As I left Orthez, the rain was cold and hard and the wind was cruel; autumn is a bitter taste in the mouth after the mellow summer. The road leaving Orthez was narrow and was bordered by tall trees whose leaves were already turning brown. I crossed a small bridge that spanned a waterfall next to an abandoned mill, then cut right toward Sauveterre de Bearn. My destination for the night was L’Hopital de Orion, 8 km down the road.

For the first 2 km the rain subsided into a gentle mist, and my poncho turned slick with condensation. Then the sun broke through the thick low clouds and the wind calmed a bit; a sickly rainbow shimmered in the late afternoon light, and I knew that soon the rain would return, so I picked up my pace.

On either side of the road fields of corn waved with the passing of cars, and when larger trucks went by their slipstreams sent the corn rustling, first away from the trucks but then violently back in their direction.

Soon the rain began to fall again, harder than before, and the wind blew loose husks of corn onto the wet asphalt. Ahead of me there was a steep hill that curved up to the left, then right and back down onto the next ridge. My socks were soaked from the rain and I could feel my sodden feet starting to press water down through the soles of my shoes.

When I arrived in L’Hopital it was on the verge of complete darkness and I trudged through wet grass until I found a small park with two sturdy trees near each other. I tethered my tent to them and stripped off my soaked clothes, zipped my tent shut and listened to the rain fall and the wind slide off the top of my tent, and eventually fell asleep.

In the morning there was a dog barking nearby and the small church across the river rang its bells until I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag. The rain was still falling, but it was a slower rain and I could already see the sun pushing its way through the clouds.

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