It’s not a secret that I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago myself. I’ve actually walked the Camino Francés twice. The first time was on my own (at least starting out). The second time was a year later, with my husband. The Camino likes to keep calling you back. And I will, no doubt, respond to its call again.
I was looking through my old journals, taking a look at how I was feeling when I began my own Camino. Prior to walking, I was a bundle of nerves and full of anxiety! Much like how Aubrey was feeling in CAMINO WANDERING.
Before long, the excitement took over. That’s evident in some old posts I wrote for the travel blog I owned at the time. I felt like a fish out of water, but I wanted to swim with the rest of them!
Today, I’m sharing my first journal post. It’s rough, I’ll warn you. But for the most part, it portrays what I was feeling.
Authors Note: I began my solo trek, walking 800km from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, on April 15th, 2018.
Saint Jean Pied de Port – The beginning point for the Camino Frances.
April 14, 2018: Saint Jean Pied de Port.
I have made it to Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, after flying into Biarritz Airport, from Stansted Airport in England. My knee went out as I climbed the stairs of the plane. Between that and my twisted ankle from Iceland, it’s an interesting start. Just more to add to my anxiety.
I booked the Express Bourricot shuttle from the Biarritz Airport, to the Tourist Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, as there was a train strike in France the day of my journey. No trains were running between Biarritz and St. Jean. It was very straightforward. The airport shuttle was a life saver. With a few other pilgrims, we loaded up and were delivered to Saint Jean Pied de Port by 7 pm, then directed to the Pilgrim’s Office to get our Pilgrim Credential, before the office closed for the evening.
It has been raining on and off in the area for two weeks. I’m a little worried about how that will go, but it is now clear, so let’s hope it remains that way. The old town of St. Jean is beautiful. Full of cobblestones and history.
I’m eager to wander the village. I need to buy some walking poles from the shop across from the Pilgrim office, and see if I can find a sim card for my iPhone 6s. Wifi is sporadic at best.
I have met some interesting people so far. A true crime writer from the UK. A girl who has finished her walk (walking from another spot in France). A Spaniard who is on his 4th Camino. And a girl from Germany who is waiting for her lost luggage. Interesting, for sure, and all communicating through butchered French, Spanish and English.
My first night looks to be on the top bunk, in a room of seven beds. That will be entertaining… for my roommates AND it will be a miracle if I don’t fall off.
April 15-16, 2018
St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Roncesvalles, Spain, via Orisson.
It’s taken me two days, but I have made it across the Pyrenees – woohoo!! The views from St Jean Pied de Port to Orisson on my first day were absolutely amazing.
The views since: non-existent. Just like the wifi.
Let me rewind a bit.
Walking to Orisson, 8km upwards, was absolutely gorgeous. The views were postcard-worthy. It was hard walking up the hills so I’m glad to cut it short on the first day to stay in Orisson.
The day was a hard slog for me. I kept stopping to take photos, so it took me longer than most pilgrims, but I decided after the first hill to just take my time. There was no rush. I’d get there eventually. And I did.
Orisson was interesting. I had to wait about an hour after arriving to get my bed. They had a lunchtime rush – it was 1 pm when I arrived) – so it was bustling with tourists and locals alike, all there to enjoy the beautiful views from their outdoor patio. Pilgrims seemed to fill the gaps. After finding my bed in my dorm – a lower bunk, thank god – I showered and (mistakingly) washed my clothes. Not a smart move when it’s pouring rain and little hope things will dry. (Post note: The rain continued all night and my clothes did not dry. I had to carry the wet clothes in a plastic bag to Roncesvalles… you’ll understand more as I continue).
A communal pilgrim meal was very basic but the communal atmosphere was entertaining. I met more pilgrims, including some from Canada, England, Mexico, the U.S., the Phillipines, and even a Kiwi. Happy to find others speaking English, so we exchanged stories. We were all VERY excited to be there. But I’ve got my suspicions about the ‘true crime’ writer. He disappeared from dinner right before we each stood to introduce ourselves. And his story kept changing…
Walking from Orrison to Roncesvalles was brutal. I was in a lower room, under the patio in a dorm room of ten. After a night with a dripping wet wall from all the rain, and consequently being awake most of the night, I woke to fog and rain. It continued all the way to Roncesvalles with wind and even some sleet. I can see how people would get lost, especially in that kind of weather.
Going down the mountain into Roncesvalles, after continuously climbing, was ah… challenging. I missed the “alternate route” sign (due to the weather) and came down the steep way. The Pilgrim Office in St. Jean Pied de Port recommended NOT going that way… oops.
But I can now consider myself a kickass Pellegrina.
I slid on the decline in some the mud. Unfortunately there were rocks beneath. I’m okay but have very sore knees. And now I’m in Roncesvalles, I am tired as f***. But after a shower, some washing completed for me (best 3,50 euros ever!), a pilgrim meal for dinner, 800mg of Ibuprofen, I feel… so ready for bed. I am exhausted. I don’t even think the nattering of the Millenial Spanish Girls (who zoomed by me on the way down and am now sharing a pod with) will bother me. But, I have earplugs to block the snoring and my lovely down blanket. I’m cozy in my pilgrim cocoon.
POST WALK NOTE: I heard about a week later that nine people were rescued from “the mountain” the day I walked from Orrison to Roncesvalles. I can see how that could happen. It was a serious reality check of how dangerous that trek could be but the pilgrims were given the green light to walk the Napoleon route the morning of.