Wednesday, July 9, 2014

After the setup, comes the plunge

And it was really a plunge into reality!
We started out in the sunshine, at the base of the pass, and for a while it was just pretty and nice. There was a slope, but it wasn't steep, and even someone whose training had all been flatland could do okay.
Then we turned a corner and started to really climb. Still on paved tiny-little-road, so we had to keep to the side and watch for traffic. The French government had helpfully posted a sign requesting that everyone walk in "file indienne"--apparently walk Indian style is their word for single file.
We walked up, and up. My sweetie walked faster than I did, so at some point in the day he just forged on ahead until he had to stop. (I found out later that there were more of those stops than I at first realized. He said that he felt like his lungs were being ripped out through his mouth and shaken hard, then dropped on his head. He did say to me that he regretted every single cigarette he had ever smoked.) That actually happened later on, when it was medium steep and went on and on and on...

The first part, up to Honto, was just steep and we were still energetic and joking. Like apparently everyone else that has done this, we stepped aside and caught our breath while taking a picture of the valley we had left. I reloaded water bottles at the fountain. We kept on, stepping around springs that were dribbling down the path. Eventually we got to  Orisson. (Around 10:30 or 11 in the morning.) There is a restaurant there. I got a sello--a stamp of being there--added to my credencial and bought a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches for later. (Cue sounds of spouse saying "I'm not hungry yet." And the answer: "There won't be Pizza Hut on top of the mountain when you decide that you are ready to eat. We need to think ahead about these things." So we bought the sandwiches, me thinking that we'd have a picnic with our sandwiches and water bottles in a hour or so.)
The ham and cheese sandwiches, so called, were just like the bocadillos we would be buying for the rest of the journey: a slice of cheese, a slice of the lovely country ham, and a short baguette. No mayo, no mustard, no butter. Just the essential elements of the beast. Handed to me in a paper bag.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have insisted that we sit down and eat a bowl of hot soup instead. The fluid, and the heat, would have done us more good.

And this collection of pictures gets us just about to the Spanish border.
(Did you see that I added my windbreaker on to the outfit? I was cold. When we stopped for a rest at the statue of Our Lady, I pulled the windbreaker out and put it on.) There was a serious headwind, too, and it just got stronger as we went.
You can see that I was using my walking sticks. These gadgets were a mixed bag for me--absolutely priceless on the first couple of days, then pretty much not used for the rest of the trip. But they paid for themselves on Day 1!
You can also see that there were a fair number of other people walking the same trail. That first day, we were rarely alone. We even got passed by excursion vans going up to see the scenery. And there was a steady trickle of people passing us every time we sat down to catch our breath. This became an enduring trait of the Camino--someone who is sitting down is looked over by all the passers-by. Greeted, too, usually, with "Buen Camino!" or "You okay?" It was comforting to be asked after by all those people. Later on, when we were happily warm and other people were sprawled out under a small bush alongside the trail, we did the same thing. (Well, I figured if they were tired but alert enough to say "buen camino" they'd be along in a little while. But all of us looked at someone who was sitting down on the ground. Because we all were becoming a brotherhood of suffering, though we didn't know it yet.)
I didn't take a picture of the Spanish border; I was tired, and it was too much trouble to take the camera out to snap a photo of a cattle guard.
Tomorrow I'll put up some pictures of the rest of the day.