Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 34: Ostabat to St. Jean Pied de Port (19 kms)

Early morning just leaving Ostabat

Yesterday was a soggy day, and pilgrims dragged into Ostabat in groups of two's or three's from mid afternoon onward. Everyone was dripping, and praying for a hot shower and dry clothes. Bit by bit our gîte filled up until we had about 42 people under roof. There was a bit of electricity in the air, even after a tough day's walk, as St. Jean, less than 20 kms away, was looming large in everyone's mind, At this point almost anything was acceptable as long as our journey was not impeded. So people laughed about the rain and mud and generally got settled down for dinner, which was served at 7:00. This gîte is run by a couple, and the husband is a natural showman. He launched into a medley of Basque folk songs, and through in a few crowd pleasers as well. Everyone enjoyed the show, but were anxious to get to bed and get some sleep. By 10:30 all was quiet in this part of Ostabat.

The next day dawned calm, and dry with scattered clouds. The trail was expected to be quite muddy from yesterday's rain, but we elected to give it try. Off we went, at 7:30, heading for St. Jean. It was a gorgeons morning and energy levels were high until we hit the mud. It wasn't that deep, but it was very slippery. At least one person spun out and face planted, and that was enough for us. At the first opportunity we peeled off down an embankment, hopped a fence and joined the D 933, the main road to St. Jean, and walked that road all the way in, arriving just at 11:00. We swung by the train station and purchased tickets to Hendaye for 1:30 tomorrow, then we headed off to get something to eat and drink. We have been walking with some great people these last weeks, and will see many of them at dinner tonight. We will celebrate coming this far, but we must still prepare for the weeks ahead. So with that in mind we also hit the pharmacy for foot cream, tape, and pain relievers. Some things just never change. We are off to Irun tomorrow and hope to walk to San Sebastián the next day. Our plan, for the moment, is to hold up in San Sebastián for a couple of rest days, and then continue to Santiago. More later from a Spain. St. Jean is hopping with pilgrims, but Robin and I are off to bed. Lights out for now.

The gîte fills up
Dinner in Ostabat
Early morning in Ostabat
There must be something good to eat up there
Close to St. Jean
The other end of town
Robin and friend Michael on Rue Citadelle
Robin and I close to the Pilgrim Office in St. Jean
French and American friends
St. Jean Pied de Port
Our hotel for the night
Rooftops in St. Jean



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 33: Aroue to Ostabat (21 kms)

A quick glimpse this morning

Our gîte in Aroue came to life just before 6 am. There was the usual logistics of cycling many people through few sinks and toilets. But, patience prevailed and with good wishes for a safe day's walk extended to all, Robin and I stepped out into a gray morning full of promise (of getting much wetter). We ambled along the way out of town trying to get stiff muscles to relax and carry us to our destination, Ostabat. We are now in the foothills of the Pyrenees so there is much going up and down as hills are topped, and then descended, only to be repeated again (and again). We did take a little shortcut that took us through the village of Uhart Mixe (Basque names are tough). There we found a nice restaurant open and it was filled with dripping pilgrims. Rain has started to fall one day from St. Jean. It is a continuous light rain with little or no wind driving it, so our umbrellas, once again, proved to be the perfect solution. It was 50 F when we left Aroue, and it never got above the upper 50's for the day. Nonetheless, I walked in a long sleeve t shirt, and rain pants with gaiters, and my umbrella. It worked fine. Keep in mind you are going to get wet from sweat under rain gear (or poncho), and consume a lot more water, alternatively, you can unfurl an umbrella, and accept that a sleeve might get a bit wet, but everything else will be cool, and dry. Two guys walking ahead of us, one swathed in a poncho and the other in a rain suit, turned and took pictures of the umbrella solution. What piece of gear do you think they will be buying before their next trip down the Chemin? Why suffer? As we walk with poles, we stow one pole on our packs and carry the umbrella in the free hand. If the weather is changeable we just carry the poles in the other hand. We used our umbrellas all day today, and will probably do so tomorrow, if the weather forecast is accurate. We arrived in Ostabat around 1:15, and then walked through town to our lodging for tonight, Ferme Gaineeko-Etxea. It us a full house (about 45 pilgrims). We will all be dining together in one room this evening. The owner has a reputation for singing Basque songs at dinner. More to follow.

