Everyone knows the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that leaves Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and then goes to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. The lesser known route, but well-known in France and Europe, is the Chemin de Saint-Jacques that extends the same distance in kilometers as the Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean- Pied-de-Port.
Walking the Chemin de St-Jacques-de-Compostelle is fun for many reasons. You exercise each day; you meet people from France and elsewhere who are like-minded; if you are smart, you do not carry much weight and you will sleep in a warm bed every night; and because you are in France you will most likely eat good meals when you are starved.
Along the Chemin one finds many types of markers: arrows will tell you which direction to turn; some stones will have distance chiseled into them; Christian crosses are everywhere; stone markers dating back to the middle ages tell you that you have not deviated from your chosen route; and sometimes a scallop shell is nailed to a tree or a fence post.
By far the most fun and the most extraordinary markers are the sculptures. Many styles are represented. Sometimes they are large and modern and abstract. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” ― Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
Some years ago I directed Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. I tweaked the opening of it a bit by fashioning a brief scene before the start of the actual musical. It included the concluding bars from the Door’s song “The End.” The scene showed Claude’s death in Vietnam.
As I walked during the last day and eventually into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I hummed that music, “The End,” to myself. This is the ennnnnd. (Rather bleak if one considers the lyrics from the rest of the song.)
Saint John-at-the-Foot-of-the-Pass on the Nive river was my destination this day in November, 1 November 2013. It was the town Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the foot of the Pyrénées and the gateway for those who would walk the Spanish side following El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
DAY 36 Larceveau à Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (peut-être 19km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
I have had two goals. The first was to walk Le Chemin, which I accomplished. The second was to post a record for each day that I walked. After 36 posts and after approximately 36 months I will have finished that second task once I push the “publish” button on my computer and you, dear reader, are reading this.
The countryside leading into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port was pastoral with rolling hills parceled by fences and fence posts. Off in the distance and inescapable while walking south was the blue tinged Pyrénées. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.” ― Oscar Wilde But wait, there’s more!
One more night. Tomorrow, the next day, the journey ends. Today is the second to last day and tomorrow the adventure on Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle comes to an end.
35 days of walking, looking for a bed before the evening arrives and wondering without fail where the next meal might be.
I have hiked the John Muir Trail which is 210 miles through the Sierra Nevada mountains and over terrain that climbs often above 12,000 feet. During the 1970’s I rode my bike for almost two years across three continents. Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle is another adventure in all respects.
DAY 35 Aroue à Larceveau (peut-être 23km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
On this trip I slept in a bed each night, 35 different beds between 35 clean sheets. Each dinner during the 35 evenings was cooked for me and served at a restaurant table with clean forks and knives and plates that glistened under the florescent lights.
Quelle bonne chance ! Qui mène vraiment une vie de luxe: le pèlerin sur Le Chemin.
Mais on trouve toujours les supers randonneurs sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Lorraine, Béatrice, et Louis, vous les connaissez. Ils sont vous.
« Le randonneur (…) n’hésite pas à se lancer sur la route pendant dix ou quinze jours. Il entend oublier les turpitudes de la vie moderne, au profit de la litière embaumée d’un refuge, du filet d’eau de source glacé. » —Arts et loisirs, 27 juillet 1966, p. 12, col. 2 But wait, there’s more!
From Navarrenx to Aroue, I figure it will be three more days before I finish walking Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. I am tired, not of walking but of the routine. I want to do something else.
Looking back over the photos I have taken, I see that my subjects have not changed. What I see does not change from day to day. The prompts for a photo have not changed. After a month, I am ready to crack the day-to-day routine I have lived since the start of the journey.
I told a friend I should be able to find something each day. There was something there. After all I am entering the Basque region of France.
DAY 34 Navarrenx à Aroue (peut-être 18-22km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
Along the way you can visit the Église d’Olhaïby, a small Romanesque church. Strange looking words and names appear: Etcheberria, Jaurriberria, Archelako, Quenquilenia, Uruxondoa, Hiriburia, Larribar-Sorhpuru, Harambeltz, Uhart-Mixe, Ostabat-Asme–all names that do not seem typically French.
But wait, there’s more!