Posts Tagged St. Jean Pied de Port
MY CAMINO – the Video (The Camino de Santiago)
[Editor’s Note: I have still not posted fully the entire trip from southern France to Santiago, Spain, but there is now a video slideshow of the trip. The slideshow features just 15% of my 2,000 photographs taken over 30 days on the Camino de Santiago. Accompanied by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and Gordon Lightfoot, the photographs move chronologically until the trip along the Camino ends at the Cathedral de Santiago and at the “end of the earth” at Muxia and Finisterre.]
CLICK ON THE PHOTOGRAPH BELOW TO WATCH
Note: I am well behind in my effort to describe briefly the walk to Santiago. Hopefully I will catch up eventually. This post discusses briefly the first three days]
CLIMBING OVER THE PYRENEES – WALKING WITH THE BULLS
It was cloudy and misty in St. Jean Pied de Port as we made final adjustments to our packs. We had been urged to keep our pack weight to 20 lbs. but I’m afraid mine weighed in closer to 25 lbs. or just over 10 kilos. There was enough moisture in the air that we wore rain jackets. The temperature was in the mid-40s. By 8:00 a.m. We were leaving town heading up along the route (the “Napoleon Route”) used by the French leader to invade Spain in the early 19th century.
I walked with an episcopal priest from Seattle (more about Coach Dan and our Abbott and Costello routine in a later post). The path was steep and unrelenting as it rose through fields and forest. Various other pilgrims were starting the Way of St. James this morning also. The fog and mist turned to a light rain. By the time we reached the hostel at Orisson (8 km up the mountain), we were pretty wet and cold. We more than welcomed chance to rest, dry, and refresh indoors
After a 30-minute break, the climb resumed and continued upwards on a very steep path with very few breaks in the incline. The weather dried and tried to clear as we came nearer to our highest point. Hiking down the back side of the mountains proved to be even a greater challenge as fatigue began to set in and the weather returned to fog and mist – in reality, we were climbing through the clouds. The trail was wet and muddy with remnants of the winter’s snow.
While the climb had been steep, the last 5k was exceedingly tough due to its severe slope. It was a challenging day, but my enthusiasm for the first day of the trip carried me along. Finally, the trail spilled out into Roncesvalle at an old convent now converted into a hostel for those, like me, heading for Santiago – not that different than millions did 12th through 16th centuries. Most everyone stops at Roncesvalle after 25 kilometers because there is little left if daylight or strength (or even enthusiasm) after this first, but most difficult day of the month long journey.
Magnificent weather greeted us on Day 2. Dan and I started out before sunrise, hiking with headlamps. We stopped for coffee in the next village. The walk was exhilarating as we gently came out of the foothills, enjoying spring revealing itself with budding trees, singing birds and wild flowers. A fairly easy day of rolling forest pathways and ever present mountain streams ended 22 kilometers later in Zubiri. We enjoyed a “Pilgrim Meal” (white bean and chirozo soup, grilled calamari, dessert, bread, wine and water for 10 euros). [These meals are offered in almost every town along the way to those walking the Camino. They are typically good, perhaps not as good as this one our second night.]
Day 3 was much like the second day. Extraordinary weather and a reasonable footpath as we continued to leave the foothills of the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and headed to our first big city – Pamplona. Dan had raced ahead and I walked along making what our family calls “little while friends” as you come upon and join others along the way. I walked over a 12th century bridge and between huge city walls to enter into this city that dates to Roman times. The city may be best know for its annual “running of the bulls” (made famous internationally by Ernest Hemmingway’s writing). We walked along its ancient streets and found a hostel, having completed a delightful day of walking and 21 kilometers. I was off to a great start and excited about each next day as well as the larger journey.
The Race Before Us on the Camino de Santiago
This blog – The Race Before Us – feature posts on running (especially for novice runners), the Christian faith (especially for amateur apologists), and on the intersection between running and faith. For the next six weeks though, this blog is going to walk, not run.
See below – Coach Dan (frequent contributor here) and I will be walking the Camino de Santiago. I will post more frequently here at this site but under the temporary title: “My Camino – Thy Camino.” More on that with the next post.
On April 4 my good friend “Coach Dan” (Blankenship) and I leave Richmond, Virginia for Paris, France. Upon arrival we take a train to southwest France, passing through Bordeaux and stopping in Biarritz. There we catch a more local train to the village of St. Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, which mountain range generally establishes France’s southern border with Spain.
St. Jean Pied de Port has become the most popular starting point for people to begin the “Camino de Santiago” – a 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. It recalls the route that hundreds of thousands of Christians took in the middle ages (and since) as a pilgrimage to the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. More specifically, this route is called the “Camino Frances” because it is the route that people coming from France and northern Europe would have used to reach Santiago. In that sense, St. Jean Pied de Port is the gateway (or the “port”) to Spain.
After an evening in St. Jean Pied de Port we will throw a 20-pound pack on our backs and start climbing over the Pyrenees and into Spain. Then for 30 days we will walk 15 to 20 miles a day heading for Santiago (and ultimately to the “end of the earth,” which is a three-day additional hike to Finisterre on the Atlantic Ocean.)
Come along as we walk through fields and vineyards, as we climb a few mountains and many hills, as we pass through tiny villages and some bigger cities, as we sample wine in Rioja and see where the bulls run in Pamplona, as we enjoy the journey and struggle with a foreign language, and as we become pilgrims or “peregrines” on the road to find out.