Number of kilometres today: 21.93
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 290.07
Total steps since Canterbury: 411,127
Number of dog attacks today: 1 (muddy paws and big kisses)
Number of dog attacks cumulative: 1.5
Number of times lost: 1.5 (not lost but went the wrong way and recovered)
After the rain comes sun. And after the rain comes a whole lot of mud and I spent a large part of today's walk either dodging it or trudging through it carefully so as not to slip and fall. But where there is mud and lake-sized puddles there are other wonders to be found; giant snails quietly glide between blades of grass, tiny brown frogs leap and dive beneath the puddles surface disappearing into the muddy spume and the giant orange slugs slither along the mud.
Today was a short walk day, only 19 kilometres to a little village called Trefcon. I backtracked because of mud and to find the Menhir megalith in Doingt so I walked an extra 2 kilometres. When I say Trefcon is little, I mean little. Think a cluster of houses around a church. There was no point in rushing here so I slept in (until 7.30am) and then wandered around the very charming Peronne centre ville
During medieval times, Peronne was a fortified city, although all that is left of the fortification is Porte Bretagne, the road to Britain. It was pillaged many times over the years and virtually destroyed during World War 1 and again during World War 2. There is a castle that has been turned into a museum, Historial del la Grande Guerre 1914 to 1918. I wandered arounds its walls reading various informative plaques. During WW1, the Australian Army 5th Division captured the small village of Doingt, just a few kilometres away from Peronne. What I had forgotten, or perhaps, never truly appreciated was that Australia sent 315,000 men to World War 1 out of a population of only 3.5 million people at the time. Peronne appreciates that and encourages its citizens to visit Australia. It not only says so on the plaque but the young man in the Tourist Information Office told me that he will be visiting Australia next year, first going to Perth and then to Brisbane to see France play Australia in the rugby.
Although today's walk was short, it wasn't as easy as I expected. Dodging and trudging through mud didn't help. The weather was warmer. I was carrying extra supplies, lunch for today, dinner for tonight and lunch for tomorrow as well as there is nowhere I can buy food here. I couldn't get The Devil in a comfortable position so my shoulder and upper back ached most of the day. My heels were painful for the last couple of hours. Walking through a small village called Vraignes-en-Vermandois, I followed my map instead of the guidebook which was not my intention and it meant that I ended up walking on the overgrown, grassy verge next to the busy and fast D1029 for around 200 metres.
Annoyed and humoured by my predicament, I marched up the hill apologising to any orange slugs I may have been stepping on as the trucks and cars and tractors flew past in spaced out batches. Relieved to be back on a quiet country road, I bounced along its rocky incline. As I reached its plateau, I was greeted by an amazing sky. The kind of sky where giant clouds cover the sun but the light streams through as if the silvery fingers of God are caressing the earth. In that moment, all mistakes were null and void. It was not a mistake to be there in that moment witnessing that great sky.
Tonight I am staying at a gite, a country home but in a dormitory where I am the only guest. The shower was lukewarm, too cold for my already cold body to stand under. I am wearing most of my layers, thermal, fleece, windproof, wondering how my hosts are sitting around in t-shirts and whether it is possible I might freeze to death tonight in my light sleeping bag in my unheated room. There is a giant spider in the kitchen sink where I have to wash my dishes after cooking my dinner. Giant. Really.
But I have friendly and helpful hosts. I have sat at their kitchen table and spoken of travel and walking and pretty homegrown pumpkins. They have arranged my accommodation in Tergnier tomorrow night in a place I never would have known about. They have given me a massive slice of freshly baked plum cake. And I have memories of that great sky.