19/04/12 El Camino

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About twenty years ago I read an article in National Geographic about a pilgrim walk through France and northern Spain ending in Santiago de Compostela. It piqued my interest at the time as something I might like to do at some stage of my life.

Over the years I came across more articles about the Camino but after a heart bypass I had all but given up hope in ever doing the walk. About six years ago my brother Iggy, who was home on holidays from Australia, asked me had I ever heard of the Camino. He had just read about it and said he would like to do it at some stage. We talked about it on and off for the last few years but got no nearer to doing it.

In February of this year I got an early morning phone call from Iggy saying “pack your bag, get your boots, we are doing the Camino”. He had his tickets booked for 18th of April until the 10th June so the walk was on.

I arrived in Biarritz on the 18th of April with my wife, Jane, who had come to see me off, and we met Iggy in Bayonne train station and took the train to St Jean Pied de Port where we had booked an apartment for two days with an April 20th departure planned.
The weather was pretty grim when we arrived in St Jean, wet and cold with a promise of more of the same. We got into the apartment, left our bags and headed out for a meal, as we had all been travelling since early morning. We ate in a lovely restaurant near the apartment run by lovely friendly staff. We met a couple there, who were on the flight from Dublin to Biarritz, and had a chat with them. They had booked a package Camino so their accommodation was booked all along the way and the bulk of their luggage was taxied ahead. we met them several times after this until Pamplona where they were having a rest day.

Woke to heavy rain this morning, that soon changed to light rain, no rain, then very heavy rain again. we went into St Jean and had the pilgrim passports stamped at the pilgrim office. While we were there a lady showed up looking for a taxi to Roncevalles, she had left to walk the Napoleon route earlier but after Orrison it got very bad and she turned back, some people who were with her continued on. She looked scared and tired.

We were advised not to take the Route Napoleon at the office because of snow, fog and high winds, so that was it, there was no way Jane was letting us take that route so the Valcarlos route was a go.

We got wet many times today just walking around St Jean but it was good practice for what was to come. Iggy bought a new walking jacket in one of the gear stores and we also posted our tents home to save weight as we figured we would hardly use them because of the weather.

It is a unseasonaly bad Spring in Spain this year so we are told. Our plan is for a 07.00 start tomorrow.

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