Following on from everything changes, day 10, Thursday 17th April 2013
Train to Pau, and walk to Oloron-Sainte-Marie.
Photo: the amazing Gare de Pau.
With my newly discovered positivity, I can report that I found my way from the train to the main entrance without getting lost.
As mentioned previously, getting to the centre of a town is relatively easy. It’s either signposted or if you can find someone, they usually know. Getting out of town, to a relatively unknown footpath was always a problem.
Photo: not the town map but a google map giving an approximate route.
I was studying the little “town map” in the station lobby when there was a polite …
Frenchman "Excuse me, are you walking Chemin de Saint Jacques?"
Frenchman "There is a bus outside, it will take you to the path"
Scotsman "Oui, bonjour, merci beaucoup, café au lait."
Inside my head, I was thinking, no bloody way. Nine days of a series of unfortunate events had taught me French people do not know what a footpath is. And yet, I followed him outside. Frenchman spoke to the French driver who said “oui”, and moments after I stepped on the bus, we were off. The driver refused my offer of payment.
This was such an odd feeling, things seemed to be going right, of course, it couldn’t last.
Ten minutes later, the French bus driver stops the bus, calls me forward and points across the road, “Chemin” (means path). I looked doubtful but he looked sincere. He won. I thanked him, and got off the bus, after all, what’s the worst that could happen? I waved the bus off and crossed the road and would you believe it, there was a Camino sign pointing down the path.
It’s about a 30km or six hours walk to Oloron-Sainte-Marie, and I was late starting but I thought, why not? I was getting the hang of this optimism lark.
It was hot but not killer hot. The path was gentle and winding. And this is the best bit; it was as if a person had walked the path before me and thought … “ah! this is where William will start getting worried, let’s put a sign here”. And you know what? Just as I was getting worried, there was a sign. I felt this new wonderful but relatively unknown feeling, I was enjoying myself.
Photo: the main junction from my seat at the cafe opposite the gite.
Six, amazingly enjoyable hours flew past and at around 7 pm, I arrived. My anxiety kicked in, where to find a hotel? And dammit, right across the road was a gite. This was incredible. A gite is usually a small rural house for rent but on footpaths, it’s more like a cheap hostel. Either way, it was clean and the warden welcoming. Inside I met people. Real-life other pilgrim people. This was a whole new experience.
Photo: this is what a gite looks like
After a shower and getting my bed space ready; I went out for some food and a beer. On my return, I joined in with the other pilgrims who had made food in the kitchen area. We sipped wine and chatted about our respective experiences.
Listening to their stories, it was clear ... I had been on another journey.