I come downstairs in the morning to find The Curé of Arudy drinking tea from a glass bowl. He has a morcel of bread that he is dipping into the tea. He dips. He sips. Tiago, his cat, paws at the window. Behind her, dawn breaks over the mountains. Joan Baez plays Ave Maria. “What madness is this,” I think, regarding the bread dipped in tea. Marie appears shortly afterwards, and immediately dips bread in tea. WTF? Suddenly I’m the odd one out. I say nothing. I have coffee. And bread. Separately. Shortly afterwards the cat jumps into my lap. “She knows you have a cat,” says the Curé, but no. Even when I was clueless about cats they’d jump me. I stink of something they like. Dead animal, probably.
We strike out into burgeoning light. First we have to walk down a huge bastard road full of trucks for about 3 miles. It’s hell. People do the honking thing to rebuke us. Eventually we’re back on the route. It’s sunny today and mild. The day very quickly becomes about the blister though. It’s growing, despite my efforts. We stop a few times to try and change the way it’s dressed but things eventually just come down to mind over matter. It will hurt. It will get worse. I will do everything in my power to help it get better and eradicate the root of it. Eventually I’ll have a callus instead of a blister. So long as it doesn’t get infected in which case game on!
A dog finds us somewhere outside of Buziet and gets a whiff of the curate’s cat. He is ducking down and low growling, bumping his nose against my calf, and i realise that there could be far worse things than a blister. Like rabies. He doesn’t bite us though. We march on, making good time towards Oloron. It’s Marie’s last night on the trail. Her family awaits. She’s been brilliant as a companion.
Neither of us are here to make friends. But we are the right two people to share this portion of the journey. Tomorrow it’s likely I’ll be alone again, which I’m happy about as I’m not in a rush. I am going to leave early and watch that fucking blister. It’ll just be me versus me all the way to L’Hôpital Sainte Blaise, unless I call it early – which I could as the day after is only 19km on the recommended schedule. Better look after this fucker as there’s no point stopping myself through stubbornness.
The guys in the Jacquaire are very friendly but they’ve given away all the information sheets describing the journey. I have to rely on the route markers. Marie, indignant on my behalf, say “haven’t you got a photocopier?” The guys who run the auberge are volunteers though.
Earlier today we paused on The Devil’s Bridge. We took some photos. I found myself thinking about the devil and my credencial number. 663. So the devil is three people behind me, hot on my heels like that dog. I’d better keep going all the way to Santiago. I’m not in the best shape to fight the devil yet, but in another month I can turn round and lamp him one, if I can only keep going until then.
I’m in bed now. She’s asleep. I need to be. Dawn is 7.30. I’ve already bought breakfast and lunch. All my laundry is done. Let’s Go! Blister and me are gonna take on the mountains.