Fra(i)ncia XXXII – Race to the Border II

Dino and me said our goodbye’s after we exchanged telephone numbers. I went to a bakery to get some food and the lady struck up a conversation with me. Apparently there was a guy staying in her hostel that was also a pilgrim but refused to leave because of the bad weather. I asked her if he’s paying and she said yea, thats not the problem. I asked her what is then, she was hoping to dump him on me but I told her to tell him to just get on his way. Im not some charity for the disabled, the blind and the mentally troubled, also ALSO if you don’t like sand – don’t play in the fucking sandbox.. I wasn’t as harsh to her but I told her that if she wants him gone, just tell the guy.. She talking to me like Im the pilgrim police and madame, I am not..

Down the hill and I saw a hitchhiker and meheheh, why the hell not. I looked at some maps and the weather and it didn’t seem seem very promising. Its still about 350km to St. Jean Pied de Port and I was looking to shave some off that with these weather conditions and it wasn’t like the area was particularly nice in these circumstances. So I put my thumb up and it did not take long at all for the other hitchhiker to come bum a cigaret off me. We talked a little and he got his ride back into town pretty fast. I hung in there and after 20 minutes a nice lady named Carine from Bordeaux, we talked and joked about rivalry between Bordeaux and Toulouse and it was nice. She went all the way to Moissac (the place where I wanted to go if I walked) but warned me that the city was a little off, I asked her why, but she just said you’ll find out. Good shit lady, no spoilers. 

She was right, Moissac was strange.. I was looking for a bar with some wifi and just chill a bit since it was in the afternoon. Between 1300h – 1700h, you can stand by the busiest of roads but theres not that many people. Also this whole hitchhiking thing is becoming this spiritual thing of timing and rhythm and I felt like I needed to walk around town a little. 
I walked by a bar and there was a guy who took a special liking to Lucy immediately, I checked and they had WiFi and yea, perfect! Teatime! The lady owner was also very nice and the guy’s name was Abdel of Bordeaux, he handed me a piece of paper and asked me to write down my favorite music because he’s on this quest of finding new music…Uhh sure? The Ink Spots, George Mitchell Collection and a Dragon-stamp on that for good measure. I asked the lady if I could leave my bag there while I looked for a Moissac-stamp and it wasn’t a problem. I walked around, cathedral was beautiful baroque style (haha like I know what Im talking about). Beautiful tapestry’s on the wall with a cool pattern, no stamp however. I went to the abbey and a lady spoke English to me with a Dutch accent, when I asked if she spoke Dutch, she was as annoyed as I would be when people hear my Dutch accent when talking English. 
I found a stamp and went back to my backpack, Abdel came to me and gave me 5 €, snacks for Lucy he said..Nice(!)(?). Not for you! But for Lucy! Alright, alright mon frère, tranquil..

I walked to the nearest supermarket and I noticed a lot of people just standing in the street doing nothing, a lot of not French people, some Muslim people scared of Lucy and I wondered if this setting fed into the weirdness of the place. Flirted at the cash register with the cashier and went back to the cafe. Showed Lucy her trick when getting a treat and Abdel was so besides himself that he paid for another tea.. Cool stuff mon frère..

After that it felt good to hitchhike further, sun was setting, traffic was picking up and yeaaaa, even though this place is slightly off – Im sure I can find a ride. Wouldn’t want to spend the night here, the town was a little bit too big for that and the people just a little bit too sketchy..

It did not take long for a white van to stop next to me, asking where I wanted to go. I said wherever West and the guy laughed. He was of short stature and we talked, I wanted to roll a cigaret but he insisted I smoke his. Flashbacks to Romanians from 5 years ago crossed my mind. We talked and he was pretty interested. I asked him if he lived near and he said yea, but that he didn’t like Moissac. I asked why and he said the people are just fucking crazy.. I asked him why and he said Ill show you, as we crossed over a mountain he pointed to a nuclear power plant in the distance. Haha, that makes sense. This place is basically Springfield from the Simpsons..

