Camino Day 1: Over the Pyrenees Pass
St. Jean to Roncevalles, Spain: 28.5 km/17.8 miles
May 5, 2016
Awoke to the sounds of quiet, peaceful music and the rustling of other pilgrims. Was it anxiety or excitement in the air? I trod quietly to the bathroom. Unsure of the next step, I headed downstairs where breakfast was already laid out. Comforted to see a pot of coffee on the table, I slid in next to an older Korean woman. She was bright eyed for this hour. Nods and greetings exchanged as others joined. One young Spanish man bounded down the steps with pack already on back. Is something amiss here? Are we being timed?
Not yet ruffled by more early departures, I pour a second cuppa. My lack of planning and knowledge for this pilgrimage could be starting to show. Today was to be one of the more difficult of Camino days and hence, the ‘early birds’ flying out.
Nevertheless, I continued to linger. I had yet to read anything in the book, purchased only last night. The only knowledge known was the next port of call, Roncesvalles, Spain.
I started the Camino alone, and actually had to ask someone to point me in the right direction. I smiled hoping to deflect my ignorance. Slower steps had to be taken due to the climb to the 1400-meter pass. Weather can change dramatically and dangerously during this section, but fortunately, the day was mostly sunny and dry. ‘Buen Camino’ greetings were exchanged en route. It sounded kind and supportive to hear. We had all found the time to do the Camino. The words of Simon and Garfunkel’s, ‘59th St. Bridge Song’ came to my head. Feeling groovy!
I recognized a few hostellers from last night in Orrison, the last real pit stop before the Pass. We ended up walking together, three of us from the USA and one from Chile. We stuck it out together for safety reasons due to our speed, or lack thereof. We took breaks and none of us felt the urgency to rush. Perhaps this was blissful ignorance.
Small beautiful horses lingered in fields with ‘cowbells’ ringing out like church bells in nature. A statue of the Virgin Mary and child watched over all near the Summit. A few cattle grids were passed, and then entry into Spain.
We arrived gracefully in Roncesvalles in the twilight, just before 8 pm, after the “Eagle Scout” of our group led us down a far safer, yet longer, alternative route than most take. He was prepped and well versed on the Camino. Our Chilean mate served as interpreter to get our Menu del Dia ordered. I considered myself in good hands in their company. With so late arrival, we were ushered into one of several annexed bunkhouses behind the main Albergue, for our sleeping quarters. Too tired to shower after dinner, I just crawled into bed. The snore chorus began.