Day 4 – Roncesvalles to Bizkaretta

Walked: Today: 7.8 mi/Camino 2022: 29.4 mi

We left Roncesvalles this morning at first light (6:48, 53F and no rain!). Our walk was a pleasant relief from crossing the Pyrenees.

An hour or so into the walk, we stopped for breakfast at a favorite bar just before entering the small village of Burguete.

Nice bar ( and restroom) … can’t pronounce Basque name .
Dos cafe con leches, dos tostados … (note the ingenius packaging for sugar and stirrer.)
Wall art facing the bar-restaurant

We walked on into Burguete, a picturesque village….

“Main Street” Burguete

…exited directly into farmland… then forests, then back onto pavement, thru another village, back into pastureland, back into forest, etc. …you get the picture? If not see below:

Cute Basque pony
Espinal … another charming Basque village
lots of photo op scenery today
Nearly a mile of pathway was paved (concrete) on the way into Bizkaretta.
Finally, after 7.8 miles in just under 4 hours walking, we stopped for lunch at this bar, before entering the very small village of Bizkaretta .

We got to La Posada Nueva, a Casa Rural, much like our B&B type lodgings in the US. It was early, at 11:45, but in our experience, the owner will let us check in, or at least have access to the property to wait until our room is ready, which they will often expedite.

Blogger’s note::“Posada” means “hostal” in Spanish, an inexpensive hotel, where mostly, private rooms are rented that usually have private bathrooms. “Hostels” mostly rent beds, in shared rooms and renters as well share bathrooms, common areas including communal kitchens.

Today, we were not so lucky. Jim knocked on the locked front door and shortly a lady answered and in Basque, we guess, explained clearly that she was still cleaning and we could come in at 2 pm or after 2 hours, we think. Jim then negotiated in Basque? sign language and got the wait time reduced to either 1:00 pm or “ in an hour”. The lady said there was no place to wait, so Jim suggested the “jardin”, which yielded the first smile by the lady since the initial encounter. She pointed in the direction of the side of the house… and quickly disappeared behind a newly locked door.

We said gracias and found a large gate and discovered a small area beside the house with an outdoor table and chairs… our makeshift lobby.

It was still quite cool outside so Linda donned her jacket and shifted her chair to a sunny spot. Jim decided to skip the jacket, but also moved into the sun. After 30 minutes, Jim impatiently decided to explore the village on foot, needing some more exercise after our nearly 8 mile walk. When he returned, the lady was sweeping the dust off the door stoop and Jim moved toward the door and received what was assumed to be a welcoming nod. Welcome to the Camino!

For lack of a better option, we agreed to have dinner in the Posada, even though it will not be served until 7:30. So, after doing our “after the walk“ routine, we read, blogged, dipped into our “snack stash” and reviewed the “plan” for tomorrow, until dinner time.

We were the only guests dining tonight in the Posada. We were served a traditional meal of two eggs over easy, french fried potatoes, two thick slices of ham, sliced baguette, a simple, but tasty tomato and lettuce salad (fresh from the owner’ garden) dressed with oil and vinegar and melon for dessert. We also has local Navarra red wine… always good.

Tummy’s full, we headed back to the room for a good night’s sleep.

Roncesvalles

Back in July, we booked 2 days in Roncesvalles as a precaution in case we needed extra time to get over jet lag and to adjust to the time change. This was in keeping with our paced approach to Camino 2022.

Fortunately, we have overcome the jet lag and we’ve settled well into the Spanish time zone… plus we are recovering quickly from the intense “workout” of the previous two days, tackling the Pyrenees. So, today will give us some additional time to get over the sore muscles. It also rained all last night and it continues this morning. The forecast for today is 99% rain! Tomorrow, the chance of rain is 5%!!! Nothing beats a good plan.😉

Casa de los Beneficiados

Our temporary home, the Casa de los Beneficiados (Hotel Roncesvalles), was built in 1725 for clerics ( beneficiados) who helped the Roncesvalles based canons in their ecclesiastical work. During the 500 years before that, it served as housing for pilgrims, was destroyed by fire and rebuilt and was used as temporary headquarters for a Napoleon general in 1813, who shortly and hurriedly returned to France, freeing it again for los beneficiados. The interior was completely renovated and converted to a hotel in the 1920’s by the Principe de Viana Institution, responsible for the conservation of the cultural heritage of Navarre.

Hotel lobby
Our “apartment”…. ensuite with large shower not shown

We just took it easy all day and stayed inside to avoid the downpour. We prepared an “opportunist” lunch in our apartment, consisting of croissants (saved from our breakfast) and refrigerated, leftover Carrilleras de Ternera (veal cheeks) from last night’s dinner. Yum!

