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 7

Wednesday July 24th         lunch at Esterençuby, Kaskoleta, Ithurramburu, Iraukotuturu, sleeping at Occabé

 

Mornings are tough for most people, yet I am blessed with more energy than one can pay for it seems.

Great weather and I am lucky to only search for some 45 minutes before setting off in the right direction. Passing the graveyard which I don’t visit this time, the day ahead will require a real effort. It is fair and easy walking up to Esterençuby; I cross the small bridge over what I think is the Esterenguibel, and the occasion for a good meal is offered by the very sympathetic ward at the “Auberge Carricaburu). It is midday and the sun is powering its rays in full rage; only one other couple is finishing their meal; there will be some passage during my recovery over my plate, but one doesn’t need to imagine heaven on earth: it is here. I visit the church’s graveyard before setting off after a most delicious specimen of the ‘Gateau Basque’ – I wanted to take it with me, but it was the juiciest cake I had in a long time, and since I am not a real hedonist, the occasion was offered to take some lessons in practicing that lifestyle. Was I to know what lay ahead of me!

It is gorgeous walking with breathtaking scenery when starting to walk through more pastries, and ascending Kaskoleta, croupe d’Ithurramburu, and col d’Irau. I can start seeing what I will learn is the Iraukotuturru ; here a word on the Basque language, which is the most lyric and musical language I heard so far! The waitress at Bidarray had given me some instructions as towards the rhymes taught to children; it is a very pedagogic language, which repeats often in the same word, with different words, the sense of it. And you will find “ko”, a diminutive for the mountain, in many names: Irau – ko – tuturru. Yes you’ll tell me now that tu and tu are identical. Indeed, but the mountain has two tops! and a shepherd told me, (but is it really so?), that it is because of the two peaks. It only makes my interest for the language increase.

After having reached the pass ‘Col d’Irau’ and spoken with Bernard, a most educated and wise shepherd, who tells me they are already into the second harvest now and since a few years they have to buy hay to get their animals through the very dry and hot summers – we discuss speculation on the markets, and   I will come back I promise myself, but how? When?..I feel a sadness coming over me after having said goodbye. (WHO remembers the news a little month ago of the bankruptcy of the City of Chicago ?) Again despair seizes me and I keep on walking. Another shepherd appears from behind a rock, like a Pan meeting his muses I think to myself. Jeepers, the men here are really stunning in their appearance, even at a certain age! I think he must be in his seventies and won’t be far off. The sun is really setting now, and I realize I’ll sleep among the Chromlechs that I want to attain, before putting up my tent. Children play amongst the rocks, witnesses of times past and presentDIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA DIGITAL CAMERA . I think I will have a good night sleep.

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 5

Monday, July 22nd

 

The thunderstorms kept threatening all night, which gave me little sleep. Under an already bright sky I get up, rested nevertheless, to start afresh, and find rather quickly the indications after turning in the direction of the observatory. For this I need to walk through a field of ferns, where I fear for the adders, but since I made it so far with no snake bites, I tab on my luck. After descending into the valley I walk into Bidarray, a small outpost really, as only a supermarket next to a restaurant will service the buses of tourists for which, I presume, they are building an enormous parking lot (shaded by white removable plastic tents). Is this ecological management in the third millennium? The only banking outlet that one will find for another week moreover isn’t open (Monday? or just the usual arrogant opening hours of financial institutions, in today’s capitalistic society, where most work more rather than less to get by?). I halt and take an excellent meal (black sausage with fresh potatoes if I remember well) and the well deserved “quart de litre de vin”. The pain in my muscles subsides, and the red liquid helps me for the next days to come. I become very eager to see St Etienne de Baïgorry of which the TopoGuide tells me so much and make my way for the next ascension by 13.00 hrs ; charging the battery of my portable phone would prove another challenge during this quest for self assessment, especially over the last days of it when I wasn’t even able to catch decent emission, I tried to load with the screen, provided with cellular software to that effect (whether it really worked remains a question, but I doubt that I would have been found, if I’d been in difficulty).

