Day 13

Tuesday July 30th            Chemin de la Mature, Borde de Passette

 

Woke up and had to force myself out of the tent ; all is terribly aching, yet being able to feel all my limbs gives me the pluck to zip open into the day, which has well started. I break up and prepare myself a large breakfast, which I’ll soon regret – my stomach no longer used to a decent meal aches and no waters in the vicinity, I squat behind a big stone, only to see the helicopter appear from behind the mountain ridge ! Is this position really the one I’d like to be photographed in? They rapidly turn away which under other circumstances might not have been my wish, but now and thank heaven for some more discreet relief. The moon, this faithful satellite to our planet reflects in all her glory the first rays of that tyrant which starts to heat up the earth; faithfuly reflecting all vibrations, she stands out between the two passes that I leave on my left, not sure which one I’ll finally have to cross, but my legs keep following my commands and I reaching the col d’Ayous. Pic d’Ayous kept to my left, I aspire to the last stretch for the day, descending for the Lac d’Ayous  with its’ refuge, where I have a meal; it perks me up, and one appetizer based on white wine with bilberry syrup if I remember well (I’d like to make a note on appetizers-why are they usually so expensive? I am looked at from all sides and feel once again that strange creature which none seems to want to get acquainted with, I don’t even realize it is because of my luxurious appetizer, yet I won’t regret this needed healthy energy which moreover serves my bloodpressure, view, and more). It allows me to continue stiff walking for another five hours, amongst the various lakes, towards the refuge of Pombie.

I witness a real attack from eagles and vultures combined, on a sheep not yet dead which I saw falling and rolling over. Such attacks are I know, but remembering a newspaper article from years ago which mentioned birds of prey combining their efforts in search for food (it was on the Navarre province I recall), I believe my eyes rather than all the flack I’ll receive the following days when relating the event. The attack didn’t end with the first sheep, it was still alive I fear, and they continued to attack others, but I ignore whether they were succesfull at it. I met the shepherd afterwards, who explained to me that it is rather the eagles that attack and the vultures come afterwards, yet I told him I clearly saw both circling together. I learned that it is yet rare for vultures to attack (they don’t have the claws to grasp their victim) ; they occasionally will attack a cow or other large animal having given birth and not eaten in time the placenta, and then it can happen the calf is eaten alike. I still shiver at the image and remember how those who related it, spoke in a very soft voice, which restores my belief in human nature. The event shook me up and relating it in the evening at the refuge of Pombie, nobody allowed me to speak out on the event. When I come to think of it, only the sheperd and another person who seemed to play a little more dubious role, really agreed and didn’t change my story. The employee of a forestry organisation added some story about ‘a myth’ that needed to be created by the people who run the refuge in the vicinity. Truth is often hard to come by, and only serious and unbiased thinking can lead to discern real from fiction and unveil reality. The reality when I think of it now, probably being the real overpopulation of prey birds in the Navarre province.

 I receive a rather reserved welcome from the people who keep the Refuge de Pombie, as I don’t want to pay for lodgings (I can’t afford it still) and ask if I can take a shower only (willing to pay of course). For the modest sum of 3 Euros I can rinse myself (with very little water). I hope they won’t have to suffer the thirst I’ve known, and when I start relating the story of the combined attack on the sheep, the poop hits the fan.

Where are those days when lodge keepers and hikers alike, shared their experience in a good natured way and truthful to facts of what they experienced? One would think the extremes in our excessive gain oriented society has even more taken root in the minds of these fellow nature lovers as I’d like to consider them. Yet afterwards I learn that it isn’t really in their interest to attest to what is really going on, and they would supposedly like to install a myth of vulture attack. To start with they made me believe they didn’t find themselves within the territory of the National Park of Pic du Midi d’Ossau, which was an outright lie.

 I will be talking about this with a few other people the next day, expressing my concern for the National Park and the implication of people living close to nature within them, and I vow a need to extend the frontiers of National Parks for the benefit of all. 

The night is long and restless, as spanish climbers having put up their tents next to mine, keep making hay until after midnight, before catching some sleep, and leaving for their ascension in the wee morning hours. How do they do it?

Tomorrow will be my last day. I regret having to leave, but did manage to see Pic du Midi d’Ossau, which was more than I hoped for.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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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.

Lion and Fox

Don’t know whether you are still posting so just want to say Hi and keep looking at my blog if you liked it at all – I am rather new on WordPress and don’t find easily how to keep following certain blogs I liked, but maybe I am a bit impatient.

standingoutinmyfield

The unedited version of this story was posted earlier this week…if you want to check out some of the process behind the art, you can visit that post here.

