3 May: Roncesvalles to Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port

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Pretty as a picture. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re just doing the tourist thing and have forgotten all about charity: water.
But that picture shows only a snippet of the day, and not a representative moment by any means.
Not wanting to push the bodies too far too fast, we had decided to take an easy day today – just 14km to Valcarlos. That was until the phone charger refused to work late last night. Some people pooh-pooh the idea of technology on pilgrimages, but for me it is a means of sharing the experience with those who are not able to physically be here, but would like to be. Relationships matter.
Today is Saturday – if I did not get a charger today there would be no chance until Wednesday. Unless we found people who would lend us theirs, we would not be able to blog, to message family, to track our daily distance, to read the spreadsheet of details or the instructions for the next stage. When it became apparent at 6am that no one was suffering, we decided to just go for it and put in another long day. We were advised NOT to go over the mountain due to the poor visibility and mud, but to go around the low route. That doesn’t mean it was an easy day. We are still walking “backwards” along the track, and when we lost the path today, we didn’t ever manage to find it again. We were stuck on the road for over 20km, which in and of itself is
a) hard walking
b) dangerous
c) boring and
d) longer!
It was a day when we just did what needed to be done. We kept putting one foot in front of the other as fast as we could to keep warm, and hoped we were heading the right way. While no one complained, it was not enjoyable. The rain fell in torrents from the moment we stepped out the door.
There was a not-too-demanding uphill beginning and when we got to the ridge (at least we think it was a ridge – we really couldn’t see more than a few metres ahead) it was amazing to see the rain drive across in sheets. It was like seeing panes of glass fly! As we had neared the top, we had realised there was a large white house off to one side in an open meadow; it was so camouflaged in the haze that we almost walked past without seeing it! Which is exactly how we missed the first signpost and in doing so added extra distance. We could hardly see even the trees that were close to the path – they emerged from the mist as dark silhouettes lacking any detail. The mist/fog/haze was so thick it was like trying to look through a wall of marshmallow. We heard mountain streams trickling and torrenting down, yet did not see them until we were upon them. We didn’t hang around to marvel at the way they crashed down the cliffs – we just kept moving, sometimes not seeing much more than the drips falling from our poncho visors. Within an hour our pants were so wet that water was wicking up our legs under our rain gear. Have I mentioned it was miserable? At one point with a steep drop off to one side Micaiah astutely observed, “Well, if we fall, at least it’s just into a barbed wire fence.” He was trying hard to find the positives!
We were reminded that what we were walking through is also what we are walking for – water!
And I contemplated that the one day of difficulty for us is really nothing in comparison to the hardships lived by those without water.
Then when I fell flat on my face in a gutter while trying to get off the road to avoid oncoming traffic, it made me remember that those we walk for face real danger.

By the time we got to Saint Jean- Pied-de-Port, the clouds had disappeared, revealing the hills we’d just been walking through. We found…actually make that *I*, not we – the boys were aching and so they sat with a Canadian in his mid-seventies who is just about to start walking and who could spin a great yarn while I disappeared with the guy’s son, who was equally outgoing, to track down a phone shop. Mission accomplished – found a charger and can now publish a blog post! That was one minor accomplishment, but the whole day felt like a major one!!
Destination: Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port
28.6km
Cumulative total: 84km – 916km to go
Cold, driving rain, mist
Dinner: typical French four course affair…soup and bread + pasta, beans, cutlet + salad, bread and cheese selection + apple cake with chocolate mousse

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3 thoughts on “3 May: Roncesvalles to Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port

  1. an epic day – I really feel for you and congrats esp. to the boys for sticking it out. Well done. May the sun come soon!

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