Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 23: Cat Food and God Lights

Dscn1076bSeptember 3: I woke up early to gray skies and hit the trail. I hadn’t set up camp very far outside of town and expected to see all sorts of people passing me while I was still muddling around in camp, but I guess they all got a late start too because I never did see anyone, and nobody ever did catch up to me later in the day. In total, I saw four hikers all day, and I caught up with them.


Early in the morning, I reached a small stand set up by the fine folks who manufacture Jean Haget pâté. I thought the stand was a great idea, selling and promoting their products to hikers passing by, but I chose not to buy any. This seems to be a popular item for hikers to carry out here in French, and I wasn’t even entirely sure what exactly it was except that it was sold in cat food cans. I googled it later and learned that it “is a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste.” I don’t know about you, but that didn’t exactly have my taste buds drooling. The final nail in the coffin came when I met Maria who had some, and she offered some up to me. I smelled it and—I’m not kidding—it smelled exactly like cat food. I just couldn’t make myself even try it. Perhaps there are other flavors that don’t smell like cat food, but nope, I had absolutely zero desire to put even the tiniest bit in my mouth. I’ve lived a long life without pâté, and I decided I liked things that way.


So I passed on the pâté stand, despite how much I liked the concept of having such a stand. (And it makes me wonder, if they sell pâté in cans that look like cat food, what do they sell cat food in?)


Dscn1078bIn Lichos, I intended to fill up my water bottle, but as I turned off trail to go to the church, cemetery, and (darn it) a water source, I saw a loose dog wandering around the street ahead. I decided I could wait until the next water source. It wasn’t a hot day, and the little water I had should hold me over. I didn’t know if the dog would be aggressive or not, but there was no sense in taking any chances. (Only two days since I started did I have to deal with aggressive dogs that made me nervous—the vast majority of loose dogs are pretty nice and friendly, though. Maybe even too friendly at times.)


So I turned back to the trail, avoided the dog, and started rationing water until I refilled my water bottle at the Eglise d’Olhaiby quite a few kilometers further away.


The trail had some variant options available today, but I selected not to take any of them. The shortcuts were either on busy roads or missed major landmarks that I wanted to see.


One was the meeting point of three French routes in Hiriburia. There are four “main” routes through France that eventually merge into a single route that becomes the Camino Frances, or the “French Way.” Even though almost all of the French Way is in Spain, it’s named that because historically, a heck of a lot of French people followed the trail in medieval times—most of whom got to it using one of the four primary routes spread across France. I started at the Le Puy-en-Valey route, but there are three other historical starting points in France I could have started in.


And in this quiet little town of Hiriburia, three of the four French paths merged into a single path. I could turn right and, in theory, follow the trail all the way to Paris. I had thought about starting my hike from Paris but eventually decided against it since I read that the first part had a lot of miserable road walks (bleh!) and it wasn’t particularly well marked making route-finding much more difficult. But if I had started in Paris, this would have been where I merged with the Le Puy route. I wondered what kind of adventures I left behind by not doing the Paris route. I’d probably still be a week away if I started in Paris—that route was longer than the Le Puy route.


Dscn1086bThen the trail went around a bend and started climbing up the biggest mountain I’d seen in weeks. It was late in the day and the sun finally started breaking through some of the clouds creating a “God light” mosaic above. It felt magical, and I climbed up that mountain feeling great. The higher I got, the better the views became, and it seemed like I was hiking to heaven. Kind of surreal, really.


I finally reached the top where there was a small chapel to welcome visitors: Chapelle de Soyarza. I tried to sign the logbook there, but the pen on the table didn’t work. I had pens—two of them—but they were buried deep in my pack and I didn’t want to unload the pack to get at them. Instead, I tried writing with the existing pen very hard so it would leave an impression. I stamped it with my signature stamp—which was quite visible—and hoped that it would clue people in that there was a message written on the paper too. (Not a very interesting one, admittedly—I wrote that the pen didn’t work.) Then I thought of those detective shows where they find a clue by rubbing a pencil against the impression to pull out the message. I didn’t have a pencil, but I did have an ink pad. I could rub the ink pad across the message to bring out my note! Yeah, the people who follow behind me are going to remember this message, if only because it’s the only one written with an ink pad. =)


It worked, more or less. I stayed at the top for about a half hour, basking in the God light and admiring the views. It was wonderful up there, and I seriously considered spending the night there. It was wide open with no development nearby. It was peaceful, and I expected it would be an awesome place to watch the sunset and rise the next morning. But I finally decided against it, wanting to get into Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port early in the day and so wanted to get closer to the town.


I ended the day at a gite—the Gite d’Etape Maison Ospitalia, which I shared with a group of French Canadians. I was glad they were French Canadians rather than local French people because most of these folks knew at least a little English which gave me some people to talk to. =) And I was a mere 21 kilometers away from Saint Jean. I was getting pretty excited about getting into Saint Jean. The last stop in France. Then over the Pyrenees and into Spain! The land where they speak Spanish—a language I actually can communicate in (kind of). The main path people think of when you talk about the “Camino” begins in Saint Jean. The existing guidebook I used since Le Puy ends in Saint Jean and new guidebooks would be needed to get me the rest of the distance to Santiago.


I was getting a bad case of Camino Fever. Saint Jean couldn’t get here fast enough!


Cat food! Get your cat food here! (These two hikers happened to be
half of all the hikers I would see all day.)




Roadside memorial?




A hiker rest area…




I don’t know why, but this sign amuses me. It’s warning
cars on the road to watch out for “randonneurs” hiking on GR 65.


It was a rather overcast, miserable-looking day for all of the morning
and much of the afternoon.




This was one of the biggest trees I’d seen on the trail.








This sign really got me excited—it was the first one I saw
showing Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port up ahead! Just seven hours away!
This section of trail kind of annoyed me with their signage since
it listed times and not distance. Which strikes me as absurd
since different people hike at different speeds. They couldn’t
include distance too? I don’t mind if they also include
the typical time it takes someone to hike, but not even including
an objective measure like distance seems kind of stupid.
But at the time I took this photo, I didn’t care. Saint Jean
was just around the proverbial corner!!!!


This marker is set up near where three of the four
historical French routes merged into one.


The biggest sustained climb up I’d seen in weeks!


For all the photos I took going up here, I couldn’t
seem to get a good image of the God light
coming from the clouds. This is the best photo
I have of it (bleh!), but it was much more clear
to the naked eye.


The Chapelle de Soyarza at the top of the mountain.


How to write a message with a pen that doesn’t work. =)


The God light actually shows up better in my photos when
I was heading down the mountain.


A church on the way down the mountain.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, you are a "randonneur" since you are a hiker.

Anonymous said...

Oh My Gosh.... a Corn Crib. I haven't seen one of them since I left New York State! Thanks for sharing! Wendy

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Is it me, or are we missing a self-portrait in this post??

Ryan said...

Just because I took a self portrait of some sort pretty much every day doesn't mean I think y'all want to SEE the self portrait every day. ;o)

-- Ryan

Soup-a-Woman said...

You are such a food pansy.

anne bonny said...

I love seeing the daily self-portrait :(