France to Spain – Day One

I am sitting here with an Estrella Galicia beer under a hot Spanish sun. Just a few hours ago I was in a bleak, windswept landscape, high in the French Pyrenees.

A small reptile, not much bigger than a gecko, is inches from my foot. Like me  searching for shade, but all I can do is turn my back to the big yellow thing in the sky.

My day started at 4.30am when a fellow pilgrim, a young lady from Korea, decided to get up for a very early start. The owner of the Gite told me she managed to persuade her to stay until 6am. “Would you start a hike in Korea at 4.30?”, she asked.

I had a guy near me snoring most of the night. The kind of volume that laughs in the face of earplugs. I too snore at times, so cannot complain, it’s part of this life, and belongs on the Camino as much as the shell that adorns the 1000s of backpacks.

I started hiking at 6.45 after a very nice breakfast. It was n’t too chilly as I started the long haul up the Pyrenees foothills, and I soon passed many walkers removing their fancy outdoor gear.

I walked mainly alone this day, but I always had at least two or three people in view. At one point there was at least 50 pilgrims within shouting distance.

As we climbed up to the treeless peaks, the wind became strong, the kind of which finds any exposed skin. Head down in a head wind, I had a brief moment of sympathy for the Camino cyclists, as they barely inched past, their centurion like thighs working like pistons.

The wind relented as we descended, and layers came off. Of the 7 hours hike, 5 were uphill. Quite exhausting, especially for day one of a trail.

I was impressed with the ages of people overtaking, some of which had probably 20 years on me. I am slow uphill, but can seriously shift along the flat and downhill sections.

So I arrived in the tiny village of Roncesvalles, my place of rest for the night, at around 2pm. I got myself a bed and a shower. Here I sit with my beer, there are so many pilgrims around, it’s a little impersonal, but smaller places await, which will be more sociable.

I am booked for the pilgrims dinner at 7, and will dine on a table of 8, so should be pretty social, especially with free flow wine!

I stumbled upon a young American girl plucking a ukulele. She knew four chords but I managed to bump her up to six with a short lesson of D and E. Be nice to people and be useful too, not my words, but the words of President Obama.

I predict by 9pm that I’ll be tucked up in my sleeping bag, with a full belly, a slightly fuzzy head and the satisfaction that the hardest day of the way is behind me.

Feet: Fine! Loving my new Salomon trail shoes, for now.

Food: Toast, orange juice, coffee x 3,  TUC crackers, butter cookies, beer and the pilgrim menu for dinner. Dinner was soup, pasta, pork with chips, yoghurt, red wine and rose wine.

Feeling: a little tired on arrival, but feeling great now after a shower, siesta and cerveza.