Getting started…

August 28. When we started this journey I didn’t realise how time-poor we would be. It has been an education.

From Lourdes we took 3 trains to St Jean Pied de Port, a small town in the lower Pyranees. We arrived at 1pm when everything was closed except the cafes so lunch was the first stop. It was very hot and I had the first tickle of unease about our days plan. My pack was too heavy and it had taken time to arrange to send some stuff forward. To do this we needed to wait for the post office to open. So we had lunch, wandered down to the post office, packed up 3kg of items into a box, including my one dress, my spare tights and a book among other things. Having already left a fleece blanket, a teeshirt and some underwear in Lourdes, I felt I had trimmed enough. Later in the day, I knew I hadn’t.

We had got our Compostellas or pilgrim passports in Lourdes, so needed a stamp from the pilgrims office. Finding that took a bit, the lovely man, Patrick phoned ahead to Orrisón to let them know we were coming and advised we needed to be there by 6pm. Even though we had booked and paid, our beds would be given away if we did not get there. Nine km, 3 hours? Piece of cake!

We set off at 3pm in 33degC and got on to The Way. It is marked with yellow arrows and yellow shell signs. The shell being the sign of the pilgrim on the Camino.

Leaving town, the road went up, and up, and up. It was hot, the pack was heavy, and the road was very very steep. I plodded. Watched my companions disappear in front of me. I sweated, drank a bit of water. Stopped in whatever shade I could find to rest a moment and then plodded on. I hoped that Brenda had enough in the engine to get us booked in by 6pm, I knew I didn’t. It was hot, the heat was unrelenting. By this time it felt like the road was perpendicular and required a grappling hook and crampons.

It was too hot and too hard. And it was day 1. The track deviated from the road into a dirt goat track around 2km short of the destination. Oh Holy Mother I was going to die on this hill!

I stopped and prayed for a ride, any kind of ride. The only thing that came along was a tractor. So much for that.

Shuffling on up the track using my trekking poles to haul me up, I stopped in a bit of shade. Hard to get started again, I felt like a failure. A year in the planning and this hill was going to beat me.

Funny thing about having no choices, we all kept going, in our own particular kind of hell. At one point I decided sleeping under a tree would be a good idea. But kept going anyway, gasping every step of the way.

Why, when the cold that had put me in bed for 5 days 6 weeks ago and left me very weak had I thought this was a good idea. Fair, fat and over 50, what the hell had I been thinking?

Finally I popped out the top of the goat track onto the road. Staggering up the hill a little I saw a building, yes! But no, it was the alburgue before Orrisón. Oh hell.

Then a van came along. Holding out my hand, he pulled up. I asked how far to Orrisón. I had no French, he had no English and could not tell me. I think he may have thought I was going to have a heart attack on the spot, he could have been right. He waved to the passenger seat and I caved, hell yes! Prayers get answered sometimes. He gave me ride the last 900metres. Shite. 900 metres, if I had known that I would have staggered on but as it was I made it in time for dinner in just under 4 hours.

Blessings on my sister Brenda who nearly burst a fufu valve, and also wanted to die on the climb, she put in tremendous effort to claim our beds so we did not have to sleep under a tree. Forever grateful to her determination. I cannot describe what an effort she put in. Huge gratitude to her, people were waiting for beds. Just as well we weren’t all under a tree, there was a massive thunderstorm in the night.

The dinner was fantastic! Just what the doctor would have ordered. Our hosts got everyone to stand and introduce themselves with where they were from and why they were walking. It was to prove very helpful as we meet with the same folk in various places along The Way.

Bed was welcome in a dorm of 10 people. Showered and in my sleeping liner, I listened to the storm outside. Tomorrow we had to climb the rest of the Pyranees to Roncesvalles. Oh Lord what have I let myself in for?

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Clarity

I live and work in a beautiful place with a river and beach and the wild west coast. Having grown up without a TV, as a family we read a lot. This lead to me writing a lot which in turn lead to a habit of writing poetry to make sense of my world. My grandmother painted. Lovely oils and water colours which she encouraged me to try. For many years I did very little, life was not conducive to creativity until came a time when life turned on its head and suddenly I found expression in creativity with the Intentional Creativity method taught by Shiloh Sophia McCloud in her Color of Women training. So here I am, writer, artist, ritual maker showing my offerings to the world.

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