I’ve been gone several days now and it’s been an interesting trip so far, interesting though with many bumps along the road. My flight was at 6 AM on Wednesday, July 20th. Since it was so early, it made sense to just stay in the airport which, unfortunately, meant I didn’t get much in the way of sleep. I don’t tend to sleep on airplanes too well, and so when I arrived in Madrid on the morning of July 21st, I still hadn’t had much sleep. I strolled around Mardid for a few hours before moseying over to catch a bus to France I’d prearranged. Unfortunately the bus driver said I wasn’t on his roll for having a ticket and so told me to head over to the ticket office. By the time I got there and through the line, the bus was gone, but they were kind enough to put me on another one two hours later. I spent most of it chatting with a 67 year old Chilean man who’d traveled all over himself and especially in South America. He regaled his dreams of a 4 month trip through the South American jungle along rivers, boats, trains, from Chile through the Amazon and back to Chile through Patagonia. I hope he does it one day.
The people in the ticket office said I had to change buses in Barcelona. I got there around midnight and got off, but given the fact that everything was closed and nobody was around, I now think that there was no other bus coming. I wonder if I should have tried to stay on the bus I’d been on? Anyway, I ended up sleeping on a park bench for the night, a third night of perhaps 30 minutes of sleep, and caught a train into France a few hours later, stopping at Narbonne. From Narbonne I set out to start hitchhiking and, after a lot of rain and lightning, got my first ride to Breziers. Another fellow got me to Montpelier, and finally I met a great person named Mathieu who offered to let me camp where he works/lives. Given the three days of little to no sleep, it sounded pretty awesome to me. I stayed there for the day on July 22nd and that night, spending the time learning to play the card game Dutch and hanging out with him and a few other French fellows that worked at this adventure park. There they rent out Kayaks and have an extensive tree ropes course. It was in an idyllic location next to a river, with cicadas buzzing loudly and birds from as far as Africa chirping in the trees. Here are a few pictures of the camp and the river it sits on. It seemed a special place to live and work.
He helped me catch a train to Nimes and book a bla-bla car (a ride share you pay for) to get to Le Puy.
I took this photo of Nimes during the brief period I was there:
After some last minute preparations for the start of my walk, buying a guidebook called Miam Miam Dodo in French, receiving a French pilgrim’s credencial, and getting poured on in the rain, I set out to begin walking on Sunday, July 24th. On Sunday morning, I attended a pilgrim’s (pelerin in French) mass at the Cathedral. Although I didn’t understand the language much, I appreciate the blessing and support the local clergy provided to the approximate 100 or so people there just starting. It seemed a lucky coincidence that I happened to begin on a Sunday and could begin this 2 month plus journey in such a way. Most people I found to be French and were walking for 1-2 weeks. Perhaps 15 or so were from various other places: Germany, United States, Japan, Israel. Only a few were walking to St-Jean-Pied-De-Port or beyond to Spain.
Here is the cathedral in Le Puy:
Here is a statue of Mary on a volcanic rock above the city:
After the mass we started walking immediately and friends to walk with came easily and quickly for me.
Here is my final look back to Le Puy-en-Velay as I began:
I will update this as I can though wifi will be sparse on the walking portion. Until then, Bon Chemin!