St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France to Roncesvalles, Spain

Day Forty Two. 15.6 Miles, 25.1 Kilometers.

Written on May 31, 2012.

Breakfast is served starting at 6:30 a.m. at L’Esprit. I get up to get dressed and organize my backpack, a routine that I have been doing for many days. I sat down, reached for the orange juice and was overwhelmed with emotion. I tried to breathe and sit at the table for a few moments but I clearly had to “sit” with my emotions for awhile. I left the kitchen and went to the Meditation room and lit a candle.

A boot garden at L’Esprit.

After a time of sitting quietly I realized that I was being “called” to acknowledge to myself what I had accomplished to this point. Embracing me, who I am, is part of my journey. Accepting and loving myself with all of my brilliancy and with all of my so-called shortcomings.

From the time we left Le Puy on April 20th I have been challenged on every level. The people of France and the Pilgrims who we call friends have made every moment a time that I will treasure. Their compassion and acceptance of us has shone more brightly than any struggle or inconvenience.

After some time alone I was able to continue with my breakfast. I felt refreshed, renewed and ready to walk into Spain.

Nancy, Gary, Kelly, and Vern.

We met Gary and Kelly last night at L’Esprit. They are from Washington State. We are hearing a lot of American “accents” here today in St. Jean Pied-de-Port.

A couple taking a moment during the several hour climb in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Vern and our friend, Pierre, who we have known since Marsolan, France.

Vern and I had reserved two places at Refuge-Auberge d’Orisson which is located 5 miles up into the Pyrenees from St. Jean. When we arrived at 10: a.m. we decided to have some coffee and talk to the owner about the possibility of canceling our reservation and continue to Roncesvalles.

 

The border marker between France and Spain.

Ostabat-Asme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Day Forty One. 13 Miles, 21 Kilometers.

Written on May 30, 2012.

It is not easy to be quiet when walking on a floor that is hundreds of years old. It seems like the boards are still creaking after your foot has left them. We left at 6:00 a.m. today and tried to be as quiet as we could.

 

Owner of Chambre d’hôtes-Auberge Ametzanea.

A Pilgrim family.

Gregory, Isabelle, Bernard, and Mary.

The four Pilgrims shown have been a lot of fun for us. We have seen them many times. They are always cheerful. They have a quick pace so we see them when they are passing us. We will miss them. They are going home from St. Jean Pied-de-Port.

After hundreds of miles of walking we are now seeing signs for St. Jean Pied-de-Port! We will soon be at the Pilgrim’s “Gateway” to Spain and to what will be referred to as The Camino de Santiago.

We walk into the walled section of town to find Albergue, Gite, L’Esprit du Chemin. As soon as we topped the hill it was a wonderful sight! A line of soon-to-be Pilgrims at the Pilgrim Office to obtain their Pilgrim Passport.

As we entered L’Esprit we saw familiar faces. Vern and I had stayed here in 2009 when we began our Camino for the first time. It is an Albergue that is not only a place to sleep and to be fed, but the intention behind it is to nurture and support Pilgrims. There is a Meditation Room and wonderful terraced garden area to find privacy.

We quickly left our backpacks and walking sticks and headed to the Post Office. We had arranged to have two packages mailed to ourselves at this post office. We picked up “broken in” boots, the Spain book, and more supplements. Vern had more items he wanted to mail home so we organized a package to mail.

We are in the room facing the street. It is a great way to be a part of the excitement of soon to be Pilgrims and the excitement of Pilgrims starting the next phase of their walk into Spain!

 

Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaiby to Ostabat-Asme

Day Forty. 13 Miles, 21 Kilometers.

Written on May 29, 2012.

Finding our way out of Aroue was easy enough. We just followed the escargot sign like Michel had told us. As we were walking along I heard a commotion and looked up just in time to see many sheep walking towards us. Two or three dogs were keeping them moving along.

Pictured: Commute traffic on the Chemin.

At one point I noticed that Vern had met a friend, a black and white dog.

Pictured: Vern and his friend.

We arrived at Ostabat early enough to take some time to have a cold drink and snack at a local cafe. Just then the group of six came in. There was a computer at the cafe so I showed them their picture on my blog. They loved it. We seem to know just about everyone who is walking into the village.

Arzacq-Arraziguet to Arthez-de-Bearn

Day Thirty Seven. 19.3 Miles, 31.2 Kilometers.

Written on May 26, 2012.

Our backpacks were packed and with our clothes in hand we quietly made our way out of the Gite, (dormitory). We went downstairs and walked into the Pilgrim lounge…always open. We grabbed our liquid yogurt and drank it while we were putting clothes and shoes on. Pierre looked in and waved on his way out to the Chemin…it was 6:10 a.m. Rhonda from Australia left at the same time as us and we were off. Today was a lot of fun. It was a lot of miles to walk but we are in an interesting Department, (County). All of the departments have their own terrain, style and “feel”. This department seems to have dedicated itself to catering to the pilgrim with benches, tables, picnic areas and a zen garden. We had walked for a few hours when Vern started talking about how he would love a cup of coffee. This is a daily ritual..he talks about a cup of coffee and looks most of the day for it. Today he talked about it and within a mile he had it. It was in the yard of a local resident who seemed to enjoy creating a shady spot with coffee, tea, and homemade cake for the Pilgrims. We enjoyed it and stayed for awhile. He had a large guest book and loved to see where people are from. I signed it and read the comment before mine it was written by Joseph from Austria and he had put his facebook name in the book.

