Like a stroll in the park for some that is. While we were eating dinner last night there had been some rain and thunder and, just as the resident comedian and chef at St Jean had predicted, it was not before we had reached Orisson. This rain had created the beautiful rainbow yesterday so we went to sleep on full stomachs literally sleeping above the clouds.
Today we awoke early because of fear of more storms and wanting to have plenty of time to get to Roncesvalles. As it turned out the synchronised snoring snorting and grunting meant that we were not overly refreshed as we started off but the sun was shining, the birds were singing and again we started up the mountain with smiles on our faces. Very different to last year whence my beloved and I could barely see 10 metres in front of us, and if I recall correctly, it rained for most of our journey down which of course limited the opportunity for breaks and definitely restricted photography. This year the views were spectacular.
I’m not sure that these photos give a true indication of how steep some sections are but there was ample opportunity over the next 18km to enjoy some spectacular scenery and actually see the animals whose bells had rung out the whole way last year and had left us mystified as to what they were.
As you might imagine I strolled along with happy thoughts feeling so lucky to be able to return to the Pyrenees – knowing how inexpensive the accommodation is and knowing that transport is free (if you exclude any pharmaceutical products and medical interventions required for an injury or two) I was feeling so pleased that my legs were working and my preventative strapping had ensured my feet were actually pain free! Can you believe it? After all that pain last year I was actually enjoying the view and apart from being a little slower than others (but not the slugs and snails this time) I was finally feeling how others must have felt going over the mountain into Spain.
It wasn’t all roses mind you. As we steadily ascended the next 700 metres we would occasionally feel a misguided sense of relief as the path plateaued and even descended at times. With each step the freshness turned to chill and it wasn’t long before we stopped to put our warmer layers on and I even found my hands too cold for the poles and pulled my gloves onto my hands. A stark contrast to yesterday when I found myself overheating on the ascent in the sunshine. We were still on a sealed road when we saw ahead the van that sold hot drinks and snacks. Whilst he was out of the wind it must have been near freezing where he was located as we didn’t feel sitting there was ideal and Michelle suggested we head further up and find somewhere else to take a break.
Just off the road a couple of km’s on, and somewhat further up the mountain, was an emergency shelter with some logs outside and we decided this was the ideal place to take a real break and eat our ham and cheese rolls. Michelle pulled out an avocado and we sat warily as the vultures started circling. I had just finished telling Michelle that, according to some stories on the Internet, there was a lady who had fallen in the Pyrenees and the vultures had picked her to the bone before rescue workers could reach her! Needless to say we were not overly impressed with this unnecessary attention! Thankfully they decided we were far too alive to tackle and headed off to find some other more tasty prey!