Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb 13th St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles (27.5km)

The trip started off in St Jean with me snuffling from a cold. Whooo.

That morning, we were told off by the French woman whose hostel we were staying at. Our crime was getting up at 7 instead of 7:30. My year 10 French hadn’t been cutting it the night before when the instructions had been given out, and some Portuguese tourists tried to translate for us. From average French, to Portuguese, to rather poor English. So you can see how the instructions got fumbled. Our host just couldn’t seem to comprehend that we didn’t speak French, and kept making long speeches to us before looking at me in disappointment. I picked out the words Friday and breakfast, and felt secure that not ALL of my school French lessons had gone to waste. We were so desperate to leave her behind that we ate a less than adequate breakfast before venturing out into the freezing cold. And I really mean freezing. Snow was everywhere. The main Camino path was closed due to snow, so we had been instructed to take another route. Marking the entire way are small blue and yellow Camino signs, yellow arrows, and red and white markers. It’s very easy to find the correct way to go. We walked through a few small towns, stopping every so often to get a cup of tea and warm up. Then we followed the Camino map we had been given and plunged into a short cut. It was very rocky and slippery due to the weather, but nothing too dreadful. By this stage we had done maybe 14km, and my feet were getting very very sore. We emerged out onto the road again and trudged along a bit further until we got to the second short cut. It was impossible to say no to it. The road winded on forever, while the short cut just zapped from A to B. What a colossal mistake that was. After a little while, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by thorns. Too tired to turn back, we pressed on. The thorns got thicker and totally obscured the path. We continued. The thorns grew to at least a quarter of my height, so it was almost impossible to stand on them. Then we realized we hadn’t seen a Camino sign for a while. We saw another fellow, Nino, behind us, struggling on as well which made me feel better. Eventually we made it past the evil thorn grove to see the blue and yellow sign glowing at us. And BANG. We walked straight into the snow. Nino pressed on ahead of us, which made life easier because we could then stand straight in his footprints. Still, it was a slippery and arduous uphill climb. When we got to the road, I ripped my boots off to find two newly formed blisters and some semi-frozen stumps where my feet had been. Plus, it was at this stage that I realized I had drunk my 3L of water. But it was all so pretty! And the sun was finally out, so I couldn’t be too glum. We shuffled on, ignoring a sign for a third shortcut. I was moving at a pathetic pace, so we stuck our thumbs out. After a 4WD sailed past us, a Spanish guy pulled over and gave us a lift. Turns out we were less than 3km away from the hostel – we had done 27km uphill out of 30. Roncesvalles was beautiful. It was a lovely mountain town covered in snow. We ate a wonderful and massive dinner with Nino before retiring to our bunk beds with about 12 others. We made a new Swiss friend who seemed to find my sore legs very amusing. I however, did not. Still, it was a difficult and most excellent first day.

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