One of the most amazing things about travel is the people you meet. The Way is no exception. Travelling brings people from disparate backgrounds, ages, skin colors, religions, genders, beliefs, every difference imaginable, it brings them together and makes them friends for life. It brings people together, who, had they crossed paths on the street as residents of the same city, may not have given each other a second glance. But put these two people together in the same sleeping spot in some foreign city and they can be friends for life, or less dramatically, at least fond acquaintances for a day or two. It’s a magical thing, that simply the shared passion for travel and the shared experience of doing it somewhere at the same time can unite people in such a way.
Early on in this walk I talked frequently about the regular generosity I’ve experienced. This still happens often on a daily basis, but lately I’ve been noticing and thinking about the fact that you are never truly alone–though you can walk as such during the day–because you keep meeting the same people every evening. Sometimes it’s people you saw the night before, sometimes someone you hadn’t seen for a week. In Moissac I met yet again someone such as this, a teacher that lives in Montreal named Michel. We’d first met in Saint-Come-d’Olt about 10 days ago, and for perhaps 4 or 5 times since, we unintentionally ended up in the same room at Gites along the way. This happened yet again in Moissac, and we said goodbye for the last time on The Way, as he will soon head back home. We both repeatedly said how wonderful it was through serendipity to see each other yet again, we hugged goodbye with hopes to meet again closer to our own homes across the ocean. A perfect example of what I wrote above, though we differed vastly in age, native language, culture, the act of travelling, and walking particularly, can and does bring people together.
I’ve experienced this act of meeting people you otherwise probably wouldn’t meet in traveling before, but staying in hostels often means you meet only young people. It is a very rare occasion to meet some thrifty old seasoned vagabond sleeping in a hostel dormitory–rather, it’s young people, often in their early 20’s, making me one of the older ones. If one ever sleeps in guesthouses or hotels, you’ll likely not meet anyone except from frequenting the hotel’s bar. But on The Way, you meet young and old, crossing boundaries of friendship otherwise not possible.
I could blab on about the joys of traveling, for they are truly many. Please set out and experience them for yourself as soon as you possibly can, as often as you can.
My journey from Montcuq (which, by the way, some French people told me means ‘My Ass’ or something like that) to Moissac was a long one, the longest I’ll make in one day I hope–about 25 miles–though it crossed some of the prettiest country my eyes have seen so far. I even happened upon one east facing church during the sunrise.
It also included a strange building, sitting atop concrete pillars and with no discernible entrance underneath.
At first from Le Puy I walked through hay fields and cattle pastures the first several days. Then corn before and during the Cele Valley. Now, sunflowers, fruit orchards, and vineyards. I think by the end I’ll have seen the entire gamut of farming crops. People had even put smiles on these sunflowers.
The Way also passed through a picturesque village set on a hilltop with a commanding view of everything around it, Lauzerte.
My time in Moissac was short as I arrived very late. Here is a picture of the abbey it’s well known for.
From Moissac a couple landmarks kept me company along The Way through much of the day: a canal that kept going far beyond where I left it and turned another direction; a nuclear plant with vapor billowing out from the two cooling towers. Although the day was hot and the sun fierce, hot cloudless days make for better phototaking.
Another hilltop town, this one called Auvillar provided an incredible view of the flat land around it.
I finished the day in the small village of Saint-Antoine. You may have guessed by now, but I went to the church and found it to be beautiful and intricately detailed.
It’s amazing, even some of the smallest villages take the utmost pride in and give scrupulous care to their church, protecting the history and the artifacts within for sometimes hundreds of years.
Everyone staying in the Gite ate at the town’s sole restaurant, a delicious meal of soup made of melon and tomato, simple but tasty chicken on rice, and some kind creme parfait. And of course wine. The dinner took place in the middle of the major walking thoroughfare through the village, a cobblestoned path with people’s homes to the left and right and plants hanging from their windowsills and sitting in front of their doors, the sun setting. A village in the middle of nowhere, rustic France, the people as friendly and authentic as you can find, the food and wine likely fresh from various farmers not far down the road. I sat next to an older, wiser British fellow, who mused to me whether this wasn’t what Americans dream of, whether you could bottle it up and sell it for a million dollars. Perhaps we do dream of this, but I don’t think everyone realizes how easy it is to have, if only for a few days of leisurely walking or 35 days across a country, our dreams aren’t always so loftily unobtainable.
At this point, there is nobody left that I started with in Le Puy that I’ll see again I suspect, mostly now they are people I’d met once or twice before, but who now I have the opportunity to know better. Each person’s leaving creates a gap that is waiting to be filled by yet another pilgrim, a renewal of friendship with different people. Perhaps I’m repeating myself, but this is one of the beautiful things about the Camino, you can walk alone and experience the introspection that is only possible while alone, but once the evening comes you always get to enjoy the company of others. Tonight one group, tomorrow perhaps some of the same or perhaps a completely different group. Either way, I never seem to have enough hours in the day.
Waking early to see the sunrise has become a hobby, and I never tire of seeing the uniqueness in each sunrise, having it rise at my back as I begin the day’s journey, filling the sky with both a real and figurative luminary energy. Here’s one from my 20th day, leaving the tiny aforementioned village. On any given morning, you can count the unique jet streams of at least 25 planes, probably many more, and see at least a half dozen flying before your eyes.
All good things come in threes, as I passed through the third medieval hill town in as many days, this one called Lectoure. One of the shames of this walk is that, with so many wonderful places, sometimes passing through several each day, there simply isn’t enough time to see much of anything. Perhaps it’s a good lesson to learn, seeing something fascinating but accepting the reality of our lives that we can’t see it all, passing them by to see other things later.
This day ended in another sleepy village, Marsolan, privy to it’s own nice views. This was the first day I could see the Pyrenees Mountain range, standing as the faintest of shadows along the southern sky. Looming, as I draw closer each day. Sadly they don’t show up in this photo looking south, but in a few days I’m sure they will.
The pace has been quite rapid for the past 4 days, about 80 miles. 2 more days and it begins to ease until I reach the end of the French part and move onto Spain. The days will also grow hotter coming up, with temperatures supposed to reach somewhere around 33 or 34 Celsius, in the 90’s in Fahrenheit.