Stage 2: Orisson to Roncesvalles

10 Sep 2019 – 16 Km

I awoke the next morning, stiff and tired, but in a self-congratulatory mood for having made it this far, to a light drizzle and 46-degree conditions.

There would be no sunny walk over the mountain for us today.

Off we went at 7:30am, a wet, brightly-colored stream of rainsuits and ponchos, gamely going ahead despite lousy conditions and more inclines.

For the next seven hours, it rained (quite hard at times), shrouded us with fog, drove the temperature down into the 40s with winds, and flooded the trail.

Unbelievably, there were folks up there in shorts, tennis shoes, poncho, and no headcovering (mostly stout, resilient youngsters). I was in a hooded rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof gloves, with layers underneath, and I was still cold at times. It was often hard to see ahead and I rounded one curve to find four huge horses nibbling brush along the path, looming out of the fog before me.

The elevation change, from Orisson to Roncesvalles, for reference

Our highest elevation was 1429 m/4689 ft and it had an affect on stamina. Once over the peak, descending was slippery at times and also hard on the legs and especially the knees. Young folks streamed by me on occasion like they were heading for homeroom.

At the top, with strong winds

I soon established that I’m a slow hiker and nearly everyone will pass me. That’s OK but it’s occasionally discouraging.

And I established that putting important route instructions inside a pants pocket inaccessible while wearing rain pants is not a bright idea, as I almost missed the important turn off at the weather station above.

We also established a Camino fact: just as you think you’re about to reach your destination and your weary legs begin to rejoice, another kilometer of hard ascent or descent will appear, giving you a final kick in the teeth.

Taking those final exhausted steps to the Albergue, on some sunny day

Arriving at Roncesvalles was like reaching the Promised Land and I imagine pilgrims hundreds of years ago rejoiced at seeing it almost as much as I did.

First Stop: The Boot Room

Boots and trekking poles are deposited in a special room, to keep the stink and dirt away from living spaces.

Ultra-modern bunk modules

Though the monastery and albergue are ancient, they have updated the interior nicely and can sleep 180. The bunks are separated into modules of four beds and each bed has a lockable, backpack-sized locker. Nice showers, too.

Dinner was offered at a nearby bar and hotel. More later about the “Pilgrim Menu”, an exhausted sleep-of-the dead is calling my name.

Expenses today:
– Snack: 1eu
– Beer: 4eu
– Alberue Roncesvalles (incl dinner/breakfast): 28eu

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