Camino Day 2

Tuesday 26th April 2016

Saint Jean to Roncesvalles (? Km)

Photos from Day 2:

First day of walking and because of the blister I picked up while running through the airport yesterday, I didn’t want to hold anyone else up, so I let the others walk on. I explained that I would see how my foot was feeling at Orrisson, and decide if I needed to stop for the night or if I could carry on to Renceveaux. I had been told already that Orrisson was probably fully booked, so I was alrrady concerned about this tactic!

I started off with a fabulous breakfast of hot coffee from a flask, jugs of orange juice on the tables as well as a seemingly unlimited supply of bread, butter and jams. We were also offered a home made ‘bread cake’ by the owner, who was a very friendly chap, always smiling and always willing to offer a helpful bit if advice. The cake was quite stodgy with fruit (raisons I would guess) inside it. Very tasty and as I would later discover, a bit of a luxury variety from coffee and bread fur breakfast!

At breakfast I met some new people and briefly saw a few of the others I had net yesterday as they all set off on their journeys. I started making a list of the different nationalities I was meeting as it seemed to be such a variety. As I write this on day 7, I can’t recall everyone who I spoke to that morning, but I do remember that one was from Switzerland and he had already been walking to Saint Jean! [I have had trouble getting online to write this blog, and I have woken up at 2am on the morning of day 8 realising that I dont actually need to be online to write the words!]

As I finally put on my pack to set off on my own journey I realise that it’s interesting that I have already started to create a different journey to everyone else I have met so far.

I tried to ask the lady in the kitchen if I could get a stamp for my brand new pilgrim passport, but she clearly speaks no English and I’m not even sure she spoke much French either! In the end I sneaked behind the reception counter and found the stamp myself and added my first stamp feeling a little guilty!

Next stop was the passport/pilgrim office to ask about the situation at Orrisson if I should find that the Albergue is full, my foot hurts too much to carry on and they won’t let me stay…

Advice from the office matched up completely with the advice from the Albergue owner, that I should take the ‘low route’ to Valcarlos and then make a decision there as to my next move. The problem being that if I got stuck at Orrisson (or worse yet on the way to Renceveaux) then if I wanted to take a taxi to Renceveaux, it would leave from Orrisson, head back to Saint Jean and the drive past Valcarlos anyway and probably cost me about 200 euros. However, a taxi from Valcarlos to Renceveaux would be about 25 euros!

So that was the decision made. I would walk towards Valcarlos and if I ran into any difficulties anywhere, then any kind of rescue options would be significantly easier… Recalling the story in the film “The Way” where the Emilio Estevez character dies after not talking the advice if the locals, it seemed the only real option, so off I set in search of the citadel in Saint Jean, which I felt was the real true start point of the journey…

As I walked out of the door I bumped into a couple of cyclists who were doing the journey on bike, which seemed like an interesting option, perhaps fir anyone with less time, but it did feel like a bit of a cheat really, but as I walked past them I commented that I was jealous of them! Later on the journey I would come to realise that the camino on a bike is not always as easy as it might seem!

As I walk up towards the citadel up some very steep cobbled paths it occurs to me that this might not have been the best idea for a man hobbling on one foot at the beginning of a 500 mile journey into the unknown. However, I really wanted to start at the very beginning, even if I was choosing a first days walk that is different from most people’s first day of the Camino.

At the top of the Citadel was a fantastic view (very much a recurring theme over the coming days). I met a lady at the Citadel whose name and country I now can’t recall. I think she was from America or Australia, as I am sure I remember that she had perfect English, which just goes to show the value of documenting this experience as I go along!

I was quite hot and sticky and quite out of breath by the time I had walked up to the Citadel, so all the gear I’d put on at the Albergue needed to come off and I was down to just a shirt!

The walk back down the hill and through town was very easy although I had to stop and ask directions, which were wrong, so I stopped to get out the map that I’d been given by the very helpful people in the pilgrim office. Once I got back on track I finally found the point at which I needed to choose the high route or the low route. At this junction I met two ladies from America, who took the photo for me, and who were part of a group of 5 who had booked the Orrisson Albergue ahead of time… VERY sensible people!!!

After this encounter I thought it would be many miles before I spoke to another person, let alone another pilgrim, and I was mostly right! I said hello to a lady who was walking with no pack, but who didn’t look like a local, so that was a little confusing and I spoke to a man who was definitely a pilgrim, but who didn’t speak much English and was standing on the wrong side of the road like he was waiting for a lift into Saint Jean! I joked that he was going the wrong way, but he said he lived in Saint Jean and was just at the end of his journey having walked the route in reverse. I can’t recall now if he said he walked the whole route though!

The next pilgrims I saw were the two cyclists I’d seen earlier at the pilgrim office, who zoomed past me going down hill at about 40 mph after I’d been walking for two hours!! I could not help but shout ‘bastards’ in my head as they flew by!

I also saw a couple of younger female pilgrims, who were taking a picnic by the side of the road, we leapfrogged each other a couple of times. A situation that happens way more often than you might imagine on the journey.

Eventually I found myself in Valcarlos where I treated myself to a short stop for a nice coffee and I put my feet up for a bit. Then I asked the coffee shop owner if she could help me get a taxi to Renceveaux. My feet were feeling fine, but the pilgrim office people had told me it was a horrible uphill climb from Valcarlos to Renceveaux and a taxi just seemed to be the right option.

As we pulled into Renceveaux, I was surprised at how big the place was.