June 13, 2007

6/13/07 Toulouse France

I know you're looking at the title and wondering what happened and how did I end up in Toulouse. Well, it's a strange story, even to me.

Tried to slip out of the refugio early this morning without waking up Nuncha who was in the bunk above me. As soon as I turned off one other side streets to follow the Camino, it started to climb again.

At this point, the canyon is so narrow, that there's not that much room for much. But the Camino follows one side with the river between me and the highway. For a ways even I was far above the road. The pleasant thing was that the roar of the rapids drowned out much of the noise of the trucks.

Passed a few dams too

Just a few more flowers

An amazing view

It was still very early when I went through the one-street ski town of Confranc. But once I left the road again, the trail changed dramatically. I was again in a green tunnel, but this time I was surrounded by huge evergreens with lots of climbing to negotiate my way closer to the top of the pass.

Ruins in Confranc

So close

The biggest surprise was a huge waterfall in the trail. I ended up taking a long break there just listening to the roar of the falling water. There were even old remnants of a road of sorts with rock walls. I think I have to say this is my favorite section of the whole Camino.

Took a long break here

A joy to walk

The tunnel was a surprise

Confranc Estacion was a larger town but it seemed to all center around a huge train station that was totally being restored. Stopped for some hot cocoa and got a few things from the store before I started the climb out.

According to the map profiles, I would be climbing 500m (1650ft) in 6km (3.7miles) which looked like a lot on the map. Got lost once, but the trail generally was easy to follow. But I was kind of shocked when I caught sight of Candanchu which is near the pass. It was work but it sure didn't seem that bad climbing.


And the sun even came out

Passed nearby several large groups of military soldiers rope climbing all the nearby cliffs. I hoped it was alright for me walk through those milling around near the bottom waiting their turn to climb.

Candanchu is a ski resort which I'm sure looks much better surrounded by snow. I could see what I thought was the pass, so I kept on going.

The ski resort of Candanchu

That way to France

I reached Puerto de Somport at 12:01. Stopped to chat with the barman/hospitalero at the albergue/bar/restaurant who told me that the bus stop was over by the phone booth, which just happened to be in France. I had made it to the border of Spain and France, but knowing a glass box was all that signified that fact somehow seemed wrong.


There were a few other pilgrims stopped nearby for a lunch break. One offered me her France phone card since she didn't need it anymore, and I gave her my Spanish one. I made a quick phone call to Jean Yves, my cousin Cindy's husband, to tell him I might actually make it to Toulouse tonight.


That's when I was thrust back into the world of the modern world with it's speeds too fast to think. Caught the 12:55 bus to Oloron St Marie and we made it just in time for me to buy a quick ticket for the bus that was leaving for Pau in 2 minutes. Lucky for me that the bus station is also the train station in Pau since the next train was leaving in 20 minutes. During a break to switch trains in Tarbes, I made a quick cal to Cindy to tell them when I was arriving in Toulouse.

So, just six hours after I was climbing the Camino through the Pyrennes, I was at the mall in Toulouse helping Cindy shop for various things they needed their wedding this weekend. Wow, talk about shock. All of a sudden I wasn't a pilgrim anymore, just a cousin come to visit in a country I didn't know anything about where the people speak a language I know only two words in; bonjour & merci.

I actually had a great time catching up with Cindy while we shopped. Jean Yves has one more year to get his Masters in Social Work. And to help things financially, she has two jobs; one teaching English, and the new one is starting her own translation company. As if that wasn't enough stress, here I am a house-guest on the weekend they are getting married.

Yes, getting married again! They were married in a ceremony last summer in Georgia but I wasn't able to attend. But this is an official marriage ceremony, for the French government, so there will only be a handful of people there.

Cindy and Jean Yves are such warm caring people, they're just excited that I made here in time to share this with them. They wouldn't have it any other way. I am one lucky guy.

Finally the adrenaline for the day started to wear off and I headed to bed at midnight. So, my walk along the Camino de Santiago is over, but the journey is just beginning.