Day 24: Mormant

Number of kilometres today: 22.5

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 626.7

Total steps since Canterbury:  888,090

I left Chateauvillain at 11am for a shorter and slower walk today. Only 22 kilometres to Mormant, around 5.5 to 6 hours. It was already warm, the skies again cloudless and the sun high.  As I was walking with a mild dose of gastro that started as I arrived in Chateavillain last night, I needed to go a bit slower today. Fortunately I had a supply of Buscopan and Gastrex with me in my medical kit which kept me walking although feeling unwell.

I was a little nervous about this morning's walk through the woodlands.  The guidebook specifically warned about hunting that can happen on any day for wild boar and deer and recommended that I wear bright colours and not stray off the paths.  I have walked through woodlands in previous days where I have heard various gunshots.  The guidebook didn't warn about those so I thought this must be the more popular area for hunting.  It wasn't today anyway.  As I approached the woods, I heard one gunshot and then I heard nothing further. I should have been more concerned about the possibility of getting lost in the woods.  I zig-zagged my way through them following the instructions in my guide book and the signs painted on trees as my map did not show any of the paths.  I only went wrong once, turning a sharp left instead of walking through to a clearing then turning left.  After walking a hundred metres or so on the wrong path and not seeing anymore signs or my next turn I turned around and walked back to the last sign and corrected my mistake. Or I should have been more worried about the electric fences and their gates I had to pass through.  I am still alive and unscathed to tell the story.

Other than walking through the small town of Richebourg, I have spent all of my walking day in the woods which offered relief from the constant sun that has battered me on the days I have spent considerable time walking on minor roads without any shade.  They are a beautiful place to walk.  The earthy floor is damp and often muddy and carpeted with rotting leaves, yellow, tan, brown; toadstools big and small, in clusters and alone, some tan others pale grey making it their home. The leaves that grow thickly on the trees upper branches catch the sun, glowing radiant green and filter softer light to the forest floor. I walk, grateful for the shade they provide, feeling the coolness that they exude around me.  The woods are quiet and still with only subtle movements as beetles climb under and over leaves rustling them as they go, the wind occasionally rushes the tree tops and crackling as twigs fall;  a hawk swoops then rises out of sight, invisible birds chirp occasionally.  I was alone amongst all of this, stopping to feel the magic of its stillness and quiet and drink it in.

I emerged from my second woodland this afternoon and walked into the little hamlet of Mormant where I was approached by an old lady who didn't speak any English but knew me as a pilgrim and showed me over to my accommodation for the night. I was relieved the "oui" and "demaine soir" from my telephone conversation in French last night really did mean I had a room.  I soon understood it was her daughter, "ma belle fille" who ran the accommodation and would come by later.  When she did, the first thing Annick did was made sure I had accommodation for tomorrow night and made a phone call straight away to arrange it. 

This is a tiny village.  All that is here are a cluster of old houses, a farm and the ruins of an abbey.  It is a place I never would have visited if it wasn't for this pilgrimage and the path I have walked that has brought me here.  It may be small but it is big on crumbling charm and beauty.  I feel so rested and peaceful just being here.  Blessed to be here.  Blessed to have spent so much time deep in the woods alone.  Blessed by the kindness of people I am meeting on my journey.

No photos to share today as I have no internet connection again and may not for a few days as I stay in pilgrim accommodation and gites that may not have internet.  Yes, tomorrow I am giving it another shot and staying at a Hebergement Pelerine provided by the Presbytere in Langres.  There are only two beds and it is provided by the church to bonafide pilgrims so I expect a better experience this time.

If all keeps going well, I am 5 days away from Besancon, catching up with my pilgrim friend Jacques and getting my new boots. And even more incredibly this means I am 7 days away from reaching Switzerland.  I have almost walked through France!  I have felt and lived every step of it but it still feels a bit surreal.  I was going to start my French diet tomorrow (I say that every day) but I guess it really can wait one more week.  I can't wait to find a patisserie when I arrive in Langres.