Pictured: Vern at the Pilgrim Rest.

We probably only walked another 1/2 mile when quite a way down the road we saw something in the road. As we got closer I told Vern that it looks like a backpack, then I realized that there was a pilgrim attached to it. Oh my gosh! There is a pilgrim laying in the middle of the road! Just at that moment a women in a small van came by I put out my sticks and pointed to the pilgrim. She rolled down her window. I explained to her in French that I understand a little French and that I did not know what was wrong with the pilgrim. As she drove up to him he popped up and she started talking to him. When we got there he told us that he slept in a tent the night before and didn’t get any sleep. He was exhausted. We suggested that he sleep on the grass next to the road. We introduced ourselves and asked his name. He said Joseph from Austria! We are glad that he is ok.

Pictured: Joseph from Austria.

We had walked 10 miles by the time we came to another rest stop. We recognized our roommates from the night before. As I looked around I realized that we were in a Zen Garden.

Yes, today has been wonderful and interesting.

Pictured: A few items in the Zen Garden.

 

Aire-sur-l’Adour to Miramont-Sensacq

Day Thirty Five. 12.1 Miles, 19.5 Kilometers.

Written on May 25, 2012.

The information is spreading: no services available for at least 12 miles. Pilgrims are leaving Gites, Hotels and Chambre d’Hotes and going to the market. Vern is carrying lunch and snacks for us so we are all set. It is already warm. We stop to take off some clothing. We are waving and wishing Buon Route, Buon Chemin to everyone we see. We walk past what seems to be a regional park with a beautiful lake.

Pictured: Lake on the way to Miramont-Sensacq.

Several people are fishing. Shade is becoming less and less. After two hours of walking we find shade and take a break. We soon see a pilgrim and his friend who we saw yesterday. One of them is pulling a cart that is attached to him.

Pictured: A creative Pilgrim.

The farm land is vast and we walk in the sun for hours today. Every spot of shade is occupied by more and more pilgrims. It is time to be conscious of heat exhaustion and what to do to prevent the possibility. We take a break close to Miramont-Sensacq and meet Rhonda from Australia. The last mile seems to be uphill. Many people we saw along the way are staying here tonight.

La Hargue to Nogaro

Day Thirty Three. 9.3 Miles, 15 Kilometers.

Written on May 22, 2012

Today’s plan is to walk to Nogaro. 10.5 miles. Wow…short day! We will keep walking with few breaks so that we can enjoy a short day and explore the town of Nogaro. One of the first groups of Pilgrims we see is a very friendly woman taking pictures..her companions are two men. The two men walk rapidly together. Philippe is guided through mud, rocks, and creeks. I came to realize that Philippe is severly visually impaired. He has one walking stick and a very rapid pace. I am inspired and filled with a sense of all of the possibilities on the Camino. Every possible scenario is just waiting to be experienced. While the woman was taking pictures of cows I motioned to her that I would take a picture of her in front of the cows. Later in the day she took a picture of us and I took a picture of them.

Pictured: Monique, Philippe, Daniel.

Pictured: Nancy and Vern.

No ponchos today so the mud will be more manageable tomorrow. We were early into Nogaro. Our Gite opened at 3:30 p.m. We went to a cafe with wifi, had coffee and salad. A couple heard us speak English and told us that they were from British Columbia driving through France. It was good to meet them and we told them about our blog. Then as I turned around to say goodbye I noticed that Monique, Philippe, and Daniel were seated close by. They asked in French if we are staying at the same Gite and we said yes. I love the connections that are made with people. Sometimes the more of a struggle to find the words of another’s language the deeper the connection. A true effort is being made to create a connection.

 

Montreal-du-Gers to La Hargue

Day Thirty Two. 16 Miles, 26 Kilometers.

Written on May 21, 2012.

Walking out of Montreal-du-Gers seemed easy enough. The familiar red/white markings were evident. The path was pleasant and then turned onto what is referred to as a minor road. We were keeping up a pretty good pace then….where are the markers?….where are the Pilgrims? There weren’t any identifiers like road numbers, names of villages or even a name of a house. It took us awhile in France to realize that what looks like the name of a village that you are approaching may be nothing more than the name of a house or a cluster of homes. We walked to an intersection and pulled out the road map. We were not on the Chemin…we were about 4 k away. We found the direction we needed to go and started walking. We finally got to the Chemin.

