Day One: St. Jean to Roncesvalles, 25.1 km

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Last night at communal dinner we started the evening with introductions. We stated our names, where we were from and why we were hiking the camnio, the people and their reasons varied greatly. Ages 20-80 from all parts of the world, most people were hiking for some version of bettering themselves. I almost felt ridiculous that my reason is simply for the adventure. Although on today’s hike I met Sarah, one of three Canadian women about my age, who is walking with her mother. She too is walking for the adventure of it, stating, “my life is good right now, I’m not trying to fix it, I’m just enjoying it.” Which, pretty much sums up how I feel.

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Then, this morning, the dreaded Napoleon traverse. First, I should say, you don’t go over the Pyrenees, you go through them. Though the elevation gain and loss is quite a lot for a single days trek, mountaineering it is not. I walked with different people today, but only alone for perhaps a kilometer. It took 6.5 hours, including breaks to go the full 25km (33km adjusted for altitude). It was hard, certainly, but far from the horror stories I’ve heard. Rather, I feel great! Perhaps a bit sore, but nothing terrible. I do feel for those who hobbled in, complaining of severe pain and blisters, one of these days that could be me!
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The morning started out warm and easy, taking the road out of St. Jean. Very quickly, it began to wind upward, but time was easily passed by good company and gorgeous views. About and hour in, we all wished we were in shorts. A hour after that, we walked past snow in 30mph winds. Though the wind was merciless it wasn’t all bad, rather than think about the difficulty of the hike, you simply tried to stay on the road and not get blown over, which people did with varying success. But it was exhilarating! Heart-pumping in your throat, physical exhaustion exhilaration. I loved it.

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Back when I was reading about today I’d heard the descent in through the woods was steep and painful and had planned to take the road route instead. But then I didn’t, sort of accident, so down into the woods I went. And yes, it was steep, but it wasn’t bad. And those that did take the road? They experienced horrendous wind that required them to link arms to walk through it, several people were actually blown over. Best mistake I’ve made in awhile!
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And then, suddenly I arrived! Tried, but not terribly. I showered, did laundry, and chatted with the girls from Canada and a woman from Seattle. The Hostel here is modern, clean, and at €20 includes a full dinner.
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We’ll see how my body and feet feel tomorrow, but so far so good! I’m loving meeting all these great people, the physical challenge (and associated endorphins), and just being outdoors. It’s simple, and I love that.

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