It isn’t exactly the Paris-Dakar rally, but it’s an annual event that we really enjoy taking part in. The Caylus rally is not about speed; it’s about discovering the local historic heritage during a 50 km circuit with eight checkpoints. Organised by Caylus Notre Village, which has been instrumental in restoring the lavoir (wash-house) in Caylus, the theme this year was – no surprise – lavoirs.
This year’s route took us onto the causse and into the neighbouring Lot département. We set off from the lavoir at Caylus. This unusual structure was built in 1923 as the village wash-house. The metal roof structure was added in 1925. Owing to its poor condition, the lavoir was completely restored in 2017-18 and now does service as a market hall on Saturdays.
Nineteen teams left at staggered intervals, motoring to our first checkpoint in the Lotois village of Jamblusse. The SF and I often remark that we don’t see a soul there when we drive through. The exception was one Saturday evening at the end of August on the day of their annual fête. A deviation was in place, which petered out after a while, leaving us hopelessly lost in a network of ever narrowing chemins. Eventually, someone took pity on us and allowed us to drive through the courtyard where the meal itself was taking place.
Yesterday, we invaded the Jamblussian Sunday tranquillity. I don’t suppose the lavoir has seen so much activity for decades. Here, as at all the checkpoints, we had to take part in some fiendish games. We were also given a sheet with three questions about the locality and the location of the next checkpoint. The teams indulged in good-natured joshing and mild attempts to sabotage one another’s efforts.
Also in the Lot, we visited the lavoirs in Bach, Varaire and Saillac (I had never seen the last one before).
Although riddled with underground streams, the causse is exceptionally dry, and so they had to build the wash-houses wherever a spring happened to be, which explains why they are often some distance from the village. The one at Loze is halfway down the hill from the village. The Lacapelle-Livron lavoir is at the bottom of the hill near the river. The village is almost 100 metres higher. You can understand what a godsend the advent of the washing machine was: before that, the women had to bring the washing down the hill and then cart it up, wet and heavy, in a barrow.
We learned that the Lot lavoirs we visited display some significant differences from their Tarn-et-Garonne cousins. They sport shallow V-shaped washing stones under cover of the roof. The others are more primitive – and perhaps older?
The final stop was the Caylus lavoir. We then deposited our answer sheets at the salle des fêtes, where a celebratory meal was served.
At the end of the first course, Guy, who devised the rally, asked if we wanted the results now or later. The “nows” had it.
Reader, our team won. This was a little embarrassing, since we had come second the two previous years. I think next year we will volunteer to be stewards.
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