Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

Today’s distances: 7.8 km
Total distance: 7.8 km
Elevation gain: 628 metres
Weather: Mixed sun/cloud and cool – perfect hiking weather
Highlight: Pyrenees

I would enthusiastically echo recommendations given by others about Beilari being a good place to stay in St. Jean! Joseph (host) and Matthew (cook) are excellent at what they do, helping to make it an enjoyable evening of camaraderie, laughter, and good food.

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Joseph (host) and Matthew (cook) 

Eighteen of us gathered around the kitchen table before dinner getting to know each other. All but four spoke English but Joseph was a good translator helping the French and German couples feel included. After introductions, we gave our Caminos various names such as: Love, Reflection, Recovery, etc. I named my Camino Three-Caminos-in-One and didn’t explain why because we were asked to keep it brief.

Joseph forgave one young man for going on too long when he explained why his Camino is named Love. He is from the Netherlands and the lady love he is walking with is from Germany. They met on the Camino two years ago around Pamplona and walked all the way to Santiago together. This year they are walking together the short stretch of the Camino from St. Jean to Pamplona that they walked separately before because they hadn’t yet met.

When dinner was ready, everyone pitched in to set the two tables and then there was a moment of silent reflection/contemplation preceding the delicious, healthy vegetarian meal and Spanish wine from the Rioja region.

I was happy today to start climbing the Pyrenees via the Napoleon Route, even though it is strenuous – definitely not a walk in the park! The stunning views made it worth the effort. Dave and I agreed that the first two days of our first Camino in 2015 was our favourite part. Pilgrims in the Middle Ages took the Napoleon Route perhaps to avoid bandits on the low road. We do it now for the scenery, although they say the lower Valcarlos Route is pleasant too.

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St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

There was a couple driving a rental car who was having their own adventure on the Camino offering to take pictures of pilgrims who were walking by. The woman took mine. We spent a good minute at first, though, working out how to communicate. French? Spanish? German? English was the right answer in the end. It turned out they come from Halifax. She said she should have known I was Canadian because I look like one. Really?

I walked on and eventually the couple drove past and rounded a bend. When I got to the bend I saw their car stopped with a young man lying on the road. I assumed the worst, of course – that he had been hit by the car. Thank heavens it was much less serious than that. The young man was suffering from a severe leg cramp. With the help of two strong men on bikes who came along just at the right time, they managed to get the young man into the back seat of the car so they could drive him and his father to Orisson for help.

By the time I got to Orisson less than one kilometre further on, the tourists from Halifax with the car and the young man and his father were all sitting together on the patio having a grand old time. The leg cramps might have been caused by dehydration. Water was the cure-all! On the Camino no one ever passes by someone who might be in distress.

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Auberge Orisson

I checked in at Orisson where I had reserved a bed in a six-person dormitory. Accommodation includes dinner and breakfast for 38 Euros. For an extra 5 Euros I ordered a sandwich for the next day since it would be a 17.3 km stretch with probably no opportunity to purchase food.

While waiting for rooms to be available I joined others on the patio. The young man sitting beside me in the photo and the girl (Marisa) taking the photo of all of us is the couple I met the night before who fell in love two years ago while walking the Camino.

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Marisa, etc.

Carmel from Australia with whom I shared a room last night finally showed up. She was concerned that this climb would be too difficult for her, so she was feeling proud of her accomplishment.

Carmel has three close friends who wanted to go on the Camino in their own unique way. They gave her a small framed picture of themselves to take with her. At every opportunity, Carmel takes photos of the scenery and includes the framed photo of her friends in them. This is a photo I took of Marisa taking a photo of Carmel and the little framed picture of three close friends. Get that?!

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Marisa, Carmel, etc.

Once again at tonight’s communal meal, everyone introduced themselves saying where they come from and why they are walking the Camino. There were fifty people and almost that many reasons for walking. When the young man who suffered the leg cramp took his turn, he introduced himself as having come from South Korea and is walking the Camino to look after his father but the tables got turned when his father was having to look after him.

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Auberge Orisson

The ladies who are sharing my dormitory are: Jean, Deb, Shelly, and Monette (friends from Nova Scotia) and Carmel from Australia. We were all off to bed right after dinner. That’s the Camino way! We’ll be up at 6:15 AM tomorrow to hike the rest of the way over the Pyrenees.

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6 Responses to Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

  1. Marjorie Law says:

    Adjective missing from Halifax quote. She should have said you looked like one of those beautiful Canadians. 🇨🇦

  2. Randal says:

    very descriptive….. I am looking forward to read this Blog every day.

  3. Marnie Fennis says:

    Ah! Saw David yesterday. Perhaps he could take our “ photo” along so we too can enjoy your trip! You are no doubt meeting some very interesting people. Really looking forward to hearing about the stories and pictures of your adventures. You are certainly inspirational. Hugs, Marnie

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