Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day One on the Camino de Santiago (or "A Picture is So Worth a Thousand Words")

By the end of the last post, I was so anxious to get going on the posts about actually walking the camino that I forgot to post a couple of important pics.

Pat, Kathleen, and Kathie across from the pilgrim office in St. Jean

Twilight on the River Nive in "downtown" St. Jean Pied de Port

In our room at the Hotel Continental, getting packed up for day 1

A journey of 200 miles begins with a set of stairs

OK, here we go...

The last downhill we're gonna see for hours

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, we stopped in the pilgrim office in St. Jean Pied de Port. There we picked up a pilgrim passport and a sheet of paper that shows the elevations of each of the camino’s stages. Here’s the elevation for the first day.

Seriously, need I say more? The saying about a picture being worth a thousand words was never more appropriate.

At the beginning of the climb

Up a little ways

About time to start shedding clothes

(The exertion of climbing made us so warm that two of the three of us took off our bras, standing on the side of the road in Etchebestea. Names have been omitted here to protect the guilty. Suffice it to say that this blog should now be called “Pat and Perky”.)

And up further...

How much further does this go?

I had thought - with dread - about this day for months. Thinking that a lumbar pack would be cooler and easier on my back, I ordered one from L.L. Bean. And so that I would not repeat the miserable day two years earlier on the Hadrian's Wall walk, hiking in ill-fitting boots, I strapped my sneakers onto my pack for in case I needed to change. In my pack, then, I carried sneakers, rain gear, two liter bottles full of water, lunch, etc. It was a wee bit heavy and flopped around on my hips more than I liked. Being a novice lumbar pack wearer, I cinched the strap tight around my waist to minimize the flopping. When I finally figured out the tight strap was cutting off my air supply, making the climb all the more difficult, I loosened the strap. The ascent was still really tough, but my face changed to a lighter shade of puce. Then again, that might have been the result of applying sunscreen over dried sweat over sunscreen, which feels a lot like rubbing your skin with gravel.

Finally, at Frontera, we crossed into Spain. In another 4 kilometers, we hit Col de Lepoeder, elevation 1450 meters. Tradition says that Charlemagne's rear guard, commanded by Roland, was ambushed and slaughtered in this area back in 778. Ever read the Song of Roland? No, I haven't either. I hear it's over 4,000 lines long. It's probably on Kathie's reading list.

We took a bit of a break here before heading down to Roncesvalles. The nice pilgrimage office lady had advised us to take the road down, which would be kinder and gentler on our knees. Did we listen to the nice pilgrimage office lady? Nooo - we were real women and knocked ourselves out going down through the forest - which I have to say was very pretty.

The way down

Finally we arrived in Roncesvalles, where we spent the night at La Posada, right next door to which is a 12th century Romanesque chapel – supposedly the burial place of Roland’s slaughtered soldiers.

There are also pilgrims buried in there. After this day, I can understand what happened to them.


Anonymous said...

I have never laughed so hard through a blog!!

Pat said...

You shoulda been there if you think the telling of it is funny!

Katharine said...

Should we remind the reader that 27 km is 16 miles, and that steep uphill was 11 miles? You made it sound like a piece of cake.

Pat said...

Oops - that part was in the paragraph that Blogger deleted! And a puce-colored face doesn't really indicate piece of cake to me...

Katharine said...

And the post could have been not Pat and Perky, but Pat the Perky and Her Two Floppy Friends.

Pat said...

LOL - now that's a mental picture we maybe shouldn't have tried to put into words!

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

Too funny! Do I need this visual in my head whenever I see Pat in the halls of the hospital now?

The photos are beautiful! I prefer the flat land hikes I think.

Pat said...

I'm with you, Joan - flat is beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Now ladies, the bra-less segment of this tale is giggle funny, but there is more to the humor. Note the photo "At the beginning of the climb"...what is that at the beginning? Looks a lot like previous pilgrims saw the climb and decided to leave the heavy stuff behind. And, there is a little old person going through those left-behind belongings. Sorry, but that is funny. Then the tale of the backpack. Well, I can just picture that one. But the best of all is the last photo and Pat's description. Oh, yes, I can well understand why there might be pilgrims buried there, and the "dry" humor of it.