
Highest point: 1305m
When I woke up a bit around 7 o’clock, I heard a cow standing next to me! I opened the tent but that startled her so she ran away. Nice to wake up like that!
Last night before I slept I had also had a look at the cows in the barn and calves in the meadow, so nice!
But yes, although I really like farms it was still time to leave.
The first village I visited was Chanaleilles.
On the way there my bike computer started complaining, it was too full. I had never thought of getting all the previous rides out of its memory. Normally this is very easy. I connect it to my mobile with a cable, then start the app and it goes on by itself. I thought I would do that now and then I got a message that my bike computer is no longer supported by the app, too old… (I have had it for 4 years). Very irritating. Fortunately, I was able to manually empty some of the memory but it’s annoying because now I can’t see all the data on my mobile. Hopefully it will still work at home on the computer.
Fortunately, after making space again, it could be switched back on and I could continue. Steeply up the mountain.
In the village was a beautiful church from the 11th and 13th centuries that I visited. Really nice old church again. I was alone there so was able to sit and sing quietly for a while. Unfortunately a big step at the entrance so the wheelchair stayed outside.
Then I rolled on, now down the hill for a bit, but unfortunately quickly up again, which remained for a good part of the route. About the first 10km went up and then down. The first battery had had enough after 5km and the 2nd was half empty when I arrived at the source of St Roch. A saint of the pilgrims. This is said to be a healing spring. After the spring, I visited the chapel of St Roch which is 300 metres down the same route. At the church, someone was welcoming pilgrims and I got a stamp for it in my pilgrim passport.
Between the spring and the church, I also crossed a double border. From Haute Loire department in Auvergne region to La Lazere, Occitanie region.
After spending some time in the church, it was time to move on again. The rest of the route was mostly downhill. This gave me extra chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the mountains, beautiful cloudscapes, cows in the meadow that I not only saw but also heard. In almost every meadow, a cow rang a bell.
I also saw many birds of prey today.
As I rolled downhill, my wheelchair batteries got fuller instead of emptier, which allowed me to do the 2nd half without any consumption.
Just before the campsite, I visited the church in St-Alban sur Limagnole and then the supermarket for bread among other things, because tomorrow is Sunday and I don’t know if I’ll manage to find bread then.
Arriving at the campsite, I set up the tent. Then to the toilet block for electricity. Unfortunately no power socket… was a bit exciting but luckily I can charge my wheelchair at the English people across the path. Fortunately, they had the right adapter to get a Dutch plug into an English socket.
Then I’ll go back to sleep in a minute. I’ll continue tomorrow.
Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole – Aumont Aubrac
Almost flat, around 920m
Picked up my wheelchair this morning after I got up.
It was still foggy and cold, I had also noticed that cold when I went to my opposite neighbours in the middle of the night to swap my wheelchair batteries so that both batteries were charged again. One of the reasons for the cold nights here is that I camp at quite a high altitude, almost every night above 1000 metres. It is not so noticeable here because the valleys are often high as well, but most days (and nights) I spend between 900 and 1400 metres.
After I got cold I unfortunately could not warm up properly, but despite that I slept quite nicely.After I was packed up I went out again, By now I had fortunately warmed up and the fog had also lifted. It was quite warm again today.Soon my route crossed the official route and it was immediately clear to me why I map out my own routes. What rocks and a gradient that is unachievable.I rolled on along a very nice and fairly quiet road. Occasionally the passing cars waved, always fun!
For much of the day, I rode through the mountains in and along the forest. I followed a small river and so, although I rode among the mountains, I kept riding fairly flat. Only the last part (I think the last 6km) I rolled uphill.
Just because it was all not very hard, I was able to enjoy the natural beauty extra. The beautiful meandering river, the flowers and plants, lots of butterflies and lizards.
I usually try to go to a church service on Sundays, but unfortunately I couldn’t because the distance was too great and there were no services on the route, or so early that I would never get there on time. So at the first church, in Rimreize, I loaded up my wheelchair and sang some Taizé songs myself. After half an hour, both my wheelchair and I were recharged and we were off again!
So I rolled on through the beautiful countryside. Nice and easy and even when the slope went up it was still manageable.
In Aumont Aubrac I wanted to go to the campsite but first I visited the church there too. This too was a beautiful church, especially the stained glass, which I found special.
I had seen that there was also a geocache hidden near the church. Although I have been geocaching for years, I have been less active in recent years. But this pilgrimage seemed like a good time to look for some caches again. Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunting, using a GPS code to find the location of an often well-hidden treasure, of which there are millions around the world. This one was outside by the church and fortunately I had found it quickly.
Then I rolled to the campsite, with beeping batteries. I arrived at the campsite. The extra charging meant I had made it exactly on 1 set of batteries. Then I won’t have to wake up last night to change batteries.
Arriving at the campsite, I also immediately saw 2 Belgians I had met twice before.
I am now on a quiet part of the campsite, facing the toilet block where my wheelchair is charging.
Onward tomorrow and now rest.
Aumont Aubrac – Nasbinals
Lowest point: 1029m
Highest point 1185
Pilgrimage day 7 already, a week on the road. So far, it has been a beautiful week, tough because of the mountains but also very beautiful precisely because of that.
Today I knew I would be rolling a long stage. About 25km to the nearest campsite (turned out to be over 27km).
I first rolled back a little bit to get back on my route. In the process, I rolled past a woodworking factory. On one side of the road thousands of tree trunks and on the other side very large pencils!
After rolling about 5 km, I came to the first chapel. A nice little but still wheelchair-accessible chapel. I also immediately noticed at that chapel how many pilgrims are on the way. I was there (for my part) only briefly, about 5 minutes) but saw at least 10 pilgrims.
This is really a big difference from what I am used to. In the five previous years of rolling I have encountered just about that amount in total!
The first 10km was mostly uphill, after that it was fairly flat on average, which means a few metres of climbing and then a bit of descending.
After climbing, about halfway up, I arrived at a church again, I was hoping on the way that I would be able to put my chair on the charger there for a while, and as I got there my chair was already indicating that the batteries were almost dead. But the church had high steps and there was also a closed door… so instead of charging, I put in my 2nd set of batteries and ate something from my bag, like usually bread and cheese and a handful of peanuts. Unfortunately I ran out of fruit although I found the occasional blackberry and a total of 3 blueberries.
It was regularly wooded today. Most of the forest here seems to consist of conifers (which kind I am not sure) and white birches. Outside the forest again, mostly meadows with cows and the occasional hefty bull.
It was also a very good day for watching and photographing birds of prey. So I did that a lot.
Yesterday I told you about the approximate altitude I ride here in the Massif Central. Now I have a bicycle computer that indicates the altitude metres, but along the roads here there is also a white/yellow post every kilometre that also shows how high it is. Today it was between 1150m and 1200m above sea level.
When I arrived in the village where the campsite is, I first did some shopping (including fruit and vegetables). Then rolled towards the campsite. I walked for a while with an Australian pilgrim, he even had a dideridoo tied to his rucksack. Just before the campsite, our paths parted and I reported to the campsite.
The tent is up, wheelchair on the charger and I’m about to go to sleep. I am very tired again. I ended up rolling over 27km, actually more than is pleasant, but I made it!
Nasbinals – Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac
lowest point: 809m
Highest point: 1341m
Since it was predicted last night that it would rain in the afternoon and evening today, my alarm went extra early. And instead of leaving sometime between 9 and 10 o’clock, my wheelchair was charged to go by 8.30. I had a brief chat with another pilgrim and then I left. But after about 100 metres of driving, I wanted to take a sip and then realised that I had completely forgotten that I had yet to fill the water bottles. Fortunately, I was still close by and after all the bottles were filled I could really hit the road.
I still had to go to the bakery, which turned out to be closed but the small supermarket I was at yesterday had fresh bread. I also took another carrot and tomato for the road.
After the shop, I again met pilgrims I had met before and had a short chat with them too. Then I left for real.
I did find it kind of an experience to see all kinds of pilgrims. In fact, in the village where I had slept at the campsite, there appeared to be many other pilgrims in hostels and hotels.
