Today is a full rest day starting at Auberge Elichat in St Engrace. The land lady is a bit of a demon, not impressed with my zero french, but she’s ok. Very officious with all the walkers, guess she sees to many smelly sweaty ones go by to really care. The Auberge is just opposite a Roman church very pretty little valley.

I’m not moving except to take a side trip to the La Verne cave system. The largest, deepest in the world. The discovered area to date covers 453km, can fit the Eiffel Tower in and Notre Dame.

I head down a couple of km stretching my legs to the La Verna centre. No one is there except an elderly lady in her camper van. She speaks good English and says they will be open soon.

Her name is Michelle, she was doctor. She finds out too noisy in town, sometimes drives 4 miles to sleep in van for peace, but she thinks she is alone too much. She invites me in for coffee and biscuits. Spots me crashing limping after yesterday’s walk and insists on giving me some knee gel. She had a small dog and a cat on a long leash which is definitely not happy about it. “I am the servant of my cat” running around the van to get this and that. Happy to spend time with chatting about research, genetics, Brexit, the state of the world. Her parents were very poor working the land, she desperate to get way and study, now misses the stimulation of work, does not like the small minds of her village, wishes she could live in as bigger city but feels too old to move.

I can feel all the chat is enough for her, she is distracted by her cat. Trying to figure out where she is will go next today. The cave people turn up and I say my goodbyes. Unfortunately the tours are all booked up for today, so ok head of to another cafe for as lazy lunch.

Towards the end of the day walkers start to soar dragging site legs heavy packs collapsing at the tables. Philippe (of father/son duo) turn up, he shouts to Boris “cathereen is here!” A couple of days leapfrogging on the trail and it is as if we are all old friends, trail traumas shared.

Roren a new face arrives. He is skinny with a light pack. He is running the he GR10 starting in Hendaye. Training so he can gain some kind of official classification.

Marie-Helene and Eve (man) arrive, but neither can speak even the tiniest bit of English, so pretty basic exchanges.

Max and Aurora are on their final day. Max back to Beirut, surfing studying starting a business. Very knowledgeable on the geopolitics of the region. I discover the secret to their speed each day is not just young legs, the second part of their day is fuelled by pot, easing the pain. They have been good company.