Before landing, I made a mental note to buy some water at the airport, to get the first stamp on my pilgrim passport, to buy a French 3G SIM, and also some maps. None of these items could be even considered: the Lourdes airport is so tiny, that there were no shops, or any other offices for that matter at the arrival hall. Perhaps there were some at the departure hall but I was eager to start the walk at once, and to subtract me from the curiosity of the other folks ready to board on the buses directed to the city center, so I went off on my own. It was 12:50 pm on Sep 4. The first steps…..
The road was well indicated and so I moved on towards Ossun making a big detour around the airport. There is a peculiarity of airports of being designed only for people arriving by car or by other public transport: walkers do not represent a business target and therefore these odd people need to manage their balance on curbs and road rubbish to avoid the incoming vehicles and the questioning stares of the drivers. Around this rural airport there was evidently no reason to open amenity shops you could reach on foot. None of the shortlisted items I wanted to do were taken care, but I resolved anyway to reach Ossun first and then look for shops there. Maybe the midday timing was not the most appropriate, and most likely the simple fact that Ossun is not Paris, but I was barely the only human being around. I just managed to get my first stamp on my brand new pilgrim’s passport at the local post office and take a photo of the cozy village.
The first acknowledgement greeting came from a couple of bicycle riders that yelled me: “Buen Camino!” and moved on quickly. I felt quite happy and encouraged. I also felt proud of being recognized as a Santiago pilgrim . Perhaps the two bikers who were carrying large bags and backpacks were also travelling to the same destination. So I yelled back something similar and continued my journey sidelined by green pastures and with the Pyrenees in the far background. Such bike pilgrims, I learned much later, are called “bicigrinos” and unless they travel on paved roads, are quite annoying when they appear all of sudden from behind at great speed on narrow trails and yelling to give way.
The only signs of life were horses and cows: both a bit surprised to see this strange guy walking by. All other humans in facts were either driving cars or tractors. The landscape is definitely rural, totally silent in the slow natural cycles. After a short while, I reached Pontacq, my first stage.
I have plenty of time to settle down and start counting my blessings but also my aches and pains. So far so good. The spirit is high and I start appreciating the small pleasures of a decent shower, a change of clean clothes, and sitting down at a cafe in the small village which was founded in 1630 by a local landlord.
Happiness was to find also a small shop selling wanderers’ maps and some fruits and chocolate to carry along the next day. Dinner at the hotel with a filet de poisson avec les haricot verts et fries.
At 8:30 I am ready for bed. Tomorrow’s stage is a long one through Nay and towards Sevignacq-Secours.