20/04/12 Day 1. St Jean – Roncavelles. 29.3km

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The Teddy Bears picnic.

We headed for Valcarlos this morning after breakfast and saying goodbye to Jane. We left at 08.20, a bit later than planned. We had a gentle climb out of St Jean in light rain, getting used to the wet gear and packs as we walked. we hadn’t gone too far before we were wet inside and out from rain and perspiration. Once we got off the main road the walk was along nice country lanes and tracks. Not a huge amount of pilgrims on the road but we had several chats to those we did meet. We were advised in the pilgrim office to ease into the Camino and stay the first night in Valcarlos, but we arrived there at 11.20 and after a snack and a powwow we decided to keep going as we were nearly half way there.

The walking was much tougher after Valcarlosas as the gradient got steeper. Now and again the way leaves the main road and plunges into deep ravines, beautiful paths through woodland and fast flowing streams. But what goes down must come up, so we had to climb all the way back up again. This was done to cut out long bends in the road.

We met a group of pilgrims on one of these trails having a break and we joined them. They were sharing a bottle of wine. It was like the Teddy bears picnic in the rain. There were Josh and Sara from Sandiego, Ana from Hungary, Hazel from Scotland, Dave from Scotland and a few more whose names escape me. We had a drink and a laugh with them and moved on again. We would meet these same people on an off again throughout the whole Camino.

As we neared the coll it got very cold, wet and steep. we finally stopped at Alto de Ibaneta, 1057mts, and had a break at the little hermitage. Jane and I had been here before in 2009 traveling in our Camper van so it was nice to see it again.

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We walked the last 1.5km to the Albergue in Roncavelles and checked in, tired, sore, wet and cold.

   

The staff were really nice and gave us two lower bunks which was just as well because I doubt either of us had the energy to climb to the top bunk. It is a huge albergue but warm, modern and comfortable. The showers were hot so I had a long one and it worked wonders on the sore muscles.

We met a few people who we had met in St Jean and who had decided to walk the Napoleon route and they were not in good shape. They told us conditions were very bad and given the choice again would have taken the Valcarlos route, a few looked to be in shock and one guy said to me when I asked how he got on “I must have been mad”.

We washed our gear and relaxed for a while then went for the pilgrim meal. It cost €9.00 and consisted of soup, trout and chips with yogurt to finish, also lots of vino tinto. We had a few beers after then hit the sack. I slept until about 01.00 then the snoring woke me, I also had a bad case of leg jiggles where my legs were intent on doing a Clare jig without any input from me. I slept again from about 03.00.

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