An Unexpected Encounter

Vincent stretches the arigot

Today is my granddaughter Bella’s second birthday. She had a very tough start but is now just a little determined red-haired delight. I will be with her in spirit as she celebrates with her father, aunt Meredith and Carroll, her grandmother.

We plan to walk about 28.5 km today to Aumont-Aubrac. It’s a long way but today is Good Friday and there is some kind of religious processional there, which I would like to see. I am off by myself at 8:45 and walk all day alone. We are still high but the terrain is more forgiving. It is sunny, windy and after 30 minutes I take off my fleece and add it to my pack. The season has changed again. It is warmer and the trees are well into bud here. At noon I stop for a break in a small town, have a great omelet with cepes (local mushrooms), then see my “family” outside and call them in to the place I am eating. They all stop for lunch as well. The restaurant owner is so pleased that he tells me he wants to hire me to bring in customers, then gives me a small bottle of good red wine as a thank you. It’s “Cote du Vivarais, 2006”. Of course I have to add this weight to my pack. But I expect to drink it later.

I decide since it is still a long way – another 15 km – and I am doing well, to send my backpack on to Aumont-Aubrac. It’s expensive. If I had sent it from yesterday’s gite first thing this morning, it would have cost 8 Euros, but now it will cost 20 Euros to send it half the distance. The lower price is a daily service and this price is for a cab.

Just before I get to the road to Aumont-Aubrac (I can see the sign for the town) I have an experience for which I have absolutely no training. The question is: “What do you do if you encounter a wild boar 50 metres from you on a trail?” I am less than 700 metres from the road into Aubrac when there is a commotion in the brush just ahead of me to the right. Then two wild boars burst out of the brush. One is partially obscured in the ditch, the other stands facing me on the trail. The whole incident takes much less time than it takes to tell it. I have read and been told repeatedly that wild boars in Europe can be very dangerous and to avoid them at all costs. I do not appear to have an option at the moment. Later on I will think about that tasteful monument to the Canadian pilgrim gored and trampled here today by a wild boar, but this is not my thought at the moment. He appears to be about 30” high and about the same across, perhaps 200 pounds of angry (I am assuming this) black pig. He has yellow tusks and is looking directly at me. We are both surprised. But this is his territory, not mine. My instinctive and immediate reaction is to yell and to bang my poles together with a loud clatter in front of me. He takes this well and, after a few seconds, charges back into the underbrush on the side of the trail. I am delighted by his choice, since I don’t have a plan B, I am too tired to run and, in any case, there is no place to run to. I have no time to be scared … now. That comes later. For the rest of the trail, less than 10 minutes, I keep checking over my shoulder to see if he has changed his mind, but there is no sign of him.

I walk on in to Aumont-Aubrac, find our gite – Le Calypso – where my backpack is waiting for me. The place is good – clean, four to a room, sheets, blankets, towels, our own shower. I share with Karsten, Jocelyn and Sophie. Sophie gives a foot massage to Karsten, Karsten does the same for her, then she does my feet. I ask if I can adopt her.

We have been told that we must eat at the restaurant La Ferme du Barry. There are ten of us at the table and there is plenty of wine. The owner and chef, Vincent Boussage, makes a local specialty called arigot. It is a combination of mashed potatoes and local cheese (the arigot part) that is pureed into a rich substance that stretches for feet. It is almost like taffy. The picture shows Felicia watching in awe as Vincent lifts the arigot. This is followed by a salad and the best fish ever. This hotel, gite and restaurant has a wonderful … and well-deserved … reputation. We would have stayed here, had there been room.

Enroute back to our gite, we pass a group of people with candles waiting to enter the church. I am too tired to join them. Back to our own gite, where I spend a warm and restless night. Today was a long walk.

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