Le Puy Trek Day 26: Ostabat to St. Jean Pied de Port, 457 miles completed!

The final day of the journey was upon us, I couldn’t believe it.   We woke to much cooler temperatures, the unbearably hot days were over and the morning fog was back.  Our day today was much shorter than our 40K day the day before, only 20K.  We still left early excited to get to St. Jean Pied de Port and receive our final stamp of the French journey!DSC04661.JPG

Again our day began with many beautiful pathways…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As we hiked along we found rest stops with clean bathrooms made just for pilgrims, more landes to dry the corncobs, and more curious cows.

We finally came to a sign that showed how many kilometers to go till St. Jean Pied de Port.  At this point we only had 7.1 kilometers to go, less than two hours of walking left!DSC04760.JPG

Finally we came to the last hill leading into the old medieval town of St. Jean Pied de Port…

DSC04779.JPG

Before we knew it we were at the gateway into the old walled town.  We were finished, I was finished.  The 26 day journey was over.  I had mixed feelings, happy to be done, but sad that the journey was over.  It wasn’t perfect, but had many great moments along the way, great friends, animals, wonderful French food (when it was available), and beautiful French villages and more!

DSC04787.JPG

I was done!  Of course I had to get the typical touristy photos with the gang and by myself!

Our last stop… the pilgrims office to get our final pilgrims stamp for this journey.

Next up?  The Norte Camino!!!  After all the heat I couldn’t wait to get to the coast and I couldn’t wait for the Spanish tapas!

Le Puy Trek Day 25: Navarrenx to Ostabat-Asme, 104 degree temps, nice dogs and not so nice dogs, as well as a gite with a pool and a singing Basque man!

Since we knew today would be a scorcher, we took off before the sun was up and crossed the bridge to head out of Navarrenx.  I couldn’t believe we only had two more days till St. Jean Pied de Port, a great feeling!DSC04487.JPG

The morning was jam packed full of beautiful trails, some shown below…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a good 2-3 hours of walking we came to the first pilgrim rest stop of the day where we were greeted by a friendly little dog that I wished I could have taken along with me on the Norte Camino…DSC04541.JPG

While some dogs are very friendly and happy to see you others are not.  I had more than one incidence where a dog almost attacked me.  One dog came running at me from behind an open fence.  I had no idea the dog was there until he was practically on top of me, barking ferociously and going for my legs, somehow I backed away in time and I was able to get away.  Super scary.   The French do not always keep their fierce dogs behind closed fences or indoors.  Two pilgrim friends along the way were attacked and bitten by dogs, one had to stop his journey for a while to heal his wound.  The dog owner was not apologetic and took no responsibility.   Of course not all French dog owners behave this way.

Below is one of those dogs that looks friendly enough, but did not appreciate pilgrims walking by his house.  Luckily he or she was not one to come chasing after pilgrims, but warned you not to come near with a scary growl.DSC04560.JPG

After our friendly and not so friendly dog encounters, the rest of the day was spent dealing with the unbelievably hot sun.  We came to a church that was just a bit off the main path, knowing that churches have cool rooms we went.  Unfortunately the church wasn’t open, but there was a room just in front of the church that was in the shade allowing us to rest and cool down.   DSC04585.JPG

Just before leaving the church, I noticed a faucet by the fence, one in which if it was running, I could lay under and drench myself.  Luckily water flowed freely out of it and I laid down underneath, completely drenching myself.  It was the best decision I could have made.  The next two hours were much more bearable.  As soon as my clothes dried I was looking for the next place I could drench myself.

Along the way we encountered landes, where corncobs were drying…

DSC04594.JPG

Heading to Ostabat we came to the place where 3-pilgrim routes (Paris, Vezelay and Le Puy) in France meet.  A statue has been erected in this spot.

DSC04617.JPG

The last part of the trail is up and over the hill into Ostabat, where most pilgrims spend their last night before proceeding to St. Jean Pied de Port.