The main dining area last night.

Tonight we had dinner once again in the Hotel Dining Room featuring a scrumptious ensalada for Linda and baked sea bass for Jim,

Dinner tonight
Linda’s “ ensalada”

Before calling it a day, we re-packed our backpacks for an early departure tomorrow morning.

Day 3 – Croix de Thibault to Roncesvalles

Walked: Today: 7.0 mi/Camino 2022: 21.6 mi

We had planned to have our taxi return this morning to the Virgin de Baikorri, where we finished yesterday. But on our trip up the Pyrenees by taxi, we decided to cut ourselves some slack for today’s walk. Our driver, instead, drove 2.2 miles past the Virgin to the Croix de Thibault, located at the point where the Camino leaves the pavement and heads upward toward Spain. So the Croix (Cross) is where we began today’s walk.

At the Croix de Thibault, approx. elevation 4000 ft.

Immediately, the path became very steep and more like a wash of deep rock laden gullies. This continued for nearly 30 minutes until we finally reached a wider path/ narrow farm road that took us to the Fountain of Roland at the Spain/France border… which was a cattle guard/gate (unattended).

Getting very steep as soon as we left the pavement.
Tough terrain and rocks
One step at a time!
Finally walking “ normally” toward Spain
Fountain of Roland just a few steps from the France/Spain border

Several miles later we passed the emergency shelter that we and a dozen other pilgrims used in 2012 to get a half hour of relief from gale force winds with horizontal driving rain. dense fog and 50F shivering temperatures. We always stop here for a few minutes, to take a break before the final steep climb to appreciate the beautiful clear, blue sky, refreshing breeze and be thankful for this special, strategically placed refuge.

Approaching the Emergency Shelter

For the next half hour we climbed a final steep, pebble covered road, passing a beautiful Basque horse (we bet our grand- niece, Abbie, would like to ride) and continued until we reached the summit of the Col de Lepoeder, to begin the trecherous descent into Roncesvalles.

Onward and upward… one more time!
Looking back and down at the shelter.
A Basque horse (Pottoka)
The Roncesvalles alburgue at center photo.
Gully at the right begin the descent to Roncesvalles.

The most difficult 1/2 mile of the Camino, thus far, was the struggle to maintain footing and avoid a major leg injury on the initial descent down the mountain from Lepoder toward Roncevalles. We used our trekking poles to hold us back and maintain balance over the root and rock covered wash-of-a “path”. But even with this extra precaution, each step risked becoming a potential Camino ending disaster. When we finally reached a more manageable walking surface our legs had become like jelly, near collapse.. and we struggled the final few miles into Roncesvalles. Our photos, don’t adequately portray what we experienced. Our photos are also limited because we were too involved trying to survive, to let go our our poles to free our hands to hold a phone to take a photo!!

Very steep, walking surface beginning to deteriorate…. near 45% decline.
Very steep here, walking surface beginning to improve some still ~ 45% decline.
After the initial 1/2 hour, still steep, but better footing.

Our backpacks were waiting for us at our hotel. We began to recover as we sat down while checking in and then made the way to the our room. Our room was roomy, upscale and comfy. The recovery process continued as we lay down and within a half-hour we were seated at our table and eating a ham & cheese baguette we brought with us from SJPDP.

Hot showers followed by a short nap and some blog writing got us to 6:00 p.m. when we sat down for a delicious dinner. Soon after, we retired for the day… still alive… a bit sore… and hopefully getting stronger.

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.

Day 1: Pamplona to Zariquiegui

Walked Today: 7.04 mi Cummulative: 7.04 mi

This morning we unofficially began Camino 2022, walking from our Hotel in Pamplona to Zariquiegui. Though still in transition mode, today we logged some miles over a variety of terrain, at near our targeted 7.5 miles/day pace with less than full backpacks.

Beginning our walk at daybreak to avoid the heat… note Camino marker on sidewalk
Walking thru University campus as we left Pamplona for Zariquiegui

We’ll be heading to SJPDP, France tomorrow, via bus to begin the actual first stage of the Camino Frances the following day. When we pass thru Pamplona, several days later, we’ll get a taxi from Pamplona to Zariquiegui, and begin walking where we finished today.

Today’s 7.0+ mile walk was nearly twice the longest distance we’ve walked during our training, which began in early July. The elevation gain over the 7 miles was over 800 feet… over 8 times the typical elevation gain during our training. Our pace was about 6 minutes/ mile slower than our average training pace.

