Day 1: St. Jean to Roncesvalles


St. Jean had symbols of the Camino just about everywhere.  It’s understandable as pilgrims have been funneling through this town of 1,600 residents for over a thousand years.


Today’s hike was planned for the Napoleon Route, but the recent heavy snows closed the preferred high mountain passage. The pilgrims office gave us details on the alternate route, Valcarlos.  They advised that heavy snows also closed the camino trail along Valcarlos too. So we were told to use caution, but hike on the side of the shoulderless two lane international road N-135 which heads to Spain. The “normal” Valcarlos route on the trail is 24 km (14.9 miles) and 22% of the distance is on the main road. Now with the weather closures, more than half of our hike would be on International Road N-135 and it also added extra miles. Walking this long on the asphalt is both tiring on the legs and downright dangerous. Oh well, not too much one can do, so after a quick breakfast we were on our way.


Our first steps along the camino. The boots will look a bit different at the end.


Beautiful sheep and cattle farms lined the lower portion of the route.


After a while we met up with Bob from Sweden and David from Australia.


Many hazards on the N-135. Narrow winding roads, speeding tractor-trailers and a pack of goats. They were hilarious.  All three would run out onto the road and start licking the salt. As soon as they heard a vehicle winding down the pass, they’d run behind the guardrail until it passed.  Once safe, back onto the roadway.


Our high point crossing into the Pyrenees.  There was 2 feet of snow at the top.  After the chapel it was downhill a few kilometers to the 183 bed Albergue (which we were very glad to see). All tolled we hiked nearly 18 miles and gained 1000 meters in elevation. It seemed like more elevation gain as there were many very steep accents followed by equally steep decents.

Overall, a very successful first day on the camino. We are hurting a bit, but no blisters so far. We both agreed to plan a shorter day tomorrow to recover a bit.
Buen Camino!



Filed under Mark & Sandy's Camino 2014

6 responses to “Day 1: St. Jean to Roncesvalles

  1. Thanks Steve and sorry for the spelling and/or double word mistakes on the blog. I am trying to do my best, but it is hard on a smartphone…I can barely see the type. Getting old. Ha.

  2. Kathleen Salvas

    You have a lot of work ahead of you be safe, rest when you can. We love you both!

  3. We love following your progress. If you get a chance checkout in Pamplona. We liked staying there. Quiet and comfortable. After Pamplona, you will climb a ridge where there are some windmills located. Getting to the top of the ridge was not too bad but it is very steep going downhill on the camino for several miles after reaching the top. Consider following the road downhill rather than the camino to save your knees.

  4. Mindy King

    How exciting to be starting! We are enjoying your adventure. The photos, stories, and insights are fabulous! Stay safe and Buen Camino from us!

  5. Great pictures, great story. Loved reading about the goats on the Valcarlos! This post alone has brought back wonderful memories of my time on the Camino Francés June 2014…I look forward to reading about the rest of your journey.

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