Aire sur l’Adour – Miramont Sensacq

Breakfast with Francoise and Hubert at their home

Breakfast with Francoise and Hubert at their home

It had been almost five weeks since I had been in any form of motorised vehicle. After moving at a slow walking pace for so long, we seemed to be going very fast in Francoise’s car as they took me back to Aire sur l’Adour. It was 25 kilometres to town and we talked about how far it seemed even in a car. The same distance approximately that a day on the Chemin de Saint Jacques would entail. We said our goodbyes near the spot where Hubert’s brother had picked us up the night before. It had been great walking with Hubert and Francoise for the past few days. I felt a bit sad to be leaving.

Back to the task in hand, I found a new hat for €12 in the local sports shop. Since Livinhac le Haut I had been sporting a second-hand baseball cap that gave no real neck protection from the sun. It had been given to me by the cleaning lady in the gite at Livinhac le Haut. The shop kindly offered to dispose of my old hat.

Saint Jacques scallop shell on the new hat

Saint Jacques scallop shell on the new hat

A steep climb followed out of town. Soon the Way passed by the edge of a large reservoir. The breeze was steady and the sun hot even though it was only after 10am. There were pine trees and that glorious smell of the pine woods that reminded me of holidays in the South of France as a child. After the reservoir the land became flat with huge maize fields extending into the distance. It was a long trek along a totally deserted dusty track. I passed two farmers deciding when to water their fields of maize. There was no shade from the strengthening sun. The new hat had indeed been a timely purchase. I reminded myself that it was always best to start as early as possible each day, and to avoid too much armagnac.

I was exhausted after the open, windy and hot landscape and relieved to find some woodland and a large tree to doze under. I ate some sardines and fresh bread and had a tranquil rest disturbed only by a large bee which kept returning every ten minutes to prevent me sleeping. I thought it was further to Miramont Sensacq and was happy to find out it wasn’t. I soon arrived at the top of a hill with the village below. The village of Miramont Sensacq was small and quiet. At its entrance was a large panoramic plaque showing and listing the names of the peaks of the Pyrénées mountains ahead. I couldn’t make out the mountain range at all due to the heat haze but was excited that I was now closing in on the Pyrénées.

Tile marking the Way of Saint James

Tile marking the Way of Saint James

The Gite d’étape communal was very welcoming. There was a rule however that rucksacks had to be put into plastic bags and tied closed before sunset. This was due to ‘la punaise’ or bed bugs – a problem that last year had closed part of the Way. This was only the second time since Le Puy that a gite had asked pilgrims to do this so the problem must now be very localised. I had not had any problems so far.

I wandered around and found the local bar complete with a collection of skittles for the local game of Les Quilles de Neuf. The lady explained that games were held regularly in the area and played throughout the Bearn, Bigorre and Landes regions.

Later there was a group welcome at the gite with a kir aperitif and we were all invited, for a donation, to a communal meal later that evening. Mutton with potato compote were served with plenty of fresh bread and local wine. The group was small, about twelve, and the conversation soon turned to everyone’s adventures so far. After dinner Kaas from the Netherlands declared that he was not sure what donation to make for the delicious meal so he stood up and sang an old Russian. It transpired that he was a member of a choir in the Netherlands and we all agreed that he was a fantastic singer. Everyone joined in washing up, as was the custom, before relaxing in the cool of the evening air before an early night.

TIP: Start walking early each day, especially in hot weather. Walking in the early morning is more pleasant than the mid-afternoon heat.

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