27 June 2008

St. Jean Pied du Port to Roncesvalles

I have no choice but to use the expensive Internet terminal, but I don't have unlimited 1 euro coins, so I am going to try and cover the last six days of walking with brief blurbs. Seriously, I will be brief this time!

Addendum: There are actually many routes to Santiago. I will be taking the Camino Frances, or French Road, which is the most popular and best marked. The total distance from St. Jean to Santiago is variously given, but 819 km (509 miles) seems to be the most accurate. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela, where St. James is allegedly buried, was the third most important pilgrimage in medieval times, after Rome (been there) and Jerusalem (done that).

Day 1
6:30 am - 12:15 pm
27 km

In St. Jean, I received my "pilgrim credential" which is sort of like a passport but more useful because it entitles me to cheap meals and cheaper (or free) beds at all the pilgrim hostels along the Camino de Santiago, whereas a regular passport merely entitles me the right to enter a country, with no accompanying discounts. I am obliged to get my credential stamped at each albergue or hostel I stay at, but I can also get optional stamps wherever I like along the way. Of course, I love this concept, and I've basically stopped everywhere I possibly could to get my pilgrim passport stamped. The first day of walking was typical for me, because, although it's supposedly the most "difficult" (not exactly Himalayas difficult, I can attest), it is also supposed to be one of the most spectacular, since it takes you up and over the Pyrenees before descending down into Spain. The typical part is that it rained the whole day, so there were no views, and I got completely soaked. In Roncesvalles, famous as the setting for the Song of Roland--the story of Charlemagne's best knight, who took on more Moors than he could handle--I spent the night in a pilgrim's "hospital" that's been serving in the capacity for about 800 years. Basically, it's a giant medieval hall with about 200 bunk beds. Imagine the echoes of the snoring in such a chamber! I would have to imagine it too, because I carry earplugs.

No comments: