When we left Orrison early in the morning with a planned 18 kilometers ahead of us, I felt like a true pilgrim, a great explorer…I knew that I was about to take part in an incredible quest. Walking through orchards, past quaint country houses, looking up to the mountain meadows, knowing that I was in the Pyrenees, I was in absolute awe and wonder…that is for the first hour or so! And then we climbed and climbed and climbed. The incline was ruthless. My five-and-a-half kilogram pack seemed to expand in both size and weight. My legs were unamused. Millions upon millions of people have taken part in this walk since the Middle Ages. Many of those who walk this area of the trail complete twenty-six (or more) kilometers in one day. Was I crazy to think that I could do this? “Slow and steady wins the race,” Richard reminded. I wanted to slug him.
Then, as we reached the peak of our climb at 1450 meters, a small group of us spontaneously gathered and high-fived one another. It was invigorating! My exhaustion instantly turned into an incredible feeling of self-satisfaction. And then I looked down at the rocky decent through a dense forest. The Pilgrim’s Office had advised an alternate roadside route that was deemed to be “less treacherous.” I don’t know about you, but ‘treacherous’ is not a word that I want to hear when I am hiking (or ever, actually). I looked at Richard, took a deep breath, grabbed my hiking poles and down the rocky forest trail I went. It actually was amazing! After begrudging the steep steps uphill, my whole being shouted “I LOVE downhill” and down, down, down I swiftly went! I must insert that this section is definitely not everyone’s favorite part of the trail. In fact, Richard thought that this hour-plus portion was far worse than both yesterday’s and today’s uphill climbs combined. Afterwards, my battered toes (from constantly being pounded against the inside of my boots) were raw and tender (and two of them are still black because of it). But for my spirit, it was exhilarating, and a great confidence builder–so much so that we decided to push on for seven extra kilometers staying the night in Espinal, instead of the planned Roncesvalles.
Hostal Rural Haizea Saroiberri, 2, 31694 Espinal-Auzperri 12 euros for a bed Breakfast, lunch and dinner available We highly recommend this accommodation
Statue ‘Vierge d’Orisson’, said to be carried all the way from Lourdes, by shepherds.
The sharp descent! Photo Credit: Wise Pilgrim Guides, App