Day One: Saint Jean to Roncesvalles aka Ignorance is Bliss
I heard a woman at the end of the day in our bunk bed filled room, say “ignorance is bliss… Isn’t that why we are all doing this?” Today we had intentions of only walking 10k to Orisson, however the universe had other plans for us. We ate a decent breakfast at our hotel, as we started on the Camino. Again, such a shame that St. Jean was foggy/rainy. Climbing the Pyrenees was beautiful and strenuous. I noticed there wasn’t much talking amongst pilgrims on the 4,000 Ft elevation gain. Arriving at Orisson (10k in) was a feat in itself. Being wet and cold, we were able to find some temporary refuge in this Refugio, specifically the veggie soup (€4). We were actually supposed to stay the night there, but lo and behold, I didn't confirm the booking and they were FULL. Ugh. But it all worked out for the best. There we met our new German friend Klaus and a New Hampshire-an (?) Psychologist named Thomas.
After stopping in Orrison, we had enough energy to complete the remaining 17k to Roncesvalles. Nothing prepared us for this... Not our three months of previous training outdoors and at the gym, nothing. It was so cold, with no water fountains, no food, no shelter. If you weren’t prepared, you had to hope another pilgrim was around and willing to share. But for real, if you ever do this, make sure you have at least 1 L of water and a few snack bars while on the second part of this trek. Don’t forget about the cold, the elevation gain and tumultuous weather. At times the ground was so muddy, that the mud was up to our ankles. Also, if you blink, you may miss the border line between France and Spain. Other than Great Pyrenees pups guarding their owners' land, there is no such thing as border patrol here. How it should be... cough, cough.
As you can imagine, walking down the mountain, and seeing the monastery ablaze by the sunlight shining below in the valley gave us the energy to power through. During this portion, we walked alongside three older women who only spoke French. We dubbed them the Golden Girls. They were so cute, but also killed it on the trail... Making us feel like little weaklings. We were able to find a restaurant when we arrived to Roncesvalles, that had delicious pinchos (small plates-€5) and wifi (wee-fee as they say here). Klaus soon joined us, then we headed to our humongous albergue (Orreaga/Roncesvalles - Albergue de Peregrinos €12). There we met back up with Anna, our Brazilian friend who we met the day before. I also got to meet this rad veg girl named Katrin, from Germany. She was smart enough to bring her own food with, as the Camino isn’t very veg friendly. After a glass or two of wine (€1.50), we all prepared for bed. We were in the basement, which at first was really cold. Granted, we had Thomas, Klaus, a group from Ireland, two Spaniards completing the Camino on bike, a cute Frenchman named Alban and an Italian in our section. It didn’t take long for our quarter to warm up, we all went to bed cracking up because of Thomas’ bedtime stories. I think we were all most stoked on the fact that we had finished the most difficult part of the Camino-crossing the trail’s peak of the Pyrenees. And for that, ignorance was indeed bliss. Only 21.8 k to complete tomorrow until we reach the small town of Zubiri.
A couple of things:
Literally, anyone I have met from the US that is around my age has had to quit their job to do this. So lame. Thank you for being so cool, Robyn (mi jefa).
Second, the Basque language is rad. It is still very much strong in these regions and linguists have yet to find its exact origin.