Day 6, setting out from Nasbinals to however far I could go, was a challenging day in some ways yet extremely joyous in others.
Since starting my walk, I’d more or less walked with several people that I have come to know well. I spent the evenings with these same people, sharing dinners and the day’s successes and injuries. After two nights of salubrious revelry, I decided it was time for me to head off on my own way. A few people’s journey was coming to an end this day, but more to the point I felt a need to pick up the pace a little in case I need to spend an extra day or two here or there later on down the road, perhaps due to injury or a problem with my gear. Moreover, in walking ahead, it would give me the opportunity to meet new faces and share perhaps a day or two’s walk with them before similarly heading on. Still, it was sad, as these people I spent the first days with were some of the most kind and caring I’ve known, always looking out for one another and myself.
This picture that someone else took shows a few of them: Charbel, a French-Lebanese man that is unbelievably generous; Anna, a Dutch woman that takes long walks like this one on her holidays; Francois-Xavier, a Frenchman from Toulouse with 6 children; George, a Swiss fellow with a shared passion for archaeology; Adrian, a Parisian that taught me a thing or two about taking photographs. I will miss them surely, and look forward to all the new faces I will meet along The Way.
It was also challenging because, although it was already supposed to be some 33 kilometers, I was so lost in thought walking alone, enjoying the scenery, breathing in the landscapes, that I got sidetracked somewhere along the line and had to make up 4 kilometers or so beyond what I thought I would walk.
But two things, in addition to the by-now typical beauty, made the day an incredible one. First, leaving Nasbinals before 7 AM, the sun rose behind me, giving the dew remaining on grasses and hills every possible color, leaving a fog resting gently on the ground as far as could see. I’ve included a picture or two, but they can’t do it the justice it left imprinted on my mind. And while the sun rose, I walked right through several cattle pastures, not more than one foot from cow, both adult and calf, each of us timidly uncertain of each other’s intentions.
The scenes of walking through a couple picturesque villages later in the day, the dozens of crosses of all shapes and makes I saw, these added to the day’s wonder.
But the greatest joy came from stumbling into Saint-Come-d’Olt at 6 PM–tired from walking perhaps 23 miles–towards the first place I could find to the stay the night: an active convent that looks like a hotel from the outside (and inside too). The room I am in is decorated with furnishings that appear from the 1940’s. It is an amazing, charming place, with seemingly only a few remaining aged sisters still alive to fulfill their solemn oaths. My room is in a corner of the large manse that looks dark and old on the inside, empty and devoid of life. Perhaps 2 dozen rooms on several floors in this corner, all empty except mine tonight. I wonder if it is an area that used to serve as apartments for the Convent’s occupants, long now since deceased. This possibility and the reality of it left a sadness in me, as this place echoes the rapid disappearance of an old way of life–the old nuns and monks of the world are dying off, and very few young people are coming to replace them. The nuns in this place are full of life, boisterous, and very friendly no matter what language you speak or where you come from. It will be sad, I think, the day that no more people choose the stoic life of the nun or monk.