Saturday, July 12, 2014

And then we were in Spain

I woke up this morning and realized that I'd forgotten to post the rest of the first day's walk. Sorry.

The border crossing into Spain is so remote and unmarked that we weren't entirely sure we had passed it until we got to the Fountain of Roland.

There was a French mile marker before the border.
Getting water at the Fountain of Roland

 The Fountain of Roland is along the historic route taken over the the pass. It is potable water. In the background you can see the caliche path, with some peregrinos walking away from the fountain.
By this point we had gotten back below the tree line.
We walked along this path, we walked on leaves under the (beech?) forest, and we walked on damp dirt. A lot of it!
Later on that afternoon, as we progressed farther down the south side of the mountains, we found that the wind became much stronger. It was so strong the last couple of miles into Roncesvalles that I had to lean sideways and hold my sticks at about a 45 degree angle on the lee side just to stay on my feet.
After we got into the monastery, about 4:30 pm, one of the hospitaleros--the people who volunteer to assist in housing the many, many pilgrims--told me that the week before a lady had broken her leg in two places and been flown out.
Roncesvalles is an ancient monastery, with a courtyard and several buildings and a church. We gave our passport information--in Spain you must do this everywhere you spend the night--and got our credenciales stamped with the sello, left our boots in the boot closet and followed the hospitalero up the three flights of stairs to our beds. In the new dorm at Roncesvalles, the floors are divided into cubicles with 4 foot partitions, two beds to a cubicle. And they are not bunk beds! Also there was a locker we could put our packs into. If only we had known what luxury this was. But we listened carefully to the orientation talk from "our" hospitalero, tucked the packs into the lockers, and headed over to the restaurant to make a reservation for the pilgrims meal. (You had to reserve and pay in advance so they'd know how much to make.) We relaxed for a little bit, until it was time to go eat. Then we went to the pilgrims' Mass and blessing and called it a night.