28 Sep 11: Des Chenes to Uhart-Mixe

Route: Des Chenes to Uhart-Mixe  12 km via marked variant. From Uhart, SJPP is reachable in a day to a day-and-a-half, depending on your pace.

The best 1 euro I spent the entire trip was the bus fare this morning from the CH to Etcharry; this is the morning school bus at 0755.  The 6 km covered is very heavily trafficked in the mornings, with scant safe footpath. The walkers we passed were all in the roadway. Onward from Etcharry, the variante route (marked clearly in Miam Miam Dodo) is a very nice rolling, partially wooded route. The chapel in Olhaiby (ask the adjacent farmer to unlock the door for you) has a magnificent altarpiece/tabernacle. At first I thought it to be silver-gilt (the texture is that detailed and the finish is that gilded), but it is more likely painted plaster on wood. The remainder of the route to Uhart is gently rolling, partially wooded with several large cattle farms visible. This morning the sky was clear, but now at midday there are high thin clouds and it is quite humid. Eventhough it is a degree cooler, with the humidity it is really stinking hot. So I am on the verge of heat exhaustion by the time we arrive at the gite.

Lodging: Gite l”Escargot. Madame and Monsieur are most solicitous, stoking me up with cold water-sirop drinks until my head clears, and then Mr carried my pack up to the room. This gite is exceptionally well set-up, including camping space and a washing machine (no one in this part of France owns a dryer – everything goes out on the line and is rapidly bone-dry). And they have wi-fi in the bar.

Cuisine: Dinner was a terrific meal: vegetable soup (perhaps Grabure), local ham (jambon Basque) and sausages maison in a piperade sauce, a cheese course served in the usual Basque style. It is Madame’s birthday, so Mr brings out a round of eau de vie du maison from plums – and the entire table of 20 sings (same tune, “Happy Birthday”) and drinks her a toast.

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