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Hebridean Imaging
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Camino de Santiago – Arriving and Days 1 to 3

10th September 2013 – Arrived back from Gibraltar yesterday afternoon, a lot chillier here in the UK! Kat and Phil picked me up from the airport. Lovely to spend the evening with mum and dad. This morning I was up early and nipped up to Tesco for some last minute food supplies to take with me for the next few days. Re-packed my rucksack – discarded a few items, i’m trying my best to pare it down to the minimum weight possible…

In the afternoon mum and dad took me down to Wellington station. They presented me with a silver St. Christopher and told me I must wear it on my travels, I had a big lump in my throat as I said goodbye to them. Mum said she wished she was young and fit enough to come with me. I got the train to Birmingham airport where I had booked a hotel overnight.

Mum and I at the station

Mum and I at the station

11th September 2013 – Everything went OK with my flight to Paris and then getting the train from Paris to Bordeaux. Well actually I had a few trials and tribulations, mostly of my own making, but I won’t bore you with them! I was able to practice my schoolgirl French, it’s been a very long time lol! I managed to enquire about my tickets and buy coffee.

The train was amazing, slap bang on time. It was the TGV and was double decker. Comfortable and spotlessly clean. I found the hotel in Bordeaux no problem it was just a two minute walk from the station. I’d decided to stay somewhere nice as it may be a few weeks before I have a comfy bed again.

12th September 2013 – I got the train from Bordeaux early this morning to Bayonne and then another to St. Jean Pied de Port. The only slight mishap was i got on the wrong half of the train – i found out after we left Bordeaux that the train was going to split at some point before Bayonne. The young lady who was the ticket collector was very friendly and helpful and told me where we would be stopping long enough for me to leave the train and head up to the front.

St. Jean is a beautiful little town in the French Pyrenees. The train journey was beautiful. Little Egret from the train. There are many pilgrims here waiting to start their walk. I wandered around sightseeing and taking photos. Went to the pilgrims office to get my pilgrims passport (credencial) and got it stamped. Visited a bar for wine and chatted with some other pilgrims. Mooched around all the lovely shops that are full of delicious looking meats, cheeses and chocolate.

Met up with Sarah. We are ready to walk tomorrow! Birds today: Little Egret, Grey Heron, Starling, Chaffinch, Swallow, House Sparrow.

The lovely streets of SJPdP

The lovely streets of SJPdP

Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

13th September 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 1 –  Sarah and I were full of both excitement and trepidation as we walked out of St. Jean Pied de Port this morning! 790km stretch in front of us and we’ve vowed to walk every step of the way, carrying our gear. We must be mad 😀

A few hours later I was feeling even more like we must be mad as we headed ever upwards over the Pyrenees, but the scenery was spectacular! We only walked 8km to Orisson hostel but it was a tough first day for us. We were so glad to see the hostel appearing out of the mist! And very relieved that we hadn’t decided to walk to Roncesvalles in one go, it would have been very hard for us, we’d have been wrecked!

Our feet and legs are intact! No blisters 🙂 The hostel is lovely, 3 rooms of 6 beds each and a hot shower. Spent most of the afternoon sitting on the viewing area outside the albergue, watching the odd Griffon Vulture drift past below us.

Only 782km to go…

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Must be getting high now, we're in the clouds!

Must be getting high now, we’re in the clouds!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Our hostel at Orisson.

Our hostel at Orisson.

14th september 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 2 – woke to a clear morning and a wonderful sunrise over the Pyrenees. Just getting light as we left the hostel to continue our climb over the Pyrenees. We knew it would be a long hard day but at least the weather was kind to us – sunshine and just enough breeze to keep me cool. The scenery as I climbed was truly spectacular and I took photos, but after a while decided that photographs just wouldn’t do the scenery justice.

Total silence apart from the sound of Meadow Pipits and the tinkling of sheep and cow bells. An early morning Griffon Vulture circled slowly above the rise in front of me.

I crossed the border into Spain! the border consisted of just a fuente (water fountain) and a cattle grid. I sat awhile drinking the cold, fresh water then re-filled my bottle and headed onwards and upwards.

The highest point is Col de Ibañeta at 3,450 feet above sea level. An amazing view and no one else around. I phoned mum to tell her I was at the top of a mountain in the Pyrenees and she was happy to hear from me. Not long afterwards as I sat relaxing on the grassy bank, waiting for Sarah I heard Ravens and four flew over cronking noisily. Ben had found me! I knew he would. A teary moment.

Sarah arrived. We’d agreed right from the start that we’d walk at our own pace. The walk down to Roncesvalles was a steep descent through lovely Beech woods. We were amazed at the hostel when we arrived, 183 beds in 3 dormitories. Not as bad as it sounds, the beds are partitioned off in groups of four and it’s new with all modern facilities. Sadly without any food that I could eat – from the 6 vending machines I found a solitary tin of pâté was OK for me to eat. I calculated 3000 calories expended, 700 eaten. I think i might lose weight 🙁

Sarah and I went to church, to the evening mass. Shock horror! Oddly enough I didn’t get struck down at the door… Afterwards we went to the communal pilgrims meal. I couldn’t partake of the soup but the fish for the main course was very good, and cooked plainly. An early night. We turned in at 9pm

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Day 2 more uphill...

Day 2 more uphill…

The Spanish border!

The Spanish border!

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

The church at Roncesvalles

The church at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

15th September 2013 –  Camino de Santiago, Day 3 The lights in the dorm came on at 6am so we dragged ourselves up – we’d actually slept quite well – there was remarkably little snoring considering there were nearly 50 other people in our dorm. It was still dark when we set off, not really something that we’d anticipated doing. Sarah does have her head torch though and i have my own wee torch. There had been heavy rain overnight and the clouds still looked threatening.

It soon got light and we walked through some lovely picturesque villages – Burgete, Espinal and Viskarret. Added Black Redstart to the list.We stopped at Bar Juan for coffee along with many other pilgrims – it was lovely to see some of the people we’d seen on our first night at Orisson. Our plan for today was to head to Zubiri but were a bit worried that with our leisurely pace we would be too late for a bed – there were over 200 people at Roncesvalles last night, they’d had to open up the overspill dorm. However, we were determined not to become embroiled in the “race for a bed”.

We are here to enjoy the walk and that is what we’ll do. If Zubiri is full we’ll see what happens. Much of the days walk was through Beech woods and like yesterday I spent lots of time walking on my own which I really enjoyed. Time and space to relax and chill out and enjoy the moment. The scenery was fabulous. The walking was fairly challenging. By that I mean that there was more uphill than I expected but the downhill sections were harder on my feet and legs, especially as the terrain was either concreted or crazy paved (?!), or loose and stony.

After about 15km I changed into my sandals to give my feet a change. We arrived at Zubiri, the first (private) hostel was completo (full), as was the second but we were able to get a bed at the municipal for €8, if we’d arrived 10 minutes later we would have only paid €4 but it would have been a mattress on the floor. There are 7 bunk beds in the room which is mixed sex – i’m sleeping next to some American guy. Hope he doesn’t snore. I bet he will! He doesn’t seem too dodgy. Unpacked and found a bar. Wine is only 50c a glass – cheaper than water :O Wow!

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Rolling Spanish countryside

Rolling Spanish countryside

Coffee stop :)

Coffee stop 🙂

Zubiri

Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri