Flashback to the Camino: First Walking Day Part II

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July 28, 2017  Orisson to Roncesvalles

The walk through the Pyrenees is challenging. But it’s my first day, and my legs are fresh, so I steadily continue. Occasionally I pass markers along the path. I’m not sure if they are religious monuments or grave markers, but I stop to take a picture.

The sky begins to darken. Suddenly I am very aware that I am walking along one of the most dangerous parts of the Camino, and it looks like rain. I try to remember in which part of the Camino Emilio Estevez’s character dies in The Way. I’m pretty sure it’s this part.

I am intrigued by a pilgrim in fluorescent orange backpacks ahead. They are keeping a pretty good pace, so I increase my stride so that I can eventually catch them. I have the sense that I would enjoy walking with them. I greet them and discover that they are Italians! A policeman and a teacher who are enjoying the holiday. They don’t have enough time to finish the entire 500 miles, and so plan to go part way, as many Europeans do.

We travel a ways together, and I marvel at the sheep, perched on the mountainsides and the seemingly never-ending climb. We stop at a small food stand near the top of our hike. I inspect an elevation map on the side of the stand as I wait to order, while wondering how on Earth this cart got up here. The wind has really begun to blow, and I have walked quite a bit already. I am grateful for the brief respite and meal. I begin to feel sorry for the Lord of the Rings band. I purchase a banana, and the Italians and I share some cheese. But soon we are off again.

At some point before the descent we stop to rest and are passed by a group of 3 young American women. They ask how long we’ve known each other, and we say we’ve only just met! One of the Americans says the same about the two others. She has a bright, open air about her. I don’t get quite the same vibe from the other two.   They are soon on their way again, and I am amused at how much more comfortable I seem to be with Europeans than my own American kin. (I mentally take note of the countries people have come from so far: New Zealand, Italy, Germany, France, US, Canada, South Africa, Scotland, the UK, and Ireland!)

The sky is still cloudy, and we experience occasional rain as we begin our descent. We have two options for the route to Roncesvalles. One is much more direct but also steeper.   I am reluctant to take the steeper route, but the Italians want to get there quicker, and I do not want to walk alone right now. I regret my decision pretty quickly. The path is indeed steep and also very rocky. The rain has caused the dirt to muddy, and the rocks are slick. I take every step very carefully and very slowly.

The Italians each have a set of walking polls and are kind enough to lend me one. I discover that the Italian woman has some physical challenges that begin to act up, so none of us is in a hurry. Though I’m quite a bit grouchy about the rocky downhill, I mostly keep it to myself, and it’s not raining hard enough to be a real danger. The path is still beautiful, and we laugh about all of the animal poop along one part of the path.

I get into Roncesvalles, and though the town looks fairly empty, I somehow lose track of the Italians, it begins to pour, and I’m not sure where the hostels are. Thankfully, I quickly discover there is really only one hostel, which is actually a HUGE converted monastery. I remove my trusty, waterproof hiking boots and wait in line for check-in. There are options to add on dinner, breakfast, or both to the stay – and I heartily choose all three. I am given my bed instruction and so make my way to my floor. There are many floors and many beds, and I get my first view of the typical rows and rows of bunk beds, as I will come to find in many municipals.

I look for places to hang my wet things, but many windowsills and bedposts have already been claimed.  I wonder if I will be able to charge my phone.  I wonder about my Canadian friend, where she is, and how she is doing.  I gather together my shower supplies: a bottle of soap that doubles as shampoo for my shaved head, a quick dry wash cloth, a quick dry towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, change of clothes, and my Diva cup — as I discover I have unfortunately just gotten my period, too. It is a little strange sharing a bathroom with a bunch of strange women, but it’s better than a middle school locker room, and everyone seems to be taking it in stride.

I do a bit of journaling and also lay my things out for the next morning. I know I’ll be waking early.   I discover that dinner is actually at a restaurant a block or so away, so I set out at the appointed time. I come across a middle-aged biker on the way and discover he is Spanish! I am pleased to practice my Spanish skills, as he is also pleased to find someone to talk to. We have a pleasant conversation, but, since he is a bicyclist and I am a walker, I know I will probably never see him again.   We sit at a table that turns out to be have mostly Europeans. There is a fairly young man with a lot of charisma that many at the table seem drawn to. Much of the my table mates seem younger than I am, perhaps 20’s, and I feel out of place in their conversation, though I am mostly sharing a side conversation with the Spaniard anyway. After dinner, the Spaniard and I wish each other “Buen Camino.” And I am soon to bed, grateful that the guidebook tells me tomorrow is a light day.

Much love and many blessings. ❤

Did you enjoy this?

Check out the whole journey in video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIPG4YhRf_rk5-59R3jT2yQ

or the whole journey in pictures on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/terikarl

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