A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1 St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles 27 km

Slept great till 2.30am and then the lady in the bunk above was snoring and kept me wake for an hour but managed to go back to sleep until 5am and then got up. Packed, had breakfast of jam and bread and decided to leave at 6.15am and was the first to leave from our albergue. The streets were deserted through town and just as I was about to leave I saw 2 shadowy figures about 50 meters ahead of me. Thank goodness I saw them as I would have headed out the wrong way. I could just see them ahead of me and at 7am it started to get light and then another 3 people came up from behind and passed by. They were walking fast and soon lost sight of them.

The farmhouses became sporadic and it was a tough 8 km uphill to the Orrissen albergue which is the last sign of civilization for another 17 km as you cross the Pyrenees . Most of this section was on a narrow single road with the odd farmers van passing by. After about 4 km we left the road and went on natural pathways. You had to check carefully that you didn't miss turn offs and looked for yellow arrows of red and white painted GR 12 marks on rocks, posts or anywhere. They are mostly pretty clear but a few were confusing.

Most of this time I was totally alone and some times I could spot someone higher up than me or way below. The scenery was stunning looking back down the valley to St Jean in the distance, with the cloud settled in the valleys between the mountains. Passed cattle, wild ponies and black faced sheep whose milk makes a special cheese. Just before Orrisen it started to rain so the poncho went on. Stopped in at Orrisen at 9.45 ( had taken 2 1/2 hours to do 8 Km. Was pretty hard going with lots of quick breather breaks to slow my heart rate down .Filled up my water bottle at the Fuente (fountain ) outside , ate a power bar as I was starving and then headed out. Still drizzling so popped my rain jacket on and continued uphill.

Soon hit the mist which remained for the next 14 km as we went higher and higher over the pass. You coudn't see more than 50 meters in front of you and at times I was totally alone in the mist. Every now and then some shadowy from would be visible before or after you and then totally disappear . I could hear bells from around sheeps necks and then a massive herd would appear out of the mist in front of you. The mist was so eerie and cool but meant we had no views at all which was disappointing.

Out of the mist a parked van and tent appeared where you could buy snacks and drinks. He had writing all over the side of his van and would tick off which country you were from. Had a coke which boosted my energy levels ...so needed!! What was so encouraging at this point was info on his van saying we were only 11 km from our destination. We had already walked 14!!! Feet at this point were doing great but shoulders are pretty sore from the backpack

We now left the road permanently, passed a big cross and within a couple of km crossed the border into Spain - it was just marked with brick wall. Scenery we walked by was amazing. Right near cliff edges but couldn't see what was down below, no more trees just heather and wild flowers which then became just grass and rocks.

Not so steep now with parts that felt flat or just a gentle uphill. That soon changed again to steeper and heavier rain came. I was starving again and felt myself getting weaker and had been hoping to find a nice rock to sit on and eat my lunch. Ended up sitting in rain eating my ham sandwich so I coud get some more energy happening.

Passed through magical forests growing on the steepest slopes covered in moss. Just stunning! Around here I saw a sign saying just 2 1/2 hours to Roncesvalles and felt disappointed that it would be over soon!! My feet still weren't hurting but that was soon to change !!! Passed another Fuente to fill up the water bottles.

Reached the peak but no view and then started the 3 km descent and that was hard work and now the feet were hurting!!! Had been recommended to take the right hand track which was longer but not as steep and slippery as the shorter route. All of a sudden the mist cleared, the sun came out and way below in the valley was the massive building where we would stay..... Feet were now not happy so never was it a more welcoming sight !!

Walked again through more stunning birch forests covered in moss with a little stream running through. Arrived at 1.15pm so did it in 7 hours with just two 5 minute breaks. Checked in to the albergue for 10 E in this massive old monastery building with a cobble stoned entrance. Not allowed in until 2 pm so ripped off the shoes...... best feeling!!!!! Blisters started,shoulders soooo sore but really sore lower back from my backpack maybe rubbing. Hot shower, explored around this building and the old church and ordered my pilgrims dinner for 9 E from one of the 2 attached restaurants.

Chatted with my 2 Spanish male room mates - nice brand new accom with cubicles of 4 beds all open out on to the corridor so really about 100 people on this floor and another one upstairs. Bumped into my Danish friends from the station 2 days ago and the girl from Hungary I met at breakfast.

So tired and trying to keep awake for my 7 pm dinner!!! Really cold and don't have a thick sleeping bag and no sheets or blankets provided. Think I will still manage to sleep !

Windswept & rainy crossing the Pyrenees

Windswept & rainy crossing the Pyrenees


Leaving the road in France and into the mist

Leaving the road in France and into the mist


Pyrenees views

Pyrenees views


Arrows on rocks on the ground

Arrows on rocks on the ground


Ronscavelles monastery - our destination

Ronscavelles monastery - our destination


Sign to Orrison

Sign to Orrison


Orisson

Orisson


Looking down onto a lake of clouds

Looking down onto a lake of clouds


Orisson

Orisson


Marker & Mist

Marker & Mist


Van with nationalities past it so far today

Van with nationalities past it so far today


Cold & windy welcome break

Cold & windy welcome break


Esapgne ( Spain ) 1.5km Ronsavalles 11km

Esapgne ( Spain ) 1.5km Ronsavalles 11km


Black faced sheep in the mist

Black faced sheep in the mist


Sign into the mist

Sign into the mist


Near the top

Near the top


Mystical woods

Mystical woods


Looking through the mist to our destination

Looking through the mist to our destination


Heather and woods

Heather and woods

Posted by hillbillyramsey 17:00 Archived in Spain

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