Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hearing Eternity Espalion to Estaing Day 8, October 4, 2010

I'd like to amend my last blog about how in the silence and solitude of a camino one begins to truly hear and understand eternity. It's not in the silence and solitude that I've come to understand eternity but rather in the endless climbs and brutal descents. They just don't stop. Gasping for air, legs of lead, thirsty and exhausted, we keep praying for some flat terrain and, failing that, a diet coke. Hydration is problem because the day's supply of water is consumed early in the day, it is that hot at the moment. The end of our first week of walking had us saying goodbye to many of our fellow pilgrims who had finished this etape of their pilgrimage. On the Monday starting our second week, October 4th we were promised rain and boy did we get it. We started out at 7:30am and within minutes it was sprinkling a bit so we stopped to put on our raincoats. We had a brutal uphill climb to start, very difficult rocky path. Calling the path steep doesn't begin to describe it justly. By the time we reached the upper plateau, the rain was torrential and the thunder and lightening were beginning to cause us more than a little concern. We struggled into our new hunchback ponchos and they were wonderful. It wasn't cold and we could stay dry from head to - well not toe, but at least to ankles. Here we'd been praying for the end of that climb and now we had to cross that open plateau in the lightening. Soon the path headed down through the woods. The water and mud was rushing and gushing down the hill. We were tip-toeing side to side; boots, socks and feet soaked. The ponchos protected us from the rain but not from sweat. We were still soaked inside. Coming out of the woods onto a flatter road, we came upon a lovely church. Our lively Belgium couple, merrily walking through the rain, caught up to us. We followed the road into Estaing where we found a cafe and a warming cup of tea and coffee. We thought we'd wait out the rain before going onto Golinhac but saner heads prevailed. Ann Marie showed up and said she was staying at the gite, Communitie Saint Jacques, and before long so were we. Soon Julia and Maryise decided to follow suit. This was our first real communal gite but Dayton and I were still lucky enough to get one of the rooms to ourselves. We played the snoring card. Because we called this day a rainout (actually it was the lightening that was the deciding factor in quitting for the day), we busted out 37 kms the next day going from Estaing to Conques. We walked most of the day with our young German friend Julia and we motivated one another all day up and down every one of those blessed/blasted hills. Conques is a reward unto itself. It is so beautiful, medieval and magical that it reminded me of the mythical village of Brigadoon which just appears out of no where every so many years. I half expected Conques to disappear in the mist. Everyone said that there was one big climb out of Conques and then it was an easy 24km to Livenhac en Haut. We have lived to say that is a lie. It was another brutal day of those hills. We thought Julia had gone on before us so we walked all day on our own and walked is a euphemism for dragged our butts. Finally we found ourselves at a gite communal in Livenhac and collapsed. About two and a half hours later Julia arrived and collapsed too. She had misread a sign and did a circuit back towards Conques. Luckily she met up with another pilgrim who set her straight. I think she now looking forward to walking today and tomorrow too with us old folks.

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