I'm now in Pamplona. I was so tired when I emailed you last that I couldn't remember the name of the village. It was Zubiri on the river Arga and to get to the alberque you have to cross a medieval bridge. I'm still processing the last few days; Ciza pass still haunts me. It was a visually stunning and physically demanding day. Words are hard to come by that don't seem trite.
Next I was in Roncesvalles and stayed the night in a refugio (in a medieval building) next to the monastery. Since the 12th century, it has received, "All pilgrims...sick and well. Catholics, Jews, pagans, heretic and vagabonds.. "The head volunteer, a man named Joseph Mayor woke us with chant which was lovely but mind you it was at six in the morning. So by eight I was on my way and by five I'd made it to Zubiri. One tired puppy. Emailed you and crashed.
Stayed the next day right where I was which was a good call because of thunderstorms all morning. Played the harp and made more friends and left the next day. [...]
So the priest spoke Spanish and we worked it out that when he said "Marta musica", I would play. I played Cantiga 166 at the beginning of the service and then played before and after communion. The organist of the church is also the mayor of Jaxtou. The harp was well-received and after the service a Madam Meren graciously invited me to stay the night at her house. I accepted and Sunday evening played for my supper under the pear tree in the garden. Had a good night's rest and the next day set off again.
Next day I was on the road to Hellette which was another test of going up and up. The tiring ascent was done by the time I reached the village of Macaye. I found a hotel there and I sat outside awhile waiting for it to open. A woman stopped her car and told me that the hotel (which belonged to her aunt) was closed and when she saw my pilgrim credential she invited me home. As we loaded my gear I explained that the odd thing we were lifting was my harp and her face lit [...]
When I set off from Bayonne the path was well marked but truly across country. It was a beautiful day and I followed the river until Ustaritz. After a steep climb into town I photographed the church then discovered that all the hotels were full. It was a Saturday. So I looked at the map they gave me with my credential and headed off to Jaxtou the next village. It was a very steep path that took me straight to the church and all I wanted at the time was a place to rest in the shade.
The cemetery was cool and inviting with a gentle slope and a group of trees in one corner. I sat and removed my boots and as I was breathing a heartfelt sigh of relief the caretaker of the church appeared. Once he understood that I was a pilgrim he indicated that I could camp in the cemetery and he showed me where to get water and an outside toilet. Then he opened the church for me and I brought the harp and began to play. The caretaker fetched his wife and I played a concert for them.
The last few days I’ve been staying in a 13th century maison forte in the village of Hellette. This building, just behind the church is where the villagers would come for safety in times of war. It is named Santa Maria and the owners decided that a concert of cantigas de Santa Maria would be just the thing.
Today I’m going to St.Jean Pied a Port and will go to an internet cafe to fill you in on the last week. I’ve played for mass in two different churches the last two Sundays, I’ve played for the village school in Hellette and performed a concert last night.
Be in touch soon.
Went to the cathedral of Notre Dame in Bayonne and was issued my pilgrim credential and a map to St.Jean. Spent a good hour or so admiring the beautiful rennaisance art and achitecture. Bought a candle and left it in the chapel of St.Jacques in thanks for getting this far. Today I walked the route out of town without my rig. Found my first scallop shell marker with the miles to Compostella and an arrow pointing the way. Yeah!
I have taken some pictures and I'm certain that when I join the larger way I'll encounter people who will be able to help me post them for this blog.
Tomorrow I follow the river Nive to Ustaritz.