Some carry their entire belongings on their backs (some carry such big bags that I really wonder how they want to make it to Santiago with so much weight) and others are the opposite of that, carrying a small day rucksack and waiting by a van when I came rolling by because it would transport the huge rolling suitcase from hotel to hotel. And then there is the pilgrim who carries what is needed but also no more than that. But a wheelchair pilgrim, of that I have not come across any other.
Once on the right road I was allowed to ride uphill as far as Aubrac. From 1195m to 1340m over some 8km. Fortunately, it was doable and the road was quiet and good. In doing so, it was cloudy and not too hot. At the pass of Aubrac, the highest point, we passed briefly and took in fluids and also left some fluids there.
The landscape of the first half was mainly meadows, hardly any green grass to be found, everything barren, lots of cows and again many birds of prey.
Not much further on was Aubrac, a very small and old village with a special and large church.
From then on I still had 11 kilometres to go. But in Aubrac, my first batteries were almost empty. I could have changed but hoped to last a while longer.
Indeed, from then on the descent set in. I only had to brake (with brake on my handlebars) to make sure I didn’t go too fast (at 10km per hour my wheelchair wheels switch off and they normally brake automatically, when they switch off everything depends on 1 small brake on the handlebars).
At the church in Aubrac, I did load up for another hour, and although the wheels are not completely full, it helps to roll a bit further.
Along the way it was immensely beautiful. Forest, streams meandering through the landscape, a waterfall that was on the map and I could hear but couldn’t see through the trees (unfortunately), flowers and butterflies on the roadside.
Just before the campsite, I also spoke to a Dutch couple (well, I assumed they are a couple, if not sorry!) And told them about my trip. They had also just walked a stage.
After those meetings, I soon arrived at the campsite. The weather had changed tremendously, from chilly till noon to hot in the afternoon.
When the tent was up, I sat down for a while with my feet in the cold stream behind my tent to combat overheating. Even now, I sit there for a while as I write. In my tent (in the sun) it is far too hot. Though my body is looking forward to lying down like that.
Just as I was about to write that it had stayed dry today, I heard a bang, thunder. I only just managed to pack my wheelchair under the tarp and crawl into the tent myself before it started raining. Now I can already hear the rain easing and the thunder is also further away. It has cooled down right away though, nice!
Now I can lie in my tent and look at the route for tomorrow. And then to bed early again.
Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac – Saint-Côme-d’Olt
Lowest point: 359m
Highest point: 964m
I fell asleep early last night and woke up well before my alarm this morning. Despite the good night, I was still very tired, but that is to be expected after 9 days. I calmly packed everything, filled my water bottles and left.
In the village ( Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac) I saw many pilgrims leaving again with their day packs. I first visited the church, unfortunately with steps in front of it but fortunately it still works. I parked the wheelchair outside.
I was surprised to find myself alone there, well, almost alone, as the verger was also there at first to water all the flowers.
After the church visit, I rolled to the village’s main road.
What a climb, I had to climb up backwards to be able to apply enough force and not to tip over. But I got there. Arriving at the road, the climbing was not over but it was a lot less steep and I could just roll forward. There was also a statue of a pilgrim.
Then I rolled up some 136 metres in about 5km.
Along the way, I also had a very nice view of the village where I had slept. I noticed today that, although I was already rolling lower than in recent days , it seemed higher (yesterday’s campsite was at 809m and today’s highest point at 945m) . It was rockier and the valleys were suddenly a lot deeper. I often had very nice views. Had lunch at noon at a viewpoint, bread, cheese and a great view. It could hardly get any better! Along the way I regularly see cyclists, all of them waving when they overtake me, but this time I had a short conversation with a group. The last 13km I rolled downhill. I didn’t have to roll heavily but mainly had to be careful not to go too fast and slow down, on a large part of the route there were signs saying 8%! It was very beautiful again, I especially enjoyed the views.
I also visited a little church on the way, unfortunately again with stairs but it was worth it.
In the meadow, I came across a cute cow with twins. Mother was busy with those two sons.
Now I am at the campsite in Saint-Côme-d’Olt, quite a descent as I am now at 351 metres.
I just watched a game of pétanque (boules) which is played a lot at this campsite (and in the rest of France). Already saw several groups playing this French sport.
Just did the daily laundry and now rest. And then to bed early, my body is protesting more today than I would like and I am very tired. Hopefully if I lie a long night it will improve a bit.
Saint-Côme-d’Olt – Estaing
Lowest point: 310m
Highest point: 365m
10 days already. This morning I packed up and left reasonably on time.
First to the church in Saint-Côme-d’Olt. Beautiful church, and the rest of the town also has many beautiful old buildings.
Here I also met the Germans I had met many times before, now probably for the last time, it was their last day.
Many people who start in Le Puy-en-Velay walk for 10 to 14 days and then return home. Many go as far as Conques, which is another few days rolling from here.
After the church, I rolled on, via the D987, which I have been rolling along for days but now the road was suddenly much busier, unpleasantly crowded with big trucks. The view of the river le Lot was nice though, unfortunately few photos of that part because the traffic was so busy.
I rolled up to a large supermarket, where I managed to replenish my stock of long-life food and fruit. I always have easy edibles with me for when I suddenly need calories for, say, a tough climb, I always like things like muesli bars and pâté de fruit to have in stock and after 10 days I was through. Now everything replenished. So often I don’t manage to do extensive shopping here because there are often several days when I only come across mini shops, like a bakery with some other much-needed staples.
When there was a bridge I changed my route, a few kilometres further but a smaller road. That was quite an improvement.
Just across the road was a little church, which I visited. Although I couldn’t get 1 half of the door open so I walked inside anyway instead of rolling.
For people who can walk well, there was also a chapel in the tower, I made an attempt but after a few steps up the narrow tower stairs I decided I would just look at the pictures hanging there instead of going up.
Then rolled through via the public toilet, they have those here regularly, always nice.
When I was recharged I rolled on. After a few kilometres, I crossed the Lot again, back to that busier road. Fortunately less busy than in the first part.
I stopped briefly in Estaing, where the route to Santiago is marked on the ground.
It is also the place where I am camping as well. Nice little place. I found the road to the church too steep, I didn’t have the energy for it anymore.
However, I did have a nice conversation with a man in a wheelchair with a handbike. About my journey and our chairs. My front wheel and his handbike and wheelchair are the same brand.
When I arrived at the campsite, there were 25km on the counter and it was already 7pm. No one was there and the phone number was not answered. I then put up my tent and am fine here. The wheelchair is at the power point near the toilet block and I’m going to bed soon.
See you tomorrow!
Estaing – Entraygues-sur-Truyère
Lowest point: 226m
Highest point: 312m
What a start to the day….
It didn’t start off too well, while packing up the tent a tent pole suddenly jumped in two. And it poked right through the canvas. Luckily only in a place where the tent pole goes through and not where the tent is supposed to keep me dry. Fortunately, there is a small repair kit with my tent and I can just pitch my tent again tonight and sleep dry.
And speaking of staying dry, just when everything was packed up the thunderstorm broke out. So I stayed at the campsite for a while. With thunderstorms I don’t dare go into the woods or open fields. As I am typing this, I am taking shelter under a large party tent with my wheelchair. I am waiting for the thunderstorm to blow over.
For the next few days, I have also adjusted my route. I will continue my route along the Lot and deviate a little more from the official route than I usually do.
I chose this route because it will continue to rain a lot in the coming days. The problem with rain is not so much that I get wet but mainly that I have rubber hoops on my wheels. In dry weather this is very nice because it gives more grip but when they get wet they are suddenly as slippery as a mirror, I don’t have enough grip to climb hills and even more dangerous is that on descents I don’t have enough grip to brake. That’s why I opted for a flatter route.
I wrote the rest after arriving at the campsite.
I ended up leaving only after 11 o’clock. The worst of the thunderstorm had passed by then.
It was still raining in the beginning, but later the sky opened up and the weather even became nice.
On the way, I rolled past a very special little chapel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enter because the door was locked but I could peek inside through the (dirty) window. There were many murals. Later, I read on a sign that an artist makes murals in this old chapel on the edge of the Lot river.
I did not have to look for the route today as I could just follow the river. Sometimes with high and sometimes with low water. Consequently, I saw hydroelectric power stations there.
