Tony, Tim, Betsy & Ray's (not forgetting Geoff) 2014 Camino

GR65 (France), GR11 & Camino del Norte (Spain)


8.06.14 Sunday. Burguete to Middle of Nowhere. That's Nowhere with a q and a z! We sleep extremely well and with a few aches and pains we are off out of the village having bought food for the wild camp in the little supermarket just outside town back toward Roncesvalles. The GR11 crosses the camino frances in the middle of town and we are in flat grazing following a stream at first. There are many locals out for a walk or a picnic and after the first ascent and descent of the day we get coffee and beer and an excellent cheese tortilla at an alburgue/refuge which seems a useful halt but not well positioned for us. It does have an interesting gents loo that Betsy is impressed by (don't ask). We expect the numbers to thin out but not so, climbing up the delightfully forested valley with the ever steepening path there are many butterworts in full bloom along the path, and we are amazed at the group of elderly ladies slowly ascending and having enough breath for a natter on the way up to the col which seems a favoured spot at 1200m altitude and 350m from the road, must be something in this transhumance business. After lunch on the top with glorious views and a sleep for some we continue our way along a high sheep grazed ridge at about 1000m. Soon we gradually descend though more beech woods past multiple hunting hides of all ages many set up for migrating birds flying up the valleys and over the Pyrenees. We reach a road crossing that has some stream water flowing and water up, we are on a wild camp tonight and start to head up the concrete road after Tony prospected and found a possible site a short way up. We don't want to go too high but would like to start early tomorrow and cover the second half of 40km and a lot of up and down before the rain promised for tomorrow afternoon. A meal of gnocchi with a lentil and tomato sauce, Tim's nod at Indian Italian fusion cooking fills up well once the lentils are cooked. So we seem alone except for two dog walkers passing our roadside encampment. They seem unconcerned. Wild camping is well tolerated in Spain. 21km 1250m up and 1170 down a good day

Into Spain

Yesterday's walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles was well worth the effort with magnificent mountain scenery and pleasantly shaded beech woods, though it lost its charm when the campsite turned out to be 4km further than expected. Thank goodness for a 'no show' which left rooms available for us. Trying hard now to swap from French to Spanish, thwarted slightly by strong local accents. The church at Roncesvalles had some interesting misericords which I wanted to investigate thoroughly but was discouraged by the way the area was roped off! Now sitting outside the tent at a wild camp at the end of another well above average day (lots of up and down as well as distance), very glad the weather is holding and the locals who were dog walking didn't object to us.


7.06.14 Saturday Today's the day. St Jean Pied de Porte into SPAIN. Burguette just past Roncesvalles. This is the day we have been really looking forward to. The night before in the little campsite in St Jean was marred for some by the arrival and pitching of camp of a group between midnight and 2am. Others were blissfully unaware! But we are up at 5am and may seek forgiveness for not caring about the sound of our exit from the site. We get cracking at 6amand leave via the pilgrim gate Uphill for a lot of kilometers in the half light before the sun gets up. It is wonderfully cool compared to yesterday and before things really heay up ahain we are over 1000m in a stiff breeze so it is still comfortable going uphill even with the fairly relentless climb. We get coffee 8km out and 650 m higher in the Refuge Orrisy. We climb steadily through the hills with flocks of sheep clustered on hilltops (yes Ray like aphids)! Eventually we reach the top and look down into the Roncesvalles valley where Roland nephew of Charlemange died after being ambushed by Moors during the retreat from Spain in the 8th C. A bit before the crusades and the finding supposed finding of St James tomb. The descent into the valley though beech woods is equally hard and steep but not qite as long. A big day and still 2 or 3 km into Burguette. The abbey at Roncesvalles has some nice old stained glass and a deep stone crypt with seriously old painting on it. More importantly there is a bar. Two beers and our lunch later we wander down the path to the village and find as expected at 1430 the supermarket is closed till 1700 and the campsite is variably estimated at up to 5km in the wrong direction. We inquire for rooms non are to be had in a quandary we eat again, it has the virtue of sitting down and analgesia is supplied. After lunch a miracle, rooms have manifested. No shows are common and bookings are cancelled after 1600 unless confirmed. We clean, shop and gradually recover tomorrow is another day hot and with a wild camp. 29km 1900m of ascent 1100m descent a big day. WE ARE NOW IN SPAIN!


