We are having a rest day in a rather bizarre late-nineteenth century hotel in a town called Aire sur L'Adour and since we have no intention of walking anywhere today and I have found a nineteenth-century computer, I have decided to write a shortish post about our adventures so far...
Being a pilgrim, walking the Chemin, is a truly extraordinary experience. It is not easy: at 20 km my rucksack seems to double in weight and my feet are shouting at me, demanding a release from the boots. But so far we have not experienced any real difficulties. 26km+ in a day is tough but Alex has created an itinerary which has created a good balance of long and short days. The rest days are great; a chance to catch our breath, take stock, wash our clothes - or rather have our clothes washed, eat lightly, and rest our feet. We lose the pilgrims we have met but discover new ones instead immediately we start again.
I will write in more detail about our route once we are home but so far we have walked just under 300 km in 12 days and are 7 days away from the main starting point of the Camino Frances - St Jean Pied de Port. From there we will cross the Pyrenees and begin our journey in Spain. Usually we stay in Gites d'Etape - quite basic places, in some cases former convents, with private rooms and communal bathrooms. We eat all together and the food has been, without exception, incredible. One night, in a tiny village called St Antoine, we stayed on a farm, met six pilgrims, and consumed a six course meal with unlimited local wine. This meal cost 12 Euros each.
The pilgrims all have interesting stories to tell and again this is something to save for later. As a taster we have met a 68 year old man called Paul who used to run Lourdes and calls 32 km "a short day" and a nurse called Benedicte who is using the Chemin to decide what she really wants to do with her life. With every new pilgrim we meet, the same conversation takes place: Where are you going tonight? Where did you stay last night? Where are you finishing the Chemin? Where did you start? and How much does your bag weigh? We marvel at those who have only 5 kgs in their bags and feel slightly disdainful of those who are getting their bags carried by a special bag taxi; it's actually a great system and allows older people in particular to be able to walk the Chemin.
It is Autumn here in France and watching the colours shift and fruit fall is truly a privilege. We start walking before 8am and those first few hours are the best. The light is magical and even though there are other pilgrims around, we have the feeling that we are the only people in the world.
So far it is better than I expected...
Below: the village of Auvillar
View of Lauzerte at 8 am
Miles of fields full of sunflowers, corn and more recently vines for Armagnac
Selfie with Camino Cat