There are two routes over the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied de Port. One goes over the mountains from the beginning and then heads downhill towards the end and is known as the Napolean Route. The other goes around the mountain as much as possible, yet has a steep uphill climb at the end. The usual route, the Napolean, has great views but is often closed because of bad weather on these highest altitudes of the Pyrenees.
If you have seen movie, The Way, you’ll remember that the opening premise is that the climber loses his life on the first day on the mountain. Bad fog on the Napoleon makes people do things like walk off cliffs that they did not see. Yes, it really happens.
I said that, if the weather was bad, I would have no problem walking the lower route. Well, it looks like that is what I will have to do.
I had made a reservation to stay at a hostel in Orrison, about 8 kilometers up the mountain on the Napolean, and stay there the first night. I planned to make that first day an easy one. But the Napolean has just been closed for tomorrow because of very bad weather (closed means they recommend people do not go that way).
So, it appears that my plans are changing from day one.
The hostel in St. Jean Pied de Port where I am staying this first day, Le Espirit de Chemin, is wonderful. After walking two Caminos together, the owners decided that they wanted to have a business which welcomed pilgrims. They work at their hostel six months out of the year and spend the other six in the Nederlands where they find temporary jobs. Like many hostels, they have volunteers help with managing the flow of pilgrims during the prime Camino season.
The owners, Roberta and Arno, do all the cooking and, wow, can they cook. Basically vegetarian, luscious food to warm the heart and belly! They made a wonderful homemade tomato soup with fresh vegetables, followed by a sweet pasta salad, a warm potato salad, a fresh tomato, cucumber and arugula salad, and an out of this world roquefort cheese pie. Homemade wine accompanied the meal and flowed non-stop.
I donated to the charity they are supporting this year in honor of being in business ten years, Save the Children. They also provide a take away lunch for the next day, if desired, so I ordered that also. I can hardly wait. And the coffee is delicious, so breakfast in the morning should be a welcome start.
I will unpack and get settled in for the night. My bed is a top bunk. You don’t want to know when was the last time I tried to hoist myself up that high.