This is the tidied up version.  Unlike my last story (Benji the Little Red Fox), this story was done entirely in pencils (except the first page and the back cover).  I was trying out the style.  Sometimes, I really like the art ink free (like the cover page, which I think looks good without inks), but I do think that sometimes the inks look better (like the first page, which is lightly inked)!  I’m not sure what conclusions to draw*, so I will keep playing around.

Although my art still needs a lot of work, I like to think that you can see an improvement of this story over the last one.  Feel free to download the pdf (

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Day 6

Tuesday July 23rd             St Pied de Port – camping

 

Wasn’t this day meant to be the best one of the whole journey? All days were magnificent, yet the most appreciated ones were those in company of other hikers. Today proves to be such a one, although better is yet to come (following days if you keep on reading).

Again I leave later than most other campers (Laundry drying in spite of the hot weather, takes a while and I get to visit the little town I stumbled into last night, pitch dark at 11pm in drizzling rain-I still wonder where this mother with two children had her thoughts in not wanting to indicate the right route to me; I’ll put the blame on ignorance as I usually do in order to keep sane), and have difficulty finding the correct route, but after some interesting encounters (the former President of the FFR with whom I exchange my comments on the indications and the lodge I stayed at in St Etienne deBaïgorry), I finally move on to walk through beautiful pasture and decline the invitation from road signs -not being removed- to ascend the Oylarandoy (993m) as I will have the view later on, from the pass Col d’Aharza. I feel pressed for time once again, and anxious now to see the Iraty forest so keep munching miles in order to reach destination. Having been without drinking water on the pass Col des Veaux, and not wanting to renew this experience unless necessary, I look for it at the Trois Abreuvoirs, without much success. Not finding the necessary indications, or maybe I wasn’t paying sufficient attention (eyes and everything hurts substantially and am suffering from the heat), make me decide to follow my intuition downhill and soon I catch up with the signalization, to find myself after a few hours walk at Lasse.

Saint Pied de Port isn’t far away anymore, so I keep up the pace to reach it in the evening around 20.00 hrs – the camping is very comfortable, not modern and the frugal use of unnecessary appliances compared to what you find in touristic areas, bring you back to the necessities of what camping is all about; the people are extremely friendly, young and very hospitable –  is it due to the area I wonder? Saint Jean de Port is a haven, and will remain as such in my memory. I bring a brief visit to the small city, with its’ main street, the religious character that you find at every corner almost, makes it all the more typical and I even have the chance to sneak in at a concert given by a Basque choir (payment isn’t requested by the fair ladies upon me asking to attend a short while).Having dinner at Sabine’s delicious table where I forget my cellular phone and have to recover it the next morning, which makes me take breakfast in the company of Sabine’s good spirits, even though a bit less spiritual than last night. Mornings come early don’t they?

The camping tenant, a young fellow (I owe them so much these individuals who kept helping me along the way), after opening the reception desk, refuses my payment for the night (truth I came in last in the evening, and haven’t really used many facilities ; still, I think his act was brave as moreover it was the first camping who didn’t charge at a higher percentage, the legal ‘taxe de séjour’ which is a government charge to be imposed by every touristic lodging (I hope this blog won’t turn you off from visiting France which remains a beautiful country after all!DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA)

 

day 3 July 20th

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Saturday July 20th

 

Finally, around 11 hrs! on the road again. The camping owner who on the previous night, allotted me a parcel which he named ‘the Bermuda Triangle’ didn’t really mind to see me leave; he doesn’t know which interesting encounter I made leaving behind that lonely spot, where a couple from the same region I dwell in, were yet so friendly to come to loan me one of their own chairs so I could sit while reading and writing. My foot aching with bursitis slowed me down during the first two days, but the lunch yesterday at Inzola where I met with a couple of teaching fellows at a Switzerland university, has given me the necessary pluck to start out. The conversation topic about brain research and specific development of parietal lobes according to languages spoken is like holy water on my front. We speak about research in that field being carried out and intellectual inclination due to lobes’ development; it is all a bit high fetched for the small lobes of this narrator and my brain searches to restore again in the stillness of the beautiful surroundings, not yet knowing what I’ll get to see!

The weather will remain good for the next days, and even though I am pressed for time, I decide to take a leisure day and halt in the early evening in Aïnhoa, which claims, not without reason, to be one of France’s most beautiful villages. The camping kept by an elderly couple is a real haven; within walking distance of the village where I passed a most agreeable evening on the small brick wall eating my sandwich generously covering three different cheeses, giving all my senses the necessary rest.

I return to my tent in full darkness, yet see the odd light around me, which comforts each and every soul.