Following on from yesterday’s short but intense stumble upwards, today we had an ardous 19kms up and down the peaks of the Pyrenees. The picture of our route had us all a little intimidated, as it made the day before look like child’s play in terms of scale.
After not a lot of sleep due to a shared room of 12, my legs were burning and my knees fizzy during the walk to breakfast. It was only 800ms away, and quite a gradual slope, so I was a little concerned. Putting it down to the lack of medication, I rushed through breakfast to take them – giving my body time to get to work before the endurance test. Thankfully by the time we started walking again, the fizzy heaviness had gone.
Although not true to the pilgrim tradition, I asked the lovely Marylne if she could carry my backpack in her car as did Elaine and Cait. We put our essentials in one light bag and headed on up and up and up.
As we turned around the bend, freezing fog descended and did not leave us until we were 0.5kms away from Roncesvalles. I’m sure the scenery around us was lovely and, had we been able to see it, we would have stopped to enjoy the views many times. Sadly, I could barely see to the end of my nose and kept my eyes on the ground and looking out for markers to make sure we were still on track. In this kind of weather, a wrong turn was deadly.
When our path was blocked off with a danger sign, we took a longer route and worried that we were now headed in the wrong direction. We had been only 3.6kms from Roncesvalles but the road/path/slippery slope seemed to endlessly wind on. It turned out to be a long cut and finally we reached a church with a sign saying Roncesvalles was 1.5 kms away. The fog had started to lift by this point and we could see how lush the forest we were walking in really was.
Entering the monastery settlement was a huge relief and to be met with such a glamorous hotel, after our freezing cold gite the previous night, felt truly decadent. There were towels, hot water, comfy chairs and a bed you could sink into. Plus the beds were already made with linen which smelled like lemon.
For most of the walk I had felt strong, in spite of being cold and tired. In the end I started to waver but was too cold to stop to take medication. I knew if I could reach the hotel, there would be something warm to wash my mestinon down with. I slumped into a chair struggling to fish out my pills. Like magic, five minutes later I felt human again.
My cheeks are a little weather beaten and I’m baffled by the extra freckles gained in all that mist. While my body is tired, and felt thoroughly challenged by today’s mission, I will sleep soundly knowing that I have now completed the hardest two days of the whole Camino. Pyrenees section of the Way complete – next up is lots of forest walking with the chance of a little sunshine. Scrap that – as long as the fog stays on the mountain, I’ll be a euphoric Peregrino.