Pic d’Iparla (1044m), Col d’Harietta (808m), Urdos (I see it from the top of the mountain ridge) Astate (1022m) and finally the most memorable one, as it will bring me back into another valley, Pic de Buztanzelhay (1029m). A person I met later on explains the name to me: Buz = buse and Zelhay in which you find the old ‘sel’ as the Romans used to define the territory by having the centurion throw a stone as far as he could to mark his territory; something similar happened in this Bask country where you find many circular fields, remains of the old delimitations as a circle being drawn with that obtained radius (ingenious practice and inviting corruption if you ask me). You can see the buzzard’s tail and imagine how hard the descent will be. And indeed, I find myself at 19.00 hrs still on top of the ridge, looking into the valley to find my way, and finally I call the taxi driver whose address I got at the restaurant and to whom I passed the shopping bag which I carried since my shopping in Ainhoa. He assures me that it is only another couple of hours walking, and though exhausted (I take a lemon and tomato to refresh myself) and thirsty, I start descending in my happy go lucky way. I didn’t find the trail again, and followed the sheep going to their coral which brought me a bit nearer, yet it remained searching until the end of the day. I enter at dusk and find myself a way to the ‘gîte Mendy’. The owner who shows up rather late (I made a reservation) is panicking as he sees that the dormitories are not really well prepared by his cook (?) – [who is losing money on this, when no jobs are available and all who work need to do the work for two in order to keep their job? But what do I know about their internal kitchen; the breakfast will turn out to be a little meager though (no cheese or animal proteins which hikers need)]. I don’t think I’ll give this camping a good rating on this point.

I sleep above a young fellow who searches the meaning of his work which I understand to be that of a social worker in Paris, and hopes to find inspiration at the forest of Iraty? (What I’ll see of it two days later doesn’t allow me to believe he found what he looked for, given the terrible shape it is in; I did find the meaning of my work for that matter, which is writing this journal). As he smoked a lot, and had caught influenza, his tossing and turning kept me awake for most of the night. The morning nevertheless found me afresh, as a sweet girl the previous night lend me her bar of soap for a refreshing shower.

Talking of a sound sleep: just when I was about to snooze off, at midnight, my cellular phone started ringing (it still worked then), and Jean Baptiste, the loyal taxi driver whom I never paid the second delivery (34 Euros! whereas the going rate must be around 8 Euros) of my food transport (1 plastic bag not weighing 10 pounds, which probably made its’ way through various cars and for which I had to wait the following day at the Châlets d’Iraty – I hope he forgives me)  announces his arrival at the shelter Mendy, where I recuperate it for 13 Euros.

 

Now it seems to me that these first days, before reaching the heights, were the most enjoyable ones ; isn’t that what is said about Life in general which gives food for thought…

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Day 4 – July 21st

Sunday, July 21st

 

Only one month into summer ; I decide to walk to the nearest Venta Berrouet, which sets off the pace for the day, to buy the dear necessities, and back at the camping site, I pack the tent, leaving the couple running it, at their notes (the billing seemed to pose a bit of a problem but taxpayer questions seem to become a hot item for many people, which can easily be smoothed out if sincerity is shown) and I decide to spend part of Sunday at finishing the drawing I started the previous night of the beautiful roman church. It is a postcard, meant to reach its’ addressee and some people keep watching, complementing on my work(why can’t I do this for a living, I wonder, thinking of the SDF – painter who stayed at my apartment for a few weeks while I was working too far to commute daily?). A small English girl tells me her father buys postcards, as to encourage me to continue this artistic path. The aquarelle is finished in time; envelope with stamp on it, and into the mailbox it goes.

I head off for my next route at 16.00 hrs, when the first stop I make is at the fountain outside the village, where I take refreshing water, and halt to chat with a Slovenian girl, hiking her way through in the opposite direction. She tells me she took some rides which were offered, and indeed, she doesn’t look half as worn out as I will at the end of this story. The hiking starts to become tougher with four passes ranging from 510 meter to 712 meter (Mehatche). Again I can’t find sufficient indication and being lost at dusk, I look for a place where I can pitch the tent. Not really comfortable with the observatory above my head less than a mile away, overseeing the landscape from a much more comfortable position than mine, I yet ease myself to sleep with the thought that the thunderstorms which are lurking, will not poor out on my sweaty tent as all feels damp enough as it is. I wonder why I couldn’t find the signs of the trail, but worrying doesn’t pay off. The day will bring a fresh point of view, and who knows, new light will shine ?

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.