Bonjour. Tomorrow we will leave France and walk into Spain. This first stage is sometimes called a “baptism of fire” into the Camino and Spain, because of its more strenuous hiking. It’s the beginning that might be very different from one’s imagination, even after planning and research.
There are two routes over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. Considerations are current weather conditions and fitness level and experience of the walker. The Pilgrim office will advise of dangers or closures. The steepest and most arduous route is the Napoleon, closed during specific winter months, when daylight hours are shorter and because of snow, wind or dangerous hiking conditions anytime. This is the mountain in the movie, “The Way” with Martin Sheen, where his son has been killed, hiking even after warnings. And this happens.
Less arduous, but still challenging, is the Valcarlos route, also steep, with more walking on the main road. Either route of this stage represents one of the steepest ascents on the Camino and is said to reward walkers with spectacular views of the Pyrenees.
We chose the Route de Napoleon, hoping for great panoramas and views looking back to SJPdP where we began. The ascent is 4560 feet and adjusted for an extra 4 miles of distance hiked.
We split the first stage to Roncesvalles, by stopping overnight in the Orisson Albergue. This was a very steep hike, but only about 8 Km. We sent our packs to the albergue from SJPdP, so arrived early in the day. It’s good to have more time to organize and meet new friends. We had a fun group Pilgrim dinner with about 30 or more hikers and are tired enough for a good night’s sleep.
So here we are until the second day of the big hike and steep downhill tomorrow. We are hiking in the Pyrenees! I’ve repeated the word “steep” in this post numerous times. We shall see. Today was so damp, we were wet even without rain. The views were limited because of fog, and we were serenaded by sheep and cow bells. I stopped for a few photos, but mostly hiked and collected memories. What spectacular foothill and mountain trails. One unexpected treat is to see so many children hiking with their families. Buen Camino.