We had to go by the guy’s house in a place called Pommevic to pick something up, he would then drop me off on a road that led exactly where I wanted to go but we got along so well that by the time we drove through his electronic gate, he offered to host me for the night. I could do laundry, he would have his wife make a beautiful tangine and sheesh, how can I refuse. MoMo was originally from Morocco and I waited in the car overlooking his staring at his kingdom while he went inside to get something.

We continued to the store and there were absurd amounts of people standing around, dafuq is up with this area lol. He told me about some Corona virus case happened in the area and that people were very concerned and slightly panicking. We laughed that the best thing against that panic is to huddle together in cramped places like these people were doing.

He got some booze and some cigarets, we went back to his compound and we walked to the mobile home in his yard, we were greeted by a sweet as fuck German Shepard that clearly wasn’t a company dog, Lucy scolded the dog and MoMo even harder.. He told me he had 5 of them scattered around the place because of people stealing his shit. In the trailer I was able to meet his son and daughter that were cleaning the place up. A little shy, but great kids. He explained to me he had his domain here, basically a big ass mancave with a TV fit for a movie theater and yea, cool. We went to this sort of greenhouse that was just full of all sorts of parts and electronics. He put on some music and he showed me around. He basically did all kinds of technical stuff, fixing it up and reselling it. The guy was a fucking mad scientist lol, I joked he was le roi de Pommevic, the king of Pommevic and he seemed to like that. In his laboratory I showed him where I was from on an Ipad and he showed me where he was originally from in Morocco. I told him I would really like to go there after the Camino / Portugal and he said that if I run into trouble there, I should give him a call, since his dad was some big guy farmer near Marrakesh and hmmm, thats pretty convenient. Im not sure if I smelled this bad but he handed me some sort of oil that hides scents. He explained to me that just a few drops will make you smell like a cheap Muslim for days. Its certainly better than a cheap pilgrim haha. His kids were done cleaning and we went back to the trailer. He turned the tv on and he only had German channels, he told me his satellite box self destructed the previous weekend and now he only had this box with 3 channels. TO MY FUCKING SURPRISE, a German movie about Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage was playing…uhh what? SUBTLE SIGNS, my dude most high, subtle signs..

MoMo brought in an oven or a stove of sorts and hooked it up, then a tangine was brought in that his wife prepared and he laughed and said this was the Moroccan way of making a tangine. A beautiful smell filled the room and my mouth started to water either from the pastis or the smell of the food. I took a shower and a laundry and after that we ate the tangine and words cant even explain how good it tasted. I always thought Mexican was my favorite cuisine but I must say.. A lot of drunken conversations about religion was what followed until it was getting very late. Very interesting evening. Alhamdellah..

Le Roi de Pommevic

The next day my clothes were dry and I didnt have the best of sleeps, maybe eating a tangine with a lot of spices at midnight isn’t the best for your nights sleep but mannn, did it taste good and I felt energetic nonetheless. MoMo woke me up and I wanted to smoke a cigaret. He explained to me this is fucking dumbass move since you need to wake up first, a move that I (of course) knew about but maybe this is a good time to start making that effort since Im being so in your face confronted by it. 

MoMo dropped me off at some fort of Gilet Jeune and we said our goodbye’s. Smelling like a Persian on a party night I got a ride with Alana from St. Antoine, a ride with Vincent from Bordeaux and boom 150km left, Lectoure was the name of the village. Lets get a stamp here since there was so much pilgrim paraphernalia scattered throughout town. I went to an abbey and the lady opening the door was extremely unfriendly, saying immediately that they didn’t have a place for me to sleep. I said uhh no, thats my concern where I sleep and I just want a stamp. Dragging her feet and talking to herself she went into an office to get a stamp.. Then the phone rang and she just threw the stamp on a table and left.. Uhhh what the hell lol. Cant really care though. I put my stamp and left that place while shaking the dust off my boots.

