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Friday, 22 July 2016

Saints and Cynics Day 3: Navarrenx to St Palais

Navarrenx to St Palais 38km (81km cumulative)

'It's Sunday 17th July, it's day three of Saints and Cynics and I'm on my way to St Palais. It's about midday, it's very hot ... and I am moving like a train; one stop so far, very comfortable, apart from a niggle in the toe department. I've already overtaken three of my fellow pilgrims and I've been thinking how nice it is to move fast. My rucksack isn't too heavy, it's comfortable, a lot less cumbersome than when I was in the Catalunyan Pyrenees. 
I was thinking that some pilgrims would say that I'm moving too fast: that I'm not enjoying, that I'm not being 'authentic'. But I think this desire - this pleasure of moving relatively quickly through the landscape is a very embodied pleasure. And it is related in some way ... it's a very Catholic thing and it reminds me a bit of mortification of the flesh. Of course, it isn't like that at all in one sense but is ... you're putting your body through something and at the end of the day, when you arrive at your destination and enjoy a cold beer, lie down on the bed, it's a fantastic feeling. It's not quite pain, but it's a great deal of pleasure ...
Recorded thoughts, 17/7/2106 

It's only day three and already I'm drifting away from the indicative into the subjunctive world which is overflowing with possibilities; a world where ought triumphs is, a world in which 'if only your uncle had been your aunt' is more than an idle wish. Some pilgrims meditate whilst they're walking, I drift in and out of rock 'n' roll fantasy; don't knock it, it keeps the 'Brexit' blues at bay.
Thus I spent much of the morning ruminating on Noggin the Nog's unrecorded and unreleased third album, which, had they survived 'second album syndrome', I'm inclined to think would have marked a return to the no-nonsense, heads-down, heavy rock boogie which (would have) made them so famous. Today's walk was very much like that, at least for the first half until the heat and the vagaries of the GR65 took their toll, the latter leading me a merry dance across the Basse Navarre countryside and adding a good seven kilometres to the day's total. Although the Via Podiensis is well-marked on the ground, as it approaches St Palais it offers options; while the 'official' route turns south-west, a variante heads westwards along a main road, the D11, to the town where it joins the camino coming from Vezelay. Here, without a only an A4 screenprint from the French IGN, I became disoriented and, as my water supply depleted, increasingly hot and bothered. Indeed, there came a point when, after climbing a steady but gentle slope, I thought I was about to keel over in a faint. Fortunately I managed to obtain both water and directions from some helpful locals but it was still touch and go as I finally limped into St Palais.
It was only day three, early doors, as they say, but already I was beginning to feel part of the landscape; the important - one might say 'vital' - process of becoming or immersing myself in the landscape had already started. As I noted during the morning session, moving like a train, this was probably because, for personal and contextual reasons, I'd thrown myself into the venture, a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. There was no restraint, no tentativity - very little subtlety; it was hot and sticky, the walking got progressively harder but I didn't care.


Navarrenx: A bastide town which, early on a Sunday morning, was surprisingly lively. Piped music plays on the main street, a curious mixture of classical and ambient.


Path of the Day. Part of the appeal of the GR65/Via Podiensis - in its latter stages, at least, is the nature and trajectory of the way itself. Through nooks and crannies, in and out of shade, never revealing itself and always holding back a secret behind each and every twist and turn.

Obligatory mountains-in-the-distance porn

Our Lady of Lost Soles: Like the Camino Frances, the Via Podiensis is adorned by shrines and symbols; sacred or profane or sometimes both.

Another welcome refreshment break on the Via Podiensis, and open on a Sunday morning, too! Everyone's a winner, the seller of local artesian products who make a few euros from selling coffee and Coca Cola and the thirsty pilgrim on a hot and clammy morning.

Early afternoon. This is where the going got tough and the 'tough' - i.e. your correspondent - struggled to get going. With the sun high above the path crossed farmland with less and less shade.

Whence I'd come and where I was going


The last 8km to St Palais along the D11, a long hard slog at end-of-the-day pace

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