Eauze - Manciet - Nogaro - Arblade-le-Haut
Today was such a relaxing day of walking - 'facile et tranquille', other than for a minor medical emergency which I'll get to. No need to panic - tout est bien!
I walked again today with Dominique. I mentioned that he had an interesting story. So just a snippet. On the first day we walked together (yesterday) I couldn't help but notice he is quite meticulous. For example, he notes on the relevant page of his guidebook the time of day he sets out, the breaks along the way and the time he arrives at his pre-determined destination. Also, he announced to me early on that he stops at 10.30 to have a muesli bar and again between 12.30 and 1.00pm for lunch depending on when he comes across a suitable location. He added that if this didn't suit me, he would be very happy to stop at any time that I would like to and that I should let him know if I would prefer he walk on. He really is a gentleman.
The third thing I noticed within the first hour that morning was the way in which he navigated and guided me through the sections of thick mud that had reappeared - though thankfully they were soon behind us. Step to the right here, on the stone there, take the grass to your left, on the fallen branch here, take the middle path.
After the mud we resumed the conversation started earlier in the morning. Dominique told me that he had been retired for many years. I was a little surprised. Though I'm not sure of his age, I would have guessed had he retired it would have been quite recently. As if he had read my mind, he added, 'I didn't want to leave my job. But if you have a dangerous job you are forced to retire early.' Turns out Dominique was a landmine disposal specialist for the French military, followed by NATO and then the UN. I asked a few questions and was astonished to learn that the estimated number of unexploded landmines in the world is counted in millions and that, at current rates, it would take hundreds of years to eradicate them. His final comment on the subject was elegantly simple and stayed with me, 'I saw death many times, but death didn't want to take me. Now here I am walking The Way'.
On a lighter note, the meticulousness and precision I'd noticed earlier quickly made sense. And I can also vouch that, as you'd expect, Dominque is cool headed in a crisis. Today, we were walking through a dark section of forest when I suddenly felt some thing or things fly around my face and then a sharp pain around my neck. I swatted them away, with Dominique's help, and me making quite a racket in the process. I was really in pain and had to quickly unload my pack and investigate. Turns out I'd been stung by a guepe (wasp). And the dart was sticking in to my collarbone. I couldn't see it but thankfully Dominque was able to remove it. Of course this must all sound ridiculously dramatic but it was painful and I was glad it hadn't happened while I was on my own. A little paw paw ointment and no permanent damage.
The rest of the day went along without incident, other than rain starting about half an hour before reaching our destination - the L'Arbradoise chambre d'Hote and gite. It's gorgeous, right down to the lovely lotus painting in the gite room I am sharing with a French girl, Delphine. And we have our own bathroom. Luxury. The main house was built in 1872 - fairly modern compared to most I've seen over the past three weeks and we will have dinner in there tonight. Can't wait to see inside. Photos of the main house and gite building included tonight.
Not long to go now until dinner at 7, so time to wrap up.
Great to hear from you Robert, Rosanne, Audrey - and Brian (as in Brian and Mary-Rose from Melbourne whom I met on Camino just a few weeks back). Brian, I will be in touch to confirm the house number in Ernest Street for your brother and sister in law so you can let them know (warn them) I may knock on the door to introduce myself!
Also a big thank you to Pierre for letting me know accommodation is tight in St Jean Pied de Port on my anticipated arrival date - and for ringing around to find a room for me! Tu es tres, tres gentil.
On that topic, my new ideas for my time in Spain after I arrive in SJPP have been sitting with me since the second week and are coming together. When I planned this trip, I knew I would not want to leave without spending time in Spain. For some reason I had the idea that I must find a short spanish Camino which would take me to Santiago de Compostela - and that the Camino Primitovo might be the thing. But I let go of that idea quite soon after beginning the Chemin du Puy. I realised that one Camino at a time is the better way for me. Enjoy and appreciate my French Camimo rather than look beyond it for something more.
With my new plan, I am confident I will see Sheryl and Glenn again, most likely at SJPP. We keep in touch and they are about two days behind me, and plan to be in SJPP on 2 May. I am on track to arrive on 30 April. But there is no hurry now to race across Spain to fit in the Primitivo, so I expect I will take it easy in the last few days, arrive on 1 May and wait for Sheryl and Glenn to walk in the next day.
I will then have 5 or 6 days to 'wander' in Spain before making my way back to Paris - and home on Sunday 11th. I have a pretty good idea what I'll do with those 5 or 6 days but no plans required just yet - it will all fall into place after I arrive in St Jean. It feels just right to me.
PS. Happy birthday to Tony Cooper. And sending good wishes on Anzac Day which I know is of particular personal significance to some of my friends and their families. Thinking of you. X