|Camino: Pedaling to Earth’s End|
Beginning to begin
August 21, 2004
Internet cafes have not been as ubiquitous as I’d heard they were in France. That, plus the fact that the Camino part of the trip had not begun, are the two main reasons there have been no updates here until now.
But the third (and final) leg of this journey — the bike ride to Santiago — is about to begin. Leg number one (the week-long bike trip with J through the Berry region: see photograph above) was a smash success: we averaged about 45 km per day, and stayed in various kinds of places, ranging from chambres de hote (I am typing on a borrowed Windows-based laptop, and not even the owner knows how to command Windows to generate a properly accented character, so bear with me…) to small hotels to gites to gites d’etape, and ending with 2 nights in a proper 11th C chateau.
The Berry region is an excellent part of France for an entry-level cycling holiday: not too hilly, not too many tourists, lots of good secondary roads (as everywhere in France), and a reasonable selection of sights to see (tellingly though, we found at least 3 places who each fiercely claimed to be the geographic centre of France; and having visited one of them, I can attest that this in itself is not reason enough for a detour…). We stopped in Epineuil-le-Fleuriel to pay our respects to Le grand Meaulnes; we stopped in Nohant to say hello to Georges Sand’s ghost. A week was not enough.
Leg number two was our trip a cinq to the Aude region of the eastern Pyrenees: 2 1/2 weeks based in the town of Axat, with the Aude river rushing past our balcony. Hiking (see above), white-water rafting, reading, driving around, swimming in the Mediterranean, and some excellent home-cooked food (often served with wine…)
J and I ended up that stage with a few days in Paris together, and just this morning we went out to the Paris airport so that I could help J pack her bike for travel home. So I’m on my own for this next leg: and I suspect that it will take a while to get used to this solitary state again…
I bought my train ticket today, to Briançon in the French Alps. The train leaves tomorrow at 22:05, and arrives in the mountains around 8 the next morning. I’ve got the bottom couchette for the night, and I’m kind of looking forward to a slow train ride through the French night. The bike will be safely locked in a luggage compartment for the trip, so that is one less worry. There was some rain today in Paris: I’m hoping that it is not an omen, and not a sample of the weather yet to come…
From Briançon I’ll decide the route on a day-to-day basis, heading generally south and west to Aix and then Arles, and from there I’ll follow the “traditional” Camino route as much as I can.
One task I’ll try to complete in Briançon: I’d like to try and track down someone “official” to stamp my pilgrim’s credencial, attesting to the fact that I began my pilgrimage at Briançon. It is not as formal a place to begin the Camino (as Arles would be, although I can see no reason why one should not be able to begin the journey from almost anywhere) so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the necessary stamp…
More later, as time and opportunity permits…
The 3 Ps: Preliminaries, Preparations and Packing
Departure! (and contact info)
Beginning to begin
El Burgo Ranero
Villadangos del Paramo
Rabanal del Camino
Interlude: A New Philosophy
Villafranca del Bierzo
Santiago de Compostella
The end of the earth