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Gareth in SJPP at last!



Hi everyone from St Jean Pied-de-Port. I had planned a rest day here and this is it. I arrived just 24 hours later than the schedule I planned back in February, so I'm quite pleased with that because the appalling weather in the first few weeks in France made it very difficult to keep going. Now I am thinking that I want two days rest here, so I am going to slow down completely and the rest of the schedule can go out the window!

I want to get up early and watch the pilgrims departing from SJPP tomorrow morning (Tuesday 24th June), so if you're in the morning exodus, look out for me by the river bridge. Then I'm going to get a coffee and croissant and spent another lazy morning in SJPP.

The tent goes back in the post to Barbara Reed (and many thanks Barbara :D ) so I will be two kilos lighter. Having dispensed with that weight, I will review the rest of the load and try to reduce it further before crossing the Pyrenees.

In general, it feels really good to be in SJPP and back on 'home territory' after the unknowns of the Via Turonensis. I'd like to look back on the experience with as positive a frame of mind as I can, and therefore I will say that the 'Route des Anglais' and the Via Turonensis from Tours to Mirambeaux is really good; an unforgettable experience. After Mirambeax it is an experience I would not recommend to anyone. The last couple of days involved some road walking - on the recommended route - that was suicidal! The road into Sorde l'Abbaye wasa duel to the death with trucks passing at a rate of five or six a minute, trying to force you into the grass rather than give any space to a pieton. The guy I was walking with at that point said there were several times when he never expected to see me again: such was the danger of taking the lead walking into the trucks.

So my view, regrettably, is that I would never recommend this route to anyone, mainly because of the poor safety but also because of the frustratingly poor way-marking after Mirambeaux. The route as far as Mirambeaux, yes, I would be happy to recommend it fully. Congratulations to Charente Maritime for the superb way-marking (apparently it was only done last year). After Charente Maritime, call it a day and do another route. Get the train and carry on with the Vezelay or Le Puy routes, but the Turonensis after the Gironde is a difficult and sometimes dangerous route, badly way-marked from Blaye to part way through the Landes, and it takes you on miles of unrelenting carbon-dioxide filled busy tarmac.

Once in a lifetime do you walk from home to Compostela, and I am glad I have survived it. Now Iknow what it is like to walk across the whole of France. It feels good to have done it. In the appalling weather conditions of the first few weeks, it was even more challenging. It's so good to be in SJPP. You cannot imagine how good it feels starting the Camino Frances having already completed 1400 km; so the Spanish road becomes the last part of the journey, the icing on the cake. All the more reason to slow down and enjoy it.

I had been intending to get there for 25th July. Now it doesn't seem to matter any more, and I'll be happy to sit down and spend time just looking at a cactus on the Meseta or give a little more time to reflection in some of the darkened corners of the lovely churches on the route.

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2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Welcome 'home' Gareth! Please you made it, in spite of the trucks! It seems that you have crossed more than the river Nive to St Jean - you have crossed the Rubicon into a new, less scheduled camino. Well done! Looking forward to reading about your camino now that the Turonensis is behind you.
Pilgrim hugs,

PS: Reading my diary from 2004 I see that we often didn't walk the official route in the south. I wrote that we took the 'la petit rues' and 'les routes forestières' recommended by our landlords or tourist offices. This often added a further 10km or more to each stage and some days we walked almost 40km but we escaped the department roads with the hurtling trucks.
your experience south from Bordeaux seems very different from mine a couple of years ago
Waymarking was generally pretty good, and though there was a fair amount of tarmac hardly any of it was on main roads.

The Aquitaine Amis have now put Google Maps mapping of the Mirambeau-Bordeaux section on their website - they plan to have it waymarked by the end of the year (but then they said that last year too :) )


Nunca se camina solo
Hey Gareth

Greetings from your old neighbourhood :) You've done tremendously well in difficult circumstances. I look forward to several beera and tapas and all of your stories when you return. Meantime - the Route Napoleon and Espana!!!!




Well done!!! It must be a fantastic feeling to be on the "home stretch" now.

Looking forward to reading more of your journal.
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John Brierley 2022 Camino Guide
The most selling Camino Guide is shipping November 1st. Get your today and start planning.


Peter Robins said:
The Aquitaine Amis ... plan to have it waymarked by the end of the year (but then they said that last year too :) )
I was speaking to them about this at the refuges in Le Bouscat and Gradignan. They showed me examples of the (extremely portable) balisage that they say was extensively implemented last year. It has walked off before many walkers could walk with it...!


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