Camino: The Pryenees
I began my first Camino day in a relaxed pace. My goal was to write, visit the beautiful walled village of St. Jean Pied de Port before leaving, buy some food supplies for my hike over the Pyrenees, and start my Camino with some meditation in the 14th century Gothic Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont church to bless my journey.
St Jean is a lovely little place in the southern French Basque region right at the confluence of the three main Camino routes from France (and countries beyond). The walls and entry arches are intact, as is the Roman bridge. I left my pack at the albergue and explored the delightful, cobbled and steep village streets.
I went inside the little church and deposited my backpack on a pew. I lit a tall candle for my journey. It seemed to symbolize the burning of worldly attachments, floating them up in the smoke stream to the firmament. Saint Bernadette in Lourdes had encouraged burning long stem candles…they burn for some time and continue to keep your prayers alive.
I meditated on my Camino, and on my next steps – that they lead me ever closer to God and in the expressions of kindness, love, and inner peace. I meditated also for those who walk with me in spirit who have sponsored my Walk in support of building a new Temple of Light at my home community.
I stopped one last time at the Pilgrim office to weigh my backpack on the highly inaccurate scale. It appeared to be approximately 16# (7kg or so) total, with food and water, including my new walking sticks. A few pounds lighter would be nice, but I’m not unhappy with this. I have to carry certain foods due to my special diet.
I passed a small grocery store (here this is the norm) and selected some items for lunch, dinner, as well as tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch….these foods I will need until I make it over the Pyrenees mountains tomorrow afternoon. My receipt shows my interesting purchases. Not bad prices for a do-it-yourself meal plan. That cucumber is huge and sticks straight up out of my side backpack pocket. It will last several meals!
I cross the Roman bridge and follow the well-trodden path out of the city. My Camino has begun! Hiking out of town the local farms continued on for about a half hour before the countryside opened up in all its expansive beauty to giant and magnificent vistas each step of the way.
I found an inviting field to eat my lunch of yogurt, hazelnuts, cheese, cucumber and, of course, chocolate to finish. So very satisfying, and the view added to the perfection.
Continuing on with the hike, it is a steep climb that doesn’t let up. The views get better and better, so I slowed down to take it all in and to carefully navigate around the cows in the path. I’m the only one walking the trail, which seems odd, but I think people charge out at 7:00am as a herd and it gets quiet later on.
After only two hiking hours I reach my albergue called Kayola at Orisson, on the side of the step mountainside. I booked a spot weeks ago. I’m glad I reserved, it’s full and other pilgrims are inquiring to stay. It’s a sweet little mountain cottage with 12 beds upstairs and two downstairs. I locate an available bed and set out my things.
This is my first real opportunity to go through everything I packed at home weeks ago and set my pack up how I will like to have it for walking. Things needs to be handy as a hiker that weren’t so important as a plane or train traveler.
Since it was only 4pm when I arrived I had plenty of time to settle in, take a shower, and wash out some undies, socks and a shirt. As a later note, the temperatures are quite cool here and the clothes and my ultralight towel don’t even get close to drying.
There is a nice little kitchen that allowed me to prepare my shallots, garlic, mushrooms and two fried eggs to slop on top. It all seemed quite gourmet.
Then the sheep came by for a visit! They were delightful. I recorded a YouTube video.
It was a cool evening that became a white-out as the clouds descended. All of us tired pilgrims were quiet and asleep by 9:00pm.
Total of 7.7km (about 4.8 miles) and 630 meters (2060′) up.
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