As we were walking today, the terrain, the architecture, the whole look and feel of what we experienced reminded us of our previous trips across the Pyrenees. The only difference was on this side of St. Jean Pied de Port you still, occasionally, go downhill. It is hard to believe that tomorrow we will walk into St. Jean. For weeks we have been inching our way southwestwards to the Pyrenees, without giving much thought to the accumulated distance. All of a sudden you just simply arrive. However, St. Jean is only a waypoint as our destination, Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, is still many kilometers away. Still, it will be a fun arrival tomorrow, and some midway celebrating will be in order. Robin has been doing great, as the many kilometers have slipped by. We fully expect to arrive in Santiago together. Thank God for that. Now back to swatting flies in Ostabat. Cheers for now.

Last night in Aroue
Two more payments and it's mine
Just before the rain set in
Yes, it's raining
Entering Uhart Mixe


Day 32: Navarrenx to Aroue (18 kms)

Leaving Navarrenx

Yesterday was a bit of a tough day so Robin and I were looking forward to a shorter day. The weather was also in our favor with no rain in today's forecast. We had our breakfast and headed out. A beautiful day greeted us, and we crossed the bridge out of town at 8:15. We picked up our GR 65 marks and pushed on. We have been walking a lot on rural roads. Today was the same. We had a few moments iffy road, but they were mostly muddy connections from one road to another. Not much climbing on today's dance card, which was fine with us. We simply enjoyed our more relaxed pace, as we kept an eye out for glimpses of the mountains. There was nothing to speak of open for coffee, snacks or lunch. We did find one place open and stopped in for a coffee. Not surprisingly we found several of our fellow pilgrims already there enjoying a coffee. The owner told us Aroue, our destination for tonight was only 8 kms ahead. We thanked him and headed out onto the Chemin for another couple of hours. We have found that guidebooks, road signs and local knowledge all can be at variance. One just has to be resigned to the fact that you get there when you get there. Onward we went across open fields (still corn) down a few wooded (and muddy) paths, and along side a lot of roads (mostly quiet), until we reached Aroue. This more of an intersection than a town (sorry). We stopped at the communal gîte, our lodging for tonight, and found a sign that had our bed assignments on it, as well as an invitation to get yourself settled in. Madame would attend us at 5:30. As we arrived a bit early, at 1:15 we had some time to kill. We did the usual chores, and went up the street a few meters to the one shop in the town, a cafe, cum pizzeria, cum mini mart. This was it for business in Aroue. We sat down and had a beer, ordered sandwiches for tomorrow, and ordered a pizza for dinner (pilgrim haute cuisine). We were told that the woman who runs our gîte sells wine and a few basic food items as well. Everyone is anxiously awaiting 5:30 when the goodie locker opens to see what is behind door number 1. Will it be tuna, and clothes washing tablets, or will it be some other mystery ingredient. But, there is always the pizza shop as well. I am going for the pizza. I am sitting in the backyard of our gîte looking out to the Pyrenees, and enjoying how they look in the low afternoon light. It is quiet, peaceful, and there aren't many other pilgrims here, as yet only Robin and I, and three others. The place is fully booked, but it only holds twelve people, so it should not get to noisy. For now, until the goodie locker opens, I am content to just be still, and that is where I will leave it for today. Peace be with you, as it is here in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Navarrenx wakes up
Robin at the city gate
Offering a prayer
From the church
GR 65 marker
Part of today's trail
Our coffee stop
Fellow coffee lovers
Robin and Anna