Day 1 can be summed up: OMG! Which when you think about it, is exactly what pilgrimages are all about: Oh My God, please forgive me for I have sinned…..
Only 8k but 7.9 was all uphill. 3 hours to go 8 k. Some of the grades are 45%! Steffen took the lead, and we soon lost sight of him. There are some people younger than me but not many, and they soon pass us, as do older Norwegians. This was something I came to learn: Norwegians always passed me. I think they are super-humans. We leapfrog others, passing them when they took a break and likewise, they passed us when we took a break. Towards the end, I have to stop every 100 ft or every shade tree whichever comes first. My heartbeats are 144 beats per second and after a few minutes drop to 122. I wonder if this stopping and starting counts as interval training. If so, and if I survive, I will get fit, real quick. Most people go straight from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles in one day. But it is one hell (think penance) of a day. I think I would quit if we were to do it in one day. At the speed we are doing it would take us 12 hours. 16 k uphill from 200 meters to 1400 meters, followed by 8 k downhill.
THE guide book which 90℅ of English speaking people follow, suggests daily ‘stages’ and stage 1 lists the distance from St Jean to Roncesvalles as 26 k but it also points out that adjusted for height, the distance is equivalent to 32 k. Putting this into perspective, we purchased a guidebook which suggests you do the whole climb-the-mountain-and-get-over-the-pass in one day – the FIRST DAY!
However, a post in a Camino forum warns you and planted a seed that maybe staying at the only albergue on the mountain at Refuge Orisson at kilometre 8 might be wise. Thinking jet lag, we opted to break it into two days. Thank God we did!
Hallelujah! A downhill. Not much, not for long, but a definite downhill leading to our destination. Steffen is there at Orisson sipping a beer on the veranda with incredible views over the Pyrenees. Most people at this point in time are donning packs and heading on, uphill. We throw our packs off and order our first café au lait of the day. Diane from White Rock was leaving as Steffen arrived. She must have started a couple of hours before us. He hadn’t noticed if she was wearing her pack or if she had used the luggage transfer service. Many people had used this service. Two brothers from Millan had driven their gear in their car, dropped their car (and gear) off and caught a taxi back to begin their walk. They planned to do this every day.
We are assigned a bed in a room with 6 bunk beds. I grab a bottom one close to the door and the only window and I am the first one into the shower. Rule of thumb: get your bed, get a shower wearing all your walking clothes. Wash everything, hang clothes up on laundry line so they are dry for tomorrow, then have a 20 minute snooze. Linda and Steffen are working on their second hour of snoozing
It was a rough day.