In which the tired and footsore English Paul reaches Limoges, France, and expostulates on the value dichotomy of physical stress

Paul Holder July 24 at 7:44am

Hey Y’all,

After eight solid days of walking I reached Limoges yesterday morning, notching up 195.71 miles in the process, which I am amazed by ! Aside from a few cuts and a million stings I am faring pretty well and really happy . I went south from La Rochelle to Rochefort, from there heading east through towns of Saintes, Cognac (where, as we all know, milk comes from), Angouleme, Rochechouart, and about a million sleepy villages.

The weather for the most part has been sweltering, cloudless skies and unremitting sunshine, which made it really hard work given that for the first few days I was crossing open countryside (sick of sunflowers and hay). Then on Wednesday I had to walk in the most torrential storm I’ve ever experienced. Thunder was literally shaking the ground ! Last couple of days have started getting hilly and east of Limoges it gets higher as I enter the northern foothills of the Massif Central. Anyways, a brief summary of the goods and not-so-goods so far:

Goods :

  • Feeling of complete unbounded freedom
  • The immense calmness that comes over me every time I enter a forest
  • Flat open countryside as far as the eye can see making me feel like my mind goes on forever
  • Sleeping under a tree not even in a sleeping bag in a churchyard, looking up at clear night sky and feeling closer to the MAGIC then I ever have before
  • The River Charente and my love/hate relationship with it
  • My new found love of the morning
  • My new found fondness for insects (my only companions)
  • Washing under one of those massive water jet things in a cornfield
  • Seeing loads of wild deer
  • Creeping into the grounds of a castle at night and pitching the tent next to it

  • Staying in a Gites (B and B) that was stupendously gorgeous and having supper made for me by a sympathetic proprietor, who also charged me much less than the going rate
  • Lying next to a lake in the evening sun and feeling awesome
  • Singing ‘All By Myself’ at the top of my lungs
  • The bread – nobody does it better than the French


Not-so-goods :

  • Sweating/dehydration – I’m drinking on average 6 litres of water a day and still thirsty ALL THE TIME
  • Loneliness – only sometimes
  • Having to take 10 mile detour because the bridge gondola thing I needed to cross was shut
  • Losing my self inflating ultra lightweight very expensive sleeping mat on the third day
  • The lousy footpath markers – sometimes all you get to follow is a faded red mark on a tree surrounded by thick foliage
  • Getting lost and having to hack my way through dense foliage that went over my head for 2 hours
  • Getting barked at by every dog – strangely demoralising after a while
  • Having to sleep in a bus shelter with a hedgehog trying to get at my food
  • The lumbago – oh the lumbago

I’m all good. I think I pushed it too hard this first week or so. Realised I’m being too goal-oriented and not giving myself time to enjoy. Will slow down once I hit the mountains for sure. Trying to not think of home so much too. I keep having imaginary conversations with some of you.

Sorry I’m crap at describing stuff. Please send me messages and texts and whatnot because it gets real lonesome at times. About to upload some pics. Sorry for quality, or lack of. Oh and people of Wales, your brothers and sisters in France need your assistance. So far I have seen only 7 sheep in the whole country. Act now before I have to get Geldof involved .

AND PLEASE DONATE www.charitygiving.co.uk/paulholder – was very saddened today to see no one else has chipped in since I left La Rochelle. Seriously, when I’m walking and it gets real hard, thinking that some good will come out of this ridiculousness keeps me going. Even just a couple of quid each will spur me on.

Love you all, except those I don’t

Paul x

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