No photograph can do justice to a Pyrenean morning. The dawn light over the mountains is just stunning, and again I could have sat on the decking area (this time with a café con leche) and just stared my way through from darkness to dawn to day. Love it. And it seemed to be a good day too.
Again the road goes up, but not as steeply as the day before. Just up, gradually and beautifully, revealing more and more of the views around. We were among the last to leave Orisson I think, but again we were planning on taking it easy – and I don’t walk in the dark. The first part goal is the Virgin of Orisson, a surprisingly small statue of Mary and child perched on a rock overlooking a stunning mountain vista. You can just about see her there; I was more interested in capturing the fog dozing between the mountains below. Everybody had that I-can’t-believe-I’m-here look in their eyes and I don’t blame them. The views are breathtaking; walking above the clouds and seeing eagles soar below you is a fantastic feeling. When your legs start to feel tired, your eyes will coax them on.
Colleen and I played a good game of Sheep or Rock on the way up – these are sheep. Definitely. Top tip: Those that move, tend to be sheep.
Crossing into Spain is just a matter of walking past a stone marker. This is what a united Europe means to me – freedom of movement, the opportunity to walk across borders side by side with Brits living in France, citizens of Sweden and Switzerland, Spanish cyclists and groups of German ladies celebrating 50 years of friendship. Long may it last!
I’m sure the horses started running down the hill just to annoy the cows, who stayed put and probably rolled their eyes. The horses are a magnificent sight though when they set off. And they don’t care about pilgrims at all, apart from stopping if there is an apple or other foods on offer.
Finally at the top! We chose the path through the forest, though it is trickier, it is also prettier. After walking uphill all day, we had to get back down, so down, down, down it is.
When we got to Roncesvalles, it turns out they haven’t improved the system of booking people in – rather the opposite. At one point there were at least five albergue volunteers standing or sitting around while ONE hard working and remarkably un-stressed looking lady was in charge of booking everybody in as well as selling them dinner vouchers. I’m sure there were two, one on either side, when I was there in 2012, swaying on my feet with dehydration. People/pilgrims have walked all day to get here, so why on earth they don’t take out the ridiculously large desk thing and put three or four volunteers at work checking people in, and one to manage the much smaller queue? Instead there was a system of coloured necklace things which kept one volunteer busy handing them out and another checking you have the right colour. Fingers crossed they sort this system out. Lovely buildings though.
Apart from the checking-in ceremony the Roncesvalles albergue is a classic and gold standard on the camino. It is spacious, clean, massive without seeming it, and the bunks are divided into cubiclets of four, each with its own lockable cupboard for the pack and valuables.
We got our vouchers for a 7 o’clock dinner at the best of the two regular restaurants, and I really enjoyed my meal, the company and the wine. At our table were the three German ladies, who had walked in two-week stages every year from their home town in Germany, and who had finally crossed into Spain; an Irish lady with a contagious smile; a Dutchman, a Frenchman, and a young American lady – the normal camino mix.
We had decided to walk further than the normal Zubiri stop the following day, so should really start earlier to beat the heat, and after a quick night cap we went for an early night to match.