Camino Diary Entry #6
Our ascent continued for 23 kms! We thought we could not go any higher. There was no shade. We met new Pilgrims, we sympathized with those carrying all their gear on their backs for the whole walk (why would you do that?), we encountered wild Shetland ponies, we heard cowbells, an opportunist had his food van at the top of the road and sold up a storm in cold drinks and snacks.
At the 14 km marker painted on the road I performed what turned out to be my last ‘kilometer milestone skip’, after that there was no more energy. The heat continued and so did the mountains! We left the road and crossed the meadows, into Spain. But the damned mountains kept rising up ahead of us.
The views were unbelievable. We managed 1 line of “I’m on the top of the world, looking down…..” but there was no breathe spare for more. All I had running about my head was “high on a hill with a lonely goat herd” which seemed to have a far better rhythm to walk to than “climb every mountain”.
Eventually we arrived at the highest point, Collado Lepoeder (1430m). Totally awesome to be able to look back on the Pyrenees in France and be standing in Spain! A huge sense of achievement.
Still with the heat bearing down on us we chatted briefly with Mom Barbara and son Jordan from Texas – and THEY were struggling with the heat! They later passed us again and we noted that Jordan now had his mother’s pack as well as his own.
Thinking it was all plain sailing from there on was a big mistake. We hiked on, more upward slopes and downward trails.
Finally the descent started. Holy moly! Over the next 3 kms we descended almost vertically, down to Roncasvelles to an altitude of 950 m and taking us the best part of 2 hours. In the near darkness we stumbled into the mountain hamlet which comprised largely of a monastery and a former hospital now accommodating Pilgrims.
Checking in at 6.45 pm we were told ‘pilgrim dinner was served at 7 pm’. There was no time to admire our spacious apartment. We dropped our gear on the floor and headed for the dining room in hot, smelly shorts, shirts and walking boots.
Dinner was a bit of a rowdy bun fight of exhausted pilgrims but we shared our table with some great girls from Ireland. The soup was just fine and followed by a whole deep fried trout each – yes that did include eyeballs and tail! – fries and a yoghurt for dessert. Gwyneth and I pretty much dealt to the bottle of red vino at our end of the table and as luck would have it the other 5 sitting with us weren’t drinking a lot!
For whatever reason we thought it appropriate we attend the Pilgrim’s mass in the ancient chapel. Three elderly men leading the service in spanish, more standing than sitting, and when most went forth for communion we made a fast exit and off to bed. (Fancy us passing up on the wine!)