Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Day 7: St. Jean Pied-de-Port - Roncesvalles

The rustling of people nervously getting themselves ready for the day must have started at around 5am, which you can imagine didn't fire me up with a great deal of enthusiasm for the day as someone who isn't exactly a morning person. Breakfast was brief - tea with jam on bread - and then I was off. The steep decent down the main cobbled street felt distinctly uncomfortable on my bad shin / ankle, but the rest of the day over the 1400m high pass was fine: clearly I'm mending. 

The great pleasure of walking the Camino de Santiago is the variety of company during the days of walking. I spent most of today with Ron and Kib, a father and son from Canada. Ron is a retired GP, and Kib works in healthcare. Both have been excellent company and we're going to try and do the 40km to the Arre convent tomorrow as apparently it is meant to be spectacular. It's all downhill too...

There were other great people too - Uwe, the German who doesn't speak English and assumes that I actually paid attention in my GCSE German classes (I didn't) and the guy from Austin, Texas who is intrigued with the idea of Wellington, and has just finished a degree paid for by the US Airforce after four years of service. And Chris, the retired maths teacher from Yorkshire who is walking with his wife - we had long discussions about the dumbing down of the GCSE syllabus - Chris says that today's maths student would have a heart attack if they had to sit the sort of questions that were set in exams web he started teaching in the 1970s. 

Of course there are the genuinely inspiring people, like the disabled man doing the Camino in a handcycle. But my favourite so far is the rather wild looking Italian man who is carrying his gear in a roller suitcase. He approached me near the top asking for some water as he hadn't brought any, which does rather make me believe his friends were winding him when he asked what to take on the Camino - 'don't worry about taking water; just put everything in a roller case and you'll be fine!'

The arrivals process at Roncesvalles is very well organised, and is being run by friendly Dutch volunteers. The woman handling the check-in process took my €10 and asked if I was sleeping alone, to which I replied 'well that depends on what you're offering' - much to Chris's amusement! Anyway it's now 10pm in the large and very modern dormitory in Roncesvalles monastery, and I'm aiming for a 6.20am start tomorrow - made easier by the fact that I am indeed sleeping alone. 

Finally - thank you to Rosemary Pettit and the anonymous donor for your generosity - very sweet of you to give money to the great two charities I'm raising funds for.