A few days walking from Aix-en-Provence to Toulon, in Provence, France.
Day 0 – My first step is to go to Aix and meet Mareike (Germany). She will be my host from Couchsurfing, allowing me to have a fresh start with my plan : saturday early in the morning, i will climb Sainte-Victoire, a famous mountain next to Aix. It’s friday evening, and after a nice meal with Vincent (Liban-France), Orianne (Germany-France) and Javier (Spanish), her room-mates, we go out and meet, Marianna (Bolivia), Olga (La Réunion), Alex and Claire (France metropole). Of course, it’s a really good to meet again people from all over the world ! And of course, we don’t go to bed before 2 in the morning. My plan to wake up early is almost fullfilled, if we say that 11 is early, right ?
Day 1 – Leaving Aix on foot, i walk without knowing where to go exactly. I only go « east » as i can see the moutain away. After about two hours, i’m out of the city and i can see a trail with the famous white and red mark : this is a GR (hicking trail, « Grande Randonnée » in french), but i don’t know which one. I don’t really care, as it seems to go east, to the Sainte Victoire. One hour later, i’m walking next to a dam and the view is quite impressive. Then i catch the main trail to the top of the moutain, and i need two more hours to reach the ancient monk’s shelter, 1100m high. The wind is getting stronger every new step, but it’s not too cold. Nowadays it’s an open refuge, able to host around 20 people for a night. End of afternoon, i’m tired, and decide to sleep there.
I’m not alone… People keep coming, even after dark, with headlights on, big bags of food and alcohol, and most of them are noisy. Happily i was here first, so i have a place to sleep : a simple plank, but at least, not the cold concrete on the floor. I also meet a nice family and we share food. However, another group is clearly here to have a party… They eat, drink, talk, laugh, cook meat on the fire, open wine’s bottles… Almost midnight now, and the others start to be unhappy. A group of kids is here also with an educator, but none is asking for silence, they are just complaining for themselves. So i guess i have to do it. When the noisy band starts to smoke weed inside the shelter, I stand for all… I remind the guys they are not in their private garden, and they must go outside to smoke, and that is a shelter for monks and walkers… They go out for a while, but are back with noise again, despite everything i can say, and even if the other people join me afterward. So, nobody can sleep before 4 or 5 in the morning !
Day 2 – After less of 4 hours of bad sleep, i leave the shelter. I’m the only one to leave so early, it’s 8h15. I drink some water, eat a tiny piece of bread and run away… Outside, the wind is very strong, and i walk on the ridge of the mountain for a couple of hours before going down again. I miss the trail and instead of going to the right, i go straight. Not a big deal, i just walk on another trail, and end up somewhere else. I go to a farm and ask for water to drink, then i hitchhick back to the point i was supposed to be, and i continue walking for some hours until i reach an other shelter. I didn’t know there will be one. Actually i knew nothing about the trail, only the starting point and the main direction, south east to the sea. So i stop here in Saint Jean something, and i can see a lot a people around. There is a car-park just two minutes away, and from what i can see, i am the only one who walked his way up here.
There is a funny dog here, and when i’m alone later in the day, the dog guards me. He just stays around me, sits next to my bag when i gather some wood to light a fire, watchs me when i pee, and stays next to the door when i enter the small shelter. It’s more a cell actually. Only concrete walls and floor, one window without glass, a wooden door in bad condition, and a small fireplace. I have nothing to cook, but fire is nice, as the wind is still blowing and the place is quite cold. The warm is not going to last because of the window, but still, it’s a pleasant companion.
Day 3 – The dog is still here when i open the broken door around 9 in the morning. I cannot see anyone else, and i leave, down to the next valley, then up the next mountain, and down again, about 17km later. I’m thinking about sleeping around, but it’s only 15:30 so i find some water and keep going. And i’m up a mountain again. The wind is terrible, very strong, pushing me, holding me, cooling me down, but the view is wonderfull. I can see the sea from one side, and Sainte-Victoire far away the other side. I cannot sleep here, it’s too cold and windy, so i walk, and walk, until i am down again. According to some signs, i’ve walked almost 30km today. It’s about 19:30 when i stop, so i think 11 hours walking is enough for that day. Finally, the wind stops. I sleep on the ground, under some trees in a forest, not far from the village Signes.
Day 4 – The sky is very dark, and the last mountains i’m supposed to climb is inside black clouds. I don’t want to go up with the risk of a storm, so i start to walk along the road to avoid it. It’s boring. After one hour, i hitchhick 10 or 12 kilometers, and decide to go to Toulon instead of following the trail to a place more to the east. My idea is to go next to the sea and then to walk close to it for a day or two. But it’s ugly ! The sea itself is really fine, but the coast is eaten by luxurious villas, hotels and private gardens. Those fences are the end of my journey, they suck up all of my motivation. I go back by train, and the only picture i have from the coast is from it.
Overall it was a nice trip. I didn’t want to break any record but i did. I’ve walked twice as fast as expected, with no major pain, 8 kg backpack including food and water. I couldn’t go barefoot, to many sharp stones everywhere, but my sandals were really enough. Going like that is actually completly fine, instead of going with heavy shoes. I feel my feet and ankles and knees are much more stronger now, and if i skid on a stone, like i can do with big shoes, i can keep my balance very easily because all my body is more aware. Going barefoot every « normal » day is an awesome training, and i can really feel how my proprioception has improved since.
Next are some pictures.