A journey of 800 km starts with one step..

Or in my case, 29,466 steps, but who’s counting.

This was the day I had so much anticipation and some apprehension about.  Anticipation for the fabulous views and shared camaraderie with others that undertook the same struggle, and doubts – almost trepidation that I hadn’t trained well enough.  And both feelings at the same time.  Yea-haw.  Both were fulfilled.

But I know myself well enough that once something decided, I want to get it underway, for good or for bad.  And that led to a lot of nervous energy last night – so bad that I estimate less than 3 hours of sleep.  Starting off tired doesn’t help, though pure adrenaline quickly took hold.  

In retrospect there were a couple of options to break segment 1 into 2 parts: either stay at Orisson or use a van service to fetch/deliver you further up the trail.  BTW, one of those services is offered by Express Bourricot who did a great job with my airport transfer. Not that I would have done that – but there are advantages to spending 2 days high in the Pyrenees and not just one.  Choose wisely.

The first day was everything that was promised and more.  I arrived at Roncesvalles as tired as I’ve ever been: to the point that the reception desk at Hotel Roncesvalles offered me a lollipop for sugar (my real problem was dehydration…. I missed the first water font, and I tend to drink less on a long walk to minimize restroom stops.  Note to self: that’s a bad idea on something like this).  

My other challenge was backpack weight.  The Counsellor at the pilgrim office suggested I take food to make sure I had enough.  So I started out with a baguette (well, it IS France without respect to the obvious joke about whether it was a baguette in my backpack) a hunk of cheese, a bag of nuts, and an apple.  This, and the laundry detergent, added about a kilogram to my backpack – way too much.

I stopped at Refuge Orisson and had a sandwich and orange juice.  It was a good rest stop. I ate the apple at Vierge d’Orisson on a rest break.  I tankered the rest.  It ended up in the trash at Roncesvalles.  Lesson learned.  Take fruit – it’s filling and will replenish electrolytes.  But water was also a challenge… as noted, I missed the first water font.  I was massively dehydrated by the end (I have probably had 6 liters of water since getting to Roncesvalles).

The trick about this segment is that there is a slight downhill after the Spanish border.  Don’t let it fool you: you will go even higher later.  After that final peak at Col de Lepoender the downhill is steep – and nearly as strenuous as going up.  Even though I bought a new and nice camera, I took most photos with my phone. 

As I got bone tired, I couldn’t help but think of the early pilgrims that didn’t have our modern tools and knowledge.  After that, I got so tired I could only think of my own survival and getting done.  Money is a powerful motivator: to secure the room required a guarantee.  

More in part two.