We found a rare Gite with a pool, which was so needed after the long hot day!  Many pilgrims were staying at this gite, ones we had not met before, and two that I had met before, a father and son from Canada.   I had seen them on my very first day of my pilgrimage and then not until the 2nd to the last day, crazy how that happens!

DSC04620.JPG

We were now very much in the Basque French country.  Our gite host and hostess made sure we knew they were Basque and made sure we knew all about their plight to become their own country.  I didn’t understand most of what they said, but bilingual pilgrims informed me of what they were saying.  That night we all had our last pilgrim meal in a gite, it wasn’t the best meal I had had along the journey, but one of the most fun meals along the journey…

Our host treated us to wine shots and sang Basque and Spanish songs to us :).  He was a phenomenal singer and a bit of a preacher and probably could have preached less, but it was still a fun night with a great group of people.

DSC04632.JPG

After dinner we enjoyed the warm evening out on the deck, getting to know each other further.  We also took in the view of the Pyrenees Mountains, just a short distance away!DSC04650.JPG

Up next… St. Jean Pied de Port!!!

Le Puy Trek Day 24: Arthez – de -Bearn to Navarrenx

DSC04351.JPGLeaving Arthez – de – Bearn, I took in another beautiful yet rather warm morning.   The mornings are always my favorite time on the trail, whether I wake to fog, thunder and lightening, or a beautiful blue sky day with the sun rising over the farm animals, all is fresh and new including me!  The crispness of the morning and excitement and anticipation of what the new day might bring helps me spring out of bed and get on my way.  The thought of missing a brilliant sunrise or rolling fog over the pasture lands or lakes keeps me from hitting the snooze button!  I just wish I was as motivated to rise early in Seattle!

The footpaths this morning were through wooded pathways and farmlands that sported many shades of green, maybe even 50 :).  Towards the end of the journey I noticed more and more pastures of corn plants, adding to the fields and fields of green.

DSC04402.JPGThe sunflowers had not disappeared yet, making quite the bright statement among the fields of corn.  As I walked along the path I enjoyed vibrant sunflowers on my right and tall corn stalks on my left or vice versa.  That day I witnessed farmers riding in their big machines working the land.  They seemed to enjoy seeing us pilgrims in route to Santiago.  Hopefully they didn’t mind me taking their photo….

As the sun continued to rise, so did the heat.  We were right smack in the middle of the hottest days of the region’s weather pattern cycle.  The refreshing morning didn’t last long and soon we needed to refill our water bottles and needed a rest in the shade.  Lucky for Monica and I we found the perfect place…DSC04431.JPGWhen you see a sign that says Eau Potable, it means that the water is good to drink, but if the sign says non-potable, it is not good to drink.  I saw more non-potable water fountains along this French Le Puy route then I saw on the Camino Frances.

After a few more hours of the sun relentlessly beating down on us we arrived to Navarrenx.  A town once with a fortress to protect it from the many invaders through the centuries.  You will still see some of the fortress and enjoy the view that the tall structure provides.

DSC04472.JPG

Once in town, we headed straight to the first gite we could find, took cold showers and within minutes of drying off, we were sweating again.  It had to have been over 100 that day, as the only bearable place we could find to hang out in was the old church, always the coolest buildings in the towns…  DSC04474.JPGWe stayed as long as we could and then took off to find a place to eat dinner as our gite was not the type to have pilgrim meals.  We found a great bar/tavern named after Saint James.  Even though it was still quite hot at 8PM, we enjoyed the atmosphere this establishment provided.

Falling asleep that night took a bit of time.  It must have been 80-90 degrees in our room…

Next up…. Ostabat-Asme!

