Saturday, 21 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: GR 7 to Langres

The trailer was indeed God sent: it was raining all night long and several this I was woken up by something crashing on the metal roof - probably some tree branches. Better being under a stable roof than under a Silnylon tent in high winds. No one came to bother me in my trailer: in fact, all the time from getting there around 6 pm and leaving at 9 am only one person passed nearby on an ATV and he did not notice me. I saw similar trailers later that day and apparently they are refuges for hunters. When I got up at 7 am it still looked rather gloomy outside. No way I was leaving this cosy shelter in bad weather. I started to repair my gaiters. But to my big surprise the forecast turned out to be true. At 9 am it started to clear and there were even blue patches in the sky. I left quickly as I wanted to get in and out of Bourbonne-les-Bains, another spa town, to do resupply.

It was still raining on and off the whole day making me wonder whether this bad weather would ever stop. The GR 7 follows a dead straight old Roman road for several kilometres. Most of it is paved now, but in these conditions this turned out to be great because everything was flooded after the big deluge at night. This was cattle country and there were raging torrents in the meadows. I saw a whole cattle trough completely inundated. I guess the rain last night would not have been so bad but it had been raining for a week now and the ground was totally saturated. The trails were in incredibly bad condition, too. This turned into a mud bath and walking around mud pools and puddles slowed me down a lot.

I still made it to Bourbonne, another rather run down spa town that is full of holiday apartments. But again I could not find a fountain with the famous waters, but I found a supermarket. After a quick resupply I was on the road again looking for a campsite.

 I want to mention that the forest here is some of the weirdest and most inhospitable forest I have hiked through. First of all it is all deciduous forest whereas I love pine forest because of its nice and soft duff. To make things worse most of it is shrubbery which makes it difficult to find a site big enough. But even in the old growth areas the ground is totally overgrown with ivy and black berries. But the very worst is the soil: it is some sort of clay that has been worked over by thousands of moles creating an incredibly bumpy  surface. And for a reason I do not understand at all there is no duff whatsoever. I wonder what happens to the leaves. So in order to find a campsite I have to find a noon overgrown spot and then flatten the clay ground with me shoes - which makes a mess out of them. And no matter how hard I try there are always some unforgiving bumps left and the ground is hard, wet, cold and uncomfortable.

Along the canal
Next town stop was Langres which was not very inviting. In order to get to Langres you follow the shoreline of the reservoir of Lac de Liez and this was dragging on forever. Then you follow a canal for a bit before you start the ascent into Langres which is perched on top of a little mountain. But I was hungry, very hungry and although the mediaeval city wall is beautiful I was more worried about eating. I was even so hungry that I went into the first cheap restaurant in the city centre - only to be told that they were closing. Great! It was 2 pm now and everything was closed. Google maps showed a big supermarket in the centre that only exists in Google maps, but not in reality. By now I  was desperate, but luckily at 2.30 pm a little shop opened and I could finally eat. Close to Langres is a Gite d'etape called Ferme Sainte Anne. As it was very cheap I had been deliberating back and forth wether to stay there or hike on but by now I was so destitute I decided a needed a real bed for one night. At the tourist information they wanted to charge me 1 € for making a reservation, but what the heck.... Unfortunately, no one answered the phone which saved me 1€ but made me wonder whether I should go there. The lady at the tourist information had at least one good news: there was an Aldi on the way...

Ferme Ste Anne
One hour later I arrived at the gite. There was a car parked there (good), but no one opened despite my ringing and knocking (bad). Finally I walked around the house and found a nun in the garden. She turned out to be half deaf but very friendly. The property had formerly belonged to a convent and some nuns where still living nearby. Finally I was taken care of and after a phone call to the gite keeper I was given a very nice room. In fact, I had the whole huge house to myself for only 16 €! I spent a leisurely evening after a long shower and washing my clothes. And sleeping in a real bed felt heavenly.

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