I know I know, you thought I’d hurt my foot didn’t you? I did I did – but does that mean I have to sit at home and live life through the television or a book? No of course not (although I have come to like Game of Thrones immensely). I had undertaken all the rehab I was told, I had been swimming every day for a couple of months, I had purchased every podiatrist invention possible (and more) to ensure my foot could handle a few kilometres up and down a hill.
With that in mind, and knowing that Michelle had headed back to Spain in order to hike from Saint Jean to Pamplona because she had missed that section last year, I thought I might suggest to her that I had a personal interest in the first two days of that section also. You see last year I had been quite unwell in the weeks leading up to our Camino. I had also suffered a gastro bug on the first two days out of Saint Jean and had seemingly tortured myself by taking the necessary drugs and then dragging my pack up and over the Pyrenees at the start in order to meet the deadlines only I had given myself. I, for some reason, wanted to know what it felt like for a normal person in good health to undertake the crossing from France into Spain across the Pyerenees. I wanted to feel a sense of achievement in arriving at Roncesvalles after walking from France, and not be so overwhelmed with pain that walking to the shower was near torture.
So here I sit in the front lounge of the hostel in Pamplona with a magnificent view of the Cathedral out the window beside me. This hostel wasn’t even here last year and it’s the perfect place to catch up my blogging and reflect on an amazing few days. This is how the story goes….
Michelle you may remember is a super hiker. Yes that’s right, this is the lady who hiked back a few k’s to help carry a friends pack one day after reaching her destination and dumping her own stuff – among other amazing feats this is the lady who also broke the 50km barrier to catch us up near Santiago, I did not want to hold her back over an area that some say is the hardest part of the Camino, but I so wanted to go back to the beginning and enjoy the experience, do it properly. As luck would have it Michelle was happy to have my company as she set out again and was as excited as I was at the thought of heading out together. So we bought bus tickets in San Sebastián and headed to Bayonne to catch the train up to Saint Jean Pied de Port. Woo hoo – back to the camino and more importantly, back to the Pyrenees.
Passing through Bayonne brought some memories to us both – for me they were memories of the start of a gastro bug and my husband breaking our selfish stick; for Michelle however the memories were tugging at her heartstrings and reminding her of the dashing Frenchman who had once lived there. Either way we both were pleased to move on to Saint Jean Pied de Porte.
Initially our arrival frustrated us as we had just missed the Pilgrim office and had nowhere to leave our packs. We settled on the little cafe opposite and enjoyed a beautiful salad and slice while we googled and booked a bed in an Alburge (or however the French spell hostel).
We took turns at ducking down to see if it was opened until a knowledgeable local suggested we open the door as others had been leaving their packs. Oops – bad move – Mr Hostelier may have just been in the midst of a marital row, he told us to look at the door – “if it is closed you don’t come in – when it is open you come in!” With that he chased us down the corridor without any information on exactly when it would open. Unfortunately we had already paid online — clearly not always the best choice – but you never know when you are going to miss out on a bed.
After wandering around town we returned to find the door open – at this point a very friendly wife and husband greeted us and showed us to a lovely clean room with a beautiful view over the village and the Pyrenees. Same man – different time. As it turned out he was not the main receptionist. He was the chef and the resident comedian of all things! The Moroccon lemon chicken was delicious. We had spent an hour or so plotting our next move had he still been grumpy on our eventual checkin. Proof that first impressions are not always right. We had a great nights sleep and prepared ourselves for the first 8km and 800m up the mountain. Buen camino!