La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653

La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653
La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653


PLEASE READ: Our Camino For Alzheimer's Awareness will begin on World Azheimer's Day, September 21, 2018 in Lodève, France about 130 kms west of Arles (underlined on the map above and circled on the route profile at the bottom of the page). We plan to walk together just over 800 kms to Puente la Reina, Spain where Annemarie will determine her next steps. It is, however, Geoff's intention to continue onwards a further 700 kms towards Santiago de Compostela. To put this into perspective, the total distance is about the same as from Victoria to Santa Barbara, California. As usual, we will accept the journey as it unfolds and we are appreciative of any and all support. If you feel moved to contribute to the Alzheimer Society please click on either of the really obvious RED BUTTONS to the right or at the bottom of this page and you will be transferred to the Society's fund raising site. We are paying our own expenses and all money raised will go directly to the Alzheimer Society.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Étape 22: Sarrance - Urdos, 28 kms, Sun most of the day, Strong headwind, 24

Deeper Into The Pyrenees 

This is where we stayed last night. Annemarie will be telling you more about this below.

I’m putting this photo in from our town walk last evening as I really like these and Kathy and I used to always have good rides when we were hitchhiking in Europe in 1975! This is a classic, and I think our daughter Erin would like this:)

Given we were staying in a slightly different place, we were up just after 6:00 and out the door fairly early. We had in front of us what turned out to be a longer day than expected with quite a bit of narrow cliff hanging trails. Just the way we finished the day yesterday. 

It took a bit of focus to stay on the trail and I had the oddest sensations when I caught the big trucks roaring along the highway far below out of the corner of my eye. Neither of us liked this very much, but there wasn’t any choice, so we pressed on. 

The sun began to show itself and things began to warm up quickly. Climbing and sunshine makes for warm work.

The valley slowly shrank through the day as we moved further south, but at this point when we came off the side of a mountain it was pretty wide.
We had loads of vultures circling above us as we walked and we became a bit concerned about what was on the menu. Pelerin? Then we smelled something pretty untidy and knew that we just happened to be where they were dinning. They were surprisingly large.
We arrived at the medieval town of Bedous and stopped for a break in a cafe that was pretty fly infested. Big mistake! We escaped across the street and purchased some lunch supplies and a bit more breakfast to help supplement our bread and tea from earlier. 

We liked being able to see the mountains and the villages so we made a plan to stick to the road for a while and we were glad we did. So many of these mountain trails isolate the walker with greenery. We have loads of this at home and would rather see the vistas as we walk. So we took the opportunity for about 3 kms. Completely worth it.

We rejoined the route at Accous which was dog central. I was quite lathered up by these guys who were way too friendly!

There was some challenging trail walking today, but also some very pleasant trails to explore.

Just after we stopped by the trail to have a simple lunch our Camino friends from Brittany appeared. That was kind of nice, and the 4 of us wandered on together until we reached Borce where they planned to spend the night.

It’s a very nice old town with a hospital to look after the pilgrims in former times as they passed through here. Now a small museum. I must say that walking the small cliff side trails the past two days has really given me the feeling that this was the original pilgrim route. I’m pretty sure that much of the rest of the trail has been adjusted by new roads, etc. There is no where else to walk here except on the ancient road.

So we did good bye to Michel and Janey and headed 5 more kilometres up the highway. I put on all my lights because it was late in the afternoon and huge trucks roar through. They recommend that in the rain you catch a bus, but today was fine and we passed without incident. The great thing about walking is that you get up close and personal with Fort du Portalet, built in the 19thC to protect the pass which narrows there. It was very cool! It was later used as a prison to house some very infamous persons including Pétain. I told Annemarie that if it was open there was no way I was climbing up. She was disappointed, but agreed. I’ve just ordered my second Eguzki beer which is a very tasty Basque says so right on the bottle! As I sit here I hear more Spanish than French as we are just a few kilometres from the boarder, unfortunately all up hill another 1000 metres. 

And now we are showered and waiting another hour for dinner, but the cold beer is really nice and appreciated after some 8.5 hours on the trail today. 