Interesting scenery as we climbed toward Zariquiegui
Looking back at Pamplona just before reaching Zariquiegui

Since we were not overly tired when we finished the walk today, we are feeling pretty good about our strength and stamina at this point. And our fitness level should improve, gradually, as we continue our paced approach over the difficult terrain we’ll face in the next 4-5 days, crossing the Pyranees Mts from France into Spain.

We rewarded ourselves with a delicious lunch at Cafe Iruna, located on the Plaza del Castillo, just a few blocks from our Hotel and located in the center of the medieval fortress of Pamplona and along the Camino de Santiago.

Getting there…

After a 30 minute weather delay, our flight left CLT on August 11 for an incredibly smooth and eventless journey across the Atlantic.

We landed in Madrid on August 12 at 7:03 a.m., essentially on time. In spite of the smooth flight, nice inflight dinner and breakfast, we slept lightly and fretfully(typically), for at best, a total of 2 hrs during the 7 1/2 hour flight.

Clearing customs and retrieving our backpacks took an unusually fast 30 minutes. A free 20 minute train ride from Madrid (MAD) T4 terminal to Atocha train station in central Madrid went smoothly, allowing us a couple of hours to get a second breakfast of cafe con leche and tostadas. Our train departed at 11:35 and delivered us to Pamplona on time at 2:55 p.m. A short 15 minute wait in the shade for a taxi, seemed longer in the 99F heat. Five minutes later, we were delivered to Hotel Maisonnave, our base for the next three days.

The three days in Pamplona are to give us some transition time to recover a bit from losing a night’s sleep, to adjust to crossing 6 time zones and to make a few final preparations on our way to St Jean Pied de Port, France.

Blogger’s note: As we walked out of the Pamplona terminal wearing our backpacks, a gentleman greeted us with “are you the people who are walking the Camino for 68 days”. He (Paul? from Miami) had discovered our blog and was beginning his first Camino. Ironically, his wife has speculated that maybe he’d see us. Perhaps we’ll see him again. A nice way to begin our Camino.

Welcome, Jimandi “follower”

For first time followers and anyone who has not explored our blog site, here is a brief tour:

As a follower, you are currently reading an e-mail containing our most recent post.

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Please keep in mind, that every page on the site has the Menu link in the upper left corner, allowing easy navigation within the blog site… especially if you get lost!

Ready to go

Since mid-July, we’ve been preparing for the Camino.

We’ve been establishing a routine of going to bed at 9:00 p.m. every night to assure a good night’s sleep before getting up at 6:00 a.m. By 6:30 a.m. dressed and wearing our walking shoes/boots/sandals, we begin walking outside, in and around our neighborhood. We typically have walked 2-3 miles before returning home for breakfast. After breakfast, because of the extreme heat and humidity, we’ve driven to our local YMCA and walked another 2-2.5 miles around an indoor track. This has been to establish a routine, similar to what we will use daily for our walk across Spain.

In parallel, to our physical preparation, we have been identifying and gathering those items we will need to carry in our backpacks to support our 2-month, 500 mile walk. During the past week, we have been paring down to only essential items to minimize the weight we have to carry on our backs.

Preparations for Camino 2022 are essentially complete. The final tests have occurred in recent days as we loaded and weighed our backpacks (Linda’s at 21lbs and Jim’s at 23lbs) and walked with them to re-acquaint ourselves with the optimum settings and adjustments (after 3 years of non-use) to assure maximum comfort during our walks.

Yesterday, we received, via email, our approved Spain Health Control document. This, along with our passport and Covid Vaccination/Booster ID card will enable us to clear customs at the Madrid airport.

Tomorrow morning, we”ll drive to Charlotte where we will leave our car with our daughter, Amy, and then check-in at CLT for our flight to Madrid.

Camino 2022 … why again?

Even though we thought we’d walked our last Camino in 2019, we’re now about to do it at least one more time!

We’re three years older and recovering from a “post 2 vaccinations+2 boosters” mild version of Covid-19. Like most victims of the “plague”, we are still experiencing the tiredness that accompanies just about all of our activities. Fortunately, our fatigue is not debilitating but more of an inconvenience and a good reminder to pace ourselves.

So, the plan is for Camino 2022 to be an approach for us to work our way back to full recovery from our Covid experience to normalcy. A “paced” approach, coupled with the ever-present healing forces of the Camino Frances will, hopefully, expedite our progress to a full recovery.

Camino 2022 … here we come!

While sitting on a Caribbean beach this spring, the subject of walking the Camino Frances once more came up and after a brief discussion, we decided we definitely wanted to do it again. The next question was when? The unanimous response was “sooner rather then later” (while we were still healthy and able to do it). So, we set some dates and began the planning and making reservations for planes, trains and initial lodging.