Post Script: The End

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The end of this Pilgrimage is just the beginning of the rest of my life. Thank you. To all of you who made this Pilgrimage so special:

Robert from Leavan; Vezelay Abby Brothers and Sisters; Peter from Belgium; Jean Pierre, Michel and Stephanie; Johan from North Holland; Gill, the anorexic pilgrim; Philippe and Antonia from Dachau; Berry the flying Dutchman, the Von Trappiste Family; Orion, the hippy Frenchman; Frederick, Dauphine and Bruno; Angelique from Uzbekistan; Premerly Bistro Staff; the old man and his wife at the Premerly Campsite; Gill the model mathematician; Laurent; Philippe from Luxumbourg; Anne Marie and Rejean from Paris; town of Flavignac; Peter the Judge from Ghent; Lisandra and Rewanda from the Netherlands; Arek from Poland; Marcus and his dog; and all of the staffs at the various pilgrim hostels I stayed at; Murial from Mount Marsan, Gilbert and his wife from Bazas; Samuel the French Philosopher who is trapped in a bikers’ body; Pascal from Strasbourg; Guy, the other French anorexic pilgrim; Gunter from Dussuldorf; Yannick and Michel – I hope you find your course in life – thanks to all of you for making this journey so memorable for me.

Finally:

Goodbye Marijke

Thank you for those wonderful days you gave me.

I will always love you. I will never forget you.

And to you:

Michael and Mark, Danielle, Ruby, Jeannie and PJ, Brad, Laura, their kids – this Pilgrimage is dedicated to all of you…and of course Sid.

And to all my friends for your support, especially Ted, Marg, Pascal and Ruth.

Thank you for the days:

SJ…….out.

Off to Lourdes. This is personal. No more posts. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me. Thanks for your comments and support. It really helped me out. Marg, I still have that emulate you gave me before I left. I carried it throughout.

To my Swiss Friends – looking forward to seeing you soon.

And may all your life pilgrimages be happy ones with no suffering whatsoever.

Day 42: Ostabat to Saint Jean Pied de Port

Made it. Safe and sound. This calls for a celebration:

Day started off beautifully. Just look at this sunrise in Ostabat:

Now 22 kilometers to Saint Jean Pied de Port across some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see:

I arrived and finished:

 

Last night a real Basque farmer entertained us in song. Of course we had to sing along or hum or yell whatever because Brunet had a very loud and booming voice:

Fun!

Walking today brought on a barrage of emotions. My friend Ted was right about that. I thought about everything since starting this journey. I thought of my wife, my children, grandchildren, the scenery, what to do for the rest of my life. But it is impossible to remain sad, despondent or depressed about your situation in life when you experience what I have experienced for the past 42 days and the array of characters and individuals, crazy or normal but all unique, that I have met.

I look ahead with renewed hope and optimism. How can I not when walking among these hills,these valleys, these farms, meadows, mountain tops and morning mist. It is a scene that is impossible to describe. Only some heavenly inspiration could possibly capture the beauty and essence that nature has given us here. As I look ahead at the bluest morning sky I have ever seen – a blueness that was captured in my wife’s eyes – deep blue, crystal clear and magnetic – and the sculpted mountain peaks in the distance, I can see a thousand “Davids, “ nature’s masterpieces everywhere I look. This area is unbelievably beautiful. And that is what gives me hope and the will to carry on. God’s gift of nature’s beauty to all of us.

I think of Marijke. Someone I have lost. I feel for my kids and the wonderful mother, friend and fan that she was to them. In her eyes, as in all mother’s eyes,they can do no wrong and like nature’s “ David” are perfect human beings in their own right.  And for that I am thankful. Thankful for the renewed hope that that thought brings to me. I am sorry Mark and Mike for your loss and sorrow but together we can live again in her memory. I know we can.

That is it. No more tears, no more sorrow. Just life!

I can only think of one song that could match the beauty of this morning’s walk:

A few stats:

42 days;

900 kilometers;

Averaged 25 kilometers per day;

990,000 steps

On average I spent about 40 euros per day;

Stayed in a hotel twice;

Camped 10 times;

Had 2 rain days and 6 rain nights;

Never got sick;

Shoes, socks, pants and tees held out. At least I think they did. The “haz-mat” team may think otherwise.

And like a good pilgrim, I suffered.

Tomorrow will be my last post.

 

 

Day 41: Penultimate: Sauterre de Bearn to Ostabat

Today’s walk is dedicated to all of those men and women dealing with cancer patients at the BC Cancer Clinic. To all the Nurses and Oncologists who have to deal with this as a career. They are real heroes.

Found out today that we are actually in the Pyrenees, French side. Makes sense as the hills have become sreeper and steeper, higher and higher. Here are a couple of views of hills we had to climb today:

That hill in the distance is typical of the hills we climbed today. One hill was 350 meters high over a distance of 700 meters. Compare that to the Malahat, which rises 352 meters over 8 kilometers. Tough! The actual walk today was 26.8 kilometers, which took us over 7.5 hours – a long day as a result of the hills.

The area around Ostabat is unique in that 3 of the French Pilgrimages meet here: Tours, Vezelay and Le Puy. They all then converge on St Jean Pied de Port before climbing up and over to begin the Camino Frances to Santiago.

The 3 French paths converge at this spot.

The landscape between Sauterre and Ostabat actually reminds me of the Swiss countryside, especially near Zurich. Rich:

Pascal and his favourite companion – our host last evening:

Getting tired now. Tomorrow is day 42 and the end of this journey.

