How to even begin to describe what life is like here?

Yesterday I woke up before 6, had breakfast, and was out the door before 6:30. If you know the Camino at all, you know that there are two options for walking on your first day.  One is all the way up and over the peak of a mountain; the other follows a valley before being up and over a mountain.  The first is more climbing, and more popular. I had been praying that God would help me decide what route to take, but when I woke up I was still unsure.  Then at breakfast my hospitalera (the woman who runs the hostal) was talking about how it would be rainy, so you wouldn´t see lovely sights, and really, really windy.  She said people often break their legs falling when it´s that windy. She had once seen a girl fall over and remain unable to get up because of the wind and her backpack.  She had seen a man bracing himself against the wind and running a few metres every five seconds or so, while everyone else turned back.

Since I do not have a death wish, taking the Route Valcarlos was an easy decision. And, hey – if it was good enough for Charlemagne, it´s good enough for me!

Starting out, there was lots of happiness.  The route followed a river, and was off the main road.  All around me were lovely Basque houses and birds singing. Euphoria!

Eventually it started raining. It didn´t stop for most of the day.  Then there were also hills involved. What killed me was that every time the road went down, it felt like a waste of altitude gained – I knew I was just going to be going back up again later.

I found a walking partner in a young man from Korea. This was really a gift from God. Even though we didn´t do much talking, it was great just to have a companion and not be alone.

We crossed over into Spain, and I actually didn´t even know that we had until we crossed back into France. Then along the river for a bit until back into Spain for good.  It´s crazy that you can just walk across a border and not even know it. And people there are probably living in one country and buying their groceries or gas in another on a regular basis.  If you´ve ever crossed the border Canada/USA – it´s just so the opposite of that experience.

Then came the mountain(s).  Up, up, and up.  Sometimes we were walking along a path literally carved out of the mountainside, with a rushing river beside.  I almost fell over the edge once. Walking poles were great for balance and to help drag myself up.

Finally, finally, finally, we crested the peak. And then a swift downhill to the albergue.  Where I showered, and then pretty much sat exhaustedly.  Met some nice people, though!

I am paying for internet on a computer in my albergue right now, so no pictures yet.  People here know how to get money – pilgrims need a place to stay, and it´s more money if you don´t offer free wifi! I´m sure I´ll find one eventually where I can post, though.

One thought on “Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

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