Today started strangely in that we got a taxi from Pamplona to St Jean de Pied Port and in 90 minutes we covered the distance that we are going to spend the next three days walking back over to Pamplona.
St Jean has been the meeting point for many trails to walk the Camino for literally a thousand years. People used to provision here and prepare themselves for what was considered the very hazardous crossing of the Pyrenees. Given that one of the prime hazards was bandits, today is considerably less dangerous but the basic approach is the same. The town is filled with people preparing to walk out the next day. Personally I am thrilled to be walking out, because the winding roads to get here left me feeling wretchedly car-sick and I’m quite happy to avoid cars for a while.
The highlight of our afternoon was getting our credentials for the Camino from the Pilgrim Office. The credentials are like a passport that gets stamped along the way to prove you have done the walk. We had a great chat – in three languages no less – with the volunteer handing them out and then suddenly it all felt real, we are officially on the Camino.
The pilgrim office keeps stats and we were the third and fourth Australians to register today. The largest number by a significant margin was Americans. In 2021 Americans came fifth after Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German walkers.
St Jean is a lovely starting point. It’s built along a pretty river and it’s main streets still run through the traditional gates that have been guarding the place forever. We did some sightseeing and tried the local Basque tart, which is a pastry filled with an almond cream and glazed on top.
Backpacks are now packed and we are ready for Day 1 tomorrow.