Stage Two: Chemin de St Jacques
Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port, March 4th to April 4th
This section, on the Le Puy Camino, took us to the wind swept plains of the Aubrac. Cold, I got frostbite on my nose which took weeks to heal but no snow and so we were able to cross through one of the worst marked sections. Thankfully we had a GPS and a thermos.
Our bodies had settled down a little but we were still struggling. It wasn’t until the end of this section that we felt we could walk forever. But still no feet problems beyond the ache every night and my bunions which miraculously also stopped hurting. Ice covered pine trees and half frozen ponds that crackled under foot, the weather moved into spring and with amazement, we watched as our walk took us past the first flowers, daffodils, and jonquils, then days of golden canola fields and fruit orchards with apples in blossom.
Food and wine continued to be plentiful and the highlight of the day. That and the occasions when the room had a bath I can fall into. Each new pleasure was so exquisite, the rest of the world and our lives faded away. This was life.
The highlight was Conques, staying in the Monastery (okay the food wasn’t the highlight) being blessed by chanting monks and crawling into bed between centuries old walls and imagining everything they had seen. A beautiful town and monastery and a charming tradition of ringing every pelerin out of town and onwards.
We met a few pelerins, the pressured pelerin who didn’t talk to us – later we found out because he couldn’t speak French and we had, of course, greeted him with Bonjour. He came from our home town. A French woman doing her two weeks holiday, picking up each holiday from where she left off a common way for Europeans to do the walk as the longer leave was impossible. Two days where local dogs attached themselves to us for almost the entire way, well suited to the pelerins. Trying variants – my favorite via the canal after Moissac meant a long welcome flat section. Another variant forced on us by a large sign threatening to shoot us. Pelerins are not welcomed by all the French!
Great meals, including ones we cooked ourselves to ensure our vegetable content was adequate. Some tough climbs – including one where the supermarket was at the bottom of the hill so we had to add all of our fare to our packs and all but crawl our way up.
Finally Saint Jean Pied de Port. It was a beautiful day and we decided on two nights at a good hotel and a night at Chez Arrambide to celebrate. We felt great but what to do? We wanted to continue but didn’t want to be with hoards of pilgrims. So it was simple. Take the GR 10 through the Pyrenees (mountains? Huh, we’d done a ton!) to Hendaye, pick up the Camino del Norte and get to Santiago that way. Easy…..
This is the second of four posts by Simone Sinna, the first was Cluny to Le Puy, the third is on the Camino Norte but starting at St Jean and walking to Hendaye, and the final post is along the Camino Primitivo into Santiago.