Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 21: The One Liter Challenge

Dscn0807bSeptember 1: It sprinkled lightly overnight, just enough to make me pull out my tarp and throw it over myself. I didn’t set it up, though—I just threw it over myself like a blanket and figured that was good enough. Rain wasn’t even in the forecast to begin with, so I didn’t expect much.

I had a hard time getting moving in the morning, though. It was cold out and I didn’t want to leave my sleeping bag. Eventually, though, natured called, and I had to answer.

The day was largely uneventful. I checked every cemetery I passed to see if they had water. Maria had told me that all cemeteries have water. I felt sure that there were some exceptions, so I started making a habit of checking them all until I found one without a water source. I’m still convinced that there are exceptions, but I wasn’t able to find any today among the half-dozen small cemeteries I passed today. Maybe she was right, though. In any case, I certainly had all sorts of new water sources to drink from that my guidebooks never listed. That’s a handy piece of information to know! Now if I could just find an exception to the rule…

For the first time, I could see the Pyrenees to the south—a rugged-looking chain of mountain stretching east-west. They were faint and barely visible through the haze, but I knew immediately it was the Pyrenees. I hadn’t seen mountains that big or rugged since I didn’t know when, and a small thrill went through me at the sight of them. The light at the end of the tunnel. At least the French portion of the tunnel. Spain lay just on the other side of those mountains. Since I was traveling largely from east to west, parallel to the Pyrenees, I wouldn’t intersect them for several more days. I wondered if any of the peaks I could see actually were in Spain. Probably some of them.

At one point, I stopped to take a break at a picnic table along the trail. I was there for five or ten minutes when suddenly three vehicles pulled up in quick succession, and a bunch of guys in orange hunter vests jumped out to release a bunch of dogs in cages in the back. I quickly pulled up my pack from the ground and stuffed all my food laying out back in it. The dogs largely ignored me, as did the people, but they annoyed me being so loud and the dogs would not stop barking. It looked like they were about to hunt in the cornfields surrounding the area, but I never saw them pull out any weapons—I’m also not sure what sort of gun laws there are for hunters—so I’m not sure how that was supposed to work. After a few minutes of that racket, though, I left. I didn’t want to listen to all their noise anymore.

Dscn0810bI decided to end the day in the hilltop town of Arthez-de-Bearn, and stopped in a gite to inquire if they still had any beds available. When I arrived, though, the only people there were other pilgrims. When I asked about accommodations, they told me to walk 500 meters into town and talk to the “bread maker.” I don’t know why, I found the term “bread maker” kind of amusing. Obviously, they didn’t know English very well, but at least I understood them better than they understood my French!

I left my pack at the gite—I did not want to carry it 500 meters into town and 500 meters back—and walked into the heart of the town and started looking around for a shop selling bread. It took me several minutes to find, and I wondered if there might be more than one of these bread stores around and I had found the right one.

But yes, I had the right one. The baker waved me back, and I followed him around the counter and out a side door where he started getting into his car.

“No!” I told him. “I have to walk!” I used my fingers to represent a man walking, and tried to explain that I already knew where the gite was. I had even left my stuff there.

I absolutely, under no circumstances, was going to get in his car, though. Not that I didn’t trust him, but I had not used any form of modern transportation since I arrived in Le Puy-en-Velay three weeks earlier, and it kind of became my thing. I would not use any form of modern transportation until I arrived in Santiago. No, I had to walk back to the gite—admittedly, an annoying 500 meters away.
The baker got into the car and drove away anyhow—I’m not sure why since he no longer had to ferry me to the gite. Since I was already in the center of town, I did some grocery shopping at a shop across the street from the bread store.

Dscn0816bAnd it was there I saw it: one liter of mint chip ice cream. It wasn’t a half gallon, I know, but it somehow seemed right to eat an entire liter of ice cream. I’m not sure I ever tried eating an entire liter of ice cream before. (A pint—I’ve done that challenge many times! But never a liter…)

I walked back to the gite where a note had been left on my pack to go up to the first floor and take a room on the left. Keeping in mind that in Europe (and pretty much everywhere in the world except the United States), the “first floor” is actually one floor up from the ground floor. I even had to translate the English into American! =)

Before I did that, however, I opened my pack and dug out my spoon. The One Liter Challenge would commence immediately! The ice cream was already starting to melt!

I gobbled it down in minutes. Piece of cake! Well, not a literal piece of cake—it was ice cream, after all—but you know what I meant. Absolutely delicious mint chip ice cream.

Then I finally headed up the stairs and popped into the room on the left which had a Polish couple already in it. We introduced ourselves and I selected a bed and started to make myself comfortable.

A half hour later, the guy who left the note poked his head in and seemed surprised to find me there. “The other room,” he told me, “had nobody in it. You can have that room.”

“The room on the right?” I asked.

“Yes, that one.”

“But your note said to take the one on the left.” I even showed him the note.

“Yes, the left—when you’re facing down the stairs.”

Ahh… I see… I must have missed that English-to-American part of the translation. I just assumed it was the room on the left after I reached the top of the stairs. I wonder if he just got his right and left mixed up, though. I know in Spanish, I’ve been known to forget which word was which. Or maybe he just got his left and right mixed up—you don’t even have to talk in a foreign language to do that!
In any case, I went ahead and moved my stuff to the other room, getting the whole room to myself with my own bathroom. It was awesome. =)

I threw out my trash at a garbage can in front of this church. =)

There are times when I’m hiking the trail and I feel like
someone… or something… is watching me.

Trail magic!!!!

I don’t know what the squirrel is saying,
but he sure seems excited about it!

I didn’t ask this hiker if he was really carrying a guitar in his pack,
but I was very tempted to…

Hunters with their dogs? I wonder what they hunt with, though.
I never saw any weapons like guns!

Another day, another church, and another cemetery.
And it too had water.


It appears that this cactus wants to go to Santiago too!

One particular house had all sorts of cute decorations that I
had to stop to take photos of! It’s a pilgrim!

The man of the house looks like he’s happy! =)

This chicken appears to want out, though!



The self portrait!

By golly, those look like the Pyrenees in the distance!!!

Another church, another cemetery, and another
source of potable water.

Another viewpoint of the distant Pyrenees.

I found this board game at the gite. I had to open it up and look out
of curiosity, but all of the instructions and cards were written in
French so I really didn’t know how the game worked. But it’s
obvious a Camino de Santiago game! =)


Steve, Christa, Emily, Meghan, Charles & Elizabeth said...

I wonder if those were "truffle" dogs. I know that some people train dogs instead of pigs because there is less worry of the dog eating the truffle.

Anne Bonny said...

I believe the squirrel is saying something like

"Here we do the sorting", it's been many years since I've used French, so, I'm a little iffy especially on the sorting part, but it's along those lines :)

Why would they have you walk from the gite to the bread maker, only to have him take you back there??? Weird