Afoot and light-hearted à Saint-Privat-d’Allier
As Walt Whitman wrote, “Afoot and light-hearted I take the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”
DAY 1 aux Saint-Privat-d’Allier (24km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
I began, I was bold, I ventured out. I remember well that first day. It was the start of five weeks devoted to walking the Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
The walk from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Privat-d’Allier is approximately 24 kilometers and most of it is uphill, not a difficult climb but an elevation gain nevertheless.
On the way, I look for signs. Where to go next. However, signs must be read with caution. On might find the path simply ended. Just road and then trees and then silence. The red and white stripes along the Chemin mark the way. Two stripes say keep going; an X means to stop and go back or do not go any further; and two stripes and one angled means, “Turn left” or “Turn right.” Yellow stripes represent the GR65, another path. Often it coincides with the Chemin de St. Jacques but not always.
The sign of the cross dominates the way and reminds one of the original intent of a pilgrimage. But these signs must be read with caution. They appear often at junctions. The history of Christianity is filled with examples of people who misread the cross.
To be away from the countryside is a slow death. Our stomachs live in the city, but the heart it belongs in the country. One can walk over the land, look at the view, wade in the stream, and enjoy the meandering as if the countryside belongs to no one but you.
The stones of broken buildings speak, their silent language. They are a sobering reminder of the fragility of our past accomplishments. They challenge our wish for fame and power and wealth. One who quickens the pace past a ruin or a desecrated church or a manor falling in disarray should be shamed.
Finally, one arrives in Saint-Privat-d’Allier, the first stage of the Way to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.