Friday, August 2nd

And I believe the well laid plans involved getting up at 5:30, but, apart from Guy, there's no sign of life in the dining room here. The tables have been set for all the pilgrims, walkers and bikers. There's baguettes cut into slices, there's little sachets of abricot and grosielle jam. No, I don't know what grosielle is either, other stuff.

Today's walk is another long one, to Saint Jean Pied de Port, and apparently there's a monster hill between here and there. Not the killer variety as between Saint Jean and Roncevalles, but big.

It seems odd to be actually walking to Saint Jean today, as every diary and book I've read about The Way begins from there, or nearly all. Shirley Maclaine's version begins at Roncevalles, Paulo Coelho's novel begins at Saint Jean, the Idiot's account too, and others. I've been surprised by the numbers of walkers from LePuy, but maybe people don't write that much about the French side. Anticipating a huge increase in the numbers of people on The Way from tomorrow though.

At a junction point, a monument where the four separate starting points in France meet up.




Clementine, the monument, Saint Francis.

Yep, it's a clear day. and yes, we're at the top of this mountain, and yes, there's the chapel with the Livre D'Or, as usual, and yes, the views are superb.

On the road to Ostabat. Been distracted by this tree house thing though, It's quite high, and it attaches to some kind of mechanism on the other side of the road. Probably something to shake whatever nuts these trees produce off their branches. It's quite sophisticated in a crude kind of way.

There's tinkling bells in the distance, a cowherd, or sheep maybe.

It's getting hilly again, as we approach the Pyrenees. But this section of road is shady fôret, and although it sounds like a cliche, there's dappled sunlight. I hope it continues like this. The other two are up in the treehouse. probably chatting about how much they miss Assisi.

A tree with musical toys, hanging on long strings. Dozens of them. Pull the strings and tunes play. A garden of sticks with a plastic ear attached to each one. This town is somebody's dreamscape, or art project. Buying food. Local cheese, and fruitcake. The others are buying sardines. Good for walking, apparently.

There's a 1,000 year old chapel around here someplace.

Discussions about Moulin Rouge and Braveheart and Tangambalanga. Clementine didn't like the movie, as a Hollywood representation of paris, but Saint Francis liked the music. And I finally know, for sure, that it's a Friday, despite knowing "Quell jour de la semaine somme nous ?". Tend to lose track.

Still, it's a nice place to have stopped, I'll probably think of this place next time I'm up in front of a difficult class, and think "given a choice, where would I rather be ... "

Still 4kms out of Saint Jean Pied de Port, and I'm pretty sure I have my second blister, developed somewhere between Bussunarits and here, Saint Jean le Vieux.

A family gave us fresh water, and the first time I've been welcomed into a French home. Good Catholics, had about seven kids. Naturally, the chat, outside, went on, and on. Eventually arrived here, though, at the eglise. First port of call for any self-respecting pilgrim.

For a good part of today I thought I'd been blessed by the spirit of Superpilgrim. Up hills, down dales, leaving the others for dead, walking to the beat of Scottish tunes, although occasionally Born In The USA popped up. Good marching tunes.

The Pyrenees now appear close. Closer than if you were standing at Flinders Street Station and could see the Dandenongs (it's okay, you have to be from Melbourne to know what I'm talking about). They're just over there, to my left. Big.

Saint Jean Pied de Port
Walking into here was a truly emotional moment. It just was. Walking under the Saint Jacques Arch, feeling, and knowing, that this was a significant moment, and probably has been for every pilgrim that's ever done The Way.

Down the cobbled streets, tourists en masse.

And finally getting my real pilgrim's passport, from Colette at the "Amis de Saint Jacques". Had to fill in the application, tick all the right boxes, given loads of information about the walk to Roncevalles. And, according to the map on the wall, 141 Australians have collected passports from here, so I guess it's 142 now.

So, I'm in the gite, on the bed by the door. It's been a long day. Waiting for the shower, as I'm sure I stink. Checked the feet. Blister free. I must be Son of Superpilgrim then.

We have two nights here. Tomorrow's a 'rest' day. Need it. Six days of 30kms and above. Tomorrow just wander the town, see if there's an Internet Cafe, sit down a lot, visit the eglise, read more of Wuthering Heights. It's getting exciting, Heathcliff's just returned.

And Son of Superpilgrim, after his refreshing shower, and certainly after hanging his washed stuff on the clothesline, went in search of a bar. And verily he found the Cafe Ttipia, and no, that's not a typo, it really does begin with a double-t. Must be a Basque thing.









The gite is next to a chocolaterie, which I'll investigate tomorrow. Maybe I'll ask whoever serves me if they can guess my favourite. Maybe they'll have the wheel and everything.

Back at the gite.

My feet ache, particularly the left one. Someone else is dominating the stove, and I have no idea where the others are, so I guess it's back to the noodles and tuna extravaganza. Just what I need, a meal not surrounded by French people whose conversations I can never enter into. So be it.

Apart from Andrea Kirkby's, every pilgrimage diary I've read begins here. No, Shirley Maclaine's starts at Roncevalles, missing the climb at the start. The Idiot certainly describes it, even Paulo Coelho describes the climb, spending three days walking around in circles trying to find Roncevalles. The others I can't remember, but even Andrea Kirkby divides her walk in two. No diary I've ever read is the complete LePuy to Compostelle epic, done in one hit. There's huge numbers here already, and I've heard stories about the bus pilgrims also arriving in huge numbers. At Roncevalles, according to one story, there were 400 of them, all trying to stay at the refugio. On beds, under beds, on tables, under tables, packed into every conceivable space. God help the real pilgrim, they just get pushed out of the way by those "who paid good money" for this.

In Spanish,
Just met my first Brazilian, congratulated him on the World Cup. He taught me how to order a beer in Spanish. "Una cervetha, por favor". A beer, please. Essential phrase. I intend to become incredibly familiar with it. And there's a couple of people upstairs who are 'resting up' like cripples, as their big day starts tomorrow. One's been in bed since I arrived here. Holy Bejaysus, resting up, I was on a plane for 24 hours, then found the bus from the airport to Gare d'Lyon, negotiated the tickets, waited hours for the train, then another 4½ hours on trains, the first to St Etienne, then the connecting train to Lepuy, then an hour trying to find the feckin' hotel, then wandered LePuy, the Cathedral, it's main street, buying a 'sandwich' for tea, then another place for a coffee. These people have no feckin' idea.

By the way, the Brazilian didn't even know where LePuy was.

And now, I'm into my third bowl of coffee, which is probably really dumb just before bed, but I don't care.