Day 1 – St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

How can we describe today? One of the most physically challenging things we’ve ever experienced but at the same time, getting the most stunning view as a reward! 

We knew that the first day was meant to be tough. But no words could’ve prepared us for what we endured!

We left St Jean Pied de Port at 7am while it was still dark and the church bell chimed as we left the gates. What a fitting send off! But that was as “fuzzy-wuzzy” as we would feel for the rest of the day.

We were climbing and climbing and climbing hill after hill after hill – every muscle from our waist down was screaming to rest every few steps. Our shoulders and backs were weakening and our arms were getting sore by the minute. Thank goodness for walking poles! Those poles saved us and we were so glad to have invested in them.

But honestly, the scenery was spectacular. As the sun rose behind the mountains, there was this most majestic view across the Pyrenees. Photos would be so much better to share but the internet connections are not great, we will get them on FB when we can find faster internet (this post is being uploaded on Day 2 of the walk).

As we got higher and higher, to about 1000+ metres, we were basically walking through clouds. The visibility was so low, we could only just make out the people up ahead, or the posts marked with the Camino “Clam” shell. We walked past roaming horses and sheep. It felt a little enchanting and eerie at the same time being surrounded by grey clouds, every which way.

We have met so many lovely people. As any other pilgrims bypass, everyone says Bonjour, Hello, Ola, Buen Camino – there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie knowing that we are all embarking on this mammoth pilgrimage. All conversations don’t even need introduction of names, most are about where you are from and why you are here. It has never been so natural talking to so many strangers every day.

We had read that “the Camino provides” & we did wonder what it would provide for us. And we found out today. We walked up to Orisson which is about 8-10 km from St Jean Pied de Port. And Le didn’t want to wear her hat prior to this and so it was clipped on the backpack. As we were leaving Orisson and walked about 100 metres, Le turns to David and says, “Can you get my hat?” thinking that it was visible, being clipped to the outside. David replies with, “Where is it?” It was at this point, we realized that the hat had fallen off. Somewhere. We went back and to search for it, when two Frenchmen walking towards us had picked it up and was carrying it forth….. For the rest of the day, Le needed that hat due t the fierceness of the sun– and if you know Le, she HATES wearing hats so it was so bizarre she even wanted it when she did.

Anyway, what did we learn today? We learnt about perseverance. We were so mentally and physically challenged but in the end because we stuck it out, we got to where we needed! Guess that can apply to life in general and we don’t need to know where we are going all the time because sometimes we just need to read the signs (either literally or metaphorically). After today, we know what we are grateful for. We take for granted our legs and the ability to be able to walk! Today, we felt so blessed that we were able to climb those horrendously steep hills, as much pain as we were in… we did it!!

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