Best to leave Conques in the early hours to get the big climb out of the way. Yeah, even moi.
The departure is by one of those famous pilgrim bridges. Here I waved goodbye to two new Alsatian mates who were, ahem, wanting to walk a bit faster. We’d only met the night before, but one night’s friendship on the Camino is equivalent to a month in civilian life.
A last glimpse of Conques, the Jewel in its Shell, through mist.
Trekking once more through the wide green Aveyron…
Decazeville is the large town ahead. The common advice is to by-pass the nineteenth century industrial centre, now a bit shabby and depressed, with a good rugby side and sizable population of unemployed.
Hey! Add some surf and that could be Australia!
So it’s on to Decazeville.
Louis XIV and successors gave mining rights to their mistresses. Cheaper than Fabergé eggs, no doubt. In the nineteenth century, one enterprising aristocrat who ended up with the rights decided to develop the region in a big way. Coal deposits were large, and for quite some time generated exports and powered a thriving foundry. Some heavier industries sputter along, though the last mine closed a few years back.
It gave me a buzz to shop that evening in an Aussie-sized supermarket, complete with teenage mall-rats, in weather that had grown suddenly balmy.
Conques was certainly behind me now.