St. Jean Pied de Port
After three flights, a bus and three trains, we finally made it to the start of the trail. St. Jean Pied de Port is pretty much my fantasy of what a little town in the foothills of the Pyrenees looks like: cobblestone roads, a backdrop of bright green rolling hills, an ancient citadel overlooking the town, sheep grazing in fields… perfectly picturesque.
We took a short stroll, ate some delicious duck that was served at our albergue, and were in bed before dark. An ideal schedule, in my opinion!
St. Jean –> Roncesvalles – 25 km
Walking up into the mountains from St. Jean was a brutal start to our journey, with 1500 meters of elevation gain and a fair amount of chilly rain. The views it offered though were out of this world. It looked like a scene on a board game cover. And yes, Will and I collected imaginary resources from colored “tiles” and built imaginary roads, settlements and cities (Catan fans anyone?) as we walked. A good way to pass the time!
As we walked we fell in and out of step with fellow pilgrims from around the world. A group of Italians broke into loud opera singing as we sat having a snack break. We learned how to say the German version of “buen camino” from a gal we kept meeting on snack breaks – “gute reise”! Finally we crested the hill above Roncesvalles, wet and sore, and clambered down to our ancient castle of an albergue. It was actually shockingly clean and modern on the inside!
Roncesvalles –> Larrasoaña – 27 km
I woke up to a group of albergue hosts singing loudly about a foot away from my face. I just about jumped out of my skin and it took me half the day to recover from the shock!
We were treated to a beautiful sunrise as we left Roncesvalles, stiff and jetlagged, but ready to take on the day. By mid morning we had formed a little walking posse of five with folks from Ireland, Netherlands and Canada. Some of the few “youngsters” like us! The Camino is largely populated by retirees, we are finding.
When we arrived in Larrasoaña we showered, which is becoming one of my favorite parts of the day, and found ourselves in a nearby tiny market buying snacks and lager. As we shopped, the owner (a very amusing Basque fellow) asked us one by one where we were from and poured us each a glass of wine to cheers him with. We spend the next 3 hours before dinner drinking and snacking in the market courtyard, and talking (mostly laughing hysterically) with a group of Irish fellows. It was “good craic”! A bit of Irish slang we learned, which describes having a good time, or doing something just for the fun of it.
Larrasoaña –> Pamplona – 16 km
Will and I said goodbye to our posse as they left a bit earlier than us. Two hours later though, we ran into them and the travelers were reunited!
We made it into Pamplona by midday, and found our way to the apartment of some old buddies from Olympia ultimate who are staying here for a month. Unfortunately Will caught a bug of some kind and depending on how he feels in the morning we might be in Pamplona another day. We shall see!