Stepped out of our Hotel Itzalpea at 7:30 this foggy morning. Skipped breakfast, thinking there’d be a cafe bar between Saint Jean Pied de Port and Valcarlos, the first town in Spain from the French border. Still Basque Country. In Basque, it should read DONIBANE GARAZI to LUZAIDE. From French Basque to Spanish Basque, with all its X’s and Z’s. I’m taking this route instead of SJPP to Orisson which is more uphill through the Pyrenees. The latter is closed because weather forecast includes rainshowers and even snow in the coming days!
Hiking around the Pyrenees is fine with me. They say the hardest struggle is the first stretch from SJPP to Roncesvalles, no matter if you took the Orisson route (Napoleon Route) or the Valcarlos Route (which some claim is the authentic way). In my case, I just wanted the safest route under the circumstances. The very friendly volunteers at the Pilgrims Center handed me my Pilgrim’s Passport, a map and some instructions. They said the weather’s crazy as it was “burning” at 25C last week and now freezing at 2 to 7C. Climate change, indeed.
I’m walking solo. No, I’m not scared to walk solo. The route is well-marked and the rainshowers were expected in the afternoon. So I started early without breakfast, slowly. Until hunger pangs made me walk faster towards Ventas before Arneguy where I had my cortado and bocadillo fix. The lady peregrina from Argentina joined me.
The first 8 kilometers through country roads and farmland was spectacularly beautiful, complete with bleating sheep and cowbells in the mist. Dogs without leash love doing their thing in the middle of the country road while the clouds hung low and the temps never rose. I expected to peel off my outer shirt and fleece vest after an hour. No luck. I may have generated heat from all that walking but I struggled against the wind. For a while, I tugged my windbreaker’s hood low over my forehead to protect my face from windburn. Brrrrr.
Uphill. Downhill. Via country roads. Then the struggle through the main road. The struggle was real. Not much landscape to keep me amused. The sound of passing motorists giving me anxieties. And it was uphill towards Luzaide! I should have gone through Arneguy village instead. That route seemed more interesting. Village life and more farm animals, along with the smell of cow manure. I’d take that anytime versus speeding trucks which leave me literally shaking as they pass. But….. I made it! Soy Alegre 😁
SLOW. Like caracoles.