The area around Ostabat also has a Spanish feel to it and there are palm trees here and there. It reminds me a bit of northern California with its Spanish vibe. Accordingly, here is another Eagles classic. One of the best leads around by Don Felder.  Sound and voice synchronization is off a bit. Enjoy:

 

 

Day 40: Orthez to Sauterre de Bearn

Today,s walk is dedicated to my nephew Gerry. He is a cancer survivor and hopefully remains cancer free.

Tough walk today. Some major hills. The Pyrenees are getting closer and closer so our terrain is becoming more and more like foothills. The countryside is absolutely breathtaking. The French are so lucky to be living in such a paradise. I often felt that if God were to live again on earth he would live in Oregon. And while I still believe that to be true I have to admit that France would be a close second:

Went out for dinner last night in Orthez. Finally some life on a Saturday night. It was fun. The two ladies with us are Pilgrim volunteers. They are both from Paris, speak absoultely no English but are real sweathearts. Both lost their husbands. The other guy is Philippe, an engineer from Luxumburg, who has been walking with me for the past few days. Speaks excellent English.

Then there is Arek, from Poland, who is walking in search of something. It is funny but all of the younger pilgrims I have met all seem to be searching for something. Hoping to find what they are looking for, whatever that may be, whereas us old farts have found it and are now trying to get rid of it…weird!

The two women you see there had to quit due to an injury to one of their knees.

And then there is Marcus.  An Austrian who is doing this pilgrimmage with his dog. Now I do not know if his dog is dying or what as I did not want to ask but Marcus is pushing his dog in a carriage all the way to Santiago. If that  isn,t a true bond I don,t know what is.

Another young Dutchman from Belgium showed up but like all of the other young dudes was totally into some parallel universe. I thought all of that hippy stuff disappeared with the onslaught of disco and bell bottoms. I guess I was wrong. But we all thought this Dutchman was a Pilgrim fraud. And why anyone in their right mind would want to pretend to be a pilgrim is beyond my comprehension. But then again I must have a screw loose as well to come to France ( they said) and walk 900 kilometers.

” Hey honey”

” Yes dear”

” I was thinking of going to France this summer and walking 900 kilometers in 34 C  heat. What do you think of that?”

” Fine dear, now take out the trash please.”

Milestone today: day 40 in my pilgrimage and I have walked 852 kilometers. And I saw a sign today that indicated directions to St Jean Pied de Port…wow!

Two more walks.

Great song for driving and a great song for walking. “Jessica.” He wrote this for his young daughter. This was a big hit when I lived in Hawaii in 1973/74. The double lead makes it unique:

 

 

 

Day 39: Hagetmau to Orthez

Today,s walk is for my cousin,s husband Gary who has been fighting cancer for some time. Good luck Gary.

Started off at 6am. Very dark. Again stopped at the local Patisserie for a couple of chocolate filled buns. These things are delicious. The French really know how to do pastries. Love them. Sort of like a flattened out croissant filled with chocolate. Also, found a French restaurant that was open last night. Finally had a nice French meal. They also had Tapas, an indication that we are close to Spain. In fact, this morning, during our walk,we caught a glimpse of the Pyrenees, way off in the distance, high and mighty and that colour of faded light blue being so far away. Reminds me of home and it also reminded me of that war movie, The Great Escape, where Charles Cobourne,s character successfully makes it to Spain. A Basque guide meets him on the French side to take him over the Pyenees into Spain and freedom. Indeed I have been walking and humming the theme song from that movie all morning:

They sure don,t make movies like that one anymore.

Walked in the dark for about an hour. Watched the sun slowly come up with its subtle hues of gold, pinks, orange and greyish blue. It never ceases to amaze me – sunrises – a new day, new beginnings, breath of life. And like those sunflowers we can rise and meet the new day with joyous hope. Forget our troubles for just one minute and marvel at nature,s blessings. Wonderful. Wonderful to be alive for just one more day.

Landscape is more pronounced, more dramatic. Hilly again. Climbed 4 hills, one long and gradual while 3 were very steep. I am used to them now. I welcome the challenge. I can generally make it to the top out of breath and perspiring but I recover very quickly. Bring em on, I say.

France is blessed with gorgeous countryside and unique, quaint and picturesques villages. Now if they would only open their cafes and restaurants they would have it made.  The French are also very patriotic and religious, at least they were at one time. Crosses and religious icons dot the countryside. Some are real works of art:

I loved this centotaph to France’s fallen soldiers, especially poignant during the Great War where France lost over 1 million men. Canada lost 60,000. France 1 million – a whole generation of young men. This was very hard demographically as a whole generation of women in France could not find a husband. Think about that for a moment!

Hagatmau,s Cenotaph

This is coming to and end for me. Just 3 more walks and I am finished. I am excited and sad. Funny, I look upon St Jean Pied de Port like some old western town. You see this is a termination point for some like me; it is also area where 4 of Europe,s pilgrimages come together and congregate for that climb over the Pyrenees to begin the Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago. It will also be the starting point for those coming here from North America. But instead of gun slingers this town is full of Pilgrims – all beginning to suffer and those like me to end the suffering because, as I have pointed out, pilgrims cannot swear, they cannot have fun, listen to classic rock, eat good food or have good conversation. No, no, no. Pilgrims have to suffer and as this blog will attest and be my witness, I have broken every single damn pilgrim rule many, many times. Oops, sorry, Pilgrims are not allowed to swear.

Oh, and a green hue hangs over St Jean Pied de Port. They don,t know how to rid the town of that hue and accompanying smell but when the wind is just right, from the Northeast, the town will cleanse itself and send that pilgrim scent up and over the Pyrenees into Spain. This will forever remind those rookie pilgrims of what lies ahead. Peee-Yew.

Have a good Pilgrim day.

Cheers

It,s only the beginning – forall of us.