I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

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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