07-07-2011 Saint Jean Pied de Port – Roncesvalles
Here we go. Wake up. It’s 6.47am. I already woke up earlier but noticed it was still dark outside. I enjoyed my breakfast with a nice cup of coffee. Huib told me yesterday that we could start together. That was also in my opinion a good plan. We left together. After walking some time we met Marcello, he’s from Ecuador but is studying in Spain. Before we knew we were walking with 3. After walking another few moments Huib told us we wanted to do some stretch exercises. That seemed a good plan, it’s 28 km walking in the mountains. Be careful with muscles and joints. You don’t want to get injured here. Today I will walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, which is approximately 28 km.
When we were doing the stretch exercises Sarah and her boyfriend came. They asked me if I forgot my sleeping bag. They were sleeping in the same room. Yes, I did…. First shelter (Albergue) and I forget my sleepingbag. I told to Huib that I had the feeling forgetting something. Damn, my sleeping bag. I thought some minutes how I was able to being so stupid to forget it. In a splitsecond this changed into a full acceptation of the situation and I wasn’t thinking about it.
After walking a while I saw some intestines on the road. On the other side of the road was the owner of the intestines… a fox. Strange, the nature here.
I noticed how many people were walking. You keep meeting new people. People with the most different nationalities. I can remember till that moment I met people from the countries: USA, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Korea, Japan, Hungary and Germany.
While walking now and then the emotions kick in. I saw 2 memorial signs. Pilgrims who died. At the first sign I was thinking about myself. You can die every moment. The second sign I got an emotion which are related to my dad. The pilgrim had the same birthyear than my dad. I’m happy my dad is strong at the moment but it’s getting into your mind for a second.
Sometimes you are standing still. Literally. If you look around in those moments…. impressive.
After walking 9 km we bought a sandwich with Spanish ham. It was delicious. We were on 1/3rd of the day.
When we came on top of the mountain we saw a white van. Jan was also been a pilgrim before and he wanted to giveback now. He slept and lived in the van. He marked all nationalities which passes on his van. For a little ammount you could buy a (hot) drink and snacks. I bought a multifruit drink and a muesli candy bar. There were 2 young German girls arriving as well. One drop something on the floor and how a good gentleman is supposed to react I bent over to pick it up. I only forget 1 thing. I had a backpack of 12 kilo on my back and because of this weight I was pushed to fall on the table with all things on it. Fortunately I could break my fall thanks to the help of Huib. That went good. Never forget I have a backback on my back.
During walking in the Pyrenees we constantly heard the sounds of bells which were around the neck of sheeps and cows so you can hear their presence. At a certain moment it was quiet…. suddenly there appeared dozens, maybe hundreds sheeps in front of us without making a noise and moving, staring at us to see what our plan was. Really unrealistic sensation. Those animals make so much noise and suddenly so quiet. (see picture below)
Walking was getting harder and harder. You cannot compare walking in the Pyrenees with my practice sessions on the Sint Pietersberg in Maastricht. The real tough part is also not walking the mountain up but going down. This is hurting so much on your knees and feet that I’m not able to write down how much pain this gives you. On a certain moment, I think 4 jm before the end of todays stage, I wanted to start crying. I gave commands to my legs to walk but they didn’t move at all. A really frightening moment. I thought I wouldn’t make it. How shall I be able continue when my legs are not able to move. I was on my physical limit. Huib and Marcello were giving me good support. I took a short break of several minutes and tried again. I was able to walk again. I had read in the book of Paulo Coelho about this journey on the camino that he sung a song which he remembered from his youth when experiencing difficult times. I was thinking I had to try this also as I don’t have anything to lose at the moment. Unbelievable! It actually worked. Apparently if your mind is busy it distracted the body from the pain you are experiencing and you can continue. Afterwards I asked Huib if he heard me singing. He said yes but he thought I was really over my limit so he didn’t response on that moment but also saw it worked for me.
When I arrived in Roncesvalles I was unable to change my clothes in a normal way due to the pain. Huib noticed this and asked me if I also wanted to eat in the restaurant because it’s mandatory to make a reservation. I said I would like to walkvwith him but that’s not possible at this moment I had to wait. He said don’t worry I will make the reservation for us all (also Marcello). I said that’s good I can take a shower. After some time Huib was back and I was just entered the bathroom for showering, that slow was I. I just walked from the sleepingroom or hall is a better name to the showers.
I walked with Huib and Marcello to the restaurant where we can enjoy our pilgrim menu for 9 euros. They gave us water and wine. We sat for some minutes and I saw a Mexican woman come walking inside the restaurant. I recognized her. She had helped me during going down. She saw how much pain I suffered during going down and offered me a stick. I told her what did the most pain and she offered me to an alternative method to lace my shoes. It worked! I noticed less pain. We talked in Spanish. Now she was in the restaurant. I asked her if she wanted to join us. She liked that. Her name was Inierta and had studied Chemical science. She had a Mexican nationality and lived till now in the US. She is going back to Mexico. We spoke with each other and something unbelievable happened. When she asked everyone on the table why you walk the camino she stopped when it was my turn. She said… Don’t worry you are ready to marry the woman who you love this year. I was looking amazed to her and to the other people sitting with us on the table. I asked Huib afterwards in Dutch if he asked heard that. He asked me if I told her something about this. I said, no we didn’t speak about that. Curiously. We ate macaroni and then fish with fries. It was enjoyable to eat this.
We were all really tired. I asked to Huib if we start tomorrow together. We agreed that the first one who gets awake wakes the others and that we will start walking at 7. I went sleeping at 20.30. I’m curious what tomorrow holds for nice surprises.
My first steps in the Camino de Santiago in Saint Jean Pied de Port