Day 1 – To Auberge Borda

Saint Jean Pied-de-Port to Auberge Borda – 8Kms, 17,763 steps

At last, with great excitement and an improving weather forecast, I set off from SJPP at 8:00 AM, looking forward to this first, hard stage of my journey. It’s a pretty uphill slog getting out of town but eventually my path gave way to rolling hills and dales.

The streets were empty and quiet as I made my way down the hill to the old city gate, across the bridge, and out of town.

My first stamp, from the Pilgrim Office in SJPP, in my Pilgrim Passport. Many more to follow!

The day before, I made the obligatory stop at the Pilgrim Office in SJPP to get the latest intel on the local route, weather, and tips.

Dawn peeking into farms and villages as I passed along

The weather was really perfect: clear, cool, and with low humidity. I encountered many other pilgrims; they passed me or I passed them. However, the “easy” part of the morning ended after a few hours and the really steep ascent up paved roads started. My aerobic training this summer helped a lot, but it was still quite difficult and I had to stop to get my breath now and then. I had plenty of company doing that.

A view from later in the morning

I was not wiped out, however, by this ascent as I was on my last Camino. I decided to not take a very steep, popular shortcut and stayed on the road, which was more gradual. I saw no other walkers but I met a solitary bicyclist with an amazing story:

Russel, an Englishman from London and an ardent cyclist, caught severe COVID two years ago and was hospitalized for four months. He suffered all sorts of awful physical problems and now has “long COVID”. One of the effects is that he has no short term memory. Yes, just like in those movies, he cannot remember tomorrow what has happened today. He has to leave himself notes and recordings so that he’ll know what happened! Due to this, he lost his Art Gallery business and is now living on disability. His Camino is an attempt to reset his life. Wow! How incredibly brave just to tackle the Camino with such a disability.

Yours Truly at the Orisson Refuge

I finally made it to the Orisson Refuge. I took only three hours and felt much better than my last Camino (last time, the climb wiped me out). I chatted with Robert, who was continuing on over the mountains, and also talked with a couple I met through the Camino forum,

After killing an hour, I made may way one more kilometer up the road to Auberge Borda, a new, small establishment. I stayed at Orisson last time, so I wanted to give the new guy a try. Wow! Borda is a very nice place; modern, clean, and well thought-out. Laurent, the proprietor and only staff, is a former food service manager. He’s done several Caminos on foot and by bike, so he knows what being a pilgrim is all about. He’s funny, clever, and a great cook – staying there included a nice communal dinner, during which we all introduced ourselves.

We slept in dorm-style accomodations at Borda but with separate cubicles, not bunk beds, and it was very comfortable. Everyone was excited about what was to come the next day, our ascent over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles.

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