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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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Étape 43: Hospital - Santa Catalina de Somoza, 31 kms, Sun, then Cloud, then Rain, 8

That Sweet Morning Light

Ha! It seems that our Melbourne mates Peter and Dave also stayed at our fabulously famous truck stop in 2013. I must say as I ate a very ordinary meal last night the place was hopping on a Saturday night. The football game was playing and that seemed to have the attention of many. The poor bar tender was run off his feet serving when up rolled a tour bus full of thirsty older folks. 

He delivered my meal with a look of desperation on his face before diving back behind the bar. We’d exchanged knowing looks, but this is typical Spain. I must say that after this photo was taken the chef came out from the kitchen to help him serve drinks! So glad that I had my meal before the tour group rolled up:)

After another night in a foreign bed I was up, fed and out the door by 8:00 just as the sun was threatening to come out. It’s pretty hard to put stages longer than 33-35 kms in when the sun comes up so late. In the spring time you can be on the road 2-3 hours earlier, many are, and find those sort of stages if you are so inclined. However, I have reminded myself that this it a special purpose walk, more than once, and the point is not to move too far each day. I also have to have time to post on our various social media things and maintain myself. 

The light this morning was a wonder. Something that I look for each day and occasionally find. It started slowly which was my first hint that this would be a good beginning. 

I walked a different variant today as I’d read David was no longer up at his special place, having apparently decided to walk the Camino Inveirno bare foot. Rob, can you imagine that?! He is an original individual, that’s for sure. That sweet morning light continued to intensify. I was thoroughly enjoying myself!

There was a beautiful ground fog that intensified early on.

Roads tree lined with gold,
Skies full of steely grey clouds
Autumn settles in

Eventually the clouds covered the sky and the magic ended, but it had been a wonderful way to start my day. After that it was time to put my head down and find my way into Astorga where some chocolate had my name on it! Now, from this well known waymarker one should be able to see the city and the mountains beyond, but today they weren’t there.

Of course I couldn’t forget ‘the bridge’ just before Astorga. So many of us have zigzagged back and forth as we’ve crossed over the train tracks. 

Then I was into the square where in 2013 some tour leader pulled his massive bus tour group around Annemarie and I as we sat on one of the benches so that they could see ‘real’ pilgrims resting. Must have been a very cheap tour package! We still laugh about that one.

Then an important moment as I purchased what I came for...

...before heading to the cathedral for a stamp. There I met another pilgrim who I though looked rather worse for wear (perhaps I do too) who tried to convince me to go inside and see the cathedral. I tried politely to explain that I’d seen it before, but he was having none of it. He pretty much insisted, so when he was playing with his pack I headed for the door and out of town rather quickly. I didn’t really want to share the road with him, but I had a taste of my own when I met an older Polish woman walking out too. I stopped to say hi, but it was very clear that she didn’t want my company when she made a rather unmistakable gesture that I should be on my way that very moment. Hmmm, maybe I am looking a bit worse for wear? So off I went and I passed one of the paces where Rob and I enjoyed and outstandingly ice cold beer after walking in the August heat. Boy was that a hot day! As Bruce wrote me, “there’s no such thing as just one beer”. He’s right, we probably had a second:)

I took a photo of myself to see if I was looking much different to the point that the Polish woman would shoo me away. I don’t know? A bit leaner and road toughened, but I think that’s me. 

I laughed aloud when I saw where I was going to stay tonight. I have a photo of this lovely little church each time I’ve passed. It always catches my eye. 

What was missing today was the horse that has always been in the small field to the left and always comes over to the fence to have a pat on his head. I hope he’s ok. 

Then one of my favourite doors on the Camino Frances showed itself. Looking a bit worse for wear, a nicer photo of from better times sits on our wall at home.

The view from my window. I can’t show you more than that otherwise Annemarie would fly back immediately to share this wonderful little gem with me. That would be very nice, but alas I have to press on tomorrow.

I climb tomorrow. So excited to climb after all these flat Meseta days. The Meseta is nice, but I’m done with it for now. The highest point of the Camino Frances is at the Cruz de Fero at over 1500 metres. Problem is that they’ve just posted a snow warning and I guess I’ll have to ask my host about that in the morning. It’s not supposed to climb above 0 up there, so a change of jackets I think, plus both buffs and my gloves and maybe my vest after I finish the climb. It’s all out being aware which just happens to be Annemarie’s Alzheimer’s subject for today.

Awareness: in many of the discussions we’ve had with people about Alzheimer’s, the question of an individual’s awareness has often come up. There appears to be a bit of a myth that people with Alzheimer’s aren’t aware of the impact the disease has on their functioning. As I understand it, as with anything else related to Alzheimer’s, there is a significant amount of variability in this aspect; some people are quite aware, and others less so. It’s not unlike the effects of jet lag. Sometimes we think we’re functioning fine when we actually aren’t, and sometimes we are well aware of the impact transatlantic travel has on our functioning. In my conversations with Kathy (and others with Alzheimer’s) I’ve often been surprised by her level of awareness. My uncle used to make jokes about his inability to remember, thus softening the impact, and reducing discomfort. It seems to be human nature to avoid discussing topics such as an individual’s awareness, but the more we progress on this journey, the more I’m convinced that openly discussing these topics is an act of kindness.

A planning and writing session took the milk chocolate out of my pack for tomorrow’s climb. It’s raining heavily now as I write this. Hopefully it stops by the morning.


  1. Some familiar sights today, Geoff - the cross on the hill, that bridge!! the square in Astorga. Great sunrise photos and now you are settled in much quieter accommodation. Have a great climb tomorrow... Foncebadòn, Cruz de Fero, Mnajarin, El Acebo and some beautiful hilltop views (assuming it is clear!!). Buen camino.

  2. Gorgeous morning light, and those poplars, the colours! Wow.

    Too bad about the rain, which may be snow further up. But you are road-hardened and well prepared, so you’ll be fine. The only way forward is through it. Easy for me to say, facing a short walk this morning with no snow in the forecast.

    Have a great walk today!

    ¡Buen Camino!