Sunday, August 4th
Jean Pied de Port
Okay, bring it on, just bring on them Pyrenees ...
And the head o'Jesus has been replaced with a plastic dollies' head. This is sheer genius.
'Scuse me while I just wring the sweat out of t-shirt. Okay, the first part is difficult. But just walking slowly, just keep one foot in front of the other, keep a steady pace, no need for heroics. It levels out. Talking to people, as I'm able to do for the first time, helps no end.
The first 12kms were continually up, but it was on the road, or on a grassy path, but just keep moving. The line of pilgrims behind me, marching, like ants. Ants with brightly coloured backpacks. As Philippe, whom I'm walking with says, it's a beautiful sight.
A few metres short of the cattle grid that is the border between France and Spain.
Eagles soaring. Blackfaced sheep. Resting at the Fountain of Roland, very considerate of him to think of the pilgrims who'd appreciate cold, fresh water.
Je suis le Chemin
Heath covered hills, fôret, then zig-zagging down the hill. Hard on the knees.
Piece of cake, crossing the Pyrenees was an absolute piece of cake.
Waiting here, at the monastery, with the hundreds of other pilgrims, and at least one busload of pilgrims. There's old ones, young ones, biker ones, sweaty ones, flaked ones resting on the grass under trees.
Didn't know it at the time, but I was first in the queue for a place. Thought I'd found the end of the queue, settled in, turned out to be the front. When the office opened, filled out a form, name, address, religion, how I arrived in Roncevalles (foot, car, bike). Got my second passport stamp, then the first 20 are taken to our room, where people claimed a bed, then queued for the shower. Cold. Maybe it takes time for the heat to move it's way up to the fourth floor, but maybe cold is all you ever get. Don't know yet.
a little later
Outside the Roncevalles hotel, in the sun, like everybody else it seems. Philippe is doing his best to chat up a blonde Danish pilgrim, who's here with someone who may be her mother. We've a table booked for 8:30 here, the 'menu de pelerin', 6 euros, and you get wine with it. Had to show the pilgrim passport to qualify.
Had a couple of
beers with Philippe and Guy. Recognized a few pilgrims from the French side,
but not that many, although there's hundreds pilgrims now. It's quite strange.
Meeting others, some Australians, including Zarah from Melbourne. Don't normally
seek out other Australians, but they're a welcome relief after a month of
listening to French and tortured English.
Speaking of which, Saint Francis and Clementine are staying in some kind of military tent somewhere, as the refugio filled up too quickly. They must have stopped somewhere for lengthy conversations, and the obligatory two hour lunch break.
Discovered that the refugio we'd planned to stay in tomorrow is closed, for some kind of festival, and the next one is 6kms after that. Maybe we'll just get a room in Zubiri anyway, rather than the refugio. They're cheap enough. Whatever happens tomorrow, happens.
The Menu de Pelerin was noodly-things, then salmon and frites, then neopolitan ice-cream, and vin rouge.
At the same table were two Belgian chicks earnestly discussing their reasons for doing The Way, and one of them was to sort out some relationship problem with some guy who's having dependency problems. Whatever, I doubt that he will be worth the pain and blisters she's in for, she should give it away, immediately. One Australian girl should already have given it away, as you cannot walk 21kms in sandals and not get massive blisters.
Finished with a coffee with Philippe. He inspires everybody.
Much, much later
But there's lots of people good-nighting each other, and maybe, for most of them, it's their first real night on The Way. There'll be whispering and chatting galore amongst all the kiddies. Most of them will give it away within three days.