Day One of the Camino de Santiago, my 500 mile pilgrimage on foot from France to the end of Spain. Yesterday it was a hike of nearly 16 miles with an incline of 4,000 feet from St. Jean Pied de Port to a descent of 1,500 into Roncesvalles. The beer I had at the end was magical.
It was arduous, but both J’Nell and I did well and perservered. I was certainly glad I had been using the hill feature on the treadmill and elliptical at the gym the last few months. The excitement of the journey also helped carry me over and down the Pyrenees Mountains, as well as my newly purchased hiking poles.
Surprising, going up was a lot easier than going down. I had read that would be the case in the guidebooks, but for me, I had always welcomed a decline over an incline. Not Day One on the Camino. Maybe if you started at that descent into Roncesvalles it wouldn’t have the same effect, but after climbing so high and being on the trail for hours and hours, it was extremely taxing.
And worth every step.
Reflecting on the day as a whole, the word ‘Wow!’ keeps coming to mind. The sheer beauty of starting in the charming Medieval village of St. Jean and then crossing France into Spain in the Pyrenees was wonderous. The sweeping vistas of the mountains, walking for miles next to horses, cows and sheep on old paths, and having long stretches of time without hearing anything but the wind or a dinging bell attached to one of those animals … I’ll never forget it.
The accomplishment of the steps, floors, and miles of the day (all huge numbers according to Fitbit) is nice, but it was so much more than that. First, you have the fact you’re taking part and honoring the Camino de Santiago, the same pilgrimage people have been walking for centuries. Then there was the whole strangeness of it all, having never climbed a mountain of that size nor having stepped foot in this place in the world. But essentially it was being in the Now the whole day, taking in and enjoying every minute of the trek even when it was physically challenging … especially when it was physically challenging.
I also want to mention the great people I’ve encountered, the locals and my fellow travelers on the Camino. My French and Spanish is weak at best, but everyone has been so accommodating as well as appreciative of my linguistic efforts. I’ve also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to converse and hear the stories of the people on the Way.
I’m excited to continue the journey!
Here are some photos of my time from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles and hope you enjoy.