6.06.14 Friday Ostabat to St Jean pied de Porte. The small village of Ostabat is the meeting of several ways tributary routes from Arles in the south and Paris in the north join the route from Le Puy.Mr Squeaky the bunk beds came to our dormitory and none of us slept well but we were off before 7 am and into a day rapidly warming up as promised. The route goes a little up the valley sides but without much hieght gain thankfully. We stop briefly at a farm offering coffee and yogurt donativo but dont stop long. A red kite hovers low over the field next to the road and settles on a fence post. Magnificent maneuvering in the still hot air. We finally arrive as pools of gee in St J P de P as find the restaurant Tony remembers from our holidays here long ago. Stephanie stole her mothers trout at the age of one. It was a long time ago it is now a creperie, you cannot eat the same trout twice. But we find another that does have trout on the menu. They can also be seen in the small rivrr flowing through the tow along with s viperine water snake spotted from the bridge to the campsite. The hot day winds on and the campsite fills up and Ray and Tim go shopping for a little food not too much we have to varry it up 1000 m tomorrow. Tony and Betsy go for hair cuts, Betsy reluctantly. She has not seen the inside of a hairdressers in years except for Rhona' s wedding, but the split ends she sits on are becoming icreasingly difficult and painfull to keep under control. The both return suitably shorn. 24 km 700m up and down. An Average Day.


5.06.14 Thursday Aroue to Ostabat Asme. .(probably) A quiet night on the lawn at the back got a bit cool as the clouds cleared in the wee smw hours. But a cracking day dawns. A lot of tarmac up hill and down dale with short bouts of mud mean the team has time to muse on other things, the hills around us are scattered with fields of grass with white dots in the distance. They become cows or sheep or occasionally white aphids (as Ray says or geese as we later find out). We try to guess what they are from a distance Betsy is spectacularly bad at it! The team fantasy takes over and we wonder about selling the rights to "Cows OR Sheep" as a cheap day time tv programme and wonder if Brucie would come out of retirement to host it. After a particularly gruelling hill we end up near a little chapel and a table d'orientation or disorientation as the spell chucker trys to have it. Reasonable views of the mountains confim snow on Pico d Annetto just in Spain and 3500 m or so high hopefully we will be nowhere near it. A local old boy in a beret recommended a restaurant in Ostabat and we realise that with only 4km to go we could have lunch there so a spurt downhill results. Unfortunately not only are there two more hills 5.5 km but when we arrive it is not serving today as the lady concerned has her grandchildren. Nice for her and a good insight into the size of places we are going through. We eat yesterdays bread with cheese and ham and will cookin the alburgue/ gite later. A good days walk and an afternoon of scorching heat. 22km 700m up and a bit less down


4.06.14 Wednesday Navarrenx to Arouy. The promised rain arrives and persists on and off all morning and finally stops just before arrival in Arouy. A day spent marching through wet jungle in deepest Gascony with the occasional duck for relief. Still it could be worse it could still be raing and we could be crouching in wet tents. So as with almost all other days billed as below average when it comes to it it is above average, at least with respect to distance. Arouy has no bar or shops and even the pizza hut (no not Pizza Hut) is shut. So we settle on the back lawn of the gite comunale to await the opening of the in house store. Fortunately we have our meal for the evening with us. Not much of a report for not much of an average day. No photos too wet to risk the phone but one of the lady birds on the site yesterday. 20.5km 37m up and down.


3.06.14 Tuesday Argagnon to Navarrenx. The Gite de Cambarrat last night gave us a good meal with wine, a hand drawn tampon (once the lady of the house came home) , and a seranade with a banjo by Nicholas our host. A good deal coupled with a good sleep and maybe even Tony forgave the hole in his sock and talked to the smallest of the three white hounds that went for him. Breakfast is goodwith toast coffee and some homemade marmalade, the best, almost only, mamalade encountered in France. The route is down at first with a lot of tarmac and no mud but soon starts to go up and down as if determined to give us a good workout before the pass into Spain. We stop briefly at the old 13th C . reconstructed 19thC church in Sauvelade. The high point of this building is the thick slab of green marble from a nearby Roman villa. Found after exhaustive search lurking under the base of the stairs to the balcony. An average day follows Ray spots a humming bird hawk moth and the cuckoo was still heard. After a good wander along a wooded ridge with distant views of the Pyrenees we decend into the outskirts of Navarrenx. We are now into the edges of Basque territories so any major spelling inadequacies that may possibly have produced criticism before can now be excused on ethnic grounds. Tim complains that his ankles that gave problems on the first camino are feeling a little sensitive, Ray who also marched rapidly up the hills on tarmac relaxes and keeps station at the rear but soon Tony is waving from a bar on the ramparts of the town, allegedly the oldest fortified town in France and both sink gratefully into a seat. Magically beer appears! The campsite in Navarrenx is a bit of a space time warp, run by English and inhabited by caravans with English number plates. A walk round the town soon reorientates us and a visit to the tourist office, where the lady kindly showes us the information in Miaw Miaw Dodo (THE guide to the GR65) that we have already seen, completes the process. Firmly fixed in France we get two nights meals and lunch from the local Casino ( supermarket chain) and enjoy a meal of fish in white wine and garlic with potatos , green salad melon starter and choclate mousse to finish washed down with copious wine. Tomorrow is another day and we may be carrying all we eat as we delve into Basque territories. 25km 570m up 550m down.


