After all the moving around for the last two weeks, I have been walking for the last two days and it feels good to have a bit of a routine again.
After spending Sunday night in Pau, which seems a great little town, I took the bus to Artix and finally started walking north. So far the trail is much more of a blend of actual trail and back roads, cutting through fields of corn and sun flowers and running through tiny villages. As expected, it’s much more exposed than the AT, which was 95% forest. That plus the recent heat wave has made for some sweat days.
The walking is nice though: mild hills and wide trails. Most of the villages so far have been tiny; not big enough to support a cafe out site of any kind. Many people run a gite, which is a type of hostel. Often they have a small food and drink service so you can often stop in for rest and a simple lunch. Bigger towns obviously have cafes, a post office, food markets, etc. Plus there are farms and houses frequently enough that water isn’t much of an issue. The food I am carrying is mostly snacks.
First day was 15 miles. Took a while because I had to stop a few times and cool off…and a coffee break or two.
Hiking here is more about gites than it is about camping. When you get to a village at the end of the day and you are about done, it seems you hasten to be right at the gite. So rather than getting food and finding a call spot, you settle in at the gite. There is always a host and they have coffee and usually cook some kind of communal meal.
Monday night I fillyed into the gite just before dinner. Got a quick shower and sat siren to an amazing salad right from the garden, pork with garlic and onion, roasted zucchini, bread and wine of course, and a cheese made 2 miles up the road with an amazing watermelon jelly. Remind me to make some when I get home. Got to use my tent for the second time since I got here.
A quick and early breakfast, which in France is bread, jam, coffee and juice, and headed out. The day was overcast and cooler which was nice.
More fields and cows, old churches and cute villages. It was a good day but walking on paved roads is much more punishing on the feet and after 13 miles, mine were done. Seems I have to get calluses and the tingly numbness back again. It happens that the woman I was chatting with about the little town was running the gite. So that was that. Did the laundry and got the feet up.
Dinner was salad, pork and lamb, potatoes, cheese course and chocolate mousse. There was an Italian guy helping her and once a figured out that we both knew Spanish, a quacked away. There was also another hiker that had just done 26 miles and a guy doing the Camino on a horse.
And finally, with maps of France and help from the team, we figured out where it is I have to switch trails sometime next week or so.
Wednesday was good. Another day of walking through fields and back roads. Walking on roads is harder on the feet so it’s nice to get onto a trail…and some shade. The temps have gone down a bit since the heatwave and the days have been very pleasant: 70a and 80a, usually with a breeze. Got to Miramont and had lunch and bought some food. Pressed on to a tiny village with a nice gite. When I got there, the sign said they were closed that night. Well that sucks. Good thing I grabbed food. I set up my tent in the grass next to the church and settled in. The church had a little water spot, ask that was helpful and since it’s a pilgrim trail the mairie (town hall) had a bathroom open. A lovely night with lots of stars.
Off the next morning after a breakfast of dried apricots, sausage and an orange.
The days are repetitive but nice. Because it’s a Camino, I run into an English speaker at least once a day. I say “good morning” instead of “Bon jour”to flush then out.
Ended the day in Nogaro. The French are into the siesta, so it seems I arrive in town just after everything has closed. Usually you can find some place open with food but it’s very quiet. And you can’t resupply until the market opens, usually around three. So I was late heading out of town and on the outskirts I had to take off my shoe to investigate the weird feeling. Turns out I had a good blister in a new spot. I have been trying out new insoles since New York and this was the first new one. Rather than continue the next two hours in the heat of the afternoon, I pulled back into the local gite to take care of the feet…and go back to the old insoles.
Friday was good…not a cloud in the sky all day. Seems like I am seeing more vineyards and fewer corn fields but still plenty of both. Stopped in a small cafe thing that a woman had set up at her house in the middle of nowhere and had some ice tea.
Got to Eauze again right at closing time but managed a sandwich at the last minute. The day was in the high 80s by then and I find a cheap gite right in town.
Distance had been tough dye to my lack of good maps or guides. I just get up and start walking, confident the blazes will get me in the right direction. I have been averaging 6 to 7 hours a day, which is around 12 to 16 miles a day.