I walked out of town towards a spot that seemed to head on to Condom, the next stop that Im not going to even make a pun about. As Im standing next to a bridge and a house, a couple of cars go by and the weather is starting to sour again. I had put my bag up on a little bench and I heard a friendly voice behind me, a friendly old French guy laughed at me and I greeted him and asked him if its alright I put Lucy and my bag on that bench. He said yea sure, you want a coffee? Im like bien sur, merci! Next thing I know Im sitting in Albert’s kitchen drinking a powdered coffee while he runs me through his folder full of all kinds of Buddhist texts, we talked about the Baphomet and Hermetic philosophies and wtf sure! Whats most wtf about this is that Im not even the instigator of the topic lol. Good times, Albert was so full of enthusiasm and took a liking to me that he offered to take me to Condom, old timer had nothing to do anyway. We talked and laughed and listened to old French classics, it was great. He asked where I needed to go and I said Eauze was next after Condom and he said Ill just take you there! Great! Roadtrip! I peeked out the window several times and yea, the area was nothing special so I didn’t feel too bad. Albert and me hit it off like crazy and when we arrived in Eauze he dropped me off at the supermarket, we exchanged telephone numbers and addresses and we gave each other a hug and a fistbump, what the fuck haha. Still very cool to meet people like this along the way and I certainly feel like this was the right choice.

In Eauze I found an abandoned house that was under construction and sure why not. It wasn’t even that creepy compared to all the other houses Ive slept in so far. No forgotten memorabilia. I hid my bag and I went into town to do a little writing. A place that only served food with no wifi and a great other cafe where the owner was spectacularly nice to me. There was a wall where pilgrims left coins on the bricks that stuck out from the wall and he told me to also leave one. I drank a few wine and I felt good. Im really hurrying along and like expected, hitchhiking was a very good choice. I met a Muslim man and that was a great prelude of whats to come in Marocco (Inshallah), met a nice Bhuddist man who was just fun in all regards. How blessed I am. Something spurring me on, maybe this Covid thing is going to get really out of hand. I was already recommending my family to get some water and food backups because I still had a bad feeling about it. Cant wait to get to St. Jean Pied de Port.

When I woke up the next day I took it slow, ate some of the food that Dino gave me and I went back into town to find a stamp. I didn’t find some but the nice girl from yesterday who worked at the nice restaurant yelled good luck at me from across the square. Should have stayed with her instead of this abandoned house..

I looked at some Blablacar rides and I found a great fucking connection, a Blablacar would take me to Pau and another Blablacar later that day all the way to St Jean Pied de Port, crazy. When I left Figeac I had in my head I would be walking the next month in France and had ample of time to still experience the country but next thing you know it, its over.. Later that day I got in the car with Patrick and a couple of other passengers, Patrick was great and the 2 other guys were dumb young fucks so there wasn’t much chatting. We drove through the country side and Patrick embodied why I will miss this country. My backpack wrecked Patricks trunk but I shone my light and stayed until he repaired it, apparently he liked that so much that he even sent me a message later that evening wishing me a happy camino.

My 2ndride would pick me up from the edge of Pau and the weather wasn’t really working with me, causing me to have no food all day except what I ate in the morning. 
Julien and Mary however were really friendly and offered me food after 5 minutes of driving. The road to St Jean Pied de Port was in the dark and I couldn’t see much of the countryside annnnddddd boom. Back in St Jean, weird. Everything was closed and it was about midnight. I said goodbye to Julien and Mary who were just absolutely lovely during the ride. Which, due to some excellent topics, flew by. 

Cant believe Im here, St Jean Pied de Port is the town where all the different ancient pilgrim routes converge, typically Basque (WHICH is definitely not French). I spent time here 2 years ago after I was in a car crash and it just totally revived my lust for adventure. I met some people here back then and I was looking forward to seeing them again. 

Everything was closed..

Place to sleep / water / food.

Fucking lets go.