After a short time on the Chemin we found shelter at a chapel. It had been raining the entire time we left Montreal. As we were taking our break we were visiting with a woman and perhaps her daughter when all of a sudden we saw a pilgrim fall, and start sliding down a mud embankment on her back with the backpack acting as some sort of sled. She quickly found her footing and jumped up. Vern had started to run over to her. A few minutes later we met the woman and her companion. They are John and Jennifer from the U.S. Wow…two more Americans. That now makes the total of Americans we have met since April 20… 5. Jennifer and John both speak fluent French. It was good to meet them, we had heard of them from John Tucker from Canada.

Pictured: Jennifer and John from the U.S.

We all continued on in the direction of Eauze. When we arrived we found a market that was open. Vern went in to get a few things. We were planning on just walking through town and continue on to La Hargue to the farm Gite where we will stay tonight. A few blocks away we saw Luis, Carmen and their friends,…we haven’t see them since Lauzerte. They were staying in Eauze and we were moving on. Another couple of blocks and we saw what we refer to as the group of six, a group of six French friends who are walking and live in Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France. We mainly communicate with smiles and good wishes. We told them the best we could that we had gotten lost. They indicated that they had, too, and at the same place. Later in the evening we heard that a woman had also gotten lost at the same place but instead of moving parallel with the Chemin she actually ended up walking back to Montreal where she started.

Pictured: Dominique, Jean, Vern, Roger, Alain, Monique, and Denise.

 

Condom to Montreal-du-Gers

Day Thirty One. 10.5 Miles, 17 Kilometers.

Written on May 20, 2012.

The last few days we have left the Gites wearing our shorts and windbreakers. This morning we added our ponchos. It was raining as we entered the courtyard to see what to wear. Everyone was pulling out their rain gear.

Pictured: Pilgrims on the way out of Condom.

Pictured: A wall with shells on the way to Montreal-du-Gers.

Today we walked for four hours without a break until we saw a shelter. John from Canada was taking a break under the roof of a lean-to. We joined him and had something to eat. We were determined to get to the Gite as soon as we could.

Soon we saw the name of the village we were looking for: Montreal du Gers. Wow, that was quick. In the rain we didn’t take more than one break so we moved along pretty good. When we arrived at the Gite people started coming in. All of us were soaking wet with huge ponchos that drain a lot of water. The Madame of the Gite quickly removed our ponchos and hung them in a loft drying area. She stuffed newspaper in our boots and showed us our rooms. Vern and I seem to have either a penthouse or a loft…it depends on how you want to interpret it. We have a room with 3 single beds and one double bed and we are the only ones in it.

We have been staying in Gites with the same group of six for the last 3 nights. We met them 5 days ago when they were at a picnic table and we offered them chocolate. They don’t speak English and they don’t understand our French but they understood a gift and have been giving gifts back every time we see them. It is always fun to be around them.

Marsolan to Condom

Day Thirty. 16.2 Miles, 26.0 Kilometers.

Written on May, 19, 2012.

Breakfast In most Gites consists of bread, sometimes toasted, bowls of coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and sometimes yogurt. The jams are usually homemade. Breakfast is usually served between 7: a.m. And 7:30 a.m. The best situation for us is when it is self-serve.

Pictured: An interesting rock structure on the way to Condom.

After breakfast we headed out. Yesterday the Madame told us about a variant route that was actually the original Chemin. It seemed that the Chemin was re-routed a year ago. We saved at least three miles by bypassing the new route. We were half way to Condom by our first break. I am having an easier time with hills now…they are not as difficult for me as they were two weeks ago.

Pictured: Jacques ready to walk the Chemin.

 

Auvillar to Miradoux

Day Twenty Eight. 10.9 Miles, 17.5 Kilometers. Total Miles walked to date: 283.5. Total Kilometers: 455.2.

Written on May 17, 2012.

We walked under a clock tower as we left Auvillar. It was an appropriate way to begin our new day of adventure. Two miles later we were passing the village of Bardigues and recognized a pilgrim walking just behind us. We had seen her a few days ago. We walked and talked for awhile with her. Dominique walks one week a year. We enjoyed our time with her and know that we we will meet again before she leaves to return home.

After walking a few miles more we entered the village of Saint-Antoine. As we headed for a picnic table to take off our packs we began to see more and more people: Marie and her friends, Margo, her sister-in -law and brother, two ladies from Paris,etc etc.

Pictured: A picnic table and benches in Saint-Antoine.

Pictured: A Pilgrim stand just before Flamarens.

Today is an interesting walk with a lot to look at. Just before Flamarens there was a stand set up for Pilgrims. There was a donation box, water, eggs, and other snacks set out. I took an egg, took a picture, and left an euro. Further up the hill I thanked the Monsieur sitting in front of his home.

We arrived in Miradoux and found the Gite that we had reserved a few days ago. It is a new Gite that just opened last month. It has a large yard and many comfortable places to sit, including a hammock, and a large open pit for summer cooking, There are ten places to sleep. Coffee, tea, and other refreshments are available. We had a wonderful meal with the owners, Stephane and Nathalie. Nathalie and her sister walked the Chemin four years ago and have now devoted themselves to providing a much needed service to pilgrims. The Gite is Bonte Divine in Miradoux.

Gite d’etape Bonte Divine in Miradoux.

A comfortable yard and garden at the Gite Bonte Divine.