The hill walked slowly

The river running through St Jean
The river running through St Jean

St Jean Pied de Port to Refuge Orisson

Distance travelled: 8 km

We woke up to torrential rain this morning at 6 am, rolled over and carried on sleeping.

Finally, after a leisurely breakfast and good conversation, finally at 08.55, we stood on the bridge and took our first proper steps on our Camino!

And finally, we are on the Way!
Through the gateway at St Jean

The guidebooks were not joking about the relentless ascent; occasional flatter sections bring a thimble of relief to untested calves but at the next corner, the road rises ever sharply.  Pilgrims on foot and more so on bikes struggle upwards.  One pilgrim we passed taking a rest looked positively ill, with sweat dripping from her and every footstep seeming to be agony.  I was glad when she arrived at Orisson later and stopped for the night; she looked much refreshed by dinner.

Many pilgrims do not carry packs, having their luggage transported to their destination and their progress is swifter but for many, it is slow and steady.  SAM_0819As long as I kept walking, I could settle into a rhythm of one foot, the other foot, one foot, the other foot and I enjoyed the slow progress upwards.  Only our stops, which were frequent, interrupted my steady plod; they were necessary but made it painful to get moving again!

Yesterday, and all those other yesterdays began to unravel their knots in the wake of my steps.  Having originally thought that I would take this journey alone, I was rather concerned that my partner would interfere with this process by talking (he can definitely out-talk me!) so we agreed that ‘I’m telling stories now!’ would be our code for my need of quiet time.

What else would you want to see on the Camino but a donkey?
What else would you want to see on the Camino but a donkey? What is it about them that makes me smile?


Surprisingly, I never used that phrase today and in fact, the opposite ‘delirium’ began to set in; telling stupid jokes, making deliberately dopey comments set me giggling…giggling and more giggling.  How often, I wonder, do we let ourselves go as adults and do that?  As we grow older, we giggle so much less, time and tide weighing heavily upon us – until today!

And it is inexplicable how it changed everything.  How my aching neck from the morning eased with my shoulders.  How the tension in my spine and hips softened…how the pack lightened on my back.  As I stood, it was barely noticeable – maybe as the emotional weight melted, I was having a lesser load to carry?

We were not fast today; we didn’t have to be, knowing that we were only aiming for Refuge Orisson, 8 km up from St Jean Pied de Port, and with the bed already booked.  So we took our time and our stops, enjoying the cool, clear air and the stunning views over the valley below.

And the trail, it keeps going up...
And the trail, it keeps going up…

We knew we were getting close when I had recorded 10,000 steps on my Nike+ fuel band:  that equates to about 8 km and we murmured a momentary concern that we could, inconceivably, have missed the Refuge; but looking up the hill, there were peregrinos in front of us on an ever steepening road and I declared boldly that it ‘must be over the next summit’.  Who was afraid of the big, bad mountain?  Not I!

The Refuge appeared around the very next corner.  Today’s effort, completed in just under 3 hours; very slow but the emotional journey was well on the way!

Refuge Orisson
Refuge Orisson

Refuge Orisson charges 35€ per night for a shared room (6 to 10 beds), dinner and breakfast.  Expensive maybe by peregrino standards but a worthy stop; the terrace overlooks the valley and is a great place to sit and contemplate the world that has been left behind!

The views overlooking the terrace
The views overlooking the terrace