Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 5: A Tampon By Any Other Name

Dscn8985bAugust 16: I woke up early, got on the Internet briefly, then headed down for breakfast which was included with my stay. It wasn’t a particularly appetizing breakfast, however. It consisted of bread with butter and jam—you did get a choice between strawberry or apricot jam, though. As a side note, let me say now that I’ve seen more apricot products here in France than I’ve ever seen in my life. Doesn’t matter what it is—granola bars, jams, cookies, and more—if there’s a way to incorporate apricots into it, the French have done it. This doesn’t bother me, however, since I rather like the apricots. =)

We did have the choice of tea or coffee in the morning, neither of which I’m a fan of, so I had water instead. Bread and water. You’d think I was in prison with food like that.

But I needed my energy so I slathered on the jam and ate lots of bread—I had to slather in the jam to get myself to eat enough bread to feel somewhat full.

It rained for most of the night, but by morning, the clouds had cleared and it turned into a beautiful day, and I was on the trail hiking by 9:00 in the morning. A late start for me since I usually woke up with the sun, but still relatively early in the day.

I stopped at a small store in Saint-Chely-d’Hubrac where I bought, among other items, some Babybel cheese. I do like my Babybel cheese, although I typically only buy it when I’m hiking. In this case, I could tell there was a “prize” of some sort in it—in a plastic, round container. Probably some sort of cheap kid’s toy, I thought. That’s fine, though, I can just throw it away. But I was curious about what it was, so before I left town, I popped it open.

Inside was another (smaller) plastic, round container. Kind of like those Russian dolls, except containers. Okay, now you guys are just messing with me, I thought. How many more containers until I get to the prize?

There was, however, a clue. Along with the second container was a piece of paper, and the most prominent word on it was “Tampon.” And I started to get a bad feeling about this “prize.”

Dscn8992bWhat kind of sick joke is this? I thought. Who the heck thought it would be a good idea to include a tampon with Babybel cheese? The one thing giving me some hope was that I couldn’t possibly imagine how a tampon could fit in such a tiny little container. At this point, I started taking photos. I didn’t know what would happen when I opened the next container, but I knew I wanted photos regardless of the results. =)

So I took a couple of photos, set my camera aside, then nervously opened the second container which contained…. a stamp! A rubber stamp! Yes, that’s right, a tampon, in French, is a rubber stamp. Oh, priceless. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. =)

The stamp looked like a flea wearing glasses and carrying a piece of bread. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be, but that’s what it looked like to me, and it has the words “Des Vacances de Malade’Mental” written around it, which—as best as I can figure—roughly means “vacation of a mentally sick person”? That makes no sense… Perhaps “vacances” has something to do with “vaccination”—which could be to encourage kids to get vaccinated? I don’t know. I really don’t. The stamp is as mysterious to me as why they would call it a tampon.

Even more amusingly, now I walk into tourist offices asking for tampons. “Please!” I beg them, “Give me your tampon! Tampon! Tampon!” Words I never thought I’d utter in my entire life, and now I’m saying it on a near daily basis. (As an aside, I’ve been told that the proper pronunciation for “tampon” does not include the “n”—it sounds more like “tahm-poh.”)

With all that settled, I went back to walking. Late in the morning, I stopped to get water at a shelter in L’Estrade, which used to be a communal oven. I unclipped my Waldies to get at a water bottle and forgot to reclip them when I started hiking again.

I hiked further, passing the two girls riding horses who had stopped to rest. I gave them a hearty “Bonjour!” but didn’t stop to chat—they knew no English so it hardly seemed worth the effort. Two miles after I got water, I felt something hitting the back of my leg, and when I looked at my shadow on the ground, I saw a Waldie swinging wildly on the back of my pack, reminding me that I hadn’t reclipped the Waldies to my pack.

I dropped my pack, but one of my Waldies was missing. It was somewhere behind me, lost on the trail somewhere in the past two miles. Two miles. These were my camp shoes. I bought them while hiking the Appalachian Trail. They came with me on the Florida Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. They were with me when I darned near drowned on the West Coast Trail. I’d carried these darned camp shoes for over 6,000 miles. I couldn’t lose one of them now.

