TRAVEL: BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Our busking pilgrim walks from Besancon to Dole, with a few ups and downs along the way
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The Independent Travel
13 June

An idyllic day's walking, the first in a week heading south-west along the river Doubs. A narrow valley flanked by frowning limestone cliffs, golden wheatfields and deep-green woods, frogs calling from the riverbank, buzzards mewing in a brilliant blue sky. The tarmac towpath shimmers in the heat: this would be perfect cycling territory, but it's hard on the feet. By 2pm the heat is crippling. Stop on a shady shingle bank and watch the local kids throw stones - and each other - into the river.

Press on in the evening sunshine to just outside the village of Chaleze. Ask a local: "Is there anywhere I can camp here?" "Yes, my back garden." Spend the evening playing basketball with his children and helping them with their English homework. A hint of panic in the air: their exams start tomorrow.

14 and 15 June

Besancon, a city overwhelmed by its colossal 17th-century fortress, now home to the museums of local history, natural history and the Resistance, an insectarium, noctarium and park. Oh, and the zoo. Spend the afternoon in the Resistance museum - not for the faint-hearted, it portrays resistance, collaboration and the Holocaust with equal thoroughness. Emerge greatly sobered, ask a local priest if there's anywhere for pilgrims to sleep here. Eagerly, he leads me to the side of the citadel hill. "Voila!"

It's a cave. Merci, mon pere...

Spend all 15 June busking. Approached by a classic tramp: unshaven, ragged, smelly, does he want money? No, he's canvassing for the Greens. Now I understand their slump in the polls. After last night's accommodation, opt for the luxury of the campsite, "a short walk" from the tourist office. Follow the signs ... and follow the signs ... and arrive two hours later. Back in Chaleze. I have to laugh, it's that or fire-bomb the tourist office.

17 June

Past the village of Evans to the grotte d'Osselles, home to 3,000 fossilised cave-bears and 30-odd children aged two to four, whose happy voices (and wails) fill the air. Feel like I'm trespassing on the set of Snow White, especially when the teachers start singing "Hi-ho, hi-ho..." The caves are magnificent, full of multicoloured rock formations like a thousand veiled statues. They extend for miles. I'd love to explore, but the guide keeps us on a tight rein. Pity.

18 June

Reach Dole, ancient capital of the region. Stop a passer-by, ask if they know a cheap hotel. Horrified stare, then, "Sorry, did you say brothel?" Evidently my French needs some work.

For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website at www.netplay cafe. co.uk.bonewalk

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