A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 24 November 2008


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. HENRY DAVID THOREAU

It was Friday 10 October and yet another hot and sunny day. I'd been warned about today's 20 km stage from Lacommande to Oloron - how it was the toughest stretch since Haut-Languedoc, with lots of ups-and-downs. Some said it was more exhausting than the climb up to the Col du Somport which lay 3 days ahead. In the end it wasn't that bad. For a start there were the ravishing views - which helped take the mind away from tired and aching legs:

Then there was the wildlife - I saw woodpeckers, jays, buzzards, the occasional deer - and the not-so-wild life, like this friendly cow:

For more or less the whole day I followed isolated and hilly paths through extensive woods of beech, oak and chestnut. Once I came across a tree-top hide (called a palombière) used for pigeon shooting. I was groaning loudly at the time as I'd just climbed a very steep path, sticky with clay - and the head of a huntsman poked out briefly from the hide. He seemed very surprised to see me. Arriving in Oleron I made myself comfortable in a big, municipal gîte (this one had individual rooms) in the centre of town and went out to explore. The architectural style of the Cathedral of Saint-Mairie was typical of the area:

Oloron stands at the confluence of 2 rivers, the Gave d'Aspe and the Gave d'Ossau, which flow northwards as the Gave d'Oloron. It enjoys an enviable situation below the foothills of the Pyrenees:

As you can see, the Pyrenees were quite close now:

All I had to do was follow the valley of the river Aspe up to the Col du Somport. And beyond the col lay Spain ...

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