Tuesday, 18 June 2013
After a hashed-up map resupply, solely the blame of the Luxembourg City postal service, of course, Jake and I were back on the path. With a refreshed supply of cartographical literature and bags filled with condiments, abducted from the hotel breakfast buffet. On our way out of the city we stopped at AS Adventure, a huge outdoor shop, where I bought walking poles for the hills that were soon to bend our knees. Raffaele, a hairy gent who ran though the specs of the walking aids, was so delighted that their were young people outdoors that he slipped two boxes of Compeed (blister protection) into Jake's bag, telling him to “just smile” as he walked out. He did, and we were not arrested.
We traipsed up a dirt track brimming with heavy-duty machinery, making the most of the fast growing pines. On one occasion a truck hammered past. As the dust settled, the familiar red and white of the GR way markers came into focus; this symbolised our return to the French countryside.
Whilst in Fonty we bought arguably the most refreshing drink ever consumed; peach Fanta. We drank the chemicals on a crumbling wall, spilling with small purple flowers and backed with tall grass.
Our first few days in France were studded with small villages and towns, whose stunted streets were clad with houses coated with jasmine, wisteria and ivy. In one small village, to my delight, a leathery skinned man with stubble and a more managed mustache, stepped out from a Boulangerie with a baguette under his arm. I desired a beret to be flung headwords, but alas.
On Saturday 08 June we walked 42 Kilometres with packs budging, near splitting at their seams. After getting lost, we finally found ourselves back on the map. I celebrated by buying, and eating, a whole round of Camembert, which saturated my body with fat. That night we welcomed a sleep away from the trees, after several consecutive pitches in conifer forest. Dominique, the drummer of Fisc, a French 80’s rock and roll band, allowed us a spot in his field overlooking vineyards and forests. The following day I woke to a crippling back pain and an outrageous thunderstorm. Jake dragged me, and all of our gear, up the street, into the 1500’s village of Jussy. Eliane, Dominique’s sister, and her son, Pitou, homed us for close to two days. We ate freshly made food almost continually, whilst learning much about the history and culture of the Lorraine region. Eliane and Pitou stood at their doorway as we bid them goodbye, reacquainting ourselves, somewhat gingerly, with the south leading path.
The mosquitoes were prolific, feasting on any skin that was left uncovered, making wee stops a particularly unsatisfying event. Further down the track, Jake gifted me with another fantastic fall, seeing both feet flung skywards and finishing with a hearty splat onto the mud below.
On our 60th day of walking, I pulled up once more with a bolting pain in the small of my back. I walked like a chameleon, as Jake took my bag. He reminded me of a pack horse (save for the stark difference of him tucking his shirt into his underwear).
The following day saw my back strengthen, as the hills grew stronger. We passed alongside potato fields ordered with blackthorn, who’s fallen blossom painted the path white and pink. Red deer, dragonflies of emerald and azure, stoats and kites frequented our view. We picked cherries and wild strawberries, which we ate at lunch, with the never tiring baguette and sausage, on a grassy verge beside the track.
Using a 1:2500 IGN map, printed before we were born, we skirted the northern fringes of Nancy, arriving in Liverdum just before the rain came. We spent the evening speaking to two German brothers, who were on a two-year walking adventure of Europe and Northern Africa. At dusk the clouds transformed- pink, purple and rainbowed – the old town of Liverdum lit romantically on the hills below.
Nights in the forest had taught Jake and I several things: there is little better to fall asleep to than the sound of birdsong; roe dear wake up early and noisily, and finally, a bag check before departure is wise, as fermenting slugs, left to pool at the base of a bag, certainly tantalize the gag reflex.
We stopped by four metal silos, just after the hamlet of Fleur Fontaine. An old lady tended to her vegetable patch and a small girl rode her bike. We had walked 1,392 kilometres and had 1,392 kilometres to go. The insignificance of the location added to the poignancy, as too did the jam sandwiches.
Looking eastwards we began to see the undulations of the Vosges Mountains. As each day passed, their peaks grew stronger and our excitement heightened. We woke at sunrise and ran to the Etanges de Lordre, seeing amber waters splashing with hungry catfish and unfortunate pond skaters. The white stalks, iconic of the area, stood tall and the moorhens busy. That afternoon we leapt into the waters of la Petit Etanges and absorbed the bliss. We spent the evening surrounded by men, whose wine-filled bellies hung over minuscule Speedos.
On a roasting hot Tuesday, the foothills of the Vosges Mountains finally greeted our worn-out boots.