Monday, 11 May 2009

Ultreya!

The bed in the hall was a great success. It was a little sort of alcove thing really and it meant we had a private room of sorts. No snoring except Clemency´s and she is very fortunate thatI don´t, no not ever, not even a little bit.

We got up at six and there was breakfast provided: instant coffee in bowls and white bread rolls with jam. We had some muesli of our own and got underway at about 7:10 am in rain which was pouring, persisting down. In fact it was fairly swishing down We climbed steadily out of town and uphill, past small farms and sheep wearing cowbells. Well, I guess they´d actually be sheep bells. The land was forested in parts and as we rose higher the views back over France with the bright green trees and the fog in the valleys were breathtaking. Nearly as breathtaking as the wind we encountered as we got even higher: cold steady wind with squalls of rain and in some places, deep mud underfoot. We had raisins and almonds and about 11:00 we stopped to eat half the lunch we had brought. At 12:30 we had the rest and what with the cold and the wind and the tiredness in the legs it was getting pretty difficult putting one foot in front of the other. And you know the tricks that mountains play. You are on the highest hill you can see, and at the top of it, only half a mile away, you know it can´t get any higher. But it does. And it plays the same joke, successfully, all morning long.

Pilgrimage is like life. That´s the point, really. Just at the stage when reserves were running out, the path leveled and turned down. And an eagle soared overhead: a Golden Eagle, the sign of St. John. I thought of home, where at that moment people of our St. John´s parish were getting ready for bed after another Sunday. Of course it was just a coincidence; eagles are common hereabouts, but to me it was a voice calling "Ultreya: press on, be encouraged." There is nothing so encouraging as a long downhill after a morning´s climbing. We passed into Spain at some unmarked stage, and made it to Roncesvalles at 1:50. Six hours and 40 minutes for 25 km over the Pyrenees. Not bad if I say so myself. This is a tiny town with a monastery and a collection of ancient looking buildings. We found the Auberge, got a bed and booked ourselves in for a pilgrim meal at one of the restaurants. There´s no shop here, so breakfast and lunch will have to wait for tomorrow´s fortunes. The auberge is one giant room with, I think, 125 people sleeping in one room, but it looks clean and orderly. It has showers and wakes us at 6 with Gregorian chant. At the moment we are feeling pretty chuffed. Less than a year ago I had a bag of my own urine tied to my leg and I could hardly stagger up to the Roslyn shops. Today I walked across the Pyrenees. It has been due in no small part to the encouragement of many who may be reading this. Thank you. Ultreya

4 comments:

Noelene said...

Amen! We all thank God for what He has done over this past year. Clemency and Kelvin, it must feel soooo good to have done that difficult first bit today in such a respectable time, too.(from what I've read) With Gregorian chant ringing in your head may you glide sublimely over the squishy mud on Monday.
loved the eagle reference- we were there, praying that your strength would be equal to the heavy packs.
Ultreya, indeed! xx

Verna said...

Ultreya indeed! Well done for such a great time especially in mud! Having come from a farm I know how hard mud is to wade through. May you both tread strongly and surely on this pilgrimage and indeed where ever else your journey takes you. Actually Clemency will know if you snore - you won't because you'd be asleep!!! After 32 years of marriage you must be comfortable with Clemency's snoring anyway! [or at least used to it]

Alden said...

When I think of all the hills and mountains I have climbed both physical and metaphorical I have to say I have always enjoyed the view from the top and it has always been worth the effort.

As for the mud - if the mud is clay, then it can have the tendency - as I found out from personal experience, of sticking to the bottoms of your boots and making you taller and enhancing the view even more.

Good luck for the next section of the journey.

VenDr said...

It was the wind that was the real issue. The legs of our trousers flapping like flags and the wind pushing us sideways so we staggered up the path like drunks. I'm guessing about 60 mph plus and very very cold with it. But a great memory. Actually, like many memories, better than the actual thing.