It's hot and sunny here, has been for sometime, huge deep valleys, medieval villages that cling precariously to the hillsides. Rich red wine that goes with the colour of the soil. Cherry blossom in the hills, oregano, thyme and marjoram in the pastures, honey vinegar, walnut wine that tastes like cake, chestnut butter to spread on rock hard bread. [I eat the chestnut spread with a spoon and give the bread to the horse]. Stopped with Laurent, he makes and restores roulottes.
Roulotte suitable to be pulled by a horse
Put the wagon in his yard and horse in a field. In the evening we sat around outside and ate spicy merguez sausages, cooked over the hot coals of the fire. Frederick, who plays bagpipes came round and we played a few tunes. Pernod and petanque, [a ball game], the pernod leaves you cataractic in the morning and trying to wonder what you were doing, then a French farmer comes to complain about a horse in his field, l grab his unwilling hand and shake it and tell him l'll get it 'toute suite.' I don't feel guilty, he'd rob me if he got the chance and pretend he hadn't.
The horse likes to eat good food too, and like the French farmer is thinking about the next meal while eating this one. You have to feed your horse any way you can. Many times in England l've stopped and tethered my horse on a wide verge beside a road and people have slowed down in their cars and shouted, 'buy a field you f...ing gyppo bas...d. It hardens you, but it doesn't make it ok. If l bought a field l'd be stuck there, l'd soon be putting a sign up, 'keep out.' I don't want that, l like to travel.
There's always been conflict between people who are nomadic and those who are settled. The settled people produce paperwork to say they own the land, even though the nomads might have been using it for centuries or more. I try to find stopping places where l don't get noticed, where l'll be left in peace, but it's often not possible.
13th April.10 miles [17km] up over the Causse de Severac. A long climb up to the Col de Lagarde 810 metres [2657 feet]. Dry limestone ,waterless hills, thousands of cowslips. Got to Severac, it's a charmless place, bought a cake, a 'toi et moi,' a sort of eclair, coffee one end, chocolat the other. Watered the horse at the fountain, carried on, got some water from a house for me, the old man who gave it to me said he preferred white wine to water.
It's quite a steep hill out of the town, it's Palm Sunday and old couples are driving up to the cemetary to put offerings on their relatives graves, the road is narrow and they are delayed momentarily by a horse plodding up the hill, several of them wave happily to me, but the last car, an old man with his wife, beeps his horn angrily and shakes his fist. I expect if he'd seen a man with a beard riding a donkey, he'd have been unpleasant to him too.
A bit further on and l stopped at the source of the Aveyron. I drank the water and l'm still alive, it tasted much better than the tap water. It was a good place to stop for the night.
The source of the Aveyron