Being the research nerd that I am, I spent countless hours reading a multitude of details about the Camino Frances and watching YouTube videos of the trail. (I know, in a previous post I said I wouldn’t over-research, but you already knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself, didn’t you?) I had repeatedly read that the uphill hike from Saint-Jean to just before Roncesvalles was brutal…and that the sharp descent back down was even worse. As I read, I continually had to battle fear and self-doubt (and I definitely had to quit watching YouTube videos)!
Many hikers starting in Saint-Jean walk the 26-kilometers in one day to Roncesvalles. But there is an option for those wishing a shorter first-day hike, and that is to start with just eight-kilometers and spend the night in Orisson. The catch is that you usually need to book, and pay, In advance. After much toing and froing (as well as advice from our friend, Louise) we pre-booked. Similar to the evening before, a booking included a full dinner, salad, dessert, wine, bed and breakfast, as well as a formal introduction to all other guests (35 euros per person). Unlike the night before, all guests were handed a SINGLE token for a five-minute (lukewarm) shower. Advice from Richard: if using a lush shampoo/soap bar, in a metal container, be sure to open the container FIRST before inserting your token (we could all hear him cursing as he struggled to open the tin as the shower meter clicked on)!
Would we stay in Orisson again? Although it offered good food, spectacular views, great company and a solid rest after a truly tough three-hour hike (the equivalent to climbing 126 flights of stairs) if doing this route a second time, we would just stop for lunch in Orisson and then push on to Roncesvalles. But we did meet some great people during our stay there. One woman, Lisa, was hiking alone with a 35-day supply of insulin in her large pack. Her determination, and positive attitude made me cringe about the whining I had been doing.
Family members from Los Angeles (parents, a middle-schooler and a high-schooler) were walking just two days of the trail, in conjunction with a larger trip to Europe. I had noticed them on the path from Saint-Jean as they each had relatively light packs, and one of them was carrying a pink cardboard pastry box! When we met them, they joked that their packs were mostly filled with snacks. As we departed for the steep climb and sharp descent into Orisson, I wondered how this family could make the tough journey ahead in just tennis shoes and no hiking poles (not to mention the cardboard pastry box)! The two girls (avid softball players) were well ahead of us most of time, passing out cookies to weary hikers and taking full advantage of photo ops (as shown above).
So, for us, Orisson was definitely meant to be. I look forward to remaining in touch with this very engaging family. After leaving the trail, they went on to Zaragoza, Cordoba, and Granada (where they spent the night in a cave). When I last heard from them, they had just finished hiking in Caminito del Rey. Yup, definitely very cool!
Refuge Orisson, Refuge.firstname.lastname@example.org, 00 33 559491 303 or 00 33 681497 956
As Orrison is an approximate three-hour hike from Saint-Jean, staying there does give you plenty of time to relax, have a refreshment (or two) and enjoy the spectacular views!
And time to do your laundry,
before enjoying the delicious group dinner,
and finally getting your bed ready for the night (not to mention the luxurious five-minute shower)!
A simple graph of the climb–both behind us–and ahead of us. Please stay tuned as we continue our journey. (Photo Credit: Wise Pilgram Guides, App)