Dscn9004bWhat to do? What to do? Maybe if I waited long enough, the girls with the horses would come down the trail behind me with my shoe, recognizing it as something I lost? But what if I lost it even before I passed them? I really didn’t want to backtrack two miles then have to get back here for a total of four miles out of my way. But I really, really wanted my camp shoe back as well. At least I knew it was somewhere on the trail, not hidden off on the side of the trail. It had been almost all downhill since I stocked up with water, though. I’d have a lot climb to get back to the lost shoe, then a long drop again. Ugh… Decisions, decisions…

I finally decided to leave my pack, hidden off on the side of the trail, then hike back and look for my Waldie. If I were really lucky, maybe it only fell off recently and I wouldn’t have to backtrack the full two miles.

Unencumbered without my pack, I charged up the trail quickly. The trail was wide enough for off-road vehicles to travel, so I had to keep reminding myself to scan the entire width of the trail for the lost Waldie. I’d hate to walk passed it just because I didn’t see it on the other side of the trail from where I was walking, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the hike and just watch your feet and where your next foot would land. If I ran into any hikers heading downhill, I could ask them if they saw the Waldie and how far away it was.

I didn’t see any hikers, nor even the girls with the horses, but about ten minutes into my backtracking—maybe a half mile from where I discovered it was missing—I saw the Waldie, sitting just left of the center of the trail. YES! I did the happy dance of joy, took photos of the newly found Waldie (I figure it would be useful in “missing” posters if I ever lost it again), then picked it up and tore back down the trail to my pack.

The pack was right where I left it, but I was now running far behind the schedule I had set for myself. Not that I had to be anywhere by a certain time, but it threw my mental accounting off.

Near the end of the day, the trail went over a bridge that crossed the River Lot and several dozens of people were swimming, laying out getting tans, and generally frolicking in the sun, and I was a little disappointed to note that none of the girls were topless. What’s up with that? I was in France for crying out loud. Since when did France become the center of all things conservative?

I stopped a bit earlier than I originally planned, not the least because of my unexpected Waldie detour, but also because I found a nice camp spot at the top of a hill with trees to provide shade until sunset (it was hot out!), on a thick layer of soft grass. I did have to get through a barbwire fence and didn’t have a full allotment of water, but I could deal with that. And, more importantly, looking at the map ahead, options for stealth camping would likely be much worse ahead.

I threw out my groundsheet, sat down, took off my shoes, then took off my socks and examined my feet. They were sore, but that’s to be expected when one hikes 153 kilometers in just five days. I was more surprised that they otherwise looked pretty darned normal. No blisters, no hot spots, no nothing. If anyone looked at my feet, they’d probably think I sat on a couch for the last five days. I was a little disappointed, actually. I already had a naming scheme decided for my blisters. I would give them French names when I was in France, and Spanish names when I was in Spain. Blisters on one foot would be named after men, and blisters on the other foot would be named after women. And the very first blister I planned to named Saint Jacques. I was starting to worry that there never would be a Saint Jacques…



Don’t worry—it’s NOT WHAT YOU THINK!!!! =)


A cemetery along the route.


This little hiker oasis used to be a communal oven.




The lost Waldie… has been found!


Apparently I wasn’t the only hiker who lost
something on the trail… but I bet this has
a better story with it!


Some accessories on a trailside cross.




The church in Saint-Come d’Olt is well-known for its
twisted spire. I think a contractor made a mistake
but didn’t want to fess up. =)


The trail often runs through small alleys in towns.


Dscn9109bAnd not a topless girl in the bunch!


I decide to set up camp… on the other side of the
barbwire fence. You know, where the grass is greener. =)


I took this photo while eating dinner. =)


Anonymous said...

Des Vacances de Malade’Mental
a vacation of the mentally sick? that's what we think that means.

the pink dragon

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the marketing gaffe -

Can't be all bad if you got another Find!


Fluffy Cow said...

Tampons and Fluffy Cows? BEST POST EVER!!

Anonymous said...

I remember when a good friend of mine brought her new, painfully shy boyfriend over for dinner. We played Pictionary after supper. He nearly died when he drew his card, and, red in the face and with much head shaking and sweating, he set out to draw his picture.

Now, in Canada, Pictionary has English on one side of the card and French on the other. Yes - this poor guy was trying to draw a tampon. A nightmare for him, but the funniest round of Pictionary I've ever played.