Day 2 – St. Jean Pied de Port to Virgin de Baikorri

Walked: Today: 7.6 mi/Camino 2022: 14.6 mi

Yesterday, we walked to the Pamplona bus station with our packs and boarded the noon bus to SJPDP. The 90 minute, 40 mile ride on multiple switchbacks up over the Pyrenees Mts then back down into SJPDP left us resolved to never come this way again even if it requires a circuitous detour in order to reach SJPDP by train instead.

We met Yuwen at the bus station. She’s from Taiwan and it’s her first Camino.

Upon arriving at our hotel for the next two nights, we found a note on the locked door informing us that the owner would not return until 3p.m.!!! An annual fete was underway in SJPDP with hoards of celebrants filling restaurant seats everywhere we entered and to make matters worse, no food could be had until 7:00 p.m. … refreshing our memories of this frustrating European tradition.

We finally found a small “dive” nearby and ordered drinks and some frites (french fries) and to use as a base while waiting for our room to become available. We passed the time searching for a restroom and passing by the pilgrim office to get our Camino credentials stamped.

Our room was basic but adequate and overpriced at 76€ per night. We crashed in the room, then ventured out at 6 pm and found a creperie and had galettes for dinner… the only food offering in town. Back in our room, we organized our stuff for our walk this morning.

Two beds, our ensuite bathroom and a place fir our “stuff”. Nothing special, but adequate.

We began our trek at 6:30 a.m. to take on the most difficult section of terrain on the Camino Frances.

Typical scenery during first half-mile walk
At the base of a steep switchback
Reaching the top of the same switchback

For the next 4 hours, at our “paced” rate of 35-40 minutes per mile, we covered 5.0 miles on foot while gaining over 2000 feet in elevation. We arrived at the Orrison Refuge at 10:30 and collapsed into chairs on an outdoor deck, overlooking the Pyrenees Mts.

Leaving the pavement, into the pasture
Linda, catching her breath
Taking a 30 second breather and taking in the view.
Back on the pavement, still climbing
We made it, to Orisson, after a 2000 ft climb!
Recovery time

At noon after a light lunch and time to recoup a bit, we set out again for another 2.6 miles at an additional gain in elevation of 700 ft. We arrived at the Virgin of Baikorri, 45 minutes earlier than expected and dodged occasional raindrops, enjoyed the cool breeze and the rest, until our punctual taxi driver arrived for our pre-arranged ride back to SJPDP.

Leaving Orisson, we were met by a few sheep who were anxious to move on.
The parking lot at the Virgin de Baikorri, barely visible at the top of a mound of rock. She’s only 3-4 feet tall.
Virgin de Baikorri up close… as we arrived.

Shortly after we photographed the Virgin up close, two frenchmen arrived in a van and went to work on removing the paraphernalia left behind by pilgrims. As they were leaving, I suggested she looked much better. One of the men smiled and said she had been desecrated and showed me a bag of the trinkets and other items they had removed. I asked him where he was taking it. His response was “ poubelle”, which is french for “trash can”.

The Virgin after a cleaning.

The most accurate medical description of our condition after our walk was “ pooped”. But since it didn’t kill us, we believe it must have made us stronger. We are also feeling very good about what we accomplished today, having wondered if we would be able to do it.