Day 14

Wednesday July 31st     Pic du Midi d’Ossau – Lac de Bouys – Artigues  – home ?

I have slept in my tent for the last night. Spanish people sleeping in the tent next to mine, kept me awake for most of the night, and in the morning they were up really early to attack the ascension of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau. I’ll leave that for another time, maybe, although I don’t fancy myself really getting into cliff climbing again, but I hope my wish to be back one day will be heard. My camera has no space for any more pictures; all the batteries (cellular phone, camera, and my own) need recharging.

I enjoy a smooth descent to the Parking lot of Lac de Bouys-Artigues where I am lucky to be picked up by two young men (each driving in their proper car, so I choose for the van, which could easily take my backpack and with whose driver I started the conversation on the preybirds’ attack. He works in the Parks, but for his own account, and mentions that people to take care of forestry are hard to come by). I find myself lucky to be dropped off at the nearest railway station. Homecoming is always a challenge, that I don’t embrace, and this time will be harder than ever. The mountain and Basque encounters have changed me.

Whosever version is correct, I can only attest of what I saw, and that is that the National Park needs real care; I furthermore think that it would be a good thing to allot more acres to the Parks as they exist, as they are the only natural areas left on this planet for explorers to do their research. I hope this message will find its’ way.

 

Epilogue

One advice out of the numerous ones I can think of for survival is that you need to be aware of all dangers, without losing sleep over it. I kept going on tomatoes and lemons in the afternoon, biscuits in the morning and dried fruits all along the way. Not having warm food each day, I made sure to have at least one warm drink (coffee with enriched sugar milk although my liver doesn’t really agree to this), lots of protein in guise of dried fruit (dates and bananas-they are heavy in your back pack but give you the necessary proteins and some vitamines), biscuits and when suffering from extreme tiredness, pain (muscles, digestion, headache) or thirst, I chewed on the herbal leaves I managed to identify (Mentha Peperita, Oregon for digestion, thyme), but found little of them.

 

France, August 2013

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Monday July 29th             

Waking up to another hot summer day, I have to wait until my laundry dries on the clothes line (not washed but just the main up keeping), and after a ride with the camping owner taking me back to the campsite after I visited a hotel run by an aquarellist who doesn’t show up (where do all these people hide out and why do they ?), I finally step away from civilization to which I nevertheless belong and wherein I will find myself again, altered I presume weren’t it alone for a few more grey hairs after this stiff walking in awesome scenery and under a baking sun, back into the trails of previous explorers.

I didn’t really meet a lot of people as I was walking fast and only started off late. Leaving the campsite I passed by a beautiful watermill that was taking energy from the river coming down from the hill. It made me happy and proud to live in this country where people, as everywhere in the world mind you, try to find ways to make nature work for them instead of working against nature.

The head full of images yet not being able to communicate with others, made this day a bit dreary, until I finally reach the famous ‘Chemin de la Mature’. I decide to take up the challenge once again ; ‘on attacque’ as we like to say in this part of the world, which expresses the vigour and willpower with which one starts work, even when work itself is for naught, as often happens these days with employees not knowing what the outcome for their company will be by the end of the fiscal year. An elderly man who sees me starting at the climb, looks at me saying ‘that is what I call courage’ ; my ego is flattered but he himself was pulling up his lawnmower on his very steep driveway, and it wasn’t the type of motorized ones we know nowadays, on which you think yourself sitting on your couch and just enjoying a ride. I smile to him and continue.

Upon the trail, which is rather narrow, I meet an ‘Indiana Jones’ coming down ; he tells me the ‘initiation course is finished’. I don’t ask him which initiation course he’s talking about, assuming that it is one held further up on the mountain, and indeed, the next day I will pass a resort that gives all sorts of mountain exploring, recognition and orientation courses, but today I still have no clue of that. I only ask him if it is still a long way, my legs not wanting to move as I’d wish they’d do. He nodds that it isn’t really far anymore. I should have been wiser, knowing that even though coming down is harder for most of us, he certainly was used to long distances and for him it only seemed easy walking maybe. Or didn’t he want to discourage me? anyhow, when I finally can’t see more than a few meters in front of me, I decide not to play with my life any longer, and not finding the trail marks (I probably can’t see them for the finsterness and tiredness both play a role in my ability to perceive something) I come back on my steps to where I had seen a cabin. At the village, Estauts that is, people had told me that the cabins were kept open for people to be able to sleep in them, but the word means something else to me. So I decide to place my tent right before the cabin, at the only place which wasn’t too uneven, in between the cow-pats, within walking distance from a mountainstream. I am a little apprehensive as the field only a few yards away is covered with a vegetable that comes to my waist, and I have to go through it to fetch water. Snakes are a possible danger, yet I am lucky and too tired to cook for myself, I drink a hot coffee and put my head down.