The Unexpected: last night I wrote a little about the place we were staying...but there’s more to the story! It turns out it wasn’t a monastery, more like a refuge. It’s run by Father Pierre, who is currently on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In addition to the 7 pilgrims last night there were 5 others who have found refuge, and a role to play in this place, as hosts, cooks, or just general help. We went down to the common room, and John, a fellow pilgrim, noted that he had hoped to meet us after we passed him earlier in the day and he saw our Alzheimer’s pennies. Maria, who has been at the refuge for a few days recovering from an illness expressed some concern about our shirts. She thought that Albert, who lives there, and has Alzheimer’s might be offended. I’m not sure if Albert is a former priest, or he thinks he’s a priest, but he wears his priests robes and carries himself with great dignity. He has been given a long term home in this place of refuge, and is cared for by all who are here. We talked further, and I explained that we are walking in support of people with Alzheimer’s. She then took me to see the resident priest, who is filling in for Father Pierre, to request that he say special prayers for all of those suffering from Dementia at the mass that evening. We attended the mass, and although neither of us fully understood what was being said, we were appreciative of the prayers. Maria went on to tell me that she suspects that both of her parents are suffering from a form of Dementia, but she can’t get anyone to take her seriously in her concerns, and it’s because of this that she is on her pilgrimage. Our room-mate for the evening also noted that she wanted so spend some time talking to us about our purpose for this walk...unfortunately shortly after that she learned about a personal circumstance that completely sidelined her, and we never got the chance to have that chat. We have walked with Janey and Michel a couple of times, and they, too, really wanted us to know how important our cause is to them, because Janey’s mom recently died of Alzheimer’s. As we parted ways today they gave us some chocolate and Michel, who speaks no English, managed to convey that our cause has touched his heart. We didn’t know what to expect when we came here to do this walk, especially with the language barrier, but we certainly didn’t expect that people would speak so openly to us about their stories, nor the keen level of interest we’ve received.

We have moved up to the 750 metre level today. Not far to the top, but it will clearly take some time as this sign indicates. We will be clearing all unnecessary stuff out of our packs tonight! Looking forward to Spain.

I thought that perhaps some might like to see our credentials which we are required to have stamped each day and must hold to stay in any pilgrim accommodation. Also Santiago requires a visual before they will issue a pilgrim with their compostella. I think this is the most interesting credentials that I have, with no industrial stamps! The local city halls in the small villages are only too happy to see the pilgrims and provide a stamp.

Bon Chemin!


  1. How wonderful to be in the Pyrenees - some really interesting looking paths today. Also, it sounds as though your Alzheimer's Camino is not only raising awareness but is offering people you meet a space to share their own stories and struggles - a gift you're bringing to some of your fellow pilgrims and hospitallers. We can imagine some of those conversations are quite moving. To add to these stories, here's a poem written by a friend of ours Janet Holmes. Janet's husband Brenton died earlier this year and Sarah took the funeral. They were both much loved members of Benedictus. The poem has been published and won a prize.


    Alzheimers is doing to my husband
    what carpet beetles are doing
    to the deep blue Chinese silk and camel hair heirloom rug
    that covers the lounge room floor
    they are eating it slowly
    invisible themselves
    their work obvious in the rough landscape that is now the surface of the carpet traces of the original design still recognisable in the web background
    that is all that is left in some places
    in the places they have yet to touch the rich lustre there still
    and the overall sense of the carpet in all its former glory sort of intact
    it still impresses people who see it for the first time
    and if after longer acquaintance they begin to notice the bits which are actually downright ugly, they are too polite to say so
    I love this carpet
    I have known it all my life and hope to keep it all my life
    but even I know that at this rate it will not out-live me
    and that if it races to its demise before I meet mine
    I could live without it
    perhaps I could have done something to prevent its deterioration
    but I had not the means before
    and now more worldly wise
    I am content enough that it does not last forever
    but that’s my carpet, not my husband
    my husband has been pulled from right under my feet

    Bon chemin, Neil and Sarah

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Neil. The poem is beautiful and touched both of us. What consideration to write like that after loosing one’s life partner. You would have really enjoyed the crossin* today. I thought of you as we went. Best to you both.
      Geoff & Annemarie

  2. Hello from Victoria!
    What touching stories you have shared again. How beautiful that the priest said special prayers for people living with dementia during the mass.

    Yesterday I read out your email, Annemarie, to our support group members and they were touched by your words. They were also so pleased to hear about your great fundraising accomplishments so far, and asked that I resend the link to your blog.

    You are doing so much great work to raise awareness as you walk what sounds like an often difficult journey. Thank you to you both.

    Meriel Randerson
    Support & Education Coordinator
    Alzheimer Society of BC

    1. Thanks Meriel. As you know, the members of the group have taught me a lot, and I think of them often on this journey. Thank you for all of your support.

  3. Hi Geoff,

    What a great day. I wouldn’t be too fond of the narrow ledge trail either, but you lived to tell the tale, which is the important part. Whatever doesn’t kill us etc.

    Nice to run across friendly dogs, even if it means slobber. I petted a beagle on the way to school the other day and I was quite happy to meet him.

    Have a great day!