Thurs, April14, 2016
Day One. SJPP, France to Orisson, France – 5 miles
My original plan was to use Thursday as a rest day. I wanted to get over my jet lag and begin my Camino on Friday morning, St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles – 15.6 miles with an elevation gain of 4760 feet, crossing the Pyrenees. I had reservations with a small hotel in SJPP (St.John Pied Port).
After a short breakfast we were on our way there.
When we checked in at the pilgrim’s office at SJPP, we were told that there was going to be a big storm on Friday. The pass over the mountains had been closed for a week with snow but had just been opened on Thursday. I decided to split the 15 mile hike into two days. Thursday it was beautiful and clear, but did I want to start a 15 mile walk in the rain at 6 am when I could start now when it wasn’t raining. Encouraged by the pilgrims office, I cancelled my reservation at SJPP and obtained one in Orisson, five miles up the mountain pass. SJPP is a lovely French village, and it would have been wonderful to explore it, but the Camino was calling.
As soon as I leave the city I get a tremendous joy. Despite the fact that I am entering in this as a religious pilgrimage I am filled with a sense of adventure and exhilaration to be walking along a road in this beautiful countryside. The tranquil scenes are breath taking.
As beautiful as this hike/walk was it was hard. It was only 5 miles, but straight up. Most of it was right along the narrow mountain highway, on asphalt. One thing that made the hike fun was a fellow pilgrim, Rosie from Berlin. We panted together as we walked up the steep inclines, and if there was a dip and we were walking downhill, we started singing together, “Downtown” by Petula Clark – me in English and Rosie in German. Rosie doesn’t speak very good English so our conversations have been interesting. But she came along at the right time. She is 65, strong and stout and can climb the hills better than me but prefers to wait for me and walk together.
Soon after this picture and after walking along farms and pastures the fun stops for me and we begin climbing. And I mean climbing – 2000 feet in five miles.
And then the wind began. Gale force winds almost knocking us over. Would it ever end?
I started walking at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at the albergue (hostel) in Orisson at 3:30. Five of the hardest miles I have ever walked.
Much to do, get my bed ready, reorganize my backpack and wash my clothes. I was disappointed that there was no WIFI. After a large friendly communal dinner, I collapsed in my bunk. Tomorrow would be the killer day to Roncesvalles, Spain. -almost a 3,000 ft elevation gain in 10 miles over the. Pyrenees. How could it be harder than today?