The scenery was very beautiful along the water, beautiful steep rock faces, small streams that flowed into the Lot and some small waterfalls (and places where there should be waterfalls but which are now dry).
In terms of animals on the verge, today was different. Usually I see lots of butterflies, but they flew very little today, bothered by the rain I guess. But those who were actually happy with the rain were the huge snails that now populated the roadsides. If I were French I would eat them with some herb butter, but being Dutch I left them in the verge!
When I arrived in Entraygues-sur-Truyère, I first bought bread and then drove on to the campsite. In between, I also passed another closed chapel. I think this is the first day of my pilgrimage on which I did not enter a church.
By now I have been back at the campsite and my tent is up again. Fortunately, I managed to fix those tent poles. Although I found it quite exciting to put tension on them, but it went well.
I can leave my wheelchair here overnight in a kind of living room, so that’s nice again.
Fortunately, I am also feeling better again than in recent days. Although the day started out difficult, it ended well.
And before I forget, I was featured in an interview on the Leids Dagblad website. The interview can be read here.
Previous interviews can also be found there.
Entraygues-sur-Truyère – Cassaniouze
Lowest point 204m
Highest point 250m
Last night I had set my alarm half an hour later because, according to the weather forecast, I would not be able to leave before 10 o’clock anyway because of the rain. It was also supposed to rain for much of the night. But that turned out to be wrong. My tent was dry this morning and it didn’t rain a single drop today either. A few times, however, the sky was dark and the rain possibly fell a bit further on. But this way I slept a bit longer!
When I left this morning, I took a small medieval bridge. My navigation said I couldn’t cross it, but at the campsite I had heard that it could be done, and it was. Although there was a sign saying cyclists were not allowed to cross it, but there was nothing about a wheelchair so I rolled over to the other side. Since there were no gates on the side, I had a perfect view of the river.
On that side of the river, I visited the church first. It was easy to enter as there was a special wheelchair entrance. There were 2 women making beautiful flower arrangements for the church service tomorrow.
Then I rolled on.
The campsite is at a fork in the river. This made it difficult to get on the route as there are not bridges everywhere. I was 2 bridges and almost 4km further before I passed the campsite only on the right side of the water (the other side). That 2nd bridge was also a medieval bridge, a very beautiful one. There used to be towers on it but they have disappeared with time.
The rest of the day I rolled along the Lot river. Sometimes fast-flowing, sometimes gently rippling. Very beautiful it is here.
Lots of beautiful, rugged rocks, colourful flowers and insects. The road I rolled on was just a D road where cars drove, but there were very few of them. Maybe an average of 2-3 cars/bikes per hour and the occasional cyclist. Most of the time there was no one there. I like that best, lovely alone in nature, listening to the flowing river water and the many little birds.
Along the way, I also enjoyed the fruit I found, this time a nice apple and again many blackberries.
At a village on the way, Viellevie, I saw a beautiful castle with a nice little church next to it. I just couldn’t get through the doorway and I couldn’t get the other half of the door open. After trying for a while, a woman came to my rescue and managed to open the second half, so I could still see the church from my wheelchair.
After more than 23km, I arrived at the campsite. With a Dutch owner. In fact, she is originally from the same place where I live. Most of the campsite guests are also Dutch.
Tomorrow I will go to Conques, a short stage because I want to visit the city.
More about that tomorrow.
Cassaniouze – Conques
lowest point 205m
highest point 298m
The last stretch to Conques was quite a climb, very steep, but just enough that I didn’t have to go backwards.
My batteries were unfortunately not completely full and so just before Conques they stopped working, luckily I had another set. With that I was still able to climb the mountain in time to arrive at the church just before 11 o’clock.
I would have needed those 3 hours anyway. Although it was about 9 kilometres and I normally roll that in 2 hours.
It was a beautiful celebration. The priest (and brother of the monastery here) had already heard about me from other pilgrims I had met along the way. After the celebration, he invited me to lunch with some brothers and other guests.
A delicious lunch. It started with fried snacks and some drinks in the garden. Then we went to the refectory (dining room) for lunch. For starters we had a savoury tart, main course was some kind of mashed potatoes and a piece of chicken of our choice, then it was time for cheese, 5 different pieces of cheese with bread, and then came a small fruit cake for dessert.
It’s now a couple of hours later and I’m still full! Was tasty though!
I was also asked where I would sleep. I asked what is possible here in terms of accessibility and it was decided that I would get my own room. This is because the dormitories for pilgrims are upstairs. However, I did have to wait a while because my room still had to be prepared.
Therefore, just at that time I looked around the city, very beautiful and many shops of local artists.
Then I heard people telling me there was a concert in the church. That’s where I went. A nice performance by a pianist and a clarinetist playing classical pieces.
After the concert I rolled back to my sleeping place, the room was ready but with my big wheelchair I couldn’t get in, but that was no problem, the room was just remodelled for me! Desk to another wall, bedside table gone, bed against the wall. And then I could enter the room. What good service!
Now I am resting on my bed for a while. At 20.30 I will go to church for the Compline (that’s the name of the night prayer as prayed in monasteries, formerly in the middle of the night, now often in the evening) and then sleep.
And then again tomorrow.
Conques – Flagnac
lowest point 190m
highest point 298m
Last night I wrote about going to Compline (night prayer for monastics). This resulted in a tremendously beautiful evening, more than expected. So first the Complines. This was in French but all over the world in monasteries the same prayers are prayed throughout the day, the tide prayer. Previously, the only way to join in the prayers was to look them up in a very thick prayer book in which you had to look up different chants and prayers on different days, quite a lot of browsing during the prayers, quite complicated too to find the right prayers. Fortunately, since a couple of years there is also the Tidal App, and this way I could easily (and lightly) pray the prayers in French (everyone was given these on a piece of paper) but see the translation in the Dutch app. After all, I do like to know what I am praying. After this night prayer, everyone received the pilgrims’ blessing and a Matthew gospel (part of the Bible about the life of Jesus) was handed out to everyone.
Then all pilgrims went to the front of the church, outside, by the front door. I rolled over for a while because I cannot enter through the main entrance because of the steps, but there is a good side door through which I could pass. Here a priest (priest who lives in a monastery) told me what the pictures above the door all meant. Unfortunately, my French was insufficient to follow everything but all the pilgrims listened attentively and laughed regularly so it must have been told in an engaging and humorous way.Then was the organ concert. This was amazing! Not only could the priest who played the organ do this very well but the lighting in the church also joined in. Sometimes it got almost dark, mostly during quiet parts in the music, but during the more intense pieces, more lights came on at (certain parts of the church or everywhere). The music was very diverse, Gregorian church music, popular music, medieval music like greensleeves, Taizé music and music I did not know but sounded very impressive. I also talked for a while with the Fleming I had encountered many times before. I didn’t get to bed until 11 p.m., but because everything had been so impressive, it took at least until after midnight before I could catch any sleep.
Although my alarm went off at 6.30, I slept pretty well. Everything was fully loaded, so I was ready for a new day.I first packed and then went to breakfast where many pilgrims were already there. A real French breakfast with bread, jam and coffee tea or chocolate milk. For many, Conques was the final stop for this year or just the beginning. Some, like me, continue for a while, a few days or just months. Nice to hear what people are all going to do and many also came to ask me where I am going. Delivered some nice conversations and surprised looks.
Talking about surprised looks, I sometimes wonder whether it is safe for me to drive here. Not for myself but for the motorists. When some pass me, their mouths open in surprise and they look at my wheelchair in such astonishment, keeping their eyes on me (or my seat) instead of looking at the road! As if they have never seen a wheelchair before! (Now sometimes I also wonder where all the French disabled people are. In the Netherlands, I regularly see wheelchairs or mobility scooters, but here it really is an exception).
Around 8.00am I thought it was time to go, for a short while I went to church.
After that, I rolled on. Well yes, further… I actually rolled back, back to the river Lot. The official walking route here is too complicated/impossible. So also unfortunately had to skip some things from the route.
Arriving at the river, I really did move on again. The landscape was very beautiful again. Especially this morning I enjoyed the scenery and there were also lots of butterflies again. Every now and then there was a small village and some castles. And a beautiful red squirrel crossed the road in front of my wheelchair and on the verge he waited for me to take a photo. Then he quickly climbed the tree.
