Day 1: St Jean Pied de Port to Aurizberri/Espinal

So the first day of my pilgrimage to Santiago had arrived. I managed a total of 34km instead of the planned 26/27km to Roncesvalles and hence shorten the journey to Pamplona tomorrow (35km instead of 42km). The day started fairly early at 6am after little restless night in a too warm room with a snoring middle-aged woman. Breakfast 6.30am and at 7am already on the road. We weren’t the only ones already up as many fear the heat of midday in Spain and hence get going quickly (should the wine consumption of the previous night allow it). For most pilgrims St. Jean also marked day one of their journey and excitement was high.

I set out together with my Spanish friend Monte who loves mountains and wasn’t shy to let her walking pace demonstrate it. Within two hours we climbed 600m / 8km to arrive 9am at refuge Orisson for a well deserved second breakfast (and sweating big time!) – ham sandwich & coffee and a much-needed refill of my aqua pack (8km = 1.5l gone!). This would be the last stop to catch some food before Roncesvalles (or so I thought at the time). The scenery of the Pyrenees got ever nicer as we hiked higher though eventually we ended up in fog and it disappeared.

The plus of this cold weather was the lack of heat for what is the camino stage with by far the highest altitude differential (from 200m to 1440m and down to c800m). the fog also created its own atmosphere and given sight was limited to 10m max, one felt almost hiking by oneself. Along the way plenty animals including the long-haired sheep, horses (young an old) and cows. About 250m from the peak at Col de Lopoeder (1437m) was the last French outpost where we collected yet another stamp for our pilgrims pass and then we were already in Spain. Hola! Leaving the basque country behind us we entered the region of Navarra.

Along the way I met a seemingly way overloaded guy from Taiwan ho had quit his job for a one year travel break. The camino was his first stop, then France, then South America. Ultimately my pace was a little too high for a guy carrying 25kg vs. my 10kg.

Overall a nice walk and I didn’t feel to tired when I arrived in Roncesvalles after about 6hours walking. Still, a short break was in order to have a snack and a glass of red wine as well as to get the stamp from the local refuge (one of the largest ones along the camino at 180 beds). After the break it was still only 3pm and I decided to continue and stay at the refuge in Aurizberri/Espinal. Monte stayed behind for some reading (and we wouldn’t meet again).

The hostel was semi busy and I spent some time chatting with a Belgian student  (Cyril) and an Irish guy (Paul) with some foot problems forcing him to take some resting time here. At 7pm my first pilgrims dinner was served (EUR10 for three courses & wine). Very good value and very good taste. Can only recommend (at least for this refuge). Now lets see what Friday night holds … I give myself max until 10pm. Max!

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