Some day soon, if the yoga and creative visualization work, and I finish necessary edits, Pyrenees Pilgrimage will be available through Amazon.com. The book is about my solo walk across France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean through the Pyrenees. A walk in the woods, French style.
Hah! Not so simple as that. I trudged and climbed, sweat and drank, following the French paths that feed into the Camino de Santiago de Compostello. I was walking away from Santiago and met several people on the trail near St. Jean Pied du Port who were headed to Spain. I even turned down an invitation to join a jolly group headed to the traditional pilgrimage destination. No, I was walking to the Mediterranean Sea.
An iconoclast, I like to look backwards to find out what’s ahead. On this journey, I visited landmarks, churches, chateaus and sites that illustrate the spiritual and political history of the region. I dug into ruins, sat in caves, scrambled up crumbling hillsides and meditated next to crosses honoring Resistance fighters shot dead by Nazis. A pleasure seeking pilgrim, I sampled local cheese, bread, meat and wine. I picked apples and cooked preserves. When my feet hurt, I rested and painted watercolors which lured the curious who sometimes became new friends. Lodgings ranged from bunks in mountain lodges to refurbished 17th century mansions. I stayed in schoolhouses converted to hostels and, when I arrived at the deserted seaside in October, I slept soundly in a room over a sports bar. Each walking day was different, but the repetitive rhythm of walking hundreds of kilometers alone hones a person’s spirit.
When opportunity presented, I conversed with the people of the region, learning much about animal husbandry, crops, the wars-- centuries of wars, legends, saints and ghosts. I attended an organ music festival and played the piano in a cellist’s home, slipped in a mountain stream and was patched up by an orthopedic surgeon who told me he had fixed similar broken wrists for Tour de France cyclists. I attended a Basque wedding reception and a funeral in Corbieres wine country.
I walked 40 days and 685 kilometers. I walked alone, wind and wildlife for company. One evening near St. Paul du Fenouillet, caught out after sundown, I witnessed boars wrestling with their tusks in the dusk. On the high plateaus east of Col de Mehatché, I stared up at circling Lammergeier and Griffon vultures soaring on thermals. One afternoon I carried a dead white owl found in my path to its final resting place.
The book should be out this fall on Amazon as an e-book.
Read an excerpt from Pyrenees Pilgrimage. And click here for travel information on the Pyrenees.
5 + links to aspects of walking and literature:
Interview with Rebecca Solnit, on Boston WBUR radio.
She’s the author of Wanderlust, a literary history of human perambulation. I devoured this book before starting my walk across France.
Kipnotes on Walking
Bibliography of narratives about walking journeys-– mostly literary, some how-to guides.
The Power Walk That Charges Your Phone
Here comes our future. A generator that harvests wattage from humans while they walk-- enough power to charge cell phones.
Run the Planet: Race Walking in Mexico
Race Walking in Mexico offers links to coaching and information sites for
walkers and runners.
Peace Pilgrim walked around the North American continent as a messenger of simplicity and peace.
My blog about walking.
--- L. Peat O'Neil
--->For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.