Today’s plan is divide and conquer. Paul and I will finish the trek from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles, which we are told is uphill all the way for 13 km. Sue and Jerry opt out for a cab to Roncesvalles. The good thing is that they will be able to take most of our gear with them so our packs will be extra light. Jacket, water and lunch. Muy Bueno. We take off with a Via coffee I had packed in my bag and some yogurt we had bought the night before for breakfast. For lunch we have a potpourri of choices; a can of Pringles; some cheese wedges; the equivalent of a Spanish “slimjim” on steroids,for lunch (a 1.5″ wide x 1ft long stick of fresh salami, that would be a gourmet “snack” back home); a pack of chocolate donuts…at least that was the rough translation (it was actually chocolate coated cookies shaped like donuts); a package of creme filled wafers; left over chilli lime beef jerky from Costco; and an apple. All in all and interesting combination of edibles. We say our goodbyes and head up the road while Sue and Jerry head to the coffee shop.
The morning is cool so we walk at a brisk pace. We have the road to ourselves. The first part we walk against traffic on a narrow winding two lane roadway, expecting to and preparing to leap over the k-rail if necessary.
Eventually the trail drops off the roadway and follows a wooded path just below and parallel the roadway. It reminds us of walking through Oregon by Eagle Creek. The lush greenery, the water and the uncomfortably rocky tread. For a while we are lulled into a comfortable and easy pace, that requires little effort. I thought this was supposed to be a climb.
Oops, I speak too soon, as what goes down (or reasonably flat for that matter) must go up, and up the trail goes. It’s that long up at that semi steep angle that just won’t quit. As we huff and puff and our thighs burn, we realize that Sue and Jerry made the right choice, and that maybe we should have gone to breakfast and hopped in the taxi as well. We make good time, even though it was strenuous and arrive at the albergue in Roncesvalles. The exterior is castle like, reminiscent of a monastery. We are early and the hospitaliers (Camino volunteers) are still preparing/cleaning the albergue, so even though we are checked in, we can not go to our bunks till 2pm.
Scout (Jerry) has already found a place for us to get a beer. We follow eagerly. Once 2pm rolls around, we head for our bunks. They are on the first floor and are set up in pods of 4 bunks with large lockable cabinets for each bunk. I can’t help but notice that I’ve seen this bunk set up at IKEA. This place will hold several hundred people at a time, and is the first place wherein the two routes converge and join the Camino in Spain.
There is a pilgrim’s mass in the adjacent church just before dinner. We attend. It is a small church, but a beautiful one, with cathedral ceilings, stain glass windows and gilded gold accents throughout. The church choir, all of about 10 people begin to sing the opening hymn. The acoustics are mind blowing. You can’t get better sound from Bose speakers.
I’ve added a small clip to post, as I am at a loss for words at how to describe their performance. Although the mass is held in Spanish, you get the gist of the homily. At the end of mass the pelegrinos (us pilgrims) are asked to come forward for a special blessing. You can’t help but feel that this is a special journey, so much more and certainly far from just a simple long distance hike.
After our pilgrim’s dinner we head to our bunks and eventually nod off to a cacophony of farts and snoring that echoes throughout the building, that even earplugs can’t mute.