Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 9: The Hunt for Gold Bond

Dscn9731bAugust 20: In the morning, I took another shower. I had taken one the evening before, but I sweat like a pig the whole night. By morning, the temperature had gone down, but it was still warm in the room, and I was as sweaty as if I had been hiking all day. At least this time, however, my tired feet had recovered somewhat and I could take the shower standing up.

I went down to the dining area for breakfast where I ate cereal, fruit, yogurt and bread and washed it down with orange juice. The guy asked if I wanted an egg, so I said sure, boil me up an egg.

I knew almost immediately that the egg wasn’t hard-boiled after I started cracking open the shell. It looked hard-boiled, but it was all squishy and I knew the center wasn’t cooked through. I thought I was getting a hard-boiled egg. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do with this egg.

As I picked off the egg shell, the man called out to me across the room, saying something in French of which I understood not a word. Everyone else in the room stared at me, and he said some more things I didn’t understand, and one of the other people at a table that knew a little English tried to explain to me that the egg wasn’t hard-boiled. Really? He put me on the spot and embarrassed me in front of a room full of people to tell me something I had already managed to figure out on my own? What I really wanted to ask was what I was expected to do with the egg if taking the shell off was such an unpardonable sin.

I ended up choosing to sprinkling a little salt on it and try to eat it like a hard-boiled egg anyhow. The yolk, naturally, came loose with the first bite and it dribbled out onto a small plate. The rest of the egg tasted well enough, though. And I swore I would never ask for another egg in France for as long I should live. Clearly, I had no business messing around with eggs.

I walked into Figeac, and tried stopping at a pharmacy along the way. I was using up my Gold Bond at an astounding rate, and even the baby powder I carried was starting to run a little low. I figured a pharmacy would be my best bet for finding a replacement. (I’d keep my eyes open for that sort of thing in other stores and supermarkets but never found anything resembling it.) The door was locked, but the hours on the door suggested that they should have opened a half hour earlier. I saw a woman inside apparently setting up for the day, as if she was about to open it an any minute, so I stood by the door waiting patiently. When she saw me, she shooed me away with hand signals. I was most confused. Is she going to open the store or not? Then she pointed to another sign on the door, written in French and I didn’t understand at all, and made more motions with her hands for me to go away. These people have a strange way of attracting business, but I took the cue and left.

I was not liking Figeac very much.

I lost track of the blazes for a couple of blocks, but then I picked them up again and started following them until I reached a sign that pointed to Santiago—in the completely 180 degree opposite direction from where I was walking. Once again, I stood there, confused. I just came from that direction, and I knew I didn’t come from Santiago. Reading the rest of the signage, though, I figured out what had gone wrong when I lost the blazes for those crucial couple of blocks. In Figeac, GR 65 (which I was following) and GR 6 (which I was not following) intersected. The blazes I picked up after losing them were for GR 6, so I had been following the wrong trail out of tail. Again. Why can’t the French use different colors for different trails? I was getting annoyed at these intersecting GR routes!

Dscn9742bFortunately, though, one good thing the French did—they installed this sign that led me to realize I was following the wrong blazes out of town. I went back the way I came, figuring out where those “missing” blazes had gone to, and led myself the correct way out of town.

Later in the morning, I arrived in the small town of Faycelles, which was notable for having a small shop and water. I filled up with water and picked a few things out of the shop for lunch. Then I noticed a post office a short ways away—an amenity that my guidebooks said nothing about!—and I popped in to buy more stamps. Which is when I noticed a rubber stamp sitting on a table. I left my credential back by the little shop not wanting to carry my entire pack to the post office, so I had them stamp my journal instead. Post offices—of course! Another place to get stamps! I don’t think this was an official stamp used to cancel postage, but rather seemed to be the “city stamp” for anyone who thought to ask for it.

It was another hot day. The forecast I checked in Figeac, before I left town, predicated a high of 97 degrees, and I believed it. Still, it was cooler than the last couple of days. I took it slow today, though, having learned my lesson in overexertion the day before. I stopped to rest often, and in the small town of Grealov, I stopped for two hours at the hottest part of the day. They had a small picnic area with grass and trees, but the thing that really sold me was that the park had potable water. A faucet with essentially unlimited cold water. Or at least unlimited cool water, which was still a vast improvement over the 97 degree water in my pack.

So I laid out in the shade and mostly spent my time writing postcards, telling everyone that Grealov had all the charm and beautiful of Nigeria without the oil. And really, there wasn’t absolutely nothing charming about Grealov except the water. I loved that water. Piped right out of the ground.

Along the way, I met someone who spoke absolutely no English, but we tried to communicate anyhow and if understood her correctly, she was actually planning to hike all of the way to Santiago—which makes her the very first person I’ve met who told me that they’d be hiking the entire distance. And that, of course, is assuming I actually understood her correctly. For all I know, she might have been telling me that was planning to section hike all the way to Santiago. But I considered it a small victory. A fellow comrade in arms who actually intended to hike as far as I would. Maybe.

Late in the day, I stopped for nearly an hour in the small town of Cajarc. I bought some food at a small store to eat for dinner and breakfast the next morning. I was out of cereal, so I scavenged for things to eat in the morning. I also wandered over to the pharmacy—this one was already open this time, so I didn’t get shooed away this time around.

