Day 1 – St Jean Pied De Port to Roncesvalles 32km

We slept well, really well in fact despite sharing the room with 16 other people. Ear plugs and eyeshades did the trick and made it much easier for us to jump out of bed to my 6am vibrating phone alarm. We were the first ones up so had to be extra quiet whilst packing all our things. Breakfast was simple but did the trick; a few torn up baguettes with marmalade and butter. We were so excited to start the journey that only had 3 small pieces each. By 6.30am we were ready to go at which point we experienced our first goodbyes on our journey. Dokona and Leticia decided that they’d only walk 8km to Orisson as he had a stress fracture in his foot and didn’t want to overdo it on the first few days.

It was still relatively dark when we left the refuge, but the town was fairly well lit. We were ready and full of adrenaline so much so that we had our hiking poles out a ready to go despite it being very flat. We didn’t really think this through too well as my hiking pole kept getting stuck between the cobblestones and in the drain. There wasn’t anyone else walking when we started but we felt at ease knowing that ‘The Way’ is very well signed.

After about 2 hours of walking in the dark, the sun finally rose turning the sky pink and small groups of pilgrims slowly started to overtake us with the traditional greeting of ‘Buen Camino’. The views of the Pyrenees were absolutely breathtaking and I felt like I constantly needed to take a photo, but did have to remind myself that there was still 30km to go! We both walked at our own paces meaning Jason was always at least 100 metres in front. I have always enjoyed going at my own pace, it means that I don’t get breathless and my muscles don’t fatigue as much.

Along the way we played a game of leapfrog with a Spanish man in his late 60’s who stayed in the same dorm as us the night before. His English was limited but communication with hand gestures and facial expressions was enough for us to find out that he was walking alone and this was his third camino! He is clearly a pro needing only one hiking pole and had a fancy hikers gps device to keep track of his movements. I hope when we reach his age we’ll still have the stamina and drive to walk this trail again, actually I think I’d probably be happy to just be able to walk around the shopping centre!

The path today was a tiresome one, with about 80% of it being uphill. This meant we walked quite slow for most of the day. We started on the road then on grass, gravel, leaves and mud. During the first half of the walk we regularly heard the sounds of guns firing which we assumed were people participating in clay pigeon shooting, but as the day went on we realised it wasn’t that. As we walked along a steep track we heard the blast of a gun again which was followed by a flock of pigeons quickly flying in one direction. Two pigeons fell straight down and it was then we knew the pigeons weren’t made of clay. Soon after this we saw two young men with huge rifles run parallel to us along a hill, pick up a writhing pigeon and shoot another that was already on the ground. That was hard to watch and my first thought was ‘How is this legal? How can these guys be so cruel?’ But I quickly realised I was being a total hypocrite. I eat meat and I’m sure the animals that I eat aren’t always killed in a humane way, if there is such a thing. So my first lesson of the Camino is ‘Don’t be too quick to judge.’

The day was a mixture of having blistering sun, light rain, moderate wind and cloudy. This meant that we took our jackets on and off at least a dozen times.

The last 3km was a steep decent into an autumn forest. Downhill walking is one of my pet hates; my right knee can’t tolerate it and I have a massive fear of falling so the two combined does not make for a happy hiker. This part of the hike felt like it would never end so when we finally reached the town of Roncesvalles at 3.45pm, I was definitely ready to pack it in and hit the showers. The refuge we stayed at is a huge building which can house 183 pilgrims. It has been renovated so is very modern and clean on the inside. I definitely think we’ll sleep well tonight

Total cost for today
Breakfast – Free with room
Lunch – €4 each (pate sandwiches)
Dinner – €10 each (pilgrims menu -3 courses)
Snacks – €0.50 each (apples)
Accommodation – €12.50each

Total per person: €27

Til next time
Ann & Jason

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