The Corbieres, south of Carcassonne. Known to tourists as "Cathar country" (the heretics again), full of "Cathar castles" and "Cathar abbeys". All built by the Catholic conquerors who burnt the Cathars.
Nice to see the tourist industry's as historically accurate as ever ... I follow the "Cathar trail", which looks authentic, ie: unused for 700 years. No track, just rocks and thorns. Crippling heat. Streams dry. Blisters grow.
Sod this. Hobble straight downhill to a valley of vineyards. Refill bottle in a wayside cemetery. Nothing I can do for feet. Reach camp-site dehydrated, weary, aching all over, morale abruptly quenched. Blisters like golf balls. No way I'm walking tomorrow.
Visitors! Holidaying in the region are friends made in April: Bart the Belgian, Tine his wife, and their five-month-old daughter Manou - my god- daughter whom I've never seen. They trek, she rides in the rucksack. A born mountaineer. She only cries in flat countryside. It's wonderful. I play with Manou. She laughs all the time. Who cares about blisters? My morale's come back. I can keep walking.
Walk on. Mistake; the Pyrenees start here. Castles tower on crags all along the route - Termes, Peyrepertuse, Puilaurens, all beautiful, all high above the plain, all off-limits for camping. But I camp and leave at dawn. Worth the aching legs for the views.
Left foot responds nicely to treatment (iodine, lambs' wool, plaster - tres eco-friendly). Blisters callous over and wear the boot away (a fair revenge). Right foot still blistered, but stops hurting. An improvement? So I think ...
Approaching Montsegur, last of the Cathar castles. A good path for once. Except for my right foot. Pain starts in the heel. By lunchtime the ankle's throbbing. Mid-afternoon, I can't walk, under the plaster my heel is green. Either I'm turning into a rhododendron, or this is serious. There by the wayside, it's surgery time. Good taste forbids description. Afterwards, apply iodine - but can't get boot back on.
Limp into the village as the clouds roll in. No doctors this high up. Urgent need: shelter, a bed, time off to recover, but here the path goes straight up to the heights and stays there. Autumn's threatening. Suddenly Santiago seems a long way away ...
For information on the charity walk, visit the website at www.netplaycafe.co.uk/ bonewalkReuse content