Camino Santiago – April 2013

Pyrenees Horses, April 26
Last photo taken in the French Pyrenees on April 26, 2013. After snapping these horses I put my camera away. We were soaking wet.

Our Camino Santiago began on April 25, 2013 in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, French Pyrenees. The weather April 25 was beautiful. Perfect for hiking, meditating and snapping photos. We spent the  night of April 25 in the “honeymoon suite,” a tiny but private room at the Refugio Orisson, eight kilometres from, and about 800 meters higher than, our starting place in St.-Jean. Note: we did not ask for, or even have a clue about, the “suite,” the boss at reception just gave it to us.

April 26 was a mystical, but scary, experience. We set off very early and were careful to follow the well-marked trail with its yellow arrows. A mistake could have caused a sad mishap. Anita had sent her pack ahead to Roncesvalles’ public refugio; a wise decision that turned out to be…

Camino marker - French Pyrenees
Camino marker West of Orisson

Photos 3 and 4 in the set below show just the start of our walk from the Refugio Orisson across the mountains into Spain, where we had a night booked at the Hotel Roncesvalles. It was cold and very wet – a fine, persistent rain that did not let up. I put my Sony NEX-5N DSLR camera away after shooting the beautiful horses. It was already damp just from condensation when I removed it to shoot. Terrible visibility caused us to miss the Statue of the Virgin, a landmark that overlooks the valley no more than 30 metres from the trail, even though I knew when we were passing it! Continue reading “Camino Santiago – April 2013”

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Perspective

Anita on our scary Day 2 crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, complete with fog, rain, ice pellets, wind and snow. Luckily, not all at the same time.
Anita on our Camino Frances’  scary Day Two crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, complete with fog, rain, ice pellets, wind and snow. Luckily, not all at the same time.

I liked this photo right away and, after thinking about why, a few reasons come to mind. The way the shapes work, for one: the mountainside divides the image into two almost equal triangles, which simplifies things so that one’s eye is drawn to the end of the road that continues on to the left. The fog creates a feeling of mystery and uncertainty of what the figure in red will encounter along the way. (As it turned out – more fog.) The small,  red figure stands out almost like an apparition against the green and grey.

Size is important symbolically here: I can’t help feeling a humility when I compare the size of the human form with the vastness of the Pyrenees. We felt isolated walking here, though the faint sound of an invisible cow-bell hinted that this lonely place was occupied by other humans who were making a simple living by farming nearby.  I was moved by the evidence that humans here were living in a great deal more harmony with the land than humans like us who live on what was once prime Ontario farms and now is mostly asphalt, brick and concrete.

The cow-bell, it turned out, was a horse-bell. Three horses eventually appeared around the bend, almost invisible to the right of our path in the mist. The photo works better when I show only two.

The last photo I took on our hike from Orisson to Roncesvalles. Too wet to use my camera safely.
The last photo I took on our hike from Orisson to Roncesvalles. Too wet to use my camera safely.

The crossing from France into Spain occurred simply without kiosks, toll-booths and guards. It was marked by a sign that said Navarre.

Independence And Interdepedence

Le Tour de l’Îsle

Our Camino Frances began in Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port in Basque Country, France. It made me think of my native province of Québec and the aspirations of many Québecois for some form of “independence.” Walking through the beautiful, often unspoiled, countryside in Basque France (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Spain (Navarre) made me sensitive to some of the legitimate reasons why choosing a different path into the future might make some sense. Globalization in its current form doesn’t. A path that has respect for the old and the traditional ways that were more in tune with Mother Earth would hold a certain attraction.

In 1659 my ancestor, Abel Turcault, sailed from La Rochelle, France, to Québec. I trace my roots to Abel through 10 generations.

Abel was granted a farm on Îsle d’Orléans, an island in the Fleuve St-Laurent near Québec city. The parish church of Sainte-Famille is the oldest parish church in North America still standing. Abel is buried in the yard there, though his grave is, like all the other very old ones, unmarked. The island is 42 miles (quarante-deux miles) in circumference. It is a “little camino” for locals and tourists, who do “le tour de l’île” by bicycle or on foot. I have done two tours de l’île… par automobile.

My ancestor operated a windmill. His mill ground wheat into flour.  When I saw the windmills between Pamplona and Puente la Reina I was reminded that the new has taken over the old. The bread of our new world is electricity.

A canadien songwriter, Félix Leclerc, wrote a song called  Le Tour de l’Îsle for his adopted home. It is very much a love song to the ancient island, which is still very French.

The old Québecois lived in harmony with nature. The ways of the new people of Québec, French or English, are not sustainable.

Félix Leclerc’s song is, I now realize, a song about respect for tradition and interdependence, not simply about independence.