For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 21 November 2008

Super Walkers

In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks. JOHN MUIR

It was Saturday 4 October, and the weather had turned warm and sunny once again. In the morning, after briefly losing my way in some beechwoods, I encountered a dog guarding this gorgeous fortified farmstead. Luckily its tail was raised in the air which showed that it was pilgrim-friendly ...


These undulating, tilled fields caught my eye ...



Soon I came to the lovely red-brick 11th century church of Saint-Christophe - which is nicknamed La Vache Rouge or the Red Cow! However, looking at the cows in front of the church you can sort of see the reasoning behind this ... that reddish tinge in both building and beast ...


Who should I meet having a snack by the church than Jean and Marie-Lou, the walkers I'd shared a chalet with the night before ...



I walked with them for a while. Then Jean suddenly pointed towards the southern horizon. "The Pyrenees!" he exclaimed. It was my 1st view of them this trip. For me it was an exciting moment ...



Later, in the town of Maubourguet, I booked into the Hôtel de France for the night as I'd had little success in finding a gîte. I ate in the hotel's restaurant. The menu du jour was duck (liver, heart etc - all the offal-y bits) on a bed of lettuce, steak covered in garlic sauce with pommes frites and lettuce, and a selection of cheeses - with plenty of lettuce on the side. Duck's a speciality here. (I saw lots of duck farms en route.) They seem to enjoy their lettuce too ...

I spent the following night in the gîte at Anoye. 2 other walkers were there - René and Denyse, a married couple - who'd been hiking continously for 9 months. They'd started out from their home village of Vins-sur-Caramy in south-east Provence. First they'd gone north-west via Aix to Le Puy. Then they'd walked the Le Puy pilgrim path to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - as I'd done last year. After that they made for Irun and tacked the Camino del Norte - a strenuous and challenging northern Spanish coastal route to Santiago. Almost as an afterthought they then trekked the entire length of Portugal to Faro, returned to Santiago once more along the Via de la Plata from Seville, completed the Camino Francés in reverse as far as Puente la Reina, and were heading for home on the Via Aragonés and the Via Tolosana ... Quite a journey.

I asked what motivation lay behind their pilgrimage. Denyse confided she'd had many brothers and sisters in her family - and, young or old, they'd all died before her through accident or illness. At the time she'd never properly grieved for them - perhaps she was always expecting the worst, steeling herself for the next death, always putting on a brave face. She became depressed. René suggested to her that a long walk might do her good. She said she'd give it a go. For the entire 1st week of the walk she cried continually day and night. But after this long outpouring of grief she felt a lot, lot better. And they carried on walking.

The next day was really hot, and I wandered along quiet minor roads, shady paths and sunken ways. There were little bridges over tiny streams. There were vast fields of maize. These were the fertile plains of the old kingdom of Béarn. And in the distance I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees getting ever closer ...


I was very lucky to see this grass snake shimmy across the path, and even luckier to get a photo of it ...


That night I stayed at a campsite in Morlaàs which had its own pilgrim gîte, conveniently placed right next door to the supermarket - so I did some food shopping. There wasn't exactly a lot of pilgrim activity ...


In fact, I was the only one there ...


2 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love the photos - quite right - you were lucky with the grass snake one.

The Solitary Walker said...

I saw 4 snakes on the walk - 3 grass snakes (one dead) and one ladder snake (in Spain)