I found and got lots of fruit today, delicious! I found delicious figs (you don’t find them that sweet in the Netherlands), blackberries and apples and I also got an apple and 2 peaches from a Frenchman with whom I had a chat. Freshly picked from his tree! Recently, someone asked if I eat that fruit like that or wash it first. Washing on the road is often not feasible but I always take into account where I pick things. Among other things, always higher than the puddle height of foxes, and in places where it looks clean, and the fruit itself must also look good. This is how I always do it, and food from the shop is not at all clear what has happened to it.
Besides the wooded area of last days, there were now places with arable farming and greenhouses with tomatoes and aubergine, among others.
This afternoon it got very hot and muggy. That’s also why I stopped a little earlier than I had actually hoped. I am now in Flagnac and actually wanted to go to Boise-Penchot. The heat made me feel really bad. I always have trouble getting rid of my heat and my head turns red and I feel like I’m about to explode… even cooling down in the supermarket didn’t help. Although now I did get groceries again. Fortunately, I am now at the campsite and there was just a bit of rain and thunder. The worst stuffiness is now gone and after this and a shower I have cooled down a bit. Tomorrow a very long stage (over 30km) with no campsites where I could stop in between. I want to leave extra early, hoping to be well on my way before the worst of the heat. So I’m going to sleep so soon.
Flagnac – Felzins
lowest point 187m
Highest point 362m
At 5.30am my alarm went off, thankfully I had made a good night’s sleep. It was still dark when I retrieved my wheelchair from the toilet block (where it was on the charger) and went to pack the tent and everything. Only just before I left did the sun rise. In terms of landscape, it was quite varied. Forest, fields, fields full of nut trees (walnut and hazelnut) and cows. And then occasionally a few houses or a small village.
The weather was very variable. Sometimes blue sky and sunny, then dark clouds with thunder rumbling in the distance and some drops of rain fell. It was hot and muggy. Fortunately, it was nice and cool at first this morning, but after 11 o’clock it was not so nice.
The first 10 kilometres I rolled up the mountain. Just before the little chapel where I was going, my first set of batteries was empty.
I was hoping to make it to the little chapel to recharge there, but it was not to be. I knew I had a long day of 30 km to go today. No campsite could be found nearby. as I had used up 1 set after only 10 km, recharging was necessary.
After changing I rolled to the chapel. I could fortunately get inside but there was no socket. At least not in a place where I could get close enough to plug in my charger (with extension cord).
So on to the next church, which was close by, 270 metres. That sounds close but it really isn’t when the slope is so steep that rolling backwards is the only option. After a considerable climb, I reached the top of the church. This turned out to be a special place for pilgrims, the door was open (unfortunately with a small staircase in front of it) and inside were things to make something to drink (coffee, tea, lemonade), cakes and there was a stamp with which you could put your own stamp in your pilgrim’s passport.
A cake and a stamp, both very nice!
I put my wheelchair on the charger in the church, after a while in the church I sat outside. It was nice to see the pilgrims walking past. Some walked straight on, others visited the church and some ate their lunch on the benches in front of the church and took a break. The Flemish man I had met before also passed by and a few others that I had seen many times along the way.
Many grabbed their route booklets and discussed their places to sleep. Those booklets sometimes turn out to indicate different sleeping places. Including this booklet from Fleming. As it turned out, Figeac was not the next campsite (according to my booklet and google). There was one about 5km from the church. That 30 km (about 20 more from that point) was too far so the choice was then quickly made. Not too long a stage today after all!
I then rolled on, mainly through agricultural areas. Short bits uphill and then downhill again. I didn’t know the exact spot of the campsite, I only knew roughly (that’s how many French addresses are in hamlets). Fortunately, a man stopped me as I rolled past his house, which was where I was supposed to be. Fleming is here too. With my little tent I am in the farm’s garden.
They have lots of horses here, nice.
Felzins – Figeac
Lowest point 201m
Highest point 383m
After leaving the campsite this morning, I calmly rolled to the start of the official route. Unfortunately, I soon felt it wasn’t rolling nicely and my right tyre turned out to be flat. I had had this before and I think it was due to yesterday’s hot weather. My tyres are always inflated very hard and when it gets very hot the air expands extra. To prevent a tyre from bursting, the valve lets out air when the pressure is too high. I think that’s what happened yesterday. When it cooled down last night, the tyre was suddenly too flat when I left. Fortunately, I have a pump with me and after quite a bit of pumping I was able to continue. Fortunately, the tyre stayed hard after that.
After pumping, I soon found myself on the route. Almost all day I followed the D2, an easy route on a fairly quiet road. Occasionally there were warning signs.
Soon I saw a nice little chapel from the 13th and 14th centuries. Inside, there were beautiful wall and ceiling paintings. Here I also found a little table with a stamp for in my pilgrim’s passport.
Regularly today, my route crossed the route of other pilgrims. I also saw many of them. I also saw many cyclists.
Today’s stage was not very long and I arrived in Figeac fairly early. I decided to roll into town first and then back to the campsite.
First I went to the abbey church. Unfortunately not wheelchair accessible. I parked my wheelchair in a hallway and walked inside. That was worth it as it was a very beautiful church.
On a little table I saw another stamp for my pilgrim’s passport.
It is getting fuller all the time. Then I went outside again. In a city, I don’t like leaving my wheelchair unattended anyway.
When I arrived in town, all shops were still closed for lunch break, but slowly, between 2pm and 4pm, everything opened. There were lots of nice little shops, many art or otherwise small independent shops and few chains. Lots of nice old buildings and narrow alleys.
I also wanted to go to the other church, but when I had made the big climb there it turned out that church was closed.
There was a nice view there, though.
So I just rolled back down into the city centre.
There I bought another baguette for dinner (and breakfast and lunch tomorrow) .
Then I thought it was time to go to the campsite.
Today I was on the standard route from Le Puy-en-Velay for the last day, tomorrow I’ll start with the route variant via Rocamadour. I’m sure I’ll meet fewer people then because almost all the pilgrims I meet are travelling the standard route.
I’m about to study the booklet to find out where I can sleep, on the map the next campsite seems too far away so I’m hoping for other (cheap) options.
Figeac – Cardaillac
lowest point 197m
highest point 388m
This morning, before, during and after I packed up the tent, I talked to several people from the campsite. The French with the camper next to me, English motorcyclists and the Fleming and a French friend of his. That French friend was not walking towards Santiago, he had already done that, but he was walking back home. Most people only walk there and then return home by car/bus/train/airplane.
Also said hello to Fleming, and on the way back through Belgium I was offered a place to sleep, so I will probably see him later.
After leaving over an hour later than planned, I first rolled through the centre of Figeac to get on the route. Nice thing was that now Rocamadour is also on the signs. Suddenly it came pretty close.
Before leaving Figeac, I visited the church of St Thomas des Carmes and then I continued.
It was climbing and descending again today, especially a lot of climbing in the beginning. However, I could see into the valleys, so it was worth the climb.
What I noticed along the way was that there are a lot of houses here with turrets, sometimes real old castle-like houses and sometimes modern versions of them.
Today I was very lucky in terms of fruit, I passed plum trees without an owner whose plums were ripe and also hanging at the right height that I could pick. Delicious!
When I drove into the town of Cardaillac after rolling for about 15km, my wheelchair wheels (first set of batteries) were already squeaking and just before the church they stopped. My wheelchair could not charge inside the church because of the stairs. But there turned out to be an outlet inside, just next door, and I could reach my wheelchair with charger and extension cord exactly to charge. While I waited I looked at the church, I especially liked the stained glass.
At that point, I didn’t really know what to do. On 1 set of batteries I wouldn’t make it to the next campsite at about 15km with a steep climb and actually charging took too long to leave for that campsite afterwards, I wouldn’t make it before dark. And actually I was also too tired for another 15km. The only problem was that there is no affordable place to sleep here, and even everything expensive turned out to be full I heard.
In the end, I opted to look for an unofficial sleeping place after loading my wheelchair (sat at the church for 4 hours). People from the village also said I could look for a place here somewhere.
