- Distance Today: 7.3 mi.
- Distance Camino2017: 7.3 mi.
We Left SJPDP at 6:15 am. thru the Spanish Gate opening onto the main medieval route crossing the Pyrenees commonly known as “la Route Napoleon “. The paved road became very steep immediately as it passed thru some residential areas and likely discouraged any pilgrim who had second thoughts about taking on the Camino Frances. The road cliimbed for what seemed like miles but actually a few hundred yards and then flattened out somewhat as it passed through some rolling hills and small farms.
Along the way we met a young couple from Madrid walking to Burgos… she has a friend attending UNC. Jim walked at their slightly faster pace for few minutes then dropped back wishing them a “buen Camino”.
All too soon, after a big bend in the narrow road the paved road became very steep and began an aggressive climb up into the Pyrenees.
With little or no relief, we climbed upward for nearly 2.5 miles before leaving the paved surface into mountain side pasture land.
The pasture land offered no relief in the climb so we stopped for a breakfast snack after 1.5 hours into the walk, under one of the few trees along the way. We rewarded ourselves (and our tiring bodies) 10-15 minutes to share a nectarine and a small piece of quiche. (We sat on the same log and rock that beckoned us to take a break in 2012.)
We moved on as the path ultimately rejoined the pavement a half-mile later at a potable water spicket and continuing another 3/4 mile until the road crested and sympathetically leveled and gradually descended a few hundred yards to the Orisson Refuge.
We were not alone as we struggled these first 4.5 miles of the Camino Frances, considered the most difficult of the 500 mile journey. Everyone we encountered this morning, regardless of age, sex or physical conditioning just smiled and shook their heads at the nearly overwhelming challenge we were experiencing. Our pace and others included a lot of stopping every 20-30 paces throughout the steep climb. But we still averaged about 2 mph. One measure of the steepness was Linda’s Fitbit which indicated she had climbed 251 floors!
When we arrived at Refuge Orrison at 8:45, we picked a table on the patio overlooking down on and across the Pyrenees. We removed our packs and changed from walking boot/shoes to sandals to let our feet cool and recover a bit. We further rewarded ourselves with cafe con leche, basque cake and then hot chocolate.
A lady from N. California stopped by our table and Jim helped her by explaining her hydration pack operation. She asked about how we found places to stay, reservations, etc and we shared some of our experiences and gave her some suggestions before she moved on with her “group”.
While we enjoyed being off our feet, the ever changing skies clouded up and it got cooler so and we moved inside the Orisson Refuge restaurant area. We charged phones/cameras, made blog/journal entries and otherwise relaxed until lunch.
So far, today’s experience on the most difficult stage of the Camino Frances was hard, without a doubt, but didn’t seem more difficult that our first time in 2012. It may have been a little easier because we knew what to expect. Since we are 5 years older than during our previous trek, we are encouraged about what lies ahead.
We finished our breakfast quiche for lunch and continued today’s walk to the Vierge de Baikorri at 12:15. Though still steep, the walk was not as difficult as the one to Orisson. Occasional level sections gave us some relief and the inclines were about half. We arrived at the Vierge at 1:45 pm, as the clouds/fog rapidly moved in. We took some photos and then sat and relaxed, while waiting for a shuttle to take us back to SJPDP.
We’re feeling great, for sure tired, but actually relieved, having successfully completed our first day of Camino 2017 and looking forward to Day 2.
The shuttle arrived at 2:30 pm and we were back in our hotel room, taking showers by 2:45.