 

 

Le Puy Trek Day 23: Arzacq-Arraziguet to Arthez-de-Bearn

Another early morning and another beautiful sunrise over the town.  Arzacq-Arraziguet bordered a small lake making that morning that much more exquisite…DSC04223.JPG

With every step I took the Pyrenees Mountains grew larger and more defined.  The beautiful blue ski days highlighted the few snow-capped peaks.   Walking towards the mountains made it easy to find my way, so I thought.   Unfortunately, at one point I became so enamored by the mountains that I missed an obvious turn and walked at least 2 miles out of my way before I realized I was on the wrong trail.  Back tracking on already long days is never fun.   Enjoy the mountains, but not to the point that they lead you astray. 🙂

DSC04264.JPG

Because I took the wrong trail, I met up with the New Zealand couple, sporting their New Zealand made Aarn backpacks, who left later than I did.   It was the last time I would see them on the French Camino, but would run into them later on the Norte Camino, amazing how that happens!

Vivid yellow sunflowers once again added visual delight to the trail…DSC04262.JPG

More shady spots and places to sit and relax appeared as the day went along.  This mini park was created just for tired and hot pilgrims.DSC04280.JPG

I walked through tiny towns with beautiful churches, as you can see it was another flat day with only a few hills at the beginning of the day.DSC04286.JPG

Signs and fun home-made Camino pilgrims were enjoyable sights along the way…DSC04289.JPG

DSC04291.JPG

And of course some of my favorite sightings along the way were the friendly soft and furry mules…

DSC04303.JPG

On a hot sunny day one of the coolest places you will find are the floors of churches.  Don’t pass up the chance to have a cool and peaceful moment inside one of the smaller out of the way churches, where you will likely be the only visitor. DSC04329.JPG

After my rest I only had about 30 more minutes till my final stop for of the day in Arthez-de-Bearn.  It was a Sunday, meaning open stores and food would be unlikely, so when I found my gite I immediately signed up for the pilgrims meal.  Thank goodness I did as nothing was open in this small town!  Dinner turned out to be fantastic, with new fun pilgrims to meet and get to know.

Next up Navarrenx…

 

Le Puy Trek Day 22: Aire-sur-L’Adour to Arzacq-Arraziguet, a flat and hot 34K day!

I left Aire-sur-L’Adour early enough to enjoy a beautiful sunrise over the town.  Leaving town required a short yet steep climb, giving a great overview of the town.   I passed the second large cathedral, wondering why a small town needed two large places of worship within a half mile of each other.

DSC04127.JPG

The trails were long and flat on this day, with beautiful countrysides, mountain views and a forest trail along a small lake,  not bad!   DSC04133.JPG

The day was pretty, but fairly uneventful.  I took full advantage of shady spots along the way.  Enjoying a rest and a brake from the sun.DSC04179.jpgDSC04145.JPG

I eventually made it to Arzacq-Arraziguet, 34K later and enjoyed some nice cold refreshments with a lovely New Zealand couple.  Later that evening we joined a French couple and Monica for the pilgrims dinner at our gite…  Another great 3-course meal.  It started with a beat salad with pate and bread, then came the duck confi and finally dessert, a raspberry yogurt with crumb crusts at the bottom, delicious!  And of course I can’t forget about the wine!  What a beautiful evening with great company…DSC04204.JPG

Next up Arthez-de-Bearn…

Le Puy Trek Day 21: Nogaro to Aire-sur-L’Adour, French bakeries and my first sighting of the Pyrenees!

I work early (5:40AM) to avoid walking during the heat of the day as the days were getting warming and warming.  Before leaving Nogaro I stopped in the towns open bakery.  Bakeries normally open at 6AM and are open till 10 or 11AM and then sometimes in the afternoon for a few hours.  This bakery was amazing.  As you can see from the photos…

DSC04004.JPGDSC04007

DSC04006

Bakeries in France are a great place to pick up lunch for the day.  They will make you a large baguette sandwich for the road, wrap up any desserts you may want and send you off with a breakfast croissant or quiche.  I’m not sure it gets any better than that!   And just a tip, you may want to purchase two sandwiches for the road.

After the bakery I walked on and out of town.  A short ways out of town, I came to my first sighting of the Pyrenees mountains.  I was more than a little excited and felt a bit nostalagic to see the Pyrenees, the mountains that I first walked up and over 4 years early when I walked my first Camino, the Camino Frances.   It was weird thinking that in less then one week, I would be at the base of these mountains in St. Jean Pied de Port.

