Past Challenges,  Santiago 2018

More from Les Landes

Dear Humphrey

Tonight (Monday) I am sharing a two bedded bunk room with a young Parisian Moroccan who was in bed when I arrived at 6.30 and apart from asking me when I was planning to leave only to tell me he was going at 5.30 am, has said nothing and has only risen from his bed to roll one of his own and smoke it. I am wondering what’s in the tobacco or alternatively I am checking to see their are no prayer mats facing south east.

This happy encounter has arisen after a long and tortuous walk over 9 hours along mile after mile of dead straight roads or tracks through a vast expanse of pine forest. It would no doubt be of great interest to the Forestry Commission involving huge areas of clear felling and replanting using enormous machinery and vast stacks of unsawn timber either on trucks or on the side of the road.

And so it has been for the last three days or so since leaving Bordeaux but not without incident.

i last wrote when sharing a dormitory with a lovely French couple who had been kind enough to share their supper. As I finished my letter I believe I mentioned the lady’s snoring potential. Well it proved considerable. I discreetly searched out my ear plugs as husband was still very much awake. The night was by no means calm and when getting up the next morning the dear man asked tentatively if I had a good night. Lying I said ‘yes’ and then headed off at high speed to catch the ferry across the Gironde to head for another gite d’etape in Pian Medoc run by some charming nuns, one Irish and the other Spanish. Passed through Margaux on way there and checked out the price of some fine wines … £1200 a bottle but sadly no room in my back pack. Got caught in a storm and sheltered in Château Senejac. The gite this time was already occupied  by a bavorous threesome. Two women who were heading to Bordeaux to catch a train home and a man who was suffering badly from shin splints. Pleasant enough that evening but at 5.30 am they all three were getting up and for an hour and a half conducted a full scale breakfast party notwithstanding my telling them after a long while to shut up. Eventually they left as did I a while later. On my way in to Bordeaux on the outskirts I managed to avoid yet another horrific down pour by taking refuge in a Pharmacy. Those who know France will have observed that every village or town however small all have at least one pharmacy and ofte more. The French must all be total hypochondriacs. At this point I am ashamed to say I decided to have done with the rain and catch a bus in to Bordeaux. (Anyone who wants a refund let me know!) That took some doing because no-one could understand what I wanted until I learned they are pronounced ‘bewse’. Sitting comfortably on the bewse I spied with mixed emotions the three bedraggled and very wet companions from the night before. … ‘serve them right’ and total humiliation but more of the former than the latter.

Really enjoyed Bordeaux. It is a great and very buzzy chique  city with lots going on including a huge food fair where I got my supper.  I put myself up in a lovely little hotel. Bought some new boots. And was highly impressed by its cathedral and keen to get my pilgrims passport stamped there. The stamp in French is called,rather awkwardly for us English, ‘a tampon’, and so you can imagine the reaction of an American tourist whom I mistook for one of the Cathedral staff when I asked where I might find a tampon! He said ‘jeez that’s the first time I have ever been asked that! ‘

Since Bordeaux it has been hard and solitary work and will continue to be for the next three days. The first night out of the city in Barp my host who ran the local Pizza Hut put me up in a converted garden shed. Amazingly they had managed fit a bed a shower and a loo in to it as well as all their keep fit equipment but no room for a basin. This was the first time I have had to clean my teeth in a shower. The large good looking Labrador who shared the artificial turf with me outside the shed was also keen to make his mark which fortunately I noticed before treading in it.

I stayed last night in  town called Muret, which looks a bit like an American one horse town.  Pleased to arrive there in good time but somewhat perplexed when the first person I saw was an elderly lady wielding a rifle. Unsure as to whether to proceed or dive for cover, she turned and saw me and in gest (as I hoped) I threw my hands up causing the doves at which she was apparently targeting to fly off!

It’s getting late now and my mobile is about to tell me it’s  had enough I.e needs charging and my Moroccan friend is restless!

Lots of love

your friend and master

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