I hope the cows on whose path I stretched my legs, won’t run over me, in a frenzy caused by ? By what ? Well, for instance a nasty horsefly bite, or a fire ? The memory of the article I read on the fire deliberately set up to clean the earth (ecoburning I believe it is called) and taking the lives of five hikers, still haunts me. My legs kept me awake all night, just as they kept me going all day, and this consistent going of all parts of the body, turned my head into a swirling toll. Yet, in mountain high and outdoors living, I find peace and some rest.

Day 11

Sunday July 28th

The chapel of Saint Engrace which we visited yesterday evening (I invited Lieve to come along) was breathtaking ; it is a UNESCO classed monument and the walls heave over so much that you think yourself in the tower of Pisa, only with the more humane and romantic character of the roman art that is displayed. As it is closed, I will not paint again today and decide to start off after the four other hikers towards Pierre Saint Martin have already left. I finally am able to walk again; not thinking about my feet will help me; they look much better today! I catch up with the others after the canyon of Kakouetta, and although tempted to explore it, having read it made up for a paying visit, and still wanting to keep going for my aim, I declined the invitation of some cool shelter. Ahead of all of us (a French couple, Lieve and I) walks a 70? year old gentleman; he really sets the pace, and I can only thank him for it. We arrive at distant times at the ski resort, Arrête La Pierre Saint Martin, and after a good meal, I continue, saying goodbye to my fair companions. They stay engraved in my heart and I’ll be missing them throughout the next days and longer.

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Finding the indication to get through ‘l’Arre de Soum Couye’ takes me over an hour! Very poorly indicated, I again conclude that certain indications must have been removed on purpose. I finally decide to follow my intuition which so far never left me, and I am overwhelmed by the arid and wild beauty of the scenery; feeling smaller than a mouse and blind as mole, I keep climbing (probably at the speed of the latter) hoping my feet won’t slide on some rock to catapult me from impressive heights and risk serious injury. In the end I turn around at the ‘Pas de l’Osque’ 1922 meter and the scenery is compelling, seemingly crying out ‘don’t go further! Yet, the devil in me hasn’t quieted down yet: come and take your chance at measuring yourself!’

I can’t decline even if I’d have liked to; my real intention ‘Pic du Midi d’Ossau’ is within reach, yet I still don’t know whether I’ll go that far.

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It is a very long and beautiful descent towards Lescun where I am brutally left on my own after asking a lady with her two children for indications towards the camping. It is dark now, drizzling rain starts falling, and my eyes can’t discern the panels on the road no more. I just keep walking, hoping to find the way, asking once again at an elderly couple in their car, if I am on the right track. Always straight ahead they tell me, not even taking the time to stop, while the road doesn’t stop swirling and showing intersections at about each turn! Hopefully I won’t end up becoming like them I think to myself; their hurrying to me is more a sign of rudeness than rush, but who knows, probably they are both : hurrying and rude; what a pity for them.

At the camping the warden and his wife who runs the camping look at me with great surprise; as if they saw a ghost. Luckily (for them?) I don’t play those parts and the lady shows me to a very neat and clean dormitory where I’ll be spending the night alone. She leaves me to my own, not asking nor saying much, but telling me payment will be accepted in the morning (they were just going through the accounts which caused some differences ; this capitalistic system destroys more families than it helps to create new modes of living). The dog comes to lick my feet, I seem to remember.

I sleep well after a shower.

Day 10

Saturday July 27th            des canyons de la Soule à Saint Engrace

On the plateau d’Ardakhotchia, I find the GR10 indication in direction of St Engrâce ; passing two canyons the views are magnificent but still pastoral before I will reach St Martin de Pierre two days later.

As the scenery changes almost completely going from one valley where the water of the mountains gathers into the next one, called ‘gaves’ the fresh air of the mountains in the morning is filling me with the necessary lyrics and food for writing. Yet, I need to keep walking so writing is another story ; Continue reading