I found a public toilet in this place with a tap and next to it is a grassy field, that’s where I went to pitch my tent. I had everything I needed here. Food I still had, electricity charged at the church and water and toilet close by here.
Now I am very tired and am about to go to sleep.
Cardaillac – Lacapelle Marival
Lowest point 354m
Highest point 566m
Last night there was rain almost all night, fortunately I had put my wheelchair safely under the tarp.
This morning too, it was still raining and I waited for it to dry around 9 o’clock. The weather forecast said it would remain dry otherwise.
After packing everything back up and loading it onto my wheelchair, I first rolled back a bit, to the medieval garden of Cardaillac. I found that really worthwhile. A beautiful garden with plants that were also used in the Middle Ages. Each plant had a nameplate that also stated what it was used for, e.g. to eat (fruit, vegetables, herbs), as a medicinal plant, dye plant, for scent, to make clothes/rope (linen and hemp), etc.
Although I live in a flat, I also have a small garden where there are similar plants so I really enjoyed looking, and next year the marigold in my garden will come from seeds from this garden. I also ate another deliciously sweet fig from the fig tree in the garden.
When I entered the garden I was alone, but then it got a lot busier and I decided to move on again.
When I left, the weather was good, a bit chilly but dry.Uphill for about the first half. I rode through the forest and it was immensely beautiful there. It also smelled so nice after the rain, then the forest smells even nicer than usual! Because it had been raining, vapour/mist/clouds also came up regularly, this made it fairy-like. Especially in beautiful parts of the forest with small steaming streams, it reminded me of dream flight (an attraction in a Dutch fairy tale theme park), only the fairies and trolls were still missing.
At some point it started to blow and it got dark. Soon I felt the first drops… that was not predicted, after leaving it was supposed to stay dry according to my weather app but nothing is as changeable as the weather!
From drops it went to a heavy downpour. I was still in time to grab my mackintosh and put my handbag in a waterproof sleeve, but I didn’t get around to the rain trousers, it was already going too fast. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long because as I struggled to climb up the mountain while the rubber hoops and my gloves became increasingly slippery because of the rain, my wheel also started beeping because after about 5km of riding uphill, the battery was running low. You can’t change a battery in the rain, but fortunately the rain subsided. Just when I saw a parking spot in a clearing, the rain stopped. Fortunately, I was able to change batteries and find other dry gloves exactly at a dry moment.
Then I rolled on, there was still occasional rain, but no more downpours, and the weather was also getting better.
A few kilometres further uphill, I noticed my 2nd set of batteries were also dwindling. But I knew there would be a church just before the highest point. There I wanted to charge for a few hours so I could get further. But that turned out differently…
The church turned out to be closed and just then my 2nd set of batteries started beeping. Almost empty. With about 6km to go.
Fortunately, I only had a short uphill stretch to go, it was exciting whether I would make it on that beeping battery, and I did!
Then I went downhill, slowly the batteries even filled up a bit again, just enough to do the short flat bits and little bits uphill between the descents. And so I quietly rolled downhill. I also left the forest behind as I descended and reentered an area of meadows with cows, horses and donkeys.
Arriving at Lacapelle Marival, the first sight was a big castle and the church. I rolled past the castle and visited the church. I also saw another 15th-century market hall.
Then I got a new stamp for my pilgrim passport at the tourist info. Then it was time to roll to the campsite.
Just before the campsite, my wheels started squealing again, but I have just enough power to make it to the campsite. I do think it’s a miracle that I just barely make it with those batteries every time.
Now my wheelchair is on the power again, charging for tomorrow. I’ll have to wake up tonight for another battery swap to get both sets completely full for tomorrow’s ride. A slightly longer ride, but a bit more downhill than uphill. So I’m going to try to sleep early again.
Lacapelle Marival – Gramat
Lowest point 274m
Highest point 424m
After packing quietly, I set off.
It was still a bit chilly at first, but soon the sun was shining on my back. That was nice because my back and shoulder muscles could use some warmth. I notice that my body protests extra now at the end of this hike, but the warmth of the sun helped.
At the village of Anglars, I wanted to look inside the church but it was closed. So I rolled on again.
Slowly it got a little warmer but fortunately it was not very hot today, a nice temperature of 23 to 25 degrees and not humid and muggy.
The route, especially the first half, was very beautiful and nice to roll, varied landscapes, small quiet roads and alternating descents and ascents.
I also rolled past a field of sunflowers still in bloom. I always love them, such cheerful flowers! Most of the fields I had come across on this trip were already bare and finished flowering.
When I arrived in the village of Thémines, I wanted to have a look at the church, but the slope was very steep. I didn’t want to go to all that trouble and then find out that the door was closed. I kept looking for a while but decided not to venture in.
I rolled on and spoke to a group of hikers/pelgrims. We told them our routes. I also mentioned that I wondered if the church was open, one of them went to check, very nice because it turned out it was a good thing I hadn’t tried because this church too was closed.
Then I rolled on again. Now on a slightly busier road, but fortunately it was still manageable.
On the way, I saw many hazelnuts and took some with me. Then I could eat them later.
In Gramat, I visited the church, which fortunately was open.
All day I was in doubt about where I would like to sleep tonight. Last time there was little choice and I was happy if I had a place to sleep, but here there were several options at different distances, but all conveniently located. I ended up going for the second-to-last place to sleep, 2 previous campsites I rolled past. The place where I am now is a pilgrims’ hostel in Gramat. I sleep in a dormitory but then have that room to myself. There are 2 other pilgrims but they sleep in the other room. The building itself is reasonably accessible but the dormitories are upstairs, fortunately I can walk up a flight of stairs.
We also had dinner together. It was pleasant.
Now I’m going to sleep soon. Tomorrow will be the last day, then I will arrive in Rocamadour and it will be over again….
Although I will still keep writing until I am back home, and that will take some time.
Lowest point 169m
Highest point 340m
Around 6.30am, my alarm clock went off. I had slept well. I wanted to be packed before breakfast and went straight to work on that. It was quite easy packing with so little stuff, the tent and accessories were not used now as I was sleeping in the hostel. The laundry I had hung on the clothesline yesterday was dry and I collected it. Just my sleeping bag, clothes and some other small stuff in the bag and then it was done. A little after 7.00, breakfast was ready. Tasty French breakfast, bread, jam and a big bowl of tea.
Then we all left, we all wanted to go to mass at the church in Rocamadour. Which started at 11.00. It was about 10 kilometres and I had almost 3 hours so it was doable. To get back on the road, I first rolled steeply up the mountain for a bit but soon it became almost flat and later even downhill.
It rolled along nicely as a result. Even though the road looked quite big on the map it wasn’t that bad, and because it was Sunday it wasn’t crowded with trucks either. So it drove fine. Arriving near Rocamadour, there was a great view of the rock where Rocamadour is built.
After enjoying the view and taking photos of it, I rolled on, down the steep slope! The view was amazing!
Arriving at the old town, I went through the gate and rolled briefly down the shopping street until I arrived at the lift, a special lift in the rock.
Arriving at the top, I rolled up to the church. It was 10.30 so I was well on time.
The people welcoming people on the square in front of the church quickly approached me. I already knew I couldn’t get into the church with my (big) wheelchair but they made sure I could park my wheelchair safely and helped me get to the top. I even read online somewhere that they sometimes carry people upstairs.
Arriving at the church, mass soon began.
At the end of Mass, pilgrims who had come on foot were asked to go forward, I also went even though I don’t go on foot but roll. The priest asked several more people if they had come on foot and from where, including me. But he had not expected the answer that I was actually not on foot but by wheelchair. Fortunately, it was approved!
A blessing was then prayed for and the pilgrims were given a picture of the black Madonna of Rocamadour and a pendant in the shape of the medieval pilgrims’ badge.
As all pilgrims were asked to the front, I also saw several pilgrims I had met along the way in recent weeks. Nice to see each other.
After the celebration, I spoke to many pilgrims and others who had heard in the Celebration that I had come by wheelchair.
Then I went back to the courtyard where I also picked up my wheelchair. I looked around some more, looked at a model of Rocamadour, had lots of conversations and took pictures (and pictures were taken of me! Gradually you get used to people wanting to take a picture of me or take a picture with me, I look like a celebrity sometimes).
