October 8th, 2019

Santiago de Compostela IX Day 88 (Hagetmau-Orthez) 28 km

Sunday October 6, 2019

Mme returns us to Hagetmau after a breakfast with real fried eggs professionally prepared by her husband! A treat after all the days of breakfasting on French bread and jam.

We start walking; just outside of Orthez we have our first glimpse of the Pyrenees! Quite awesome!
One can imagine how impressed mediaeval pilgrims from the low countries must have been by the sight of this wall of stone stretched across the horizon!

The day goes very slowly. Desmond's shin splints/possible sciatica/swollen ankle, which have been bothering him for days now, have become really painful.
After a while it starts to rain and continues to do so most of the day. Because it is Sunday, the boulangerie in Hagetmau didn’t sell sandwiches and it looks like we’ll have to skip lunch until in L’Hôpital-d’Orion we come across a fancy restaurant in the woods filled with French families having Sunday lunch. We hesitate but it turns out there’s another room behind the bar where we can have a small lunch. I have an omelet, Des has a Salad Landaise again.
We both have a glass of vin rosé.

Farther along the way we come across the Woman of the Woods, a spry older German woman who has been wandering along the caminos of Europe a couple of months a year for the past twenty years.
She appears from behind a tree where she was apparently eating her little lunch and walks with us a ways. I find it hard to walk and talk at the same time so I drop back and let Desmond handle the conversation. Just before Orthez she leaves us as suddenly as she appeared - off to set up her little tent in the woods.

We walk on into Orthez - a magnificent mediaeval citadel set on a hill. Our hotel is strange and a bit unfriendly but our bags are waiting for us.
We have dinner in a pleasant eatery with French radio playing and locals having a pre-dinner apero.

Santiago de Compostela IX Day 89 (Orthez-Sauveterre de Béarn) 24km

Monday October 7, 2019

It’s a miracle we’re walking. Desmond's legs were throbbing and painful much of the night.
In the morning they seem better and he takes an Ibuprofen right away instead of waiting until he can barely hobble. Also I’ve loaned him my spare pair of magic compression socks which seem to bring immediate relief.
Today the walking is much more pleasant. The sun is shining, most of the day we walk on dirt paths. There is much climbing and descending which stretches the tendons even better than exercises can.

A little ways outside of Orthez we are surprised to see the Woman of the Woods sitting under a tree writing down her thoughts. She must have gotten up at daybreak to get so far down the road ahead of us!
All day we catch glimpses of the Pyrenees in the distance, we try to capture the feeling of distance and mystery but our little cameras are inadequate, alas.
The last hour we walk along the river where we come upon the magnificent citadel of Sauveterre-de-Béarn.

We climb up to the church of St André and are stunned to be met inside by the Woman of the Woods who seems to have taken a shorter route.
She expresses her disapproval of the way we are doing the camino, wondering if the camino can possibly give us what we need this way. She doesn’t understand - which is probably why they didn’t allow her to become a nun and sent her off to find her calling on the caminos of Europe (our little fantasy!) Des and I are both organizers. We can make plans, we can make spreadsheets, we can make phone calls. What is hard for us is to just be on the road and experience everything without having anything to organize. That is what the camino has to give us this year.
We want to explain this to the Woman of the Woods but now that we want to say something she shushes us, saying “not in this holy place!” and walks out of the church and out of our lives.

Jean Paul of Taxi service Napoleon Compostelle, a cheerful giant of a man, comes to pick us up and drive us back to Orthez, since there appears to be no place to sleep in Sauveterre...

We are so pleased that the day of walking went well that we have a couple of beers on the square at the busy Corral Café in Orthez. It is one of the only busy spots in this saddest of towns.
So much history but such a feeling of decay. They’ve tried everything to make it attractive to tourists; they’ve even closed mediaeval streets off for pedestrians but the stores are all gone. Empty windows and boarded up houses...