Or should I say Luzaide to Orreaga? In this region, one place bears 3 names. Like it’s Roncesvalles in Spanish, Roncesvaux in French and Orreaga in Basque. Oh, I have to give it to the Basque to insist on its own language, traditions, culture and cuisine. After all, they claim to be the oldest European language, and culture. Basque pride has its basis. And I’m not one to argue on this.
Very close to Valcarlos is the town of Arneguy. Having walked your first 8 kilometers from Saint Jean Pied de Port towards Luzaide, one is delighted to find Arneguy and its supermercado. Some stop here for the night or just for coffee and more. I had my desayuno (breakfast here), as well as my pee break. Arneguy is also the place where one passes from France to Spain, though one will hardly notice that. What I noticed was more farm activity and livestock. Aside from the sheep grazing in many fields before here, I found cattle and free range chicken in the backyard of village homes.
I may have seen more village activity if I didn’t miss the village route and instead took the busier road. Just the same, I reached Valcarlos, signaling I’ve crossed from France and into Spain. The village Church and many albergues will tell you many pilgrims stop here for the night. The number of bed vacancies confirm it’s not the season yet. I’m not surprised, having only met 2 other pilgrims as I walked, and a couple more upon reaching Valcarlos.
The volunteers in Saint Jean Pied de Port reminded me that there are no cafes nor stores between here and Roncesvalles. So one needs to carry his supplies — water, food — from here until the next town. Pee breaks only in the bush. So mind your cafe or skip it entirely! The walking guides speak of uphill climbs, and then some switching between walking near the road and some dirt paths. Because it rained, I expected the muddy tracks. And slippery rocks. Especially in paths following the river. My eyes were trained to check the yellow arrows and red & white markers, making sure I don’t take any wrong turns.
Four hours later, the muddy tracks and dirt paths spill into country roads leading to Orreaga, the Basque name of Roncesvalles. One has a variety of dining and sleeping options here. Also, there are many pilgrims who’ve chosen to start their Camino Frances from Roncesvalles towards Santiago de Compostela. It’s a much livelier crowd here, where peregrinos discuss whether to stop in Zubiri or Espinal or some other Basque town in Spain towards Pamplona. For sure, I’d be back to resume this walk from Roncesvalles and then revisit Pamplona, which I enjoyed much days earlier.
Meanwhile, let me hang my hiking boots to dry. Buen Camino!