Day 1: St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles
The day started with a bit of a splutter as fellow dormers started getting up at 5am. I had slept, we were all in bed by 10:30 (while the sun was still out) but sleep came in bits and pieces. I hadn’t planned to wake til 6 so I left them to it. Then I got out of bed had a conversation with the owner that I understood nothing of except for cafe. Whereupon, to my delight and bemusement, proceeds to pour coffee into what I thought was my cereal bowl. So there I sat drinking my coffee out of a bowl two handed as if a priest drinking consecrated wine.
The I headed out, filled up my water bottle at the church and was serenaded out of town by the seven o’clock bells. A brief sortie into the local boulangerie to buy pain au chocolate and un baguette in broken French and I was out of town.
I chatted to a few people on the route before the heavy breathing put paid to that. I wandered up through farmers fields, dodged clumps of bullshit, watched cows swish their tails, birds of prey soar on the winds and often I just stared at my feet.
The route is well signposted and varies from pathways through forests to roads. Everything is well marked with red and white swatches, yellow arrows or yellow shells. My travelling companions were varied but the most common spoken languages were Spanish and French.
I stopped every now and then to drink, admire the view or just take my pack off. The roadway rose higher and my earlier confidence gave way to one foot in front of the other slog. The scenery is fantastic, green fields, undulating hills, distant towns.
Hours later I strolled into the Spanish town of Roncesvalles to hear the two o’clock bells heralding my arrival. Seven hours start to finish – not to bad, my feet have held up well, the body feels a bit sore but the biggest problem is underwear that’s begun to chafe. I’ll have to sort that out soon or I’ll be making mince meat of my groin 😉
There’s a pub, a couple of restaurants (one of which I have just booked in for my €9 peregrino meal), the Abbey, a church and the Alebergue within which I’m staying. It’s the oldest pilgrim refugee on the route and looks like it once lived life as a church. The walls are roughly hewn stone, and heavy arches support the curved wooden roof. All that with the 100 or so beds makes it one of the most unusual places I’ve stayed in and at €6 one of the cheapest (at least in Europe).
In an hour or so I’ll go across for my pilgrim’s meal. No idea what’s in it, hopefully some carbs, but what I’m most looking forward to is the quarter litre of wine. Aside from my mince meat legs, today has been a good day, challenging, scenic, new experiences, friendly people, blue skies and fresh air. Tomorrow my biggest concern will be where to get breakfast. I could get used to this life.
— Posted from my phone