Day 1: 27.4 kilometers
Total: 27.4 kilometers
Starting off the day with a farewell to my friends I had dinner with the night before i ended up hanging around to go for a morning walk with Martha who wasn’t going to leave until the next day. We walked up to the citadel of St. Jean Pied de Port and then along the cliff along the river all the way till the end! Whoops! Missed the turn down the stairs because I was first too excited to be there and second it was a beautiful morning. The night before people looked up weather accounts and said it was going to be raining so I was in no hurry. I could always leave the next day. On our walk in the morning the sun popped out and I was like today is a perfect day why not? I could always turn around if it gets bad. So we stopped in the church in SJPDP and I just sent out a prayer of goodness for the day and the whole trip, gave my farewell and buen camino to Martha, and was on my way. Eric, the Albergue owner, strongly discouraged going the Napolean way out of town but it was such a beautiful day I thought I should at least take a look. I looked at some maps and figured if I made it to the cross then there was a cross road taking you down and across the valley to Valcarlos with only a kilometer of backtracking. My heart was set, so I headed past the church over the bridge and I was off on my camino!
I felt excited leaving town and did turn quite a few times to say goodbye to sjpdp. It was a beautiful little town even though due to the season a lot of the places were closed and only two albergues were open! I kept a sharp eye at every turn for the arrow and the shell and found out it was quite easy because it was marked very well. I have you know I spent some time in Costa Rica following pink and orange marker tapes, so I’m used to using my peripherals and going with the flow of what the route should be. I left the little town with the orchestra of nature routing me on. The birds are just so beautiful and the occasional horse or sheep made it a pleasant climb! Not long I am heading up a pretty good incline and it made me laugh because Monteverde had trained me well and it wasn’t so bad. The only thing was I was carrying more in my bag this time so I did feel it a bit. Two cars did pull over and in only French tell me danger ahead going this route because of the snow. It was such a beautiful day, how bad could it be. Eric from the Albergue even drove out to tell me not to risk it. I pulled out my map and showed him my plan of staying with the small road until the cross just past the peak of Orrison and then I would backtrack to Valcarlos if it looked bad. He seemed satisfied with that answer and told me to be careful on the way down because it would be steep then he lit another cigarette and was off. Soon after my encounter with Eric I made it to the Albergue of Orrison which was closed for the season. The weather was still beautiful sun shining through sporadic clouds so I pushed on. A little bit ahead the snow took over the roadway. It became a guessing game as to where the pavement was and the snowdrift ended and made for a bit more of a challenging hike. Here and there it would clear up and I also had the guidance of what I’m guessing was a farm dog. I followed the dog steps when I could to be in the least amount of snow which now was up to mid shin. Not too much further I saw some silhouettes heading to the peak of Orrison which quickly dissaperared as I went around the corner. I thought I saw at least ten people up there and figured if they were hiking then it has to be a good day. A few more turns and by luck we all came to the same spot. I walked over to talk and actually saw the statue from the guidebook my amazing friend Krista gave me! It was Biakorre – A statue of the Virgin Mary on the route. I tried remembering my French as I talked to them but all I got out of it was a picture with the statue and the it's all good and have no worries it’s all good that way and some more smiles!
Ok so off I was and it was going good through the snow with not too much trouble but it was getting a little bit more difficult. The good thing was the wind was at my back and when I thought maybe I should turn back the sun beamed out and looked amazing! All in all I trudged my way to the cross though knew deep snow and it was so worth it! It was beautiful and I was glad I was there. It didn’t look so bad so I started off the road up the path. Whoa! Waist deep falling through the snow made 100 meters seem like way more effort than it should. I went back and look at the picture map they had at the turn and matched it with the ridge lines and decided to turn around. It would be deep snow and steep cliffs ahead so I headed back a kilometer or so to the turn for Valcarlos. What looked like a straight line turned out to be another 13k on the main road straight down all the altitude I gained and into the valley then up to Valcarlos! It was a beautiful walk through the sheep fields. Once out of have snow line the birds starting chirpping loud again and I could here small streams for melting snow and mountain springs. It was quite the peaceful walk.
Finally I crossed the river at the bottom of the valley and headed up to Valcarlos. It was a nice little town which I walked right up into! I was so stoked because crossing the river meant I was in Spain again! Yes! I can communicate again more clearly! First things first when I got ther I went straight to a bar and ordered a glass with water and a cafe con leche! It was perfect timing and hit the spot! Now to find a place to stay. The lady at the bar told me the school, so I went back to that and went downstairs and to my surprise my friends from SJPDP were there! Mark, Linda, Marty and Mary Sue. What a great surprise! I met them in the streets again in SJPDP right before I left! It turned out to be a beautiful night! Fun talking in the kitchen while I made a nice pasta dinner with sea shell pasta, garlic, tomato sauce, garbanzo beans and vegetables. A fresh baguette and a nice bottle of wine topped off the my first dinner on my camino. The kitchen swelled up with delicious smelling pasta which I shared to anyone who would like some. Mary Sue really liked it which made me happy!
It was a beautiful first day. I was hoping to go over the mountain route but it just wasn’t happening. First lesson of the camino : flow freely! I was flowing but wanted to take a peak to see what the cross and trail looked like. Turns out it looked and was too much and that is why no one else was even going part of that way! I had my climb and enjoyed it thoroughly and even enjoyed the detour through the beautiful downhill. I crossed a river from France into Spain today! Waaa whhhaaaat?! How cool is that! I had a great walk and met some amazing friends again tonight and now I get a good nights rest and head off tomorrow! To where? To where I am supposed to be! Let go and flow! Pura Vida and buen camino! Adventure on!