Like any good accountant, a few weeks before leaving New Zealand, I prepared a spreadsheet planning my Camino Way trip. This was shattered the minute I entered the Pilgrims Office at St Jean Pied De Port. The lovely English speaking Portuguese woman behind the counter, a five-time veteran of the Camino Way, explained why my proposed stop off in Valcarlos was not practical nor safe. I went back to my hotel room and decided to take her advice and do what the Brierley Camino Way guide expresses as the most challenging day of the Camino Frances is the walk to Roncesvalles.
Day One – beautiful but tough
Hard is an understatement. If I hadn’t met up with Dean, 34-year-old Melbourne executive, I would have expired somewhere up on the mountain pass. Then, just when we thought there was no more ascending to do, we would hit a mountain goat trail and wend our way even further towards the heavens. On this incline, we meet two Kiwis (now Australian citizens), Lisa and Mike. Team Anzac was born.
Thankfully, the albergue in Roncesvalles didn’t resemble the cavernous one in the movie The Way and was instead quite luxurious.
Day two – the challenge continues.
Day two was equally challenging; we climbed smaller mountains and came down over rocky goats tracks. Brutal walking even for those who trained. This definitely is not just a walk. The upside though is the people we have met along the Way. Team Anzac has gathered a crew of special people who all started out at St Jean Pied du Port, especially as at the end of a days walk a beer is not only well deserved but required.
Day three – Pamplona
The following day we started out in the dark heading out towards Pamplona. Somewhere enroute I feel down a slippery paved ramp, thankfully my backpack took the brunt of the thud and my legs splayed out in front of me. This was a tough day and it was only the promise of spending a night in Pamplona that kept me going.
Pamplona was everything I hoped it would be. Plus the accomodation in the Jesus Albergue was great. The bars, the tapas amazing. This time Lisa and I didn’t try to keep pace with the boys.
Day four – mountains and compeed…
The next day we wended our way out of Pamplona through dark streets and up into Cizur Menor then headed up into the mountains and wind farms, finally reaching Alto del Perdon and the bronze statues. I almost do not want to write about the ascension, seriously it was like someone had emptied five or six truck loads of boulders and stones down the hillside. Okay for mountain goats but challenging for human feet.
Needless to say we visit the Pharmacy almost daily, take at least a half hour each side of the day to repair our feet. We are the walking wounded – young and old, no-one is immune. The universe was looking after me when introducing me to Mike and Lisa as they not only are hugely generous but have an incredible medical kit.
As the computer is in Spanish I’m not sure how to edit – so the post raw, as perhaps I am. We are now on Day 7 and still walking.