Camino Day 1

What a glorious day!

first step

We had a quick coffee and croissant and then took our first step on the Camino just after dawn. We decided the first step would officially be as we walked through the Spanish Gate at St Jean.

We walked out past beautiful green valleys filled with mist as the rising sun slanted fingers of light onto hills and farmhouses. Soon we were walking up into the Pyrenees with the trail getting ever steeper and the views getting ever better. The first day of the Camino is known as the toughest and the first 8km are the toughest part of the first day.

At the end of the first 8km we stopped for refreshment at the Orison auberge – coffee and fresh orange juice on the terrace with enormous views behind us. Almost all the morning involves climbing and yet more climbing – it is pretty tough and although we had trained for the Camino, Sydney doesn’t offer many chances to train at climbing 1000m in a morning.

We soon started meeting people and realized the fleeting nature of Camino acquaintances as everyone is walking at their own pace. We walked a couple of kilometers with a 73-year old woman from Utrech whose husband was driving their motor home to meet her at the end of stages. We met Umberto from Italy who was hoping to meet a single Australian girl on the Camino, and then walked with Marisa from Sydney who didn’t want to meet Umberto. We talked in German with a couple from a small village near Berlin and repeatedly bumped into three Englishmen from ooop north.

The sun shone throughout the day even though at times we seemed to be walking in a pool of light surrounded by clouds. And everywhere we’re these stunning views of the valleys and mountains. And the walk had its own soundtrack of bells hanging around the necks of sheep and cows.

As we neared the high point of our walked we went through several kilometers of mature beach forest with a thick carpet of moss. The path here was thick with fallen leaves and was like walking on a soft pillow.

Finally we reached the high point and started our descent towards Roncevalles where we are spending the night. The village sat elusively ahead of us as we wound down the hill, giving back so much of the gain we’d made during the day. Eventually though we reached our hotel set in building from the early 1700s but with a fabulous modern shower.

Roncevalles has been providing hospitality to pilgrims for a millennia and has a lovely church surrounded by whitewashed buildings. It’s a great place to finish the first day. And in stark contrast to most of Spain recognizes the long day people have had in getting here by serving dinner from 5pm.

We have been planning this trip for a long time and I have to say today was pretty much perfect. We are tired enough to feel we deserve the beer I’m sipping while writing this on the terrace of a bar, but we made it over the Pyrenees in sunlight and with smiles on our faces as we appreciated the glorious experience that was day one on the Camino.

Jennifer’s stats: 25km, 6hrs 24, elevation gain: 1438m

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