Friday, 13 September 2013

Into the mountains

It was a strange experience to be at the Gite by 1pm. I made coffee for us all and then settled down to write. Later in the afternoon we were joined by two impressive frenchmen. They were both recently graduated and wanted to do the Chemin before they started work!  I showed Isabel how my shorts had worn and she spent the next hour working on them! After a second coffee I saw one of the couples from last night wandering up to the church. I went to greet them and explained that, sadly the church was locked. They said that there were instructions at their gite how to locate the key!  I went with them and-sure enough-there were clear instructions. I found the key on a post in the cemetery. The only problem now was that we had no wine! There was also a discussion about timing-they said that they had to be at the Gite by 5.30 and I knew that we were going out at 6.30. I wandered back to our gite to find that the owner was there collecting the fees. I asked her about the church but she said that she didn't have any information. Pierre volunteered to find some wine. I mentioned to the two frenchmen that we were going to have mass. When I got back to the church Pierre soon appeared with a tumbler full of wine. Raphael and the two frenchmen came along. I found the lectionary and went out to find a reader. Pierre obviously thought that he should do it but I asked one of the French men . I deliberately chose the meeting under the oak at Mamre.(The subject of the Rublev Trinity)
We had a pleasant mass and, when the others had gone, I examined the Romanesque carving of St James the Moorslayer. Raphael had seen the carving and, later commented that it was a strange way to portray a Saint! When I returned to the Gite there was a curious character who had walked from Nantes. He was in his late 60s and claimed that he was walking 40km per day. Around 6 I saw Isabel and Achmed heading for the church. They were both quite disappointed when I said that with had already celebrated. The arrangements for dinner were quite unusual. We were to be collected by taxi, taken to the Auberge and then brought back after dinner. And all for 15euro. On the way there Isabel commented that it was very quick by car. The driver immediately commented that it would be much slower walking home!
Dinner was soup, charcuterie, a delicious meat course and Brebis cheese. This morning I was up at 6 and Raphael and I were on the road by 6.45. At first we walked together. As it grew lighter Raphael headed off and I settled into my routine of morning prayer. Reaching a ridge I was rewarded with a stunning view of the mountains. A little later, as the sun rose, the colours were spectacular. ( I thought that I had captured this on camera, but no) I recited the Psalm 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help" For about 10 minutes it felt as if I had the whole of creation to myself. As I descended down a lane I recited the pilgrimage Psalms- those recited on the road to Jerusalem. After the recent rains something is obvious, namely the onset of Autumn. Today the smells and the shadows are those of autumn. Despite the sunshine I noted that, even after 11 the dew was still on the ground. The path led inexorably into mountain valleys. A couple of days ago Pierre had commented tthat it is incredible how things can change in a few kms. Physical geography, cultivation, and the style of houses. Now we are unquestionably in the Basque country. Navarrenx is, of course, a Basque version of Navarre. After Around 4 hours of walking I came to the spot where the routes from Paris, Vezalay and Le Puy converge. The next convergence will be at Puente La Reina beyd Pamplona. I arrived at the Gite around 1.15 to find the others sitting outside. It is very simple and comfortable. We have an attic to the four of us . By 2.00pm I had showered and done the washing. I suggested to Raphael that, at 4, we go out to the village to have a beer

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