2.06.14 Monday Lareule to Argagnon via Arthez de Bearn. Lareule in medieval times was an important staging post on the way being an impartant abbey supported by a crusader knight order similar to Templars, sadly nothing remains but the parish church after the religious wars. The gite last night was good meeting people we had seen over the last weeks on the way, one was unfortunate Hermsn women wjo had developed shin splints and had stopped in pai that day. After four eerks from Le Puy feeling fitter snd walking by herself she hsd been doing longer distances that at first and eas now needing a few days off to allow it to settle both Tim and Betsy have had this common camino problem and sympathised. The rest of us set off at a good hour after Betsy's long talk to the cat. The day fell naturally into two parts before snd after beer. The first part was good for lack of mud but plenty of tarmac, a very old church on the way with an uncommon stone carved tomb of a 14c local lord. The a beer in Arthez followed by lunch at a pilgrim halt thoughtfully provided by locals in a shed with table and chairs and a comments book Ray wrote in Welsh. A great few km along s ridge in chesrnut woods followed with a steep descent down to Argagnon to finish. The gite de cambarat was found about 400 m up a track off the maikn road. The dogs bark and the smallest nipped Tony's ankle putting yet another hole in his sock and was only saved a wack with the walking pole by the appearance of Nicholas the gite hospitalero. It is not right to wack a mans dog in front of him. But he did apologise. The gite is delightfully rural but has all one needs. Beds and plenty of hot water with washing lines are all well supplied. 25.8 km 420m both up and down.


01.06.15 Sunday Ferme de Marsan, Pimbo to Lareule. The rain that started at dinner time stopped at 2.30, the tents are dry inside and are soon packed we are off by 7.30. Ray says we are not on the camino cos we are going downhill but this changes, we turn right on to the Way and head uphill steeply, after a while we go through the regulation mud but still climb up to Pimbo a linear bastide on the top of a ridge. It has another gite comunale attached to the church which has a very old arch with what look like celtic designs around it. The church is known to date to 11th C and has a round cieling around the altar which is ready for the service and a garden at the back. More up and down continues enlivened by Betsy spotting a small grass snake asleep up a bramble. Along a road we are effusively greeted by a black labrador, we have met the first Buster of the trip. (For those ignorant of previous adventures, a Buster is a dog who chooses to follow, or sometimes lead pilgrims along their way.They are amiable spirits not excessively friendly but quiet and content to ramble often long distances attached to the walkers.) This one was with us for about 5km when we were witness to a dog napping as a blue Peugeot stopped a young girl got out, grabbed our new friend and bundled him into the back. The car then drove off with a woman presumably her mother glaring at us. Oops. Maybe he was a wanabe Buster, not the real thing. The way has further attraction added in a couple of placed by some house owners and farms placing old farm machinery beside the path. One such collection is by the walnut tree in whose shade we have lunch and provides the usual excellent drying rack for the tents. A few hills later we reach the gite in which we are staying and four beers gratefully dissappear before the usual cleansing rituals take place. The weather seems to have warmed up! 24km 630m up 660 m down


31.05.14 Sunday Aire sur l'Ardour to Ferme Marsan.. Dinner last night was fish stew there being a fish shop in town, Tony walks back to get petrol for the stoves as tomorrow starts a few days away from towns in the real Gascony. The boulongerie by the Bull Ring (we think a real one but used for other purposes mainly now) is open at 6am we eat the best pain au rasin yet and are off out of town up steeply (again) past the no longer inhabited Ursuline convent and the very old church of the town with all the faces removed from the stone figures around the entrance arch, Ray thinks probably again a relic of the French 17 C religious wars. Stained glass ok and a notice to shut the door to keep the pigeons out! A wander along the well maintained track round the local reservoir scoring two herons andwe are off through the rolling Gascony countryside few vinyards and larger fields of maise are the norm today with no mud but plenty of tarmac. A pre lunch stop at Sensac is enlived by a friendly Gordon Setter and cans of beer the bar being closed but a small shop is open. The easy going induces Tony at lunchtime to change footwear to sandals without socks. Alas a 100m stretch of impossible to avoid bouey is his reward and he stops to change back before the second foot follows the first into the mire. We arrive at the farm and are told to pitch on the field opposite the house and use the facilities of the gite. Washing and lazing about in the sun watching the local bird life, on this last day of May we hear the cuckoo once and a Hoopoe flies off across our path just outside the Bull Ring in A sur l'A. Some orchids just after lunch and an interesting grass Betsy calls Doddering Dillys complete a biologically interesting day. 25.3km 400m up 320m down.