Orisson to Roncesvalles – Part 1

Breakfast at Orisson

It was to be a restless night for me, in part I think because I was excited about what the next day would bring and in part because Elizabeth turned out to be quite a monumental snorer. So I was a bit bleary-eyed when I got up at 7, quickly splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, packed up, and had a typical pilgrim’s breakfast of bread and jam, juice and tea. I was on the road by 8; surprizingly I was the first one to leave.

Jo Anne had been right: today’s 17 kilometre walk wasn’t as demanding as yesterday’s, although my thighs did complain rather loudly about the steep descent into Roncesvalles.

The walk itself was quite lovely, winding through dense forest with incredibly varied vegetation. I saw everything from holly trees in full berry to beech trees waiting for their spring foilage. And just in case I needed a reminder of home, a section of the walk was still snow covered.

My entrance into Spain surprized me…there was just a cattle guard separating the two countries. Certainly there were no customs officials around, so my passport shows no indication that I was ever in Spain. I met a German pilgrim named Stefan and we took photos of one another standing at the simple stone marker that indicated we had entered the Spanish region of Navarre.

I passed by a couple of memorials – a harsh reminder that people have actually died on this section of the trail. While today’s weather was perfect for walking, there have been times when hikers have been caught in snow storms in the pass and have perished.

A couple of hours later I walked into Roncesvalles, a tiny community with two hotels, a tourist office, museum, the church and monastery, and of course the rather astere looking building that was the albergue, which has been around since medieval times providing shelter for pilgrims crossing over the Pyrenees.

Magical yes, but truth be told, this was the Camino moment I had been dreading…sleeping in one room with 120 beds! Yup, it was going to be a very interesting night!

Orisson in the early morning light
Abandoned boot along the trail
A cattle guard is all that stands between France and Spain
Snow on the trail
A memorial to a hiker who died in this area
The Roncesvalles albergue
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