The rise and fall
Orisson to Roncesvalles
Distance travelled: 16 km
It has been a day of contradictions. High cols, steep descents, walking to collect bikes. The people here too have been contradictory today, at first reluctant to help and then effusive in their efforts. Maybe it was just my timing?
As we rose out of Orisson, the first to leave at 7.30, it was just light, the sun just peeking over the dip between peaks. Wild horses grazed quietly on the grass verges and sheep bells jangled in the distance. Shepherds stood watching their flock, flicking their heads in greeting at the slow procession of pilgrims.
The road continued to rise and as it did so the landscape changed to a much sparser grass, gorse and heather, each meter of height stripping away the detritus of life, leaving only the peaks rising tall and proud.
I felt stripped too, stripped of my life baggage, of all that I have been carrying around with me daily. I don’t have the weight of the world on my shoulders anymore, but if I did, it would have melted at my feet today. Lightness and ease were my walking companions today and I could have walked forever!
The signs on the route were very clear, particularly as we passed into Spain. A concrete sign announces our arrival as proudly as the one informing the foot weary that we are 795 km from Santiago.
There were two suggested routes down into Roncesvalles, one taking the road and the other through the woodland with a warning of it as a steep descent. And it is steep; many chose not to take this on the 1st or 2nd day of their long trip, afraid of picking up an injury so soon. But we did, taking it like a snow-covered piste, sweeping from side to side. With no poles to steady me, biting knee pain soon accompanied me on the path. I picked up a branch and used that but it was too late by then and the pain persisted to the bottom of the trail!
Uplifted….and yet there is a weariness from a poor night of sleep. Last night in the hostel, I was so conscious of myself, my every fidget, every shift and every breath. I think I barely managed two hours.
And I couldn’t deny its effects. Slow, a little irritable and sensitive, it was a difficult and yet wonderful day. Contradictions, today, are my companions!
Bicycle wheels and scallop shells
We eventually managed to collect the rental bikes from La Posada despite the barman telling us, “You not stay here, is not possible!” Luckily I have been very organised and had the email in my possession that convinced him it was indeed possible and actual. When we, as instructed, reappeared in his bar at 3 pm, he no longer wanted my pidgin Spanish explanation and found someone to show us the bikes, all boxed and delivered!
Have you ever wondered why pilgrims carried a scallop shell? We found a miraculous use for it today – the sharp edge cut through the tape that sealed the bike boxes, a useful tool when you didn’t bring a penknife! Wheels on, panniers attached, the paperwork read, it was all quite easy. But I wasn’t in any mood for concentrating, faffing or being told what to do. Frustration and irritation quickly got the better of me!
A Menu Peregrino (10€ in Hotel Roncesvalles) helped me to chill again. Many went to a pilgrim’s blessing but we decided to stroll around the small village of Roncesvalles, stretching weary legs before an early bedtime.
We stayed at the Collegiata Roncesvalles, a massive hostel with 180 beds but the two bunks arranged in cubicles of 4 made it a little less dormitory like and somehow cocooned – was this like the Camino itself? A comforting cocoon for the world weary?