DSC04013.JPG

I won’t lie, I was excited to be close to the end of this journey.  For the most part I was enjoying the adventure, but not knowing the language, the food issues I had along the way, and the heat put a bit of a damper on this trek.  However, I did meet wonderful people whom I can still call friends, enjoyed beautiful landscapes and farm animals, and loved meeting the friendly French people in the beautiful medieval villages of France.  Really I couldn’t complain.

The rest of the day was mostly flat, with some rolling farm land hills through more sunflower fields, duck farms and fields of corn.   As I entered Aire-sur L’Adoure I noticed another bull fighting arena, another sign we were getting closer to Spain.  At the towns church the symbols for this journey hung on one of the outside walls, the shell and the walking stick of a pilgrim.

DSC04118DSC04106

After finding a gite and showering I walked to find an open shop to buy food for the next day and then sat at the cafe/bar shown in the photo below to have a cold drink, to cool off after another long hot day!

DSC04102

Next up Arzacq- Arraziquet…

Le Puy Trek Day 20: Montreal to Eauze and on to Nogaro. Flat land, grapes, ducks, and a National Holiday!

DSC03803.JPGWe left Montreal around 6:30AM and began the long (36K) flat walk to Nogaro.  It was a beautiful crisp morning, but the days were beginning to get warmer, so we knew we couldn’t meander.  The walk took us through one vineyard after another, we had officially entered wine country!  The wine in France is fairly reasonable and good, but not nearly as cheap as their neighbor’s wine is to the West in Spain.

We walked for about 10K and decided to have our first rest at a bench that must have been made for pilgrims.  It was here that I realized I had forgotten my lunch that I had purchased the evening before and placed in the gite’s refrigerator.  I was more than a bit concerned about finding food to replace my forgotten lunch as today was a National Holiday.  And if a National Holiday was anything like a Sunday in France, stores would all be closed at earlier than usual hours, with very little food available.

DSC03840.JPGDSC03837.JPG

After a short break we rushed on to the first big town we would come to that day, hoping that stores would be open.  The path at this point continued to be very flat, but took us along a wide path through the woods for miles and miles…DSC03849.JPG

until we reached the town called Eauze.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the town was full of people out for their morning coffee and pastry.  Stores were OPEN! Food was available!  I was in luck!  Needless to say, I stocked up while I could.  I had learned from a previous experience in Moissac, that a town that is lively with many open shops can quickly turn into a deserted one with closed shops and no one around, equating to hunger pains!DSC03856.JPG

As we left the town with our belly’s happy and full, we noticed that the same street market that was in Condom the day before with clothing, pigs, hand bags and fresh produce lined the streets of this town.   Possibly we had come across a larger than usual market that only came around on their National Holiday and went town to town throughout the week.

Leaving the town we again came across field after field of grapes.  I had come to enjoy walking past the food that I would be consuming later that day.   However, I wasn’t particularly fond of seeing the next part of our meal along the way… Ducks!  DSC03904.JPG

And just like the vegetables and fruit, we saw ducks in various stages of their growth from babies to full grown and finally to our plate 😦   Ducks to the French are like chickens are to Americans.  Poor little guys!

On we walked past the ducks and wine country into fields and fields of corn, eventually taking us to the Greenwich Meridian…

DSC03962.JPGDSC03964.JPGSince I am not an expert on the Greenwich Meridian, check out this site to learn more… http://www.thegreenwichmeridian.org

After hours of walking and with a few kilometers to go, we finally saw the village where we would be spending the night.  The first sighting of the final village of the day is always a joyful moment.  Finally we could rest, shower, have dinner and go to bed!

DSC03976.JPG

Before bed however, we always explored the town.  On this day we came across a rodeo which must have been for Bastille Day.  Performers were doing flips over bulls that would have loved to stick their horns in them…

DSC03992.JPG

Up next… Nogaro to Aire-sur-L’Adour.