Day One: Saint Jean to Roncesvalles through the Pyrenees, 27 km

We were first to get up in the albergue as we set our alarm clocks for 4 AM. I cannot say why but it took us two hours to pack our stuff, probably because we tried not to wake anybody up. To be honest, we expected the breakfast before crossing the mountains to be something more than a piece of hard bread and jam acompanied by biscuits, anyway, it’s nothing to moan about. If you plan to leave before 6 AM, go through the yard gate as the main door is closed. It’s kind of funny, but we hadn’t checked the time of sunrise and we were totally surprised that the streets at 6AM looked like in the middle of the night, while we expected the sky to be already sunny, as it was in Poland two days before. Nervously, we started looking for our head torch, which gave a very slight and pale light, soon after that we started using our phones as torches. Be watchful at the first crossing when you leave Saint Jean, depending on whether you go through the mountains or along the road.

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The crossing is is quite well signed, yet still we almost got lost in the dark, what practiclally never happend  again during the whole journey. Our guidebook claims, that the road should be taken only in case of bad weather in the mountains (but then it really is a must!). Generally it is very dangerous because of high traffic and rather unpleasant in comparison to the breathtaking views of the traditional mountain route called La Ruta de Napoleón.  La Ruta reaches 1400 meters above sea level, so it is not that demanding after all, though it will be tough, if you have neither trainging nor experience in this kind of trekking.

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We had breakfast in a nice and cosy inn on the French side, the food was delicious and affordable as well. You’d better use sign language if you don’t speak French, though. Should you forget to take food with you (don’t!), you ought to buy some there, because the next “shop” might be a van close to the Leopoder mountain top, but there will be several springs were you can refill your water supply.  Again, the landscapes are really memorable, especially in the morning fog, when you can observe the surrounding mountains and sheep herds. We must admit that it definitely is one of the most beautiful parts of the Camino and we would regret not having seen it. On the Spanish side you will be observing the albergue of Roncesvalles long before you reach it, while walking down a beautiful zigzagging track with flowery meadows on both sides.

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The last kilometers looked as if we got lost, practically no road at all, so pay attention to the signs (yellow arrows or shells). The albergue is very large, new and very well equipped. We recommend that you use the laundry. You could use the fantastic kitchen as well, if there was at least one single shop there. But there is only a vending machine with disgusting fast food and snacks. There is a shop in Burguete 3km away (which makes both ways more than 90 minutes of additional walking on sore feet) and the restaurant in the albergue is, well, expensive. The collegiate church in Roncesvalles is worth seeing, so if you do not go to the pilgrim mass in the evening at least take part in the sightseeing after, as you will se the church from the very top. Do not expect the albergue door to be open before 6 AM, it will not even be openable from inside and the volunteers taking care of the albergue will pretend that they do not understand  why you want to leave earlier. If you want to cook your food in the kitchen it will not be open until short before six.

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Summary:

  • distance covered so far: 27 km
  • duration: 5.30 am – 2.00 pm
  • cost of albergue: 10 euros
  • laundry: 2.70 euros
  • breakfast in the last inn on the french side (soup + tart): 8 euros
  • vending machine in albergue (snacks): 5.75 euros

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