The forecast for today was for thunderstorms. The woman at the restaurant yesterday said it would rain for the next three days. A look out the window when we woke up showed dark clouds and evidence of overnight rain. None of this was welcome news.
Today’s route was supposed to be a short walk through the forest with 13km of the projected 17.7km on roads and only an itsy-bitsy estimated 4.7km on trails. The rain forecast worried us though, as did yesterday’s mess in some sections. We decided to take the more direct road route and if we got to Mauléon early and the weather held out, we would try to do some of tomorrow’s long stage today to balance out the stages.
Well, I can’t say much about the first half of the walk except that it was along a main road that was pretty quiet due to the 8 -10am Saturday morning timing. Maybe one car passed us every couple of minutes. It was no big deal but also a little tiring and only average views.
At a “threepled-steepled” church, we did go off the main road onto a gravel track for about a 500m detour but that ended too quickly. Just as we emerged from that, there was a great clap of thunder nearby and it started to drizzle. We hurried for cover at Le Panoramic Restaurant that was unfortunately closed but at least we had cover to get our rain gear on. First, we watered a nearby “lavatree” and made sure that the increasing showers flushed it well. As the showers got harder and harder and the thunder got more frequent, I went through the whole gearing up ritual including rain pants. I rarely wear these as I can get as wet from sweat as rain sometimes but this storm looked big.
First, I put on the arm warmers which cuts down on the sweating and clammy feeling there. I pulled up my calf compression socks to do the same for my legs. The shoes came off to get the rain pants on and I also changed my hat to one that I can afford to get soaked on the bill while it keeps water off my face. The iPhone went into its own waterproof jacket too and got stashed in my shirt pocket for easier access. Finally, the Altus rain jacket goes on top of everything, including our backpacks and we battened down the whole thing, tight around our face and bodies. We were finally set to go and…..
The sun came out. It was still raining heavily though but with every step, we seemed to be turning down the water pressure. Oh, for Pete’s sake. It stopped raining completely by the time we walked 500m. How did that happen. I considered taking off the rain pants so as to not overheat but by the time that thought hit my lips, the rain started again. It was actually on and off all the rest of the way to Mauléon, mostly on and very heavy as we walked though the town.
Our accommodation for this evening, in contrast to last night’s sleep in the community gîte bunk beds with three other strangers, is the rather posh Domaine Agerria, an old monastery that is in the process of being converted to an three star hotel. The good news was that it is very nice and has good wi-fi. The bad news is that it sits on the hill overlooking the town. There are no escalators here. As we arrived, we spied the receptionist having a smoke. I think our drowned-rat looks scared her a bit. She did have pity for us but nicely explained that the hotel was fully booked. “But we have reservations through booking.com”. “Ahhh… that was you.” “Okay then but your rooms won’t be ready until 2:00pm (it was 11:30am)”. “No worries”, we said, “we’ll just sit in the restaurant and have a lunch until then”. She told us that the restaurant is closed for a private party. Some local kid got baptized and the family decided to screw over a couple of pilgrims from Singapore to celebrate. “No worries”, we said, “we’ll just sit in the lobby in our wet muddy gear and look hungry until then”. She looked us up and down, checked her computer again and suddenly realized that our rooms were already made up and ready for us. Off to room 105! Actually, she was very nice and organized some of the leftover breakfast food so that we could have lunch. We are now full, safe, warm, drying out and rested. Life is good.
And that was our day so far. I hope yours is good too.