Stage 1: Saint Jean Pied-de-Port to Orisson

9 Sep 2019, sunny and mild – 8 Km

Looking back on my expectations of this day, I had no idea how difficult it and the next few days would be.

I chose to break the traditional Stage 1 walk into two parts and spend my first night at Refuge Orisson, a small lodge perched on the side of a mountain. There are no other establishments nearby. I’m absolutely amazed that some people do the whole traditional Stage 1 walk (24km/16m) in one day.

I left St. Jean at 8:30 am, anticipating a 4-hour hike to cover 8km. As soon as I left the town, walking along a road, the incline began. Within 20 minutes, I was shedding clothing layers. Passing through rolling farm lands, but ever upward, it was interesting to see how sensitive my legs became to (and rejoiced at) even the slightest hint of a flat, or less-steep, road section.

Still smiling at this point

The Camino path headed up numerous steep roadway switchbacks, and occasionally there were very steep “short cuts” that cut across them, sometimes at an incline of maybe 60-degrees. As I climbed, the views became spectacular.

However, despite training a lot for five months for this, I was often aerobically exhausted and had to pause to get my breath and let my pulse come down.

By 2:00, I wasn’t sure how much further I could go; I was stopping every 25 yards to rest. Then I rounded a bend and voila! Orisson! Never was a sight so welcome.

Orisson has 38 beds in several different bunk rooms. I was in a room with five other fellows, including two Israelis, two Canadians, and a Belgian. That has been the beginning of a “Camino Buddies” friendship with several of them. Orisson’s staff was great to us and quite funny.

Across the road from the lodge there’s a patio stuck to the hillside, which offered cocktails along with a fabulous view.

We had a communal dinner that evening, and carried on the post-meal tradition of standing and introducing yourself. Very nice, with Americans in the minority.

Getting a sound, exhausted sleep that night was tempered by the knowledge the 16kms were ahead of me the next day and that the weather forecast was for Cold and Rainy.

Expenses today:

– Lunch: 9eu
– Beer: 4eu
– Refuge Orisson (plus dinner/breakfast and sandwich for lunch tomorrow): 39eu

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2 Responses to Stage 1: Saint Jean Pied-de-Port to Orisson

  1. Marti Demetrion says:

    I enjoyed your photos and story, Lee, especially the part about your new Camino buddies.
    For this literature major, the name Roncevalles has a ring to it. I looked it up and learned from the short article at the URL that you’ll you’ll have crossed the Pyrenees when you get there, “…one of the hardest parts of the Camino de Santiago”. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/navarra/roncesvalles

  2. Patrick David says:

    Great pics and a great read. Love following your adventure min kompis!

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