Monistrol d’Allier to La Clauze
It took considerable willpower to get out of bed. Our body screamed and every muscle felt that it needs a break. We planned to walk 19 kilometers from Monistrol d’Allier to La Clauze and it was already almost eight o’clock. Just a few minutes ago Patrick helped us and coordinate all that is necessary with the Malle Postale. Now that we knew that our suitcase will proceed on it’s way we could leave. We crossed the bridge and on the Allier. This bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel in a manner that resembles the Eiffel tower in Paris, replaced older bridges that helped passengers on their way in the old days. Once we entered the forest the climb started. It was a strenuous hiking, up and up in zigzags between the trees and the black granite rock, crossing the road and back to the dirt path. At midway we made a stop and looked back to the valley that we left only a few minutes ago. Green, deep, with the sparkle of the water -it was beautiful and peaceful.
Half an hour of climbing brought us to a chapel – La Madeleine. The stone facade clings to the cliff’s wall and a few stairs leads to the entrance. The door was locked and we had no accuse to stay longer.
As we were climbing there were more pine trees and more light and suddenly we heard a beautiful voice singing. On a small clearing in the forest, facing the gorge, stood a woman. She was singing in a clear voice. We listened quietly and as she finished we stood and talked. We learned that a few years ago she had to stop her pilgrimage due to some personal problem. Now she resumed from the same point where she left and feels so grateful. It was very moving and filled our hearts with soul inspiring feelings and thoughts. And yet, the climbing of 500 meters started to seem infinite (about an hour and a half from Monistrol) when at last we arrive to the top.
Now the path continued along the side of the fields, crossed some narrow roads and led us to the nice hills above Saugues. We were tired and it was getting warm. I was dreaming of a cold beer and some rest. Strange wooden sculptures caught our attention for a moment and then we were climbing down the steep hill and into town. Near the church (which has inside a somewhat distasteful glass coffin with a dead saint) stands a Tour. This is the remain of the castle that stood there till a great fire (in the late 18 century) demolished the castle and many other buildings. By the time we exit the church it was around 15:00. We saw our Swiss friends sitting in the sun drinking cold drink but decided to give up the beer and continue. The Gr 65 follows the road and the hiking up the hill was quite hot and boring for the next hour. At last we left the road. Now we were climbing on a hill – up and up -the pain in my knee was getting stronger and there was no sign of La Clauze. Our friends caught up with us and we climbed the last kilometer together. For me, out of the 19 kilometers of the hiking today this last kilometer was the hardest.I was exhausted. But- here we were and the Tour of La Clauze stands tall in front of our eyes.
The Tour of La Clauze has an exceptional character. This is an octagonal tower, built on granite rock and demonstrates the skill of the medieval builders. Our B&B – A La Coustette – was next door to the tour. Brigitte and Bernard, our hosts, accepted us with warmth and took us to our room. It is hard to describe how happy we felt when we saw the modern, clean and nicely decorated house and the spacious room( The twin beds room has a big window with view to the meadow). The shower was pampering and we had a good rest until dinner. It was a lovely surprise to discover that our friends and us are dining together with our hosts. We enjoyed a great company, good homemade food that Brigitte cooked and tasty wine. Around ten o’clock we could not keep our eyes open anymore and fell asleep.