Then it was time to take the lift down. There we rolled down the street a bit more, talked to more people and checked out some shops (but I’m a real Dutchman, “look, look, don’t buy!”).
After the shopping street it was time to head to the campsite, where I rolled downhill this morning I didn’t dare go up, it was a narrow but busy road, and when I went down I did have speed. There is a short tunnel in the road and there it is so narrow that I cannot be passed, downhill at relatively high speed (10km per hour) I can do that but uphill my speed there is maybe less than 1km per hour, I can’t do that to those cars, I would cause huge traffic jams. So I took the only other option, shorter (800m) but even steeper (rise of about 100m).
What a huge climb, and in the full sun. All backwards, I didn’t keep track of how long it took me but it was very long. Centimetre by centimetre, leaden, hands at the top of the climb full of blisters, but I finally made it! Thanks in part to people I spoke to during the climb, people who encouraged me and asked me about my journey. Especially with a Dutch couple, I talked for a long time while trying to move forward (or actually backwards). Pictures of this climb will follow soon because the husband took them and I will receive them by email later!
As you may have noticed, I live very frugally on the road, but I felt that with my sore hands and bright red head from the heat I deserved something so I treated myself at the top of the mountain to a delicious cold lemon water ice cream that I ate in the shade! Lovely that cold!
After the ice cream, I rolled the last 3 kilometres to the campsite.
It was a beautiful day. Now I am completely exhausted, but I have completed this beautiful journey again!
Now I am going to sleep first and start my journey back tomorrow.
Return day 1
Yes, the return journey has arrived but it will be another week or so before I am actually home. I am taking it easy travelling home and I still want to visit several places along the way. So I will continue writing daily for now.
This morning I packed up and left the campsite. First I rolled up to the hotel where my car was parked. There I thanked the Dutch owner for keeping an eye on it and then I loaded my wheelchair and all the other stuff into the car and started driving. I had set the navigation to Paray-le-Monial. Here tomorrow I want to visit friends I met on a previous pilgrimage.
First I drove to the viewpoint from where I could still see Rocamadour. There I met some people I had seen yesterday during the tough climb. Then I drove on, the first part of the route still passing places where I had previously rolled with the wheelchair. Strange to do a distance I rolled for hours in a very short time now. Pretty soon I found myself on new roads. I always drive via small roads, it does take (much) more time but it is much nicer and more beautiful driving and I still experience a lot of the landscape this way.
On the way, I saw some very strange mountains, which turned out to be the (dead) volcanoes of the Auvergne region.
I also regularly saw castles.
On the way, I stopped regularly. At a supermarket for food. I also bought delicious goat’s cheese from Rocamadour and the surrounding area there so I can enjoy it in the coming days! At lunch, I already enjoyed it deliciously!
I also stopped at a shop selling bric-a-brac. A shop owned by an elderly smoking man. I always like to see if there is still a nice treasure to be found among the junk, always fun to search among all the old stuff. but this place really only had junk, broken, a lot of filth (you could write on many things in the dust), rust and that which normally would have been nice smelt so bad because he smoked inside that I don’t want it in my house either.
But oh well, it was a nice stop again.
When I arrived at the camping municipal and set up the tent, it was still a little dim but then it quickly went dark. Again, I was just in time. It was a long day.
Tomorrow I will continue on time, then I will have some time in Paray-le-Monial with the friends and then I will continue for a bit.
Return day 2
This morning, packing was a lot easier. Putting everything in the car is less of a puzzle than puzzling everything on my wheelchair. Although after three weeks I was used to that and knew exactly what went where. Because I was packed so quickly, I was off much earlier than expected. As early as 8 a.m. I drove off the campsite.
I drove on to Paray-le-Monial. There I had arranged to meet the people where I had accidentally ended up two years ago when I was looking for a place to sleep because the campsite was closed. A woman in a wheelchair who lives with her mentally disabled brother. I love seeing how they complement each other. We are still in touch every now and then. Very nice to see them again and catch up in a mix of English and French. .
With them, I ate a delicious lunch and went with her to her volunteer work at the pilgrimage site in Paray-le-Monial. Here I watched another film on the origins of this pilgrimage site. Besides being interesting to know the origins, I especially liked the fact that the bishop of Autun, with whom I stayed in 2020 because I was also in front of a closed campsite at the time, said things about the pilgrimage site in that film.
Around 16.00, we said goodbye and I rolled around the basilica one more short lap and headed back to the car.
Yesterday, someone asked if I always load/unload the wheelchair at my stops. This varies quite a bit, at short stops where I can make do with less than 50 metres or can possibly sit down regularly (e.g. at a church where I can park in front of the door, places that are not wheelchair accessible due to stairs or a stop for lunch or a photo) I often go walking, but at place where I need to go further I go rolling in the wheelchair. I have a car with a small lifting crane for my wheelchair so unloading is not very difficult.
After I left Paray-le-Monial I went to Taizé, I’m only staying there for one night. Tonight evening prayers and tomorrow after morning prayers I will continue.
Tonight after evening prayer I am meeting up with one of the people I had met another year, he was in my group then, a group I am still in touch with from time to time. He has been living here since January to volunteer for an extended period.
Now it is just before evening prayer and I am sitting in Oyak, a kind of open-air café where Taizé visitors gather in the evening and music is made. But now it is deserted.
I have pitched my tent here at the camping area, previously I used to sleep in a barracks but now I prefer the tent.
Tomorrow I will tell more about what I will do this evening.
Return day 3
Had a lovely evening in Taizé last night.
First a beautiful evening prayer and then met up with a friend I knew from 2020.
In addition to the person, I also saw other acquaintances. Had a nice chat and an evening walk. For those familiar, there is a new path through the fields to walk to Olinda (the place where the families with children are). A big improvement, now the children don’t have to cross the road. After the walk, I visited Oyak (Taizé café) where I was treated to ice cream and drinks. If you’re reading this, thanks!)
It was late before I went to bed, past midnight.
The alarm clock unfortunately went off early, as I wanted to be packed for morning prayers. The sun was only just rising. A beautiful sight.
At 8.00, everything was packed again and I went to morning prayer. It was nice to start the day like this.
After morning prayers, I wanted to have breakfast, but first I spoke to another person I had met many times before. A woman who is in Taizé a lot during the summer season and camps somewhere else. Again, it was nice to catch up but as a result I arrived at breakfast a bit late. Too late, in fact. The sandwiches were already finished. Fortunately, there was still plenty of sweet Taizé tea and chocolate bars, fortunately I still had bread from yesterday in the car so it worked out that way.
After another short visit to the shop/exhibition of the brothers’ pottery and other art, it was time to leave Taizé.
Apart from a few short stops and a longer stop at a supermarket for groceries (I always like to get some French produce to eat at home later), I drove all day through beautiful French landscapes and old villages. It wasn’t until around 19.30 that I arrived at the campsite in Neufchâteau.
Those paying close attention and looking at the map to see where I am may have noticed that I deviate quite a bit to the east. This is not accidental. In fact, just before starting the return journey, I decided not to go straight home but to drive via Düsseldorf.
From today until Saturday, there is a very large trade fair there for wheelchairs and other aids for the disabled, the Rehacare.
Because my wheelchair and especially my emotion wheels (wheels with electric assistance) are starting to get old and less and less reliable (this trip, among other things, the remote control for the wheels broke down, the batteries lasted even less time and one is completely broken and one keeps giving error messages with charging but is not completely dead yet) I have to start looking for something new. My current wheels are no longer made and the new version no longer has replaceable batteries and also less range.
Anyway, I find it very important to know what is available in the field of aids, as I use other aids outside my wheelchair as well. So that’s why I decided to go to that fair and thus make the detour via Düsseldorf.
My tent is up now and I have already closed everything because it is raining and thundering heavily. In any case, I notice that I am getting more northerly, fortunately it is becoming less hot. I do like the fact that it is cooler than in the south of France.
So wonderful to sleep, with the gentle tapping on my tent, I’m sure that will work (although I’ll have to get out quickly for the toilet block. Hopefully between showers!).
Return day 4
I wrote this blog last night, but as I was camping in a beautiful remote area in the Ardennes, I had no internet. That is why I am only posting this now.
