Up and Over the Pyrenees
St Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Roncevalles, Spain
6.5 hours for 24.5 km
Roncesvalles April 1, 2015 9 PM
When we went to the pilgrim office this morning in St. Jean, we learned we were not allowed to hike the Napoleon route because the path was deep with snow, it was snowing and foggy and there was a risk of avalanches. Since we value our lives, we took the ValCarlos path. What a gruelling day! We spent six and a half hours going mostly uphill. When there was a downhill, that meant an even longer, steeper uphill would follow. That’s the law!
No other day should be as tough. No other part of the Camino has as much change in elevation in a 24.5 kilometre distance. We went from 170 metres to 600 metres in the first 18 km then 400 metres higher in 5 mm. The last 1.5 km downhill was actually harder on Brian’s knees, but we made it to Roncesvalles.
For ten euros each we have a bunkbed in a four bed cubicle in a dorm with a hundred hikers. We were among the earlier ones to arrive so we didn’t have to stand in line too long for our wonderful very hot shower. The dorms are in a converted stone monastery.
For ten euros each at the La Posada restaurant we had the pilgrim’s meal: a huge bowl of pasta in tomato sauce with a little sausage, a whole trout each with French fries, a basket of bread and rice pudding. Of course a bottle of red wine was included. All good and we are full again.
Eliane drove to the Spanish border at Arneguy then walked back about a kilometre and a half to walk with us. Brian took advantage of that situation to store his backpack in her car. Brian danced a jig on the way. He was so carefree!
Eliane drove to ValCarlos and joined us for lunch. She brought bread sticks and a basque cake with black cherry filling…and the rest of last night’s red wine. We completed the lunch with blue cheese and dry sausage.
Spring is happening here even though there is snow on the mountain tops. Pussy willows are finished. Hellebores bloom in the ditches. Magnolias and gardenias are past their prime. Primula are everywhere. The birds are singing.
The wifi seems to be obstructed by two foot monastery walls.