Distance: 21 km
Time: 6:15hr – 8:30am to 2:45pm
Terrain: challenging. Uphill for 13 km to Col Lepoeder then downhill 5km to Roncevalles. Then 3 flat to Burguete.
Weather: Cold and windy on the mountain (3-4C?) and warmer as we came down the other side.
Lise’s alarm went off at 6am and I just rolled over and tried to sleep since breakfast wasn’t until 7:30. We had coffee and dry toast downstairs and I was still feeling really awful. I couldn’t eat anything and made multiple trips to the bathroom. I downed more immodium and prayed I would be able to make it up and over the Pyranees. Erik waited patiently but he was anxious to leave and we were close to the last to leave the Refuge. I was definitely in for another “hunker down and suck it up” kind of day.
It was chilly and we were already dressed in most of our warm clothes – LS merino wool, SS tech t shirt, fleece, rain/wind jacket, scarf, hat, & headband. We continued to climb the same road for about 6-8km then we went off road and started up the dirt trail. There are no trees at all and only a few bushes here and there along the trail. There are farms dotted along the way and lots of big work horses with huge bells around their necks. I had to make a couple of emergency no-bathroom stops but luckily was able to find a bush to hide behind.
There were lots of pilgrims slowly trudging up the mountain and everyone was getting to know one another. You walk with someone for a little while then with someone else for a little while. It’s quite interesting how we all automatically start to talk with each other. I was on my own though. I barely had energy to walk, let alone talk to anyone so my goal was to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.
The terrain wasn’t difficult, it was just relentless up and up. A lot of people would stop to take breaks by I didn’t want to stop. I was sweating and if I stopped, I got cold.
We added more layers – my LS button shirt, my down vest, my buff, my mitts, and then my waterproof mitt covers because they were windproof. Then I tied my scarf over my head. I’m sure I looked a sight. We tried to take photos along the way – Erik took pics until his phone died and then I took the rest. Near the top, there was an emergency shelter complete with its own wind and solar power – very cool.
This path is called Napoleon’s Way and if I wasn’t typing this on a phone, I tell you a bit about the history. Go google it, it’s interesting!
We finally reached the very top – Col Lepoeder – at 1420m – we had climbed about 800m today (2600′). The path down to Roncevalles was about 5km (we took the longer, less steep trail) and as we hiked, we took lots of breaks to save our knees. The sun came out and we warmed up as we lost altitude. I was feeling a little better and ate a few bites of a sandwich and 3 shot blocks. We finally arrived in Roncevalles around 2ish and stopped at the huge alburgue to get a stamp for our Credencial at the place where most pilgrims stay but the line was too long and everyone looked cranky.
The walk to the next town of Burguete was only 3 flat km through some beautiful forest which we later learned was a witch’s forest. I was feeling even better by now and was actually able to chat with Erik as we walked.
We arrived at Hostal Burguete at 2:45 and checked in and boy were we glad to be staying at a hotel instead of a hostal. It was quiet and we had a big room with our own bathroom. The hotel is famous for hosting Ernest Hemingway back in the 1920’s and the it’s the setting for his novel The Sun Also Rises. He carved his name and date into the piano in the dining room.
We unpacked and I decided to have a hot bath but they don’t have plugs in Spain so Erik had to use duct tape to block the drain. And OMG it was the best bubble bath I’ve had in a long time. Simple pleasures.
I slept for an hour or so and then we went down for a drink and get info about dinner which it turned out wouldn’t be served until 8pm. We had fun chatting with the hotel manager/bartender and learning to speak Basque. He gave Erik a little Basque/Spanish/French dictionary so we can improve our skills. The guy reminded us a lot of Clare from the Minstrel.
We came down again for dinner at 8 and both had the pilgrim menu for 14 euros each. We had salad or veggies, then a meat dish and dessert plus a bottle of wine. Good deal. The only other people in the restaurant were pilgrims so we met 2 men from Germany, Chris from Utah, Klaus from Germany, Glenda from SF and two French gentlemen. We had a good mes and great conversation until we finally went up to bed at 11, very tired. I only ate about half my dinner by still felt OK. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
Here are a few pictures of the day.