It rained all night, but fortunately everything in the tent stayed dry. This morning it was still raining heavily, but between two cloudbursts I managed to get everything in the car dry, only the tent is quite wet. I put it in a waterproof bag, this time to make sure the wet tent doesn’t get all the other stuff wet.
After everything was packed, I drove to the village of Domrémy, the place where Joan of Arc was born and grew up. I had a look around there (in the rain) and had a quick look at her birthplace from the outside (I had been inside it a few years ago). In the small church where Joan was baptised, I especially liked the stained-glass windows telling her story.
Along the way, we enjoyed the scenery. It also became drier as the day progressed, although there were occasional drops. Had several rest stops along the way. Mostly roadside parking spots and a supermarket where I grabbed some food.
After many hours of riding, I left France at the end of the afternoon and rode a very small stretch (fifteen minutes at most) through Luxembourg and now I’m in the Belgian Ardennes.
I will arrive in Düsseldorf tomorrow in the afternoon. Saturday to the fair. Just to add to the previous blog. I am going to the fair to see what is available and what is suitable, but I am not going to buy anything.
Buying my own is not an option for me, aids like wheelchairs are very expensive but in the Netherlands you can apply for an aid at the municipality. If there is a good reason to start using a particular aid, there are often options for them (or the health insurance company) to pay for it (although it is sometimes a lot of work to convince them that it is really necessary).
I then usually get the aid on loan. Also, my current wheelchair does not really belong to me but to the municipality. The municipality is then also responsible for repairs. So I don’t have to pay for it myself (only a small monthly contribution, but that’s just under 20 euros, and as a good wheelchair with e-motion wheels costs thousands, it’s not that much). In that respect, things are well organised in the Netherlands, especially if I compare this to many other countries like France where one gets 600 euros from the government and then has to pay the rest themselves. I think that is also why I see few French disabled people on the streets.
Now I am going to sleep soon, tomorrow a new day.
Return day 5
After leaving this morning, I drove through the beautiful Ardennes. When I packed my things it was fortunately not raining. Once in the car, it started raining again pretty soon. After an hour I arrived in Banneux, a Marian shrine in Belgium. Here I took the wheelchair for a short walk around the grounds.
It is a beautiful and somewhat wooded park with chapels here and there, small but also substantial buildings. I went inside a couple of them. Not just to pray, but because of the heavy rainfall also to take shelter! One chapel had a stained-glass window with the image of Joan of Arc, which reminded me of yesterday.
There was also a Stations of the Cross and a well, and lots of statues of Mary. All because of Marian apparitions in 1933.
It was very quiet in Banneux, only a few people were walking. I was also here a few years ago and it was a lot busier then. Even the shops and restaurants around the park were now almost all closed and there was not even a mass (only if there were groups, but since there were none, there was nothing).
After more than an hour, I drove on again.
Off to Germany and Düsseldorf to be precise. Tomorrow I am going to the tools fair there but today I met my son there who had come here by flixbus.
Next few days we will camp together, go to the fair and check out a few other things.
So I’ll keep writing for a few more days.
We are now at the campsite in Düsseldorf. We are practically on the Rhine, so it is quite a special campsite. Everything here is prepared for flooding. Many buildings are elevated or can easily be removed, even the power cabinets are high up.
Now we catch up with my son and go to bed early, because tomorrow will be a fun but tough day.
Return day 6
Here finally is my blog from yesterday. I was so tired last night that I didn’t have the energy to write any more.
After waking up in my tent, we packed up. We actually wanted to stay 2 nights to avoid extra packing/unpacking but unfortunately, due to a big party at the campsite, this was not possible.
So then we packed for the exhibition day anyway.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to take the tent with us dry, as it kept raining, so I put it in the boot next to the wheelchair.
We got breakfast at the supermarket and then went to the rehacare fair.
I’ve been there before but it’s still an experience. Normally I only occasionally see a wheelchair, but at the Rehacare there are just as many wheelchairs/other disabled people as healthy (as far as is visible) and/or walking.
Huge numbers of the world’s device manufacturers and suppliers are present, large and small companies. There were also many Japanese and Korean companies, who were looking for importers for their often very innovative aids.
There were many ordinary aids, familiar to me, but also very special ones such as a two-wheeled electric balance wheelchair (based on a segway) that allows you to go up and down stairs (which I tested, quite exciting to climb stairs in a wheelchair! ), a modern rollator with delft blue print (from a Dutch company in Delft), electric off-road wheelchairs, mobility scooters that looked more like a cool motorbike than an aid, wheelchair wheels that make it easier to brake, cars and adaptations (including the ID Buzz, which looks like a nice wheelchair bus to replace the Fiat Panda, if I win another lottery. 60,000 euros I don’t have on the shelf, unfortunately). There were also little handy things like a toothbrush with built-in extraction system for bedridden people and others who can’t spit anything out, adapted cutlery and other small aids.
Besides the things mentioned, there was much more to see. I also met other people with disorder Ehlers Danlos. It is always good to meet others and exchange experiences.
Late in the afternoon, we were a bit worried about finding a new campsite and the weather did not seem to bode well either. So we finally made the decision to drive home.
And so it was that we got home around 10pm.
So that’s why I was so tired and didn’t write anything anymore.
It was nice to sleep on my own bed again, although I also missed the fresh air of sleeping in a tent. I have been away for exactly one month.
Before I close, I want to thank everyone who has been reading along and especially those who have responded via email, this website, Facebook and Instagram. The responses were heartwarming. Especially in the difficult moments, those reactions helped me to keep going and renewed the courage I needed to reach the top.
Unfortunately, you will have to miss my daily blog from now on. Soon, I will write another closing blog but first I will take a good rest.
Those of you who have subscribed to the newsletter on the homepage will automatically be notified when I post something new. So if you haven’t done so yet you can do it here.
See you soon,
oktober 22, 2022 door rolstoelpelgrim
I finally had time to write the retrospective on the route Le-Puy-en-Velay to Rocamadour, the past beautiful journey.
After returning home, right away the usual busy life started again with all kinds of appointments I had postponed because of the pilgrimage. But I finally have the concluding blog with all the figures and facts like locations, distances, costs, highs and lows and I end with a retrospective of this pilgrimage.
But first let me say this: I have put all the blogs of this year neatly in chronological order on this page .
During my pilgrimage I was asked if it could be made possible for people to view the photos in larger format and I have made that possible on that page too, just click on the photo you want to view and it enlarges.
I have also added maps of the route.
So worth a look! (Unfortunately not yet in English and French but that too will come soon!)
First I’ll start with all the info from the last trip:
Locations and distances
Day 1 Le Puy-en-Velay – Bains Afstand: +/- 14 km
Day 2 Bains – Monistrol d’Allier Afstand 17,6
Day 3 Monistrol d’Allier – Saugues afstand 19,85
Dag 4 Saugues – Chanaleilles Afstand 15km
Day 5 Chanaleilles – Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole Afstand 25km
Day 6 Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole – Aumont Aubrac Afstand 16km
Day 7 Aumont Aubrac – Nasbinals Afstand 24km
Day 8 Nasbinals – Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac Afstand 17km
Day 9 Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac – Saint-Côme-d’Olt Afstand 17,6km
Day 10 Saint-Côme-d’Olt – Estaing Afstand 25km
Dag 11 Estaing – Entraygues-sur-Truyère Afstand 15km
Day 12 Entraygues-sur-Truyère – Cassaniouze Afstand 23,7km
Day 13 Cassaniouze – Conques Afstand 12,73km
Day 14 Conques – Flagnac Afstand 26,27
Day 15 Flagnac – Felzins Afstand 15,6km
Day 16 Felzins – Figeac afstand 17,8km
Day 17 Figeac – Cardaillac afstand 14,16
Day 18 Cardaillac – Lacapelle Marival Afstand 15,7km
Day 19 Lacapelle Marival – Gramat Afstand 20,23km
Day 20 Gramat -Rocamadour Afstand 16,96km
Total: 369,2km in 20 dagen
Average 18,46km a day
Conclusion, in the end I still rolled a reasonable average distance. Especially since I climbed quite a bit in the central massif, my distances were often not very long.
The highest point was 1341m.
