We felt great today – after all we had completed the two hardest days of the whole Camino – or so we thought! It was 8 kilometres from St Jean to Orisson and 17 kilometres over the mountains to Ronsenvalles. We had crossed the Pyrenees from Spain to France – we had walked over the pass used by the Romans hundreds of years earlier and also by Napoleon with his army. We had no injuries to complain of and, even though the Korean snoring champion had ensured my sleep was near non existent, the fact that our feet were elevated for the night meant we were recovered and ready to go.
It was cold again, this time I started out with my winter woollies again and we both had our rain attire on before we left town. Compared to others it was a late start – 8 am as I recall. The first few k’s were quite easy, level ground, through a bit of a forest, a few slushy mud puddles but nothing too challenging. We passed through our first town and stopped for a beautiful toasted pastry with egg, cheese, ham and tomato. This was where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out when he went trout fishing. Apparently the main square was where they also used to burn the witches. We chatted with another American couple who were going super light weight and moving alot faster than us so we bid farewell as they overtook us. The walk had been so easy and as we couldnt find an ATM we thought we’d keep heading to the next town and get cash there – all the hostels require cash you see and we had used up all the Euro’s we had got at Heathrow.
Anyway we hit the next town after a few little hills, had another quick bite and moved on to the next town looking for that ATM – I think we had covered about 12 kilometres by this time. We had enough money for food but not for accommodation and they all wanted cash not card. At this point I will say I had aching feet again and both ankles now had this swollen read rash around the couple of inches above the boot. I knew we had to keep walking but again it had to be very very very slow.
At this point you think that coming over the Pyrenees was meant to be the worst of the trip. When you leave Linzoain you know you have about 8 kilometres to go and it can’t be that bad. Wrong. Wrong and double Wrong. I dont want to frighten anyone but I think at this point I really started losing my vocabulary. Yes thatsr right, me, an oft purveyor of rare words, lover of dictionaries, lost the ability to curse without the use of the f word. My husband joined in when the strain reached dizzying heights!
My beloved went first (as usual) so he could get to the top of a very steep incline, have a nap and read the paper, while he waited for me. Well I finally reached the top where he was standing and I had a big smile as I had done it so quickly he barely had time to catch his breath – he burst in to laughter when I looked to my right and quickly screamed “F no!!!!!”. The track that went on was steeper and longer! Those guide book writers were big fat liars. Modest climb for about 900m – who were they kidding! Since when was a 900m climb modest? Levels out for 3 kms my bum!
We plodded on and it felt like hours went by. Somewhere along we passed Alto de Erro – a great spot for panoramic photos apparently. That must be where I spotted a village way below and way off in the distance – husband was nowhere to be seen. I yelled at the top of my voice “I hope that’s not the f’ing village down there!” I heard my beloved’s laughter echo back across the valley. Traumatised does not begin to explain my feelings.
The only enjoyable thing about this day was the Frenchman with the nice ass who we kept playing leapfrog with. He’d be stopped and we would wander past, then I would continue walking and he would wander past. Couldnt help but admire his ass! When we finally wandered into Zubiri at around 5pm he was setting up a tent on the side of the river.
A lady offered us a cheap double room but I b lined for the hotel as I needed a bath badly. Husband was pretty keen on a private room also. Ten minutes and 76 Euro later I was soaking in a bath and loving it and husband was sipping a beer sitting on the bed! The hostel last night only cost 12 euros and here they were only meant to be about 8 but we were both in pain all over – me deule todos! We somehow made it downstairs to find some food and catch up with some other pilgrims.
We spotted the Americans we had breakfasted with, the Aussies walking for Parkinsons (www.willtowalk.com.au), and the young American brothers Chris and Tad who were walking part way with their Mum and Grandma. The Irish group were there drinking beer again and eating what looked like great tucker and they had a good laugh when they heard of my vocabulary breakdown. I had a red wine and water – I could barely walk so I didnt want to overdo it. Husband had a beer and we headed up for a pilgrim dinner with Chris one of the young Americans who, having had a couple of drinks, was sure he was going to marry the beautiful Swiss barmaid.
These pilgrim dinners are pretty cheap by all accounts – around 10 euro gives you three courses and usually a glass of wine (but the wine was extra at this place). Anyway we didnt hang around long as that comfy hotel bed was beckoning so we literally pulled ourselves up the stairs and hit the sack! Surely tomorrow would be easier! I was adamant that I would do a shorter day – today had been 22.38 kms with over 6 hours of actual walking time! For the first couple of weeks I am keeping my steps for a while for a team challenge at work. My steps hit the 40000 mark and when I went to update my work health challenge site having finally found wifi, the computer warned me that 40000 was over 5 hours of walking and it asked me had I made a mistake – I had no desire to argue with the computer knowing full well I had walked the k’s – even if it was subtly accusing me of lying – but it took me a lot longer than 5 hours!