Our flights to Porto were cancelled. We were due to walk the Coastal Route, then jump across at Ponte de Lima and walk on, follow the variente and then head to Santiago. Of course, like most folks, those plans came and went. I was then planning on walking the Aragones, meeting a friend at Oleron Sainte Marie and walking to Puenta la Reina. And then I planned to bus back to St Jean and meet some friends for a walk along the Camino Frances. It’s early autumn, it’s when we walk! But alas no.
To add to our tale of woe it’s been raining a lot in SW France. I spent so many days just looking out of the window thinking… we should be in x or y or z today.
But there was a break in the weather. Autumn returned. We decided to venture south and go walk for a few days. It’s not a camino. It’s not even a ‘there and back again camino‘ like we did in the Picos. It’s simply a walk. But oh what a walk!
We have an apartment in St Jean and we’ve brought our own bedding and all our food so we’re quite self sufficient. We drove down yesterday afternoon knowing (and hoping) that the forecast was indeed correct and that the sun was going to shine for our walk over the mountain.
This is the fifth time I’ve made it to Orisson and I just couldn’t stop smiling all morning. It was quite cold and misty and grey as we left St Jean but as we approached the really sharp steep bend in the road before Hunto the weather started to clear. Oh the views. Oh it was a good day to be walking!
Orisson was closed. That was a bit of a blow but thankfully we had picnics and our trusty flasks of hot tea! Onwards we walked until Orisson was out of sight and instead the views were of the hills and the mountains and the road ahead.
We weren’t really expecting to walk too far today. We’ve not been training for this and we had no real plan. But the road and the views and the soaring eagles took our minds off the steepness of the path and we made it to the statue of the Virgin. We had planned to walk on for a little more but the clouds were blowing in across the path and there was less and less blue sky.
We munched on our sandwiches and decided that we’d had a fabulously glorious walk and we should turn around and walk back down. We posted a photo of the Virgin statue on Facebook and Gerry’s cousin suggested we should have loaves and fishes. We laughed so hard when we realised we were eating tuna sandwiches. Gerry declared we’d soon stop laughing if 5000 pilgrims came around the corner! He then started quoting lines from the Life of Brian which kept him amused for several minutes! I told him he was a happy chap to which he replied… good job because if I was miserable you wouldn’t be happy! He has a point!
We watched a flock of sheep move en-masse across the hill on the other side of the valley, and the wild horses trot along on the path below whilst above eagles and the huge vultures soared on the thermals. It was a glorious scene but we had to pack up and leave.
People often ask me why I walk this route so often. I do love discovering new trails and I adore the thrill of chasing new horizons but oh… this is just such a beautiful walk. I’ll be back again next year… I hope!
We turned around and walked back down. It’s a lot faster going down and it was interesting to see so much detail that you miss when walking in the other direction. The hills in autumn have a moss green and bronze hue, so much so they look like they’re covered in suede. Onwards and downwards we walked.
On the way up we’d found a stretch of blackberry bushes and they were full of ripe blackberries. We’d decided that we’d pick some on the way home and have them with yoghurt for dinner! However, a little herd of piggies had found them first and they had no intention of sharing them! Gerry walked ahead and they scattered but I’m pretty sure as we walked on they returned to finish what they started!
Orisson was still closed. The gate was closed at Hunto too. Not to worry we weren’t far from home! We dropped our bags in the apartment and went off to explore St Jean. I’ve never spent a night here. I’ve always driven down from home in the morning and walked to Orisson in the afternoon. Maybe one day I’ll stop. I visited the Pilgrims Office and asked how I can volunteer here; I speak French and English. They gave me details and fingers crossed next year I might get to spend a few weeks here!
Gerry bought chocolate with Espelette peppers in it… sadly they had no gluten free options. He then bought himself a bottle of white Basque wine… one of his favourites! And finally, we stopped for a coffee and he tucked into a huge slab of Basque tart. He likes walking the camino!
We’re back in our little apartment now. We’ll have chicken for dinner and tomorrow we’ll head off over the border to explore that little corner of Spain. Buen Camino Pilgrims!