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Day A17 - Easy day
March 13, 2013                      Martigues to Istres-nord                                 10 miles
Route Marseille to Arles (base map by Google maps)
The map (courtesy Google) describes the route from Marseille to Arles with nightstops at
Vitrolles (Marseille airport); Martigues; Istres-nord; and Saint-Martin-de-Crau.

The photos were taken near Istres. The golden arches reminded of McDonalds, but aren't really related.
The Rhône cannot be crossed south of Arles. The Camargue region is the green area west of the Rhône.

There was just one accommodation choice between Istres-nord and Arles, and that was in Saint-Martin-de-Crau.
Lake nr Istres
Golden arches on the median

The Rhône river runs southward into the Med just west of Marseille in a famous conservation region, lightly populated by humans, called the Camargue. The river mouth is a delta, with large areas of wetland that extend some 40 miles west to east along the coast. For these and probably other reasons, there's no bridge over the Rhône for 25 miles upstream, making the city of Arles important since Roman times.

But, as the Romans would readily concede, it's the trouble this causes to hikers that's important here. Although much of the coastal traffic converges on the road bridges at Arles, it arrives and leaves on a number of routes through sparsely populated lands. And therein lies the problem for hikers who like a real bed at night. Arles has plenty of accommodation but the approach roads do not.

So, today, I booked in Istres-nord only ten miles beyond last night's stay at Martigues because that was the last accommodation before a large gap with nothing. Tomorrow, the distance to the next available bed (in Saint-Martin-de-Crau) is 15 miles, which I can do. But that depends on the availability of accommodation at the only hotel or B&B in Saint-Martin as otherwise I must continue to Arles which is 25 miles from Istres-nord.  I do not volunteer for 25-mile hikes, though I've proved them just feasible before. Perhaps all this better explains why I elected to stay tonight at Istres-nord in the most-distant accommodation offering from Martigues, even if only ten miles away. The decision-making evidenced here is a lot of what long-distance hiking is about.

Today, 10 miles was easy enough, though hard to appreciate while you're on the hoof - a step is still a step, and a 25 lb load is still a 25 lb load, until you actually stop. But then you can have the afternoon to yourself to catch up on such things as laundry and communications, and have a relaxing dinner without feeling wiped.

Still, the hike was uphill and down, and diverted here and there by roadworks, and often too featureless to be interesting. But I was able to stop early, and I was checked in at the Première Classe hotel in north Istres by 1 pm.

The weather was kind except for a headwind that gathered strength through the day, eventually reaching about 40 mph while hiking. But when I went out later- in a fruitless search for dinner that brought me back to the hotel to eat bread and cheese - the temperature had plunged to just above freezing, and the wind was stronger still. The forecast called for headwinds of 50 mph tomorrow, staying strong until the end of the week when rain is expected.

The rest of France has suffered poor weather, and now it may be my turn.

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© 2013 Daryl May