So I have talked before about how my Pre-walking days were (How I went against the omens at the beginning, and getting to sleep at nowhere in Pamplona, and how I finally reached Saint Jean Pied de Port [SJPP], France, where I would start walking el Camino de Santiago)
And I have also mentioned how I met my friends on the Camino de Santiago, which was on the way I walked from Roncesvalles to Zubiri (2nd day of walking).
So I am now intending to fill in the blanks, with a short story about my first day of walking. From Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles: 27Km, includes crossing the Pyrenees, 1265m elevation followed by a steep 370m descending. Tiring? Yes!
So that day I woke up to my alarm at 6.30 am, I slept really well, given I have slept from 7.30 pm to that time, undisturbed! Deserved. So I wash up and change my clothes, pack my bag and go upstairs to find Tom and Camilla (the Czech couple I have met in Pamplona) still here. We had breakfast together. I suck in French! I know I do! To the extent of “Te, café ou chocolate?” question asked by the volunteer in the albergue, I couldn’t answer until Tom translated it to me. I was served coffee in a bowl (yes, a bowl), and I had two of those!
And then we head out, I have mentioned before the encounter with waiter at the restaurant who showed me where the way begins, and off we went. Climbing, climbing, and climbing. Did I mention that I didn’t have any water with me except for a small 0.5L bottle? Who said I was good at preparing myself? I totally forgot to stop at a supermarket to get water and any snacks (not that I wanted to drink bottled water, but I needed to buy a bottle to get the bottle!)
First water source I was told was 8km from SJPP, I didn’t think its much, forecasting the weather as a pro, very cold and very cloudy. Little did I know, after around 30 minutes of walking I was above all clouds! And boy did it get sunny, really sunny; I was feeling like the Pyrenees were the closest someone could be to the sun.
I kept sipping on my bottle, not wanting to finish it. Can’t I borrow from Tom or Camilla? They were ahead of me, we only started together, but those two were really energetic and fast! I was only concentrating on not getting dizzy, and not falling or twisting an ankle or a knee. Well I didn’t really concentrate on the views, they were everywhere! Didn’t need much concentration to notice how beautiful this place and landscape is!
2 hours later, I’m walking and not seeing anything but the dirt road I’m following, not wanting to look up because I didn’t want to see that I had so much left on that mountain, I hear someone calling me. I looked up and it was Tom, waving and telling me it’s the water fountain! I ran! I was happy just like a mouse who found a mountain of cheese.
I stayed there for about 20 minutes, filling the bottle and refilling it. The water was cold and refreshing. I almost had a shower in it, washed my face, arms and legs, wet my hair. Several times! Just wishing I would cool my body for as long as possible and I drank at least 2 liters in those 20 minutes.
Finally I filled my bottle one last time and started walking. Not much further, and for a happy moment I was descending (well I was happy for the change:D), and I see in the distance a parked car with lots of people around it. Approaching, “Last stamp from France, monsieur?” I go get the stamp, and buy a juice! Yes it was a portable café 😀 selling sandwiches, juice, water and beer. And with a sense of pride I sign the side of the van, writing “Bonjour” in Arabic, as I was the first Arab pilgrim/costumer they have had 😀
I happily drank my juice while walking, with dreams of the next water fountain! At that day I have actually met lots of people who I later made friends with, but at that day I wasn’t in the mood of talking or socializing. I was concentrating on getting there, thinking why the heck am I doing this to myself. But well, meeting them that day and exchanging just a word or two only served as a funny story to laugh at later, when I knew that this walk was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
A while later I re-met Tom and Camilla sitting on a cliff side and eating, I was really hungry! I didn’t have anything to eat. So anyway I went there and decided to take a break with them, they offered me some energy bars which I happily accepted 😀 and then walked again to the next water fountain. Again I had a ball there, washing and rewashing. Wetting all my clothes and drinking like crazy. I was smart enough not to throw the juice bottle, so I washed it and filled it with water and now I had two bottles! Adding up to less than 1 liter 😀
After sometime, I saw a sign saying only 8Km left to Roncesvalles, I knew I was soon to begin descending. I took a break at what I considered to be the highest point (I saw the way descending after that :D) and then started my way down to Roncesvalles, which was very shady, a walk through the forest, sounds nice? Well it would have been a perfect end of the day only if it wasn’t SO steep! I could hardly stop myself from walking! And it hurts the knees!
Roncesvalles! I was relieved when I saw buildings, a small water pond and two women soaking their feet in it. Out of breath I managed to say “Roncesvalles?” they laughed and said yes it is! And they told me where the main albergue was. God I was happy that day ended.
I wasn’t sure why I was doing this to myself, thinking I should go spend my time and money somewhere else, more comfortable and more fun. I’m glad I didn’t take any solid steps though. I am glad I stayed there and kept on walking to discover later that this is the best experience I have ever had! Life changing, and I would definitely walk it again, with one of the main reasons is to re-do the first couple of days with more concentrations on the surroundings than on the physical pain.