It took a while to properly leave. I packed incorrectly. Two bags is madness. I dragged them to the first roundabout thinking I don't need to be carrying seven shirts, three blank notebooks, two coats, army boots, two different shower gels...I'd forgotten how to move, six straight months, ish, in one place. I didn't have a tent.
The first car that stopped contained two people I already knew. I got in. They took me to their house and gave me lunch and a tent and asked why I had so much baggage. I didn't know.
-I hate baggage.
-There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
I made a bag of unnecessaries and left it under a table.
I walked from their house to Lablachére, it didn't take long, I was knackered and full to the face with sunshine and lunch.
I accidentally walked onto a campsite and gave a man eight euros for the use of some ground.
Paying for camping is not in the plan. But not planning anything is also in the plan. And his site was in the way of the woods I was planning to camp in. He immediately gave me a bunch of grapes and I felt like I hadn't made a bad choice.
I watched Lablachére. It was quiet, I was looked at. Much happened last week, at the fete, some people were refused service and became ultra-disgruntled and drove a car into the middle of the square everyone was dancing in. On the noticeboard is a letter from the mayor, it says paroxysm, unprecedented, barbarism and disgust.
Outside the campsite in the morning was a donkey in the back of a transit van. It was munching a newspaper. Across the road were more, chained up. The market was on. I squeezed through it on my way out of town. Then I squeezed back into it and bought a baguette and sardines and sausages. I started walking towards the sun. There were hills and valleys and trees and something smelled nice.
After however many miles twelve kilometres is I crossed the Chassesac. I sat down on a rock, ate some sausage and some biscuit. Half the trees were almost yellow. Finger-sized fish pointed upstream while brown leaves floated down past them.
A Heron was out, practising Heronry, taking off, landing and being massive.
I got in the river, then out, then in, then out, then sat with just my feet in. The Heron did the same, I'd like to say, but it was out of the way, I couldn't tell.
The river sounded like it was chewing. The shade slid around. I slept.
I walked into Les Vans when I woke up. I had a beer at a table. The Harley Davidson woohoo club were rumbling around town. A small boy was practising crossing the road, on rollerskates. After a few minutes his mother looked up from her drink and saw him, and the queue of vehicles on either side of him, and went over to smash his face off. He stopped where he was and covered his head with his arms. She dragged him to the kerb and put the skates next to a bin. He went back across the road and pondered. She went back to her drink.
I walked out of town the way I came in, to four stone walls surrounding some thorny overgrowth. A path went through a doorway in the back wall. It led to some trees. The ground was brown crunchy leaves. To the right was another doorway to another four roofless walls and some more thorny growth. To the left was the wall of someone's garden. I put my mat down under a tree and used my tent as a pillow. A dog wouldn't shut up. The tree dropped an apple on my shin. The leaves waved in front of the stars. I went to sleep.
After breakfast I walked up a hill overlooking the town and put my thumb out, at the correct angle, and after two minutes a 4x4 stopped.
A grey man opened the door and moved his luggage off the back seat.
-I'd like to go to Montpellier. Or Alés. Or Nimes. Or south.
-Ah. I'm going to Orange.
-Is that south?
-It is the same latitude.
-Okay. Good. I'll go.
His name was Patrice and he was going to work the wine near Orange. His family run a bed and breakfast on a mountain. It's called Stevenson, after RL, he might've stayed there when he wrote his donkey travels, or near there, I couldn't be sure, but I was enthused.
-It's a good book!
-I regarded it recently!
The hills and the grapes and the sunflowers flew past for an hour and he dropped me at a roundabout next to a train track.
-Many journeys here. Good luck!
I was still enthused.
Two minutes later a white car stopped. A blonde woman was at the wheel saying something about documents.
Her name was Pascale and she was going to Avignon so so was I. She was from Algeria and America and France. She was enthused because I said I was from Manchester. Twenty years ago she spent some time there, it's better than London, the bus system is good, and the theatres, the music...
-Yeah it's a great place.
-You live there still?
-Nah I moved out eight years ago
-I didn't like it.
She overtook everyone else.
-We are there in twenty minutes or I am late.
-This is good.
She told me the names of many beautiful places on the south coast. I didn't take any notes. I could feel my brain forgetting.
-You have a guidebook for your journey?
-You should have one, I think.
-I hate guidebooks.
-They tell you where to go.
-They only suggest.
-I don't like their tone.
She said the names of some good guidebooks and dropped me in the centre of Avignon.