Up Up and Away
At 6:00 am the peregrinos began to stir. I was already awake. I still wasn’t recovered from jet lag and was working on 3 hours of sleep. A free breakfast was included in the cost of the room. Breakfast was at 7 am and Rosie and I had agreed to leave right after breakfast. I had to roll up my sleeping bag, get everything packed and organized before I went down to eat. Breakfast consisted of toast, coffee and orange juice. I had two glasses of the best orange juice I have ever tasted, one piece of plain toast and a piece of untoasted toast. I picked up my sandwich that the albergue kitchen prepared for me, and we were off – cheese sandwich (Cheee in a baguette) stuffed in the outside pocket of my backpack.While we were leaving we saw the most beautiful sunrise.
About 20 steps out of the albergue we had to start climbing.
Rosie and I climbed and climbed with beautiful vistas on either side of us, ahead of us or behind us. Our fellow pereginos from the big communal dinner last night passed us by and greeted us with Buen Camino. Occasionally someone would walk our pace and we would have conversations. A Polish man spoke German with Rosie, my St. Louis friends from Corazonpuro passed us. Joette (from St. Louis) took my picture. We would see familiar backpacks in the far distance getting smaller and smaller as they walked in groups laughing and talking. Rosie and I huffed and puffed and stopped to take pictures.
For some reason as I approached the statue I started singing “Hey Jude” and someone said to me “You are showing your age.” I thought more than a song is showing my age-like my speed up the mountain.
As we went higher, the temperature dropped and a howling wind came up from the valleys. Our hats were blowing off of us so I put on my ski mask. It is better than a beanie for keeping your ears warm.
About noon Rosie and I stopped for lunch about 100 feet from the Spanish border. Jeremy from Kent, England joined us. We sat on a grassy bank overlooking a grove of birch trees. The trees. Went right down the steep side. Of the mountain.. After lunch, we were soon in Spain and climbing in the snow. The wind howled worse than ever, coming over the snow passes and picking up speed in the valleys lashing itself on us furiously. One time it threw me into the bank and I would have fallen had I not had my hiking poles to keep me from going down. As we climbed and climbeds I lost Rosie, she kept her own pace this time and did not wait for me to catch up. I didn’t see her again until we reached Ronsavalles.
We climbed and we climbed and now I was being passed by people who had started hiking from SJPP that morning , I was often alone being pushed back and forth by the wind.. I wascarefulto stay away from the edge of the cliff and stayed closer to a bank, lodging my poles into the ground for support. On one steep rocky stretch, Jeremy from England caught up with me after one of his breaks and a Canadian lady joined is. The Canadian lady was so interested in the rocks,she kept looking down and picking them up. She said it was possible to find gems hereafter the rains. Speaking of rain, where was that big storm the pilgrim’s office told me about. It rained the night before at Orisson, causing pilgrims to rush to get their clothes off the line. I had paid to use the dryer.
There are less pilgrims on the trail now. I am mostly alone, fighting the wind. In some ways, I like being alone. I talk to God, I pray for my friends and family, I wonder why I can’t go any faster after all my training. I begin to wonder if I am the only one on the mountain; often, it is almost an hour between fellow pilgrims. I try to stay positive, but I can easily slip into set-criticism. My backpack is unbelievably heavy, pulling me backward.
Eventually I get to the top and I start going down. The wind increases, pushing me around. I stumble across Jeremy and a lady from Florida. They tell me I have a decision to make. There are two paths here. One is very steep and shorter, the other is longer and less steep. I want to catch Rosie so I say “Short and steep” and startin that direction. The lady from Florida said she and her co workers did the steep way last year and two of them hurt their knees and had to leave the Camino. She said no one should go that way. I felt that I had received that message for a reason and went the longer way.
My view of Rroncavalles and the valley below:
I catch up with Jeremy and we talk and share our lives. He had traveled extensively and lived abroad working for the British government. I have heard him speak about five different languages to our fellow pilgrims. He stops for a break and I walk the reset of the way alone.
It is 3:30. I finally arrive at the albergue. I wasn’t prepared for the masses of people converging on the one facility. Orisson is so much smaller. People have arrived from the other beginning point, Valcarlos. There are long lines of people registering. We have to fill out a form declaring the purpose of our journey – religious, spiritual, sport, health. I check every box but sport. I thought it meant that I was being competitive or something, like it was a race. I was thinking Rosie had beat me by an hour, but soon I see her rushing towards me breathing hard, her face flushed. There was no one at the fork in the road and she took the steep way down. She had arrived 10 minutes behind me and looked traumatized.
It is a new facility for the albergue. I suppose it is still in the old monastery, but the facilities are spacious and modern. The boots are taken off and put in the boot room and I am given bed 151. It was hard to find because of the European “1” – I couldn’t read it and was looking for bed 51. A friendly pilgrim set me straight.
Rosie and I agreed to meet at 7 for the communal dinner. Then it was the busy work of unpacking the backpack, unrolling the sleeping bag, taking a shower, getting the laundry done (I paid 3 Euros for their laundry service), checking out the Internet which was too slow to be of much use.
I was so happy toget a bottom bunk this time. My bunk mates were a Spanish brother and sister and a German boy. The dinner was vegetable soup, meat or fish and potatoes and wine. I tell the hostess I am a vegetarian and she serves me a delicious salad with fresh crisp lettuce,tomatoes, egg and olives. Then it is off to bed. Rosie and I have bought food for tomorrow so we will miss breakfast, and meet at 7 to start our next day on the Camino.