I wake up in the Alberge in Asson. My saviour from last night slept well, she tells me, even if she had the radiator on full to dry her washed socks which made me restless.
While I’m brushing my teeth, Madame Loupy manifests herself – she of the refusing to answer the phone. She does exist! She wants money so it’s worth her while showing up now. She momentarily shows surprise when I emerge from the bathroom, but she masks it. She has no change. She is not in the least interested in acknowledging that she has had 6 missed calls and a message from me. She just wants money and us the fuck out of her alberge. It’s an interesting first hospitality experience on this journey. I steel myself for a month and a half of Madame Loupys.
We leave, and stop at the pharmacy. Marie (for so she is called) is not happy. Breakfast is supposed to be included. “I don’t know what was wrong with her,” she says. I’m relieved. “I thought perhaps they were always like that.” “No no. She is unusual.” Well that’s a relief at least.
The local pharmacist gives us tea, brilliantly, after Marie pleads with her. We sit on two seats in her shop, while she serves customers, sipping our Green Tea with 2 sugars. Marie insists on the sugar, for the trail. She saved my body last night, and now I’ve seen her get tea from a pharmacist. I trust her.
We head off. She’s better at this than I am. She walks long distance all the time. She has two kids, 11 and 13 and she can only spend a short amount of time away, but she loves walking and she is going as far as Oloron. I’ve got her for one more day. She teaches me the sign system. It’s easy to miss. I wish I’d known it yesterday. This one means “You’re going the right way.”
And this one, that I passed so many times yesterday, means “No Al No you Idiot what the hell are you thinking?” (the one in the middle. This is bad for three different routes. Often it’s good for them but bad for us.)
There’s turn right and turn left as well. Mostly it’s pretty clear if you know what to look for.
We still get lost. We end up about an hour north of bed, totally uninformed in the wreckage of a recent fire that completely ravaged the signage. I get my compass into play, and Google maps, and we make it to the Alberge in Arudy tired again after about 18 miles mostly uphill. I have a suspicion that Marie deliberately got us lost because she wanted a longer walk. Her Camino is over soon so she wants to get the most out of it. We were almost there at half 3 but she said she didn’t want to walk down a Departmental (A road). So we walked for ages into a mountainous wood to try to avoid the D road before we hit the fire patch and acknowledged we were lost. We eventually ended up limping in from the other side of Arudy on the same road, hours later.
Still it was beautiful. But I have a small blister now in the back of my left heel. I was hoping that would take a bit longer to develop one of those. Damn my babysoft feet. I’ve smothered it with compeed. Let’s see how that develops.
Dinner is with Pierre, the Curé of Arudy. He collects pilgrims. There’s a visitor’s book and a map of the world with pins. He feeds us dinner and tells long stories about cats and God, and other pilgrims. I loosely follow it but at 8pm I need to get some alone time, and time away from constant translation and difficult communication. Marie is great because she demands nothing socially. We just walk, and talk only when we feel like it. Pierre is less patient. “It’s like the story of the duck,” he says to be at one point, hard eyed, soliciting response. “You know?” I shrug. “Perhaps” I say gesturing for him to continue. He looks pissed off and starts quacking and repeating the word “canard!”. Eventually he just outs with “duck”. It’s the only English word he utters. To translate something I understood anyway. I’m tired.
We do the dishes together and now I’m up here, in this ancient bedroom full of empty beds, in my sleeping bag because if there are no bedbugs here I’ll eat my hat. It’s nice being in the off season. We both have our own dormitory. But it also means the little buggers will be hungry tonight. But it’s only 6 euro. We are going to give him 10.