Saturday 24 May.
The flight was 30 minutes late taking off so we arrived at Biarritz 1600hrs, too late for some folks to make their initial bus and train connections elsewhere. I was lucky I had booked my shared taxi for 1800hrs, by mistake.

My co-taxi riders turned out to be Rosemary from Sweden who now lives in Denmark. Marcos, Pieder(?)and Hilderhigengarder ( or something like that) all of them from Germany.

A 45 minute ride through some pretty scenery found us in St Jean Pied de Port where we said our what could be temporary goodbyes, wished each other Buen Camino and I made my way to the Pilgrims Office. 5 minutes later, clutching my precious Pilgrim’s Passport I crossed the street into my pre-booked bed, dinner and breakfast at the aptly named Albergue Beilari. The name stands for Protector of Pilgims or something very similar.

Dinner was shared with 16 or so other Pilgrims. So, people from Korea, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, France, New Zealand, Belgium and little old Scottish me drank French wine, ate French food and were serenaded in Basque by the owners of the Albergue as we looked forward to a walk across Spain. I was popular at dinner because I was the only one not drinking the wine which left more for those either side of me.

Bed time saw me share a room with An from Belguim and John from the Netherlands. I had the top bunk and during the night I needed to visit the toilet but skilfully managed not to stand on any heads, fingers or toes as I negotiated the ladder in the darkness. The rain was relentless all night.

Steps today 5920.

Sunday 25 May StJPDP to Orisson
This morning saw less rain than last night and I imagined it watched me as I wolfed down a breakfast of tea, jam, chocolate spread and bread chased down with a bowl of cereal and orange juice.

Then, at last, the moment I’ve waited all this time for, I stepped out of the Belari and not the road that would take me off on my first Camino, and immediately realised I had lost one of my walking pole tips already.

Up, up, up and up I went from St Jean towards Orisson. It wasn’t overly strenuous and much like a lot of the training I’ve done, and even head down against the rain sometimes I am happy.

This would be beautiful countryside if you could see it. As it is the clouds have hidden everything from view for my climb.

On the way up I chat with many people and at the very least share a smile and “Buen Camino”, every single greeting returned with the same grace.

Just about 2 and a half hours later I arrived at Orisson. John the Dutchman from Utrecht and some others from the Beilari are all staying here too, as are a group of Americans I’ve been chatting with on the way up here. As I type this more people are arriving as some
non-Orissian overnighters step back into the rain and leave after a coffee and bite to eat toddling of uphill towards Roncevalles. I watch them go and see the still thickening clouds devour them from sight.

There’s no wi-fi here so I’m drafting this for later posting so please don’t expect daily blogs of this length.

I’m sitting here now with John and Julie (from Harvord Springs, Michigan) who are both reading as I’m typing this, we occasionally stop what we are doing, look to each otherand chat about something or other. It’s pleasant, unforced, un-rushed and relaxed. Across the room are the 3 Germans from yesterday with whom I had a little chat earlier and shared a laugh.

Leonne and her friend who are both Aussies are also here. I had previously agreed with Leonne to share the clothes tumble-drier so John and I and Leonne and her friend could get our washing dry. That plan is a little threatened just now because the Americans weren’t happy with how dry their clothes were and put everything back in for another cycle. Arguably they are being selfish but on the other hand, they did get to it first.

Dinner tonight is at 6-30. The owner and his friends/family are eating now. Is that a good sign or do we get their scraps tonight?

Steps today 10355

………….Stop Press…………..
Someone has jumped the queue ahead of us for the tumble-drier!

Monday 26 May Orisson to Roncevalles

Dinner last night turned out to be nothing to write home about, so I won’t.

I shared a room with John last night, it had the shape, size, temperature and feel of a large converted fridge. It was a tight squeeze to get both of us and our packs in there and the roof on my side had a severe slope. End result was only one of us could stand up straight at any one time. My head became very familiar with that sloping ceiling.

Slept ok and wake until just after 6 am.

Breakfast was strange in that we weren’t given cups but breakfast cereal bowls for our tea or coffee. I thought I would have trouble drinking mine, and just prove there was a lot to drink, I had another one. I followed that act of derring-do with some bread and jam.

We set of into the thick misty clouds just after 7:30 am for Roncevalles. It was to be that way all the way through the Pyrenees today and I was deprived of the views I had looked forward to for so long. Maybe some other time.

It wasn’t too long before I got into my pace and the gap between me and everyone else slowly increased until I eventually watched their backs disappear into the mist and rain. For the next few hours we would see each other again on and off.

It turned out this stage was not to be as difficult as I thought it would be. Apart from being cold and wet it wasn’t too challenging and I arrived in Roncevalles at 1345hrs a little tired. I think all my training might have paid off today.

A quick bit of hand washing was the first thing to do after finding my bed. I’m in a cubicle of 4 beds with people I don’t know yet.

Quite hungry now so I’ll go and see what I can rustle up by the way of food. I know there are some vending machines around here somewhere.

Steps today 24783