Costs and places to sleep
Day 1 Le Puy-en-Velay – Bains Camping 9 euro
Day 2 Bains – Monistrol d’Allier camping 6 euro
Day 3 Monistrol d’Allier – Saugues Camping 6 euro
Day 4 Saugues – Chanaleilles with the tent in a meadow 4 euro
Day 5 Chanaleilles – Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole 12.50
Day 6 Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole – Aumont Aubrac camping 6,80
Day 7 Aumont Aubrac – Nasbinals camping 5,70
Day 8 Nasbinals – Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac camping 6,50
Day 9 Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac – Saint-Côme-d’Olt 10 euro
Day 10 Saint-Côme-d’Olt – Estaing camping, nobody present, therefore not paid.
Day 11 Estaing – Entraygues-sur-Truyère camping 6 euro
Day 12 Entraygues-sur-Truyère – Cassaniouze 10,50 euro
Day 13 Cassaniouze – Conques pilgrim’s hostel, free donation*
Day 14 Conques – Flagnac 8 euro
Day 5 Flagnac – Felzins 10,45 euro
Day 16 Felzins – Figeac (Semi-)wild camped near public toilet on edge of village
Day 17 Figeac – Cardaillac 10,50 euro
Day 18 Cardaillac – Lacapelle Marival 15euro
Day 19 Lacapelle Marival – Gramat Pilgrim Inn, free donation*
Day 20 Gramat -Rocamadour 10 euro
*at free gift, I give about the average of what I normally spend on costs.
Costs 152 euro total
7.60 euros on average per night.
The campsites were more expensive than previous years, 2021 I paid an average of 6.87 euros. I also rolled through a more expensive area, On river Lot it is very touristy and there are very few municipal campsites in that region. Hopefully next year it can be cheaper again (or I can wild camp more often, as I quite liked that camping near a public toilet!)
In terms of food, I noticed that it was also more expensive, like in the Netherlands, but also because I encountered few real supermarkets and did my shopping mainly in small village shops and bakeries. But in the end, I turned out fine.
I did not keep exact track of my food costs, but on average I bought a baguette every other day (65ct to 1 euro) and once every 2 to 3 days a piece of cheese (1 to 4 euros, depending on which cheese and how much I bought).
In addition, occasionally some fruit and vegetables for days when I found too little fruit in nature. especially carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers I bought because these are convenient to eat on the road, on average maybe 50ct per day, especially the winter carrots cost almost nothing and were also convenient on the road, at least carrots don’t crush when you put them in a bag unlike tomatoes! That’s why they were my favourite vegetable on the road. furthermore, I often found plums, apples, figs, blackberries and nuts on the road, delicious!
I also always have salted nuts/peanuts or a bag of crisps with me (I think during those 20 days I spent about 6 euros on those). Not so much to satisfy the cravings but mainly for salt cravings. I eat that especially after a big climb where I need to replenish salt and fluids at the summit, in addition to the electrolyte (sports) drink I also drink daily and the occasional piece of chocolate or something sweet that gives energy.
As for hot (evening) food, I only eat that occasionally and then it is usually something like couscous with dried fruit. i had brought 4 portions from home and still had 1 portion left. I am often not hungry for hot meals after rolling and prefer to eat raw vegetables, cheese and bread and then quickly crawl into bed.
I come to an estimated figure of about 3 euros a day, about 60 euros for 20 days. Doesn’t differ much from last year when I was at 2.77 euros a day.
How do I look back on last pilgrimage now.
First of all, it was a very beautiful journey. I enjoyed the beautiful nature of the Massif Central.
There were highs and lows. Literally and figuratively. Literally uphill and downhill. Although the slopes were tremendously tough I made it and that made me feel like I am really doing things I never expected to be able to do, a kind of victory over myself. When I started 2016, I never thought I would be able to roll through the central massif above 1300 metres
In terms of figurative highs and lows, there were not very specific things. There were little things against it, such as a broken tent pole, rain showers at times that were not convenient, difficult routes (although sometimes that is also a highlight when it did succeed) and, in the last few days, a wheelchair tyre that kept slowly deflating (I now have new tyres!). But fortunately there were no major insurmountable problems along the way, everything was solved. In terms of highlights, I find it hard to really name one thing, there wasn’t really one big special thing. Sometimes a highlight was the beautiful butterfly on a flower that stayed put so I could take a picture, a cool breeze or shade on a hot day, the peace and quiet in the forest, cooling down in a river after a hot day, a good conversation with a pilgrim or local person, a quiet moment or singing in an old church. Many little daily highlights that also made this pilgrimage unforgettable again.
I do have to say that I found this year’s pilgrimage different from previous years. Before, I hardly met any others and often had to search for places to sleep and other things.
This route was a well-known and busiest route in France, it is 1 of the five major routes through France described as far back as the Middle Ages.
Because this was such a well-known route, I met lots of pilgrims here and all shapes and sizes. From very frugal pilgrims camping in the wild and lifting their belongings on their backs to people sleeping in expensive hotels and having their rolling suitcases transported by bus.
All the crowds on the route had advantages and disadvantages for me. It was an advantage because there were good facilities along the way such as accommodation places, water filling points and public toilets, and after a day of rolling there was always someone to have a chat with. But at the same time, I also found it a disadvantage precisely because there were so many facilities.
It was so well organised on this part of the route that there were a lot fewer occasions where I had to take the plunge and ask for help.
That sounds nice but last years my best experiences and encounters had come about because I sometimes had to put more effort into finding places to sleep. I had to speak to someone for help (e.g. filling my water bottle) or ring someone’s doorbell, which often resulted in nice conversations whereas now I just got it from a tap at the roadside. Several times in recent years I was invited to people’s homes for dinner or to sleep on the road. On this (too?)much walked route, because there are dozens (sometimes hundreds) of pilgrims walking per day per stage, many people along the route are a bit “pilgrim tired”. They see so many pilgrims that they can’t bring themselves to invite them and keep somewhat aloof. I also noticed this at campsites. Other years, I often had nice conversations with the locals and campsite owners in my broken French, now that was also sometimes there but less than other years. I liked it most when I was a bit off the route, then I noticed the difference immediately, both at the campsites and with the locals.
I also really enjoy always rolling alone for hours, which was possible even if I followed my own modified route. but if my route was parallel to the official route, I almost always saw a pilgrim in front and/or a pilgrim behind me. I really enjoy running into another pilgrim from time to time but on this route I sometimes found it a bit too much of a disadvantage.
But although those drawbacks were there on the route, I mostly had a very good trip. Beautiful nature, cute little churches and impressive basilicas/cathedrals, nice encounters and wonderful peace and quiet in the remote places.
Everything has been tidied up again and is ready for next year and the route book is also back with all the pilgrim’s books from previous years. In early 2023, a new edition of the booklet I’m going to pilgrimage with next year will come out, so I still have to be patient. And then it’s waiting for me to be able to leave again.
If it all goes according to plan, it will be sooner than you are used to because I expect to go next year in spring, between Easter and Pentecost.
Then I hope to roll from Rocamadour to Lourdes via the cycle route “along old roads”. it’s nice that there is a cycle route for this leg, which are basically fully accessible for me with the wheelchair, is better than the walking routes. also, I expect this to be a quieter route because the booklet of this cycle route is only published in Dutch and it’s not one of the 5 main routes like the stretch I rolled this year. I’m already looking forward to it again!
And then this was the real conclusion of pilgrimage 2022, Le Puy-en-Velay to Rocamadour.
Until then, I will be doing other things, first next week a different kind of pilgrimage, not rolling by wheelchair but by van.
Next summer in Portugal are the World Youth Days (WJD), a big international Catholic youth gathering that attracts hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world (last time in Europe, 2016 in Krakow, there were 3 million people). I have been asked to join a tour across the Netherlands in preparation and promotion for these days, taking a big wooden cross (blessed by the Pope) and visiting all the dioceses in the Netherlands. This tour will last 3 weeks (started last week) and I will join this 2nd week. We will visit youth/student groups, homeless shelters, monasteries and other communities, among others.
I am leaving today and later this week I will tell about my experiences in a new blog.
This then was the end of the 2022 pilgrimage. April 2023 I expect to continue again, this can be read on my blog and here