Camino Day 1 - St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles - 16 miles
Today was brutal.
We got off the train in St. Jean around 8:30 to a steady rain and a grim forecast. After picking up a couple essentials from a local outfitter and getting our first stamps in our Credential, we headed out with a new friend we met on the train. After a mile or so we were out of town and it got intense. The rain picked up as we climbed into the Pyrenees and I see now how armies through history have been turned away. It is completely unforgiving.
It is also fantastically surreal and beautiful. The weather let up about 2 hours in and the sky started to clear away to impossibly steep hills shrouded in fog and sprinkled with sheep and farmhouses. As we climbed what came to feel like a never ending hill for the next 3 or 4 hours, the landscape became more and more dreamlike. Finally around hour 6 we started our descent down the other side of the range, crossing into Spain and shady woodlands. From picturesque forest to a surprise encounter with half a dozen enormous horses grazing their way up the trail, the remainder of the day was equally beautiful.
I am completely and utterly annihilated. My hips and shoulders are the worst, though thankfully my feet are blister free. I think tomorrow will be long at 17 miles but not too difficult. We've heard from everyone without exception that today is by far the hardest terrain on the entire Camino, with tomorrow and the next day being gently downhill most of the way and flat the rest. With an early start and a steady pace we're hoping to arrive at our next stop sometime in the early afternoon. We'll keep you posted.