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.


It,s only the beginning – forall of us.

8 thoughts on “Day 39: Hagetmau to Orthez”

  1. Hard to believe your journey has almost come to an end. We are so incredibly proud of you! What an amazing achievement! Today we are heading to lunch with Ruth and Pascal. We are very excited to meet them. It was the first week back to school so we are going to have a restful and relaxing weekend, which is strange for us. Take care, Titus and Jeannie.

  2. Sounds amazing!! I start my day reading your posts😊😊 love them!
    Hard to believe you’re nearing the end! Keep trekking !

  3. John, I love your description of your early morning walks and watching the sunrise…and your feelings. This is what I miss most about thevtreks, the utter joy of realizing how blessed we are to witness all that is beautiful in this world, and the vibrant feeling of really living it as you complete your journey. What an amazing memory you are going to have John…I am SO frigging happy for you John…I’m just ecstatic.

  4. Titus is wondering when you are going to dedicate a leg to him! Big smiley face. Love you pops.

    1. Thanks so much Jeannie and Mike for lookimg after the Savary,s. I am so proud of you both. I am very happy…Dad

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