May 12, 2011 Over the Mountain

A long and eventful day. We awoke at 07:00 and went to the pilgrim office (opens at 07:30, closed for lunch and dinner, closes at 22:00), then back to Maison Bernat for breakfast of bread, jam, orange nice, coffee. Back upstairs after playing with six month old Fiji (likes to teethe), then packed and headed out at a late 09:00. Stopped at boulangerie for chocolate croissants and bananas. On the road at 9:05.

Long climb to Orisson. Met Martin of Leeds. He speaks French and German well. Currently unemployed and thinking of TESL as next career.

At Hunta met three Israelis, one Quesbecoise. Names are: Gal, Yael, Doron of Israel. Lila of Quebec. Luke instantly bonded with Gal and Lila and pulled out his guitar and played for them at Hunto. Kept walking and met Roberto of Monterrey, Mexico and his cousin, Karen. Robert is a fluent English speaker and has business in Mexico City for package identification and ticketing. Met back up with Robert and Karen at Orisson and waited with Martin there for Luke and Rocky. Luke arrived with Israelis twenty minutes later, and Rocky arrived one hour later by herself. Had good, long conversation with Israelis as we rested from the climb. Clearly making good friends and am delighted to find these liberal Israelis ready and willing to talk geopolitics.

Before Orisson, fog had set in. Visibility was only about 20 meters. Left Orisson with Luke and Israelis, but quickly outdistanced them. Met Roberto of Mexico again, who had replaced his socks, and walked 1-2 hours with him until the emergency hut between Col Orisson and Col Lepoeder. Waited there for Luke and Rocky. Luke arrived with Israelis and his guitar case protected in a poncho. Is Luke bonding with Gal? She showed photo of him with guitar in poncho. At hut also met Roberto of Italy and 2 French (Philippe and Anna) with dog who began at Le Puy en Velay. They stayed overnight at hut that night, I learned later, and Roberto showed me beautiful photos of the bright blue sky when the fog had lifted). I waited with them there for Rocky and Luke. The fog was very thick, almost rain-like, and it was impossible not to get wet.

Daron and Yael arrived and wanted to take the easy way down, so I directed them to the path Roberto of Mexico had mentioned which turned out to be bad advice. Began walking to Roncesvalles with Roberto, but turned around after deciding to wait for Rocky, who was now quite delayed.

Rocky arrived after two Brazilianas and was all smiles for having completed this difficult stretch to the top of the pass. She was out of water and had begged a bottle off two Germans. I refilled her water bottle from my Camelbak. We set off together but she encouraged me to go ahead since she is slow on downhills. Walked by myself approx 2 hours to Roncesvalles.

Luke, Gal and Lila were already at the bright, new albergue at Roncesvalles. Luke had purchased tickets for third floor beds for him, Rocky and me. Beautiful, double rooms with half walls and comfy new beds.

Waited and waited for Doron and Yael. Finally went to the hospitalera and asked for her help to find them. After explaining the situation went to Cafe Sabina and called bomberos to go get them. Just after calling, Yael and Doron showed up in back of a red pickup. The path to which I had directed them was incorrect, dead-ending in a reservoir. The driver of the red truck had found them and brought them to Roncesvalles — thank heaven.

We all had a happy reunion, then we sent them to the albergue to get their beds. I stopped at 20:00 pilgrim mass in time to hear Gospel (John 6) and consecration of the elements. Went to dinner at Cafe Sabina and bought dinner for Doron and Jael as my way of apologizing. Had a long conversation with them about Israeli politics. They are both liberals and very enlightened about Israeli/Palestinian issues.

Back to albergue. Showered, did not wash clothes tonight. Lots of snorers. I’m back on the camino!

May 20, 2008 St. Jean Pied de Port

I arrived on the train from Bayonne in the late afternoon, after flying from Seattle to London, then London to Bordeaux. At Bordeaux I had caught a train to Bayonne and then the St. Jean train. At the train station there seemed to be a mad dash for the old city of St. Jean, where the albergues are located, and I realized soon each person was hoping to get a bed at an albergue before they were all gone. As I made my way through the gate to the city walls I decided to find a room, rather than stay at an albergue. I happened on the pension of Mdm Camino and took a single room with a bath at the top floor of her ancient home. The room had west-facing windows, giving a views of the homes and hills surrounding St. Jean.

After settling in I headed to the pilgrim office to get a weather report for the next day and to get a stamp on my credential. A helpful French woman with long black hair stamped my passport, gave me a list of upcoming albergues, and asked me whether I felt I could make the walk all the way to Roncesvalles the next day. I said I wasn’t sure, so she made a reservation for me at the albergue at Orisson, about 10 km up the hill from St. Jean. After finishing at the pilgrim office I headed out to enjoy this delightful, Basque village along with many other tourists who’d obviously arrived at St. Jean for its charm rather than to use it as their camino launching pad. I had a generous dinner at a restaurant outside the city walls, then headed to bed at Mdm Camino’s.