Day 1 & 2 of the Camino Wander – Conquering the Pyrenees Mountains

Saint Jean Pied de Port – The beginning point on the Camino Frances.

Saint Jean Pied de Port in France is the starting point for my Camino Wander. I began my solo trek, walking 800km from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, along the Camino de Santiago.

April 14, 2018:  Saint Jean Pied de Port.  

I have made it to Saint Jean Pied de Port in France after flying into Biarritz Airport.  Woohoo!

I booked the Express Bourricot shuttle from the Biarritz Airport to the Tourist Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port.  It was very straightforward.  The shuttle was a life saver since there was a train strike on in France the day of my journey.  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.

There were some delays, but the initial rain stopped when I arrived. It is now clear and the old town is really beautiful.

Tomorrow I will wander Saint Jean Pied de Port today, 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 the other direction), 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 is through butchered French, Spanish and English.

My first night looks to be on the top bunk, in a room of 7 beds in my Albergue. That will be entertaining… for my roommates and 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.

Day 1. 

Walking to Orisson, 8km upwards, was absolutely gorgeous. The views were postcard-worthy. It was hard getting up the hills but I’m glad to cut it short on the first day and 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), 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.  A communal pilgrim meal was very basic but the communal atmosphere was at least entertaining.  I met more pilgrims and learned of their stories. We were all VERY excited to be there.

Day 2.  

Walking from Orrison to Roncesvalles though was just brutal. After a night with a dripping wet wall in the dorm room (of 10 beds) and being awake most of the night and dealing with clothes that just didn’t dry overnight, 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 weather.

Coming down the mountain in 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.

I can now consider myself a kickass Pellegrina. I’m okay but have very sore knees from falling in the mud on to some rocks beneath. I am tired as f***. But after a shower, some washing completed for me (best 3,50 euros ever!), an improved pilgrim meal for dinner, 800mg of Ibuprofen, I feel… ready for bed.  I am exhausted.  I don’t even think the nattering of the Millenial Spanish Girls I’m sharing a pod with is going to both me.  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.  A serious reality check though.)

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