Off to breakfast with Giovanni. Met Kiersten from California 52 single mom we chatted about the weather and why we were doing the Camino Buber 2 hot topic was luggage. Breakfast of coffee, orange juice, plums and cheese with confit. Very French.
I pack and return to pay. 36 euro for bed dinner and breakfast.
I set off and it’s steep as yesterday. After a short distance the Camino diverges onto a farmers track. Now it’s steeper and I’m in a lather but the breeze is cool. The shirts I bought are really doing a good job thanks to Shimano. There must be a lot of very comfortable fishermen out there.
I stop for a few photos every so often. Catch up with some more Koreans. After Orrison they yell out “hey John are you Ok?” And I answer yes I’m hot and slow but ok.
I reach Orrison after 45 minutes and it’s tough. Hop inside but all I can see is a almond magnum. There’s other stuff there but that all I see. 2.50 later and I’m into the most delicious treat. Boots off and cooling the feet and fill the water bottle.
10 minutes and I’m rested so it’s back to climbing again. That Magnum’s not sitting pretty but there’s calcium there somewhere and wit all this vitamin d I’ll just stick it out.
I find a culvert with a high lip and stop for a rest, drop the pack and boots off. I have a bag of eucalyptus lollies and three squares of melted Lint. There is supposed to be a van at the top where I can get something for lunch otherwise it will be a long day.
Jackie (American) and Jean-Pierre(French of course) turn up so I giver her half the improvised seat. Sock changing time for everyone followed by photos.
More climbing. We are really getting high and the villages on the valley floor are specs. Wind picks up too and it’s a struggle to keep my hat on in the headwind. Head down and I’m leaning into the wind with a view 2 feet in front of me. But it’s cool too. Most people pass me and I’m really puffing but my heart is nice and steady. I’m shortening my pace and quickening my breath in response to elevation.
The statue of the Virgin appears but no van. Maybe it’s at the cross.
Eventually catch up with Jackie and John-Pierre resting well off the road so I stop for a chat and boots off again. My feet feel ok except for second toe on the left so I crack out a bandage. They leave and I stay for a bit but eventually set out after them.
I make it to the cross but no van. It going to be a very long day.
Run into the Hale & Pace of midland cycling and we exchange photo ops.
Now it’s off-road and a very nasty very steep notch which I inch up in macine gun puffs. Man this is steep and rocky. Thank goodness for the poles without which I would be lying by the side of the road with blown-out knees.
It eventually flattens out a bit and after a while I get to Rolands Fountain where a young Eastern European couple are chatting to each other and he’s smoking!
I drink the rest of my water and half fill with ice cold mountain bliss. I’m stuffed but it’s time to go. The straps on the front pack are killing me so I hook them to the front of my backpack and gain a little relief. Man they are cutting in.
Pace is getting better and low and behold I bump into Team Jackie again. She says I’m a machine. More a wind-up toy I think. They are off again and I’m plodding. I make it to the hut and collapse inside. Guess whos there? Jackie asked if I would like a chocolate. Of course! But it turns out to be a biscuit. I eat it anyway I’m that hungry. A Korean lady turns up and I greet her in Hangul. That makes the eyes open. The earlier couple turn up and she wants to know the distance left so I pull out the map and I ask her where she’s from. Hungary! And after I give her the traditional greeting and explain Ali and I lived for a while in Pashareti Utca she gets excited. I can tell she’s a bit homesick.
There off and the Korean lady tells me to move it.
I’m really tired now and it gets really rocky and steep. I pass bossy and keep on chugging I don’t know how.
A lady passes me but seeing I’m distressed offers me a caramel. Ordinarily caramels are great and so is this one but trying to chew once and suck in acre-feet of oxygen don’t go hand in hand. I persevere.
I am a machine because I make it to the top and another photo op.
Now for the descent. I like descents. Not this one though it’s nasty.
My legs are jelly and it’s all I can do to keep upright. My toes are jammed in and really hurting and I’m sure blisters are forming but there’s nothing to but keep going.
It goes on forever. I start praying.
After a hundred curves I come around one and see what I think is a finish line. How quaint. Emotion bubbles to the surface and I have a little cry. It’s only an electric fence.
The forest path goes on and on and down and down and then to pluck at your courage it goes up. I find a little ledge and have a short rest. This won’t do.
Up again and more walking. Eventually I get thirsty again but I can’t reach the bottle and I daren’t take the pack off. A young man catches up with me so I ask. There’s not much left and now there’s none.
The path goes on and on and on.
At last a road appears and I shuffle into Roncevalles totally shagged.
I can barely make it up the hill. I don’t know where to go but there’s a group ahead reading a sign. I wait and watch. When I see them move I follow a short cut across the car park.
I make it the water tap and it’s a real task to fill the bottle again. I’m zapped.
It’s 5.30 and I left at 8.45 covering 21 of the most arduous kilometres with a 13 kilogram pack.
I make it inside and book in with a bed on the third floor. I collapse on a bench and eventually a hospitalero comes over, takes pity, picks up my bag and takes it down to the lift at the back.
The Koreans (new ones) have swapped my bed. I don’t care. I need a shower badly. I get my gear together being careful to take all my precious with me. The shower is fantastic. I don’t care that you have to press it every 15 seconds.
Back to my bed I discover my camera missing. Then my walking sticks. It’s a big blow.
I get my washing together and shuffle down stairs to report. There outside the office are my sticks. I must have left them there. I report the camera and the guy turns around opens a drawer and pops it in my hand. In my confusion I must have left it outside. Faith restored.
I bump into my mate Giovanni and he gives me a big Sicilian welcome. He arrived at 1 pm.
We agree to dinner. I have two cokes with Plata del Dia. Pork medallions, asparagus and chips. Our conversation ranges over many topics he is a nurse. We have to converse in English of which his is limited but it so reminds me of Griffith. A very pleasant evening. I pay for dinner 24 euro, but Giovanni insists on him shouting breakfast. So it will be.
On the way out we bump into …….. Team Jackie.
I now feel fine a remarkable outcome considering what I put myself through today.
There’s no phone service and I cannot get a message to Ali. I miss you sweetie. I’m looking forward to our meeting in Sarria.
Lights have gone out and everyone is asleep so it’s time to post.
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