July 17, 2008

Day 43: 26 May- Aroue to Ostabat

At home when I was younger we used to wait for the milkman to deliver milk on his truck. But here in rural France, it was the boulangerie van that made deliveries! At 6.45am the van arrived, and you could buy a baguette for lunch, or croissants for breakfast.....
When it came time to leave, everyone was expecting more rain, and dressed accordingly.
Signs in this part of France were in Basque as well as French.
This cow didn't seem overly impressed by the wet conditions either....
but this mist against the wooded hillside gave me pleasant reminders of childhood visits to the West Coast.
This bag was hanging on the gate for bread delivery. I wondered if the Basque striped design had any connection with Isabelle from Cambarrat.
I decided to make the slight diversion off the track to see the chapel of Olhalby and was glad I had: it was exquisite. A man from the village was there to tell visitors about the chapel. He pointed out where there was a place for the woman who cared for the chapel to sleep, and he talked about the headstones from earlier centuries that had been found under the ground in the graveyard.
There was a choice to make on the route today. Would I go via the old route of the GR via Uhart-Mixe as some had recommended, or take the longer route via the stele of Gibraltar, and see where two other French routes joined the Le Puy route?

I opted to go via Uhart-Mixe. And the rain bucketed down during this part of the morning, so that I was incredibly glad to arrive at the restaurant there, so warm and cosy inside. I met some old friends again over lunch, where I had a delicious soup and salad. The restaurant owner advised against rejoining the Chemin as he said it was under water in places, so most of us took the road, which was quite busy and not so pleasant. Not far from Uhart-Mixe though, the weather changed dramatically: the sky cleared to blue and the sun shone brilliantly. I found myself stripping down to a t-shirt, and putting away my raincoat, an unusual experience in recent days. Maybe there was hope for seeing the view over the Pyrenees after all....
Just past Ostabat, came the place to quit the road and rejoin the Chemin. Unfortunately, this meant I missed passing through Ostabat itself, a village that was an ancient pilgrimage place in its own right. (I was too tired later to retrace my steps and walk the extra kms to get back there.)

I didn't especially enjoy the gite this evening, even though the facilities were excellent: for the first time in France I felt as if I was just part of a 'pilgrim farming' gite. But there were still real pluses. The sun shone down brightly all afternoon, and I spent time with my room-mates just enjoying the view in the sunshine. The woman pictured here became an inspiration that I remembered. She had walked already from Bretagne, and had problems with her feet. She spent quite some time in the evening and in the morning, massaging in cream and ointment to help with the pain, but she remained determined. I saw her again the next night in SJPP, but she never had a rest day, so started over the mountains before me. I never saw her again in Spain, so I hope she made it to Santiago.

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