Lacommande to Oloron-Sainte-Marie – 16kms
Up again at 6am for morning pages in the kitchen. During the night Marion had to move under the verandah to get out of the light misty rain, so I found her there when I went to the kitchen to do my pages. It was humid and my clothes didn’t dry. That was a pity. I hope they do tonight. I might be in the unusual situation where I have both pairs of pants on the line drying!
Marion is my third angel.
I had miso soup from the little sachets I had carried from the beginning, but hadn’t used. I packed up and left by 7:15am despite the late rising. We had to lock the kitchen and leave the key in an allocated place before departure.
Marion and I left together, and walked out of the town, then upwards, as we would not once, not twice, but three times today. Jamais deux sans trois (never two without three). An interesting observation. But today it was three climbs plus lots of little hills as well, and a long stretch into Oloron. We passed banana palms. What?
As we mounted the first hill, thankfully it was in my favourite forest again, the sweat was pouring. Climbing up through the forest, we talked conspiracies, as one does, when one’s talking with me. Marion spoke of some interesting writers, Lise Borbeau, and Jacques Martel (who seem to be European equivalents of Louise Hay) who have written about the lessons our bodies teach us daily about our health.
We’d left with grey skies but at the top of the first hill, blue skies were smiling at us. I take strong steps. It continued to be uncomfortably humid. I started to think about the last few days of my walk, and that perhaps the Pareto Principle was at play here – the last 20%, taking 80% of my energy. Despite this, my legs started to feel stronger today. My knees carried me OK, even with the downhill stretches. I pondered flexibility in my life, my decisions and the way I’m heading, my direction.
On one part of the path, Marion assisted me with fungi identification, but pointing out a little collection – “Why not take a photo of this one?”, she urged, pointing at a little pink one. I said, “No, I’d prefer a photo of this”, as I noticed just ahead an amazing oyster like fungi in the path. Walking a little further, “or this one”, and again “or this one” or “maybe this one”. INCROYABLE! This massive profusion of fungus appeared on the track, and we were both smiling.
We could hear the not-so-distant barking of dogs in the forest, and thought that there must be hunting going on. I was alert, but not alarmed you might say. We walked right into a group of hunters with their dogs, guns slung over their shoulders. This is either curing my gun-phobia or adding to it! It seemed that at every entrance we passed to the forest for the next few kilometres, there were men in high-viz fluoro outfits readying themselves to hunt. Although one place I passed, it was 3 men having a cup of coffee, so I don’t know how much hunting was going on! And hopefully it was just coffee in their cups.
At Estialescq after the hills, Marion had a rest where we found a picnic table and I elected to continue. I thought I might like to live at the The Tranquil Retirement Avenue. There were many balisages today, and no chance of getting lost. The smallest little balisage even. More cows. Marion caught me up pretty quickly again, because I got distracted by donkeys.
We continued on together, overtaking each other when we took our different rest breaks. Rounding a bend in the road, I was really impressed with the garden in front of a lovely house, and I stopped at the picnic table they’d set up for pilgrims under several large oak trees alongside a considerate water tap. Surrounded by chickens, I thought 10:50am was a pretty good time for lunch, so I had my baguette with tuna, mayo and tomato. Marion caught me up and stopped with me when she got there, and had her sandwich. I had the last of my chocolate from Anoye.
I stayed when Marion continued, and as she was leaving the woman of the house returned with armfuls of baguettes. She came over to say hello with her wooden walking stick. She doesn’t do the Compostelle, but goes walking with her friends weekly on Sundays. She was keen to know where I’d come from and where I was going to. She told me about a place on the GR78 Piemont – L’Hôpital-Saint-Blaise and suggested I would like it. It was actually just another days walk away from where I would be tonight. I’d put that on the list for when I walk the GR78.
She then suggested I might like a cafe! Again – twice in two days. I couldn’t believe it. So off she went inside to get coffee. Several minutes later, and she emerged from the house (which was probably 30-50 metres away, on the other side of the small dirt road, carrying a tray loaded with beverages and beurre biscuits. If this is Pyrenees hospitality, I’m in!
Then once I’d finished, and nearly as quickly as she appeared, she packed up, said “Aller! Aller!” and disppeared towards the house. So I suppose I keep walking then! “One more hill to Oloron”, she said.
It was a rocky farm track winding around the hill past white cows and with the distant squeals of bathing children, I looked back to see a big waterslide on the other side of the valley. It seemed strangely superimposed on this pastoral landscape, but it must draw the crowds to continue operating. It seemed quite a big deal, especially on a warm day like today. Rounding the hill, I had great views of the little hamlets I’d just passed through in the valley and could hear the bells of grazing sheep … or was it hunting dogs or cows? I decided to leave my small ‘cello’ water bottle empty today, so it jangled like a cow bell as I jerkily descended the steep bits. A man was shouting at his 4 dogs, out walking as I walked through a shady part before climbing another hill. He passed me going up the hill, the 4 dogs of different breeds and sizes all piled in the small car now, slobering all over the windows. I wondered what fate had befallen the person who was remembered on the side of the track. Was it a pilgrim, or a local?