I started out on the Camino on 7th September (having had a long day flying into Lyon from Manchester). I took the train out to Le Puy (which is famous for its lace and Puy lentils) where I went up to the cathedral to get my first stamp in my Camino passport and wondered around to look at the famous black Virgin Mary statue.
Le Puy is roughly in the centre of France, and is know for being a traditional starting point for the Camino all the way to Santiago. To be honest though, I only started from Le Puy, as I haven’t been to much of central France and I wanted to try and hit 1000 miles and this nicely took me to my target (on top of the Portugual and Camino de Santiago).
Having started out on my walk at 11am I started to confidently follow the easy signs on the route out of Le Puy. This was my first mistake. The walking pathways in France are very easily labelled. However, a number of different walks have the same colored paths but they go in completely different directions. So, the GR65 (which is the Camino route (mostly)) and GR470 can lead you in completely different directions. Along the walk I got to take in some breath taking views over Le Puy, then further onto narrow winding pathways. Although there were ominous grey clouds hanging over my head, I managed to stay dry all day.
So after having walked for about 3 hours I was starting to get a little concerned as I should be getting closer to completing my 23.5K for the day and arriving in my Gite at St- Privat- d’Allier. It was at this moment I finally took out my good old friend google maps, and it showed me I’d been contentedly walking in the wrong direction. For quite a while (massive British understatement!). Google happily showed me I had another 4 hours to go, to get back on my pathway. With a backpack of just under 30pounds (or 13kg) this was not a good introduction to my first day on the Camino. I quickly started to follow the route google showed, and slowly but surely got back on the right path.
I joined back onto the GR65 at roughly St- Christophe- sur- Dolaison. As it was nearing 3pm by this point I was completing the walk alone. But as I started walking through more and more fields I could see the French farmers coming out to continue working their fields. At one point I got to see a field of corn being harvested and got smothers in bits of chopped up green leaves.
As I slowly neared St- Privat- d’Allier I really started to question what on earth I was doing. I’d been walking for 7 hours at this point, run out of water and food several hours previously and felt wholly unprepared for my 1000 mile walk. It was at this point I saw the view out across the gorge in St- Privat- d’Allier. I stopped for a minute to enjoy the view and remembered this was why. It will continue to be a hard journey, but there will be moments where I’ll get to see something incredible.
During this walk I’ll be raising money for the Syrian refugees, if you’d like to sponsor me at all, please find the link here.