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Published: October 17th 2014
Our little wolf pack left Pamplona Sunday afternoon where it grew by one: Eileen, a longtime friend of Angie's joined us from Barcelona for the first week of our trek. We made it to St. Jean Pied Port (the "Feet of St. James": official starting point of our pilgrimage) mid afternoon on Sunday. Eager to get on the trail, we stopped into a hostel to get Eileen's passport and hit the trail. The outcome was unexpected: This hostel owner quickly sized up that we were fresh on the pilgrimage and convinced us "you're crazy to start the trail tonight!" He suggested we stay and start the next day. After a quick decision (we clearly haven't learned our lesson!) we handed over $17 Euros each which included a "pilgrims breakfast".
After a sleepless night in a dank, termite infested room (no bedbugs, though!) we hopped down to the kitchen for breakfast: bread, butter, jam and a little fruit. Lastly, we hunted down a post office to mail off some items we decided weren't necessary and hit the trail. This has already proven to be a great decision!
Following the little shell signs that lead our way on the path, we
left St. Jean behind and wandered into the French countryside.
Saint Jean Pied du Port to the Hut.
Imagine doomsday hill. For the entirety of Bloomsday. Plus another 3 miles. Ending at a cold, windy hut. No electricity. No plumbing. 5' wide, 8' long, 4' high. All four of us jammed inside. That was our very first hike...it was AMAZING!! We left St. Jean Pied du Port (The Feet of St. James) around 10am and the weather was unbelievably perfect! About 70 degrees with a slight breeze, sun shining and picturesque vistas we became increasingly aware of how totally immersed in the French Basque Countryside we were. Covered with colorful short grasses, vast green fields, spotted with herds of sheep and horses who's bells you can hear carried between peaks on the wind we stopped often to take in the beauty and catch our breath. At about 10 km into our trek, we arrived at Orrison. A lovely little stop for peregrinos with a hostel and restaurant, we decided we were feeling pretty good so we ordered sandwiches to go and continued our ascent into the Pyrenees. With each kilometer we felt the breezes pick up and were
jarred to the reality that, where there were several small hostels and pit-stops on the first half of our day's trek, there were none to be found in this second half. Consulting our map, it looked like our best bet would be to press on another 6 km to a hut structure for the night. Though we were tired and having to ration our food since there would be no food at said hut, we were running on sheer determination to not have to sleep with sheep in the open winds that had grown persistent and so strong they caused us to stumble at times.
Each step became more and more labored as our energy was totally sapped. Stopping a few times to rest our feet, eat a ration of our "sandwich" (baguette with cheese and jamón serrano), we just barely managed to get to our hut as the sun set.
Between the four of us we estimate a total of about 6 hours sleep with wind and rain whistling through the rocks. rocks jamming into backs, high winds ripping through our door made of ponchos and packs engineered by the ever-resourceful Eileen, and the occasional shift of
one body resulting in three others needing to adjust. We packed up at 7am, just before a gorgeous sunrise to continue our ascent toward our summit in the Pyrannees.
The Hut to Roncevalles, Spain
The fatigue of our arduous hike from yesterday hit our team hard. With just a couple biscuits and a piece of fruit between the 4 of us, this 8 kilometer hike felt much longer. We had to avoid stepping on the prolific amount of slugs and snails along the path...many still perished! Totally wiped out, we arrived at the albergue in Roncevalles: an OLD monastery turned into a hostel. We grabbed a pilgrims meal at the restaurant and bean soup never tasted SO GOOD! We fell into bed totally exhausted and thankful for a WARM place to sleep 😊
Roncevalles to Zubiri
Hostels come to life at 7am when pilgrims start packing up and heading out. We followed suit, packing up we grabbed our coffee and pan at the restaurant and hit the trail. Much more invigorated from sleep, we kept a pace of about 3 kilometers an hour. Eileen has a bit of a cold and ran ahead to get a bed and
rest up. Arriving in Zubiri in much better shape after 20kilometeres than the day before, our team is getting stronger each day! Sandi is our designated medic, carrying the first aid at all times. Thus far, our moleskin and ibuprofen have been the most utilized. Angie carries the toiletries, though keeping hygiene is a losing battle. Steph is the techie, carrying the laptop and chargers at all times. We are thankful for our music that energizes and distracts us from our screaming bodies.
Zubiri to Trinidad de Arre
We got waylaid by some rain on our way to Pamplona. After our every inch was waterlogged, we stopped short at a hostel that was once a church. This small town off the map proved to be a bit of a treasure. With only 5 other people, we gathered together around the kitchen table with Sheil and Omri, from Israel and Mya and Novia from France. Our dinner consisted of Omri's pasta dish, Mya's pimento-wrapped fish, our salad and enchiladas. After dinner, Angie and Stephanie learned to play Wist, taught by Sheil and Omri. It was a good time for all and we rested well in this quiet hostel.
(Side Note: Ancient churches with dark alcoves and old statues are a bit creepy at night...)
Trinidad to Pamplona
It was a short, semi-soggy, jaunt to Pamplona- a favorite of Hemmingway's and for good reason. The culture here is so very laid back: people start open shops and move around the plazas close to noon; they close from 3-6 where everything comes alive until midnight. We still haven't gotten the hang of their late night dinners as we tend to dine around 6. We took a full day of rest to recuperate blisters, inflamed muscles and gather our thoughts. The Camino definitely works your mind, body and spirit. This restful day was a great way to spend our last day with Eileen and gain momentum for the next leg of our journey.
Eileen was off to her home in Barcelona, Angie took off on foot to Meroño, and Sandi and Steph hopped a bus to Los Arcos to begin on foot the following day. On Sunday, Angie met up with Sandi and Steph in the beautiful old town of Viana. Surrounded by an ancient wall, it is apparent that this small town was once
a fortress. We spent Monday resting up to kick a cold and nurse some new and old blisters. Touring the Cathedral in Viana, the beautiful artwork has captured a very brutal history of the church and their martyrs.
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