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DAY 16 from DAX to LANTABAT, 85 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

What a frustrating day! Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We slept in a nice little flat in Dax. I woke up early and went to the bakery to buy breakfast. The man at the Tabac told me that most bakeries were closed on Mondays but mentioned a bakery about a kilometer away that he thought might be open. Thankfully, I found everything I needed for breakfast and lunch - petits pains au chocolat, petits pains aux raisins, and Magda's favorite, a croissant aux amandes.


By 9 am, the apartment was tidy, and the bikes were ready. We continued our journey along the Via Turonesis towards Saint Jean-de-Pied-de-Port, riding on departmental roads. We quickly reached Sorde l'abbaye, the remains of a beautiful Benedictine abbey situated on the Gave de Pau river. I obtained a stamp for our credential at the Mairie, and the kind lady mentioned that access to the abbey is free for pilgrims. Floky decided to stay with the bikes while I visited the old abbey, and he might join me later. The abbey is magnificently located along the river, but unfortunately, most of it has been destroyed. Nonetheless, you still get a good idea of what it used to be.


Sorde-l'Abbaye near the Gave de Pau


After my visit, Floky went inside to admire the river, which forms a large basin and then flows through an impressive long water chute. I wanted to visit the abbey church as well, as it is still mostly intact. Floky preferred to have a coffee and relax while eating one of the two pizzas we bought from the bakery in Dax. The abbey church has some unique features, such as Romanesque floors at the back of the choir, a rarity. On top of the high pillars of the choir, there are beautifully carved capitals, quite large to be seen clearly from below.


Sorde-l' Abbaye: the church with Romanesque floors and huge capitals


After spending about an hour in Sorde-l'abbaye, we continued towards Saint Palais, an important place for pilgrims. A bit outside the town in Gibraltar, two of the four major Caminos converge: the Via Lemovicensis, which I cycled last year, and the Via Turonesis, on which we have cycled over 1200 km. The terrain begins to get hilly as we are in the pre-Pyrenees, and it's noticeable.


Sorde-l'Abbaye: interior of the church, capital and the Gave de Pau


I really want to visit the church in Harambelz, which I missed last year, but Floky isn't too keen on the idea. After a considerable effort, we reach the church. The hamlet is owned by different families for a few centuries and is known as the Donati, a lay order that assists people on the Caminos. Near the church, there's a table with free apples and peaches, along with jugs of freshly squeezed apple juice, coffee, tea, and cookies, all for a very reasonable price. You take what you want and leave money in a wooden box. The church is impressive from the outside, with its special tower and open covered narthex. On the entrance door, there's a beautifully carved Chrismon, a symbol of Jesus Christ. However, when I try to open the church door, I find it is closed.


Harambelz: church with narthex and chrismon


It's really unfortunate, but we can't get the key because there's no one to be found in the hamlet. The weather has turned quite hot, and we fill our water bottles with fresh water. Then, Floky suggests taking a shortcut (path) to our destination in Lantabat, which turns out to be a tiny village only 11 km away from Harambelz, so it's close by. However, things go wrong from there. We take a wrong turn because the sign indicating the bike route is overgrown. We only realize our mistake after an hour when we pass the same spot again.


We bounce from one sandy and muddy road to another and get stuck. Our batteries are almost empty, and we can't get out of this situation. At one point, Floky has to push me as I can't move forward anymore. So we head back down the dreadful path towards Harambelz. We finally find the directional sign and reach Ostabat, where we stop by the church to rest.


There, I notice that a bag with clothes hanging over my bike rack in two bags is missing. It must have fallen off during the ride on the bad path, but we didn't see or hear anything. Thankfully, they were just old clothes, and my toiletry bag, so I decide not to organize a search as it would take too long, and we are exhausted. We had planned to cycle 70 km today, but it will end up being almost 100 km. Around 5 pm, we reach our B&B in the center of Lantabat, a former rectory now charmingly decorated as a B&B.


Cycling through the Pre-Pyrenees to the church of Lantabat and our B&B next door


The village is very small, with nothing to be found, no café, no Tabac, no store, and we didn't buy dinner. I ask the kind owner if he can sell me a pack of pasta, and he can. He also gives me 6 eggs from his chickens, a zucchini from his garden, a pack of grated cheese, and some butter. I inquire if I can buy a bottle of wine from him, and that's also possible. An hour later, Floky and I are sitting outside under a beautiful plane tree, having a cosy meal and discussing the problems we faced this afternoon. We manage to laugh about it now. We also plan how to cycle to Oloron-Ste-Marie tomorrow and then to Urdos the following day at the foot of the Somport Pass, which we'll cycle up.

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In our B&B in Lantabat


At 8:30 pm, I'm in bed and fall asleep. Floky always stays up later and communicates with his friends. He never seems to get tired and keeps on cycling. I always call Magda in the evening, but she tells me she's feeling sick. Worried, I fall asleep. Only 6 more days until we reach Serviès-en-Val, but three of them will be super challenging for our legs and batteries. We remain hopeful. My blog is finished; I started working on it at 5 am, and now it's 6 am. I'll try to get another hour of sleep before we prepare our own breakfast. We have coffee, milk, and sugar, and some cookies and bread from yesterday, so we'll manage. Despite the setbacks today, we're still looking forward to continuing our journey.

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