I was looking for Gold Bond—or at least something that might work like it. Being unfamiliar with French products, I looked around for a “foot care” section. Or at least a section that had products with lots of feet for photos on the labels, and I found that. But they were all lotions, or for blisters and such. I couldn’t find anything that was a powder like Gold Bond or even like baby powder. I also found a section with lots of baby-related items and looked for baby powder there—I knew there were babies in France so surely they had to have baby powder—but once again I came up empty. Not as strong as Gold Bond, but it would do in a pinch.

Dscn9753bI came up defeated and finally asked one of the girls behind the counter if she spoke English. No, she didn’t, but she brought someone else out who knew “a little” English.

“What are you looking for?” she asked me.

“Do you have anything like baby powder?” I asked.

“For babies?” she replied, seemingly confused.

“Well, no. It’s for me, but something like baby powder.”

She walked over to the baby section and look around the area I had already looked.

“I want to use it for my feet,” I told her. “A foot powder?” I asked.

It was like a light come on over her head. “Talc?” she asked.

“Yes! Talcum powder!” I exclaimed. “That might work!” Not exactly what I wanted, but when in France, it was close enough for my purposes. =)

She went in back—apparently talcum powder is a drug that requires strict controls and can’t be left in the front where just anyone might grab it an run—and returned with a relatively large bottle of talcum powder. I really liked those tiny bottles for backpacking purposes, but I figured I should take what I could take. “I’ll take it!” I said.

I also grabbed a small bottle of hand sanitizer sitting at the register, paid for both, and left the pharmacy. I might make it through France after all. =)

I pushed on, just past the small town of Gaillac, setting up camp at the first sight after town suitable for stealth camping. It wasn’t an ideal site with nothing in the way of views—trees surrounded me on all sides. And I could hear traffic on the busy highway coming out of Gaillac, although it wasn’t so close to disturb my sleep. I was even close enough to town that I could hear dogs barking in the night and the church bells ringing.

Later, long after darkness fell, I saw a light coming from up the trail. Who was it? What were they doing out here this time of night? I was camped about 15 feet off the trail—in easy view of the trail—but I figured the darkness would likely hide me unless he looked directly in my direction. As he got closer, I could see he used a headlamp and carried a heavy pack. A hiker? It had to be 10:00 at night. What was a hiker doing at this time of night? Ah… trying to beat the heat of the day, no doubt.

I hiker passed me without noticing me, and I was tempted to call out just to see if it would scare the crap out of him, but I figured whoever it was probably didn’t know English anyhow so I let him go unmolested. I was curious about the night hiker, though. He’d been the only one I’d seen on this trail. Most hikers on this trail pretty much call it quits by three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Late afternoon and evening I almost never see any other hikers. Hiking well into the dark, though—that’s extraordinary!

Much of the trail are small roads like this. Which are nice—wonderful
views, easy, relatively flat. My only real complaint is that the
asphalt can be tiring to walk on and it soaks up the sun’s heat
like you were on a conveyer belt into an oven.


The small town of Faycelles recently restored
this tower.


On hot days like these, shaded paths were wonderful!


Just 1,241 kilometers left until I reach
Saint Jacques de Compostelle! =) I like watching
these signs count down the miles. The first one I saw
was over 1,500 kilometers.


The rock formations around Cajarc were quite nice,
although this photo doesn’t really give it justice. I took it
near sunset and the lighting was terrible. And I couldn’t
get it all to fit in my camera frame anyhow.


A small chapel just outside of Gaillac.


The trail leading out of Gaillac.


Sunset, just before I went into camp. You can see fields of crops
being watered if you look at the foreground really closely.


My campsite for the night. This location actually isn’t as slanted
as it appears in this photo. I was a little surprised at how steep
the slope looked in this photo!


Papercrafts by Cindyellen said...

So, if you ever decide to eat another egg in France, here's the way to do it:
break open just the top, take the small spoon (usually around somewhere on the table), spoon the egg out onto the ubiquitous bread, smush it into place, and enjoy!

(had a British mother -they eat them the same way. we used to call it dippy toast)

Dilton Martian said...

Open your egg as tiggermama says, but cut your bread (or toast) into thin fingers, dip into the yolk and eat. No-one in Britain and their right mind has a hard-boiled egg for breakfast :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like something I used to enjoy growing up in Vermont 40 years ago that we called a soft-boiled egg. I remember scooping the contents out and eating on toast.

PI Joe

Unknown said...

I still eat soft-boiled eggs. Shell them, chop them up with a fork, add butter, salt and pepper and they are delicious.


Rabid Quilter from California said...

Have you ever seen an egg cup? Some people collect them. It's a little 'pedestal' for an egg to rest in while you tap a spoon-sized hole in the top of the shell of the egg so you can scoop it out with your spoon. There's also an apparatus that looks like scissors with flatter blades to cut the top of the egg off. I've personally never used any of these things nor have I eaten a soft-boiled egg but I've read of them.

boblovesmusic said...

There's a metal band based out of Figeac called Orob. Thought you'd be interested to know hehe