50 Days of Camino

Kevin Soltysiak's travel log of the way of St. James, the "Camino de Santiago"

Pau ~ Pyrénées Atlantiques

Maubourguet — Anoye

We left Maubourguet around 9h, right after breakfast and coffee. There isn’t much to say for this entry, I have little memories of that day and my notes are very scarce: “Nice walk, but nothing interesting happened”.

A dubious name for a town Thought for food

We arrived in Momy in the middle of the afternoon and Anoye a little bit after. We were told about a pilgrims area where we would be able to plant the tent that was “just after the end of the city”. What the guy didn’t tell us is that there was quite a steep hill first… And that the pilgrim area he mentionned was a stone table and a little bit of grass and that was it.

Nonetheless, there was enough space to plant the tent, and we even gave birth to our first fire of the trip, and we named it Calamity. We started giving names to our fires since the test hike and this was a tradition that we had to keep. One fire per letter of the alphabet, and with a woman name (the first two were Astrid and Bérangère).

More fields!

Anoye — Pau

The towns we went through during the morning, Abère and Gabaston, were empty as well. But after, we started seeing signs on the road detailing the life of historical figures famous in this area. It made for an interesting read and I wish that I took notes about them. We arrived in Morlaas around 11h, in time for an extended coffee break that segued into a lunch break.

A few days earlier, we had decided that would be taking a couple of days of break in Pau. Loïc still had troubles with his leg/ankle, and we figured it couldn’t hurt to catch an extended break. The path we were following up until there was not going in Pau but around it, and we were not really excited at the idea of walking half a day in suburbs, so we took a bus to Pau in the middle of the afternoon.

View of the pyrenees from Pau

Once we got there, we wandered a bit then decided to split up: I felt like finding a place to sit and relax while Loïc wanted to visit the city. We both did our things and then regrouped at a bar, did some groceries, and went to a CouchSurfing meeting.

For those who don’t know: CouchSurfing is a website/community of locals and travelers, the former ones hosting the latter ones on their couches, hence the name. In large enough cities, there is often semi-regular meetings with the local community.

We met many people there, and this was our first party in two weeks. It felt both good and overwhelming to be in such a setting again, after being in the wild and by ourselves for the better part of ten days. We also got lucky, and one of the guests, Sophie, had room to spare to host us for the night. Our stay in Pau was off to a good start!

Pau (2)

It felt good not to have to wake up early to walk for once. We stayed in late in the morning until our host had to leave for the week-end. Loïc state had gone worse, though. His theory was that he drank too much and forgot to be careful with his ankle, and now he was sensing it more than ever. So far, the break was having the opposite effect than the one intended…

The afternoon went by slowly. We took it slow, relaxing in coffees and bars, visiting a little as well. By 18h though, I was starting to be worried since we didn’t have any plans for accomodation that night. I wasn’t sure we could plant the tent in the city parks, and even then, it had started raining and the night promised to be cold. Loïc didn’t seem to care very much, though; but then again I tend to require more comfort than he does so it wasn’t a big surprise.

Loïc had spotted a bar that was having a jazz band playing that night. He planned to go there, talk with people and hopefully find a host there. I kept hesitating on going along or getting a last-minute airbnb.. And then the concert started and there was pretty much nobody except us, the waiters and the band. So I finished my beer and booked an airbnb with a very nice hostess for such short notice, and Loïc joined me after the concert.

Pau (3)

Once again, we had a late morning, between sleeping in and talking with Valérie (our host), and a relaxed afternoon, this time mostly in the city gardens. Around the end of the afternoon we went to a bar near Sophie’s place (our host of the first night). She was coming back from her week-end around the end of the afternoon, and Loïc had left his backpack there.

But I ended up going to the bar alone: Loïc decided instead to go to the hospital to get his ankle checked. He (and I mean we) should have thought of that on the first day already but well. After, I went at Sophie’s and we talked for a while until Loïc got back with a tendinitis diagnostic. So short of stopping our trip, nothing to do, really, except strapping the ankle and not pushing it too hard. Later, Sophie drove us to another couchsurfer’s place, Julien, who was willing to host us for the night.

They REALLY like making puns.

That day was challenging for me. I kept having mood swings and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do regarding the trip. The previous days, Loïc could walk kind of fine during the mornings, but his ankle was always causing trouble around midday. In the afternoon, all he could do was walk at a very measured pace and it doesn’t seem like he enjoyed it very much.

And when it became clear that this would not go away after one or two nights of sleep, I started feeling that this was not something I could do with for a long time: it was not funny knowing and seeing him in pain, but it was also starting to be annoying for me to have to wait for him each afternoon. And obviously, it was even less enjoyable for him.

So I wasn’t sure what was the best course of action: keep going, splitting up, quitting? I kept hesitating, moving from one mindset to the other… With hindsight, the gray weather and the lack of activity compared to the previous days also had a bad effect on my mood. In the end, I chose to continue at least until the mountains. If by then he was still hurt, we would have to find a plan B in any case.

Previously: Auch ~ Gers

Next: Pyrénées