Day 43, 14:21 – Cagnotte

cagnotteJune 12: Dax – Bidache

A bullfight poster exposed in a Saint Jaques bar in Cagnotte, signs that I was slowly approaching Basque territory and Spain.

This day, I could see the Pyrenees in the distance, for the first time. For most people this doesn’t mean anything but for me, coming from so far, with all this pain and suffering, it is a milestone. And reflecting all the difficulties I faced on this way, I now understand that this walk could have ended every minute and that it’s a gift that, for now, I am allowed to continue. And I am greatful for that.

Day 44, 17:56 – Iholdy

iholdy1June 13: Bidache – Iholdy

I already love the Basques, their villages are simple but charming, with traditional houses, a church with an integrated cemitary, adjacent a huge wall with a square, where they play their kind of squash and a bar. So the whole village is drinking beer and watching the guys hitting the hardball with their hands against the wall, which by the way is serious sports. So at 21:30 I wanted to pay my bill to look for a nice outdoor sleeping place when the owner of the bar started to talk to me in Basque.

I thought he wanted to know how much beer I had but than I understood that he wanted to know if I had a sleeping place. I said no, its 6 days that I haven’t seen a bed. Than he called me to the window of his bar, smiled at me and pointed to the church which has a kind of 1st floor wooden construction, above the tombs, where a little staircase leads up. I smiled back to him and understood, this is where I would stay tonight. So I ordered some more beers which hopefully would help me to sleep because I hadn’t much the last nights. The place is called Iholdy,

Ah, and in the morning he invited me for a breakfast in his bar, a German breakfast he proudly announced. It was good but too little for me, I remember that after the first corner of the village I packed out my bread I bought the day before starting to inject the calories I would need for the mountain shortcut to cross until Saint Jean.

Day 45, 11:10 – Mountain Shortcut

iholdyJune 14: Iholdy – Saint Jean Pied de Port

I think it is fair to say that after more than 2.000 km, I was sick of these lowlands and happy to climb a little. I remember that I once fell from a bicicle in Kopenhagen. I never fell before from a bicicle. Some say, I was drunk, my theory is that it was too flat.

From Ilholdy, there is a normal road that goes around the mountains to Saint Jean. The guy from the bar gave me the hint for the mountain shortcut, which I highly appreciated because it made me arrive early in Saint Jean.

Day 46 – Saint Jean Pied de Port

saint-jean-pied-de-portJune 15: Saint – Jean – Pied – de – Port

Saint – Jean – Pied – de – Port (Donibane Garazi in Basque) is the Pilgrims capital north of the Pyrenees. Here begins 800 km Camino Francés which for most people is the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. To avoid the ascent of the Pyrenees, some people start in Roncesvalles. The border to Spain (Navarra) is at about 1.300 height meters, about 2 hours before Roncesvalles.

I was more than happy to place my 3rd and last micro SD card with the Spanish maps into my GPS and decided to take my 3rd day off.

Day 47, 15:48 – Roncesvalles

roncesvallesJune 16: Saint Jean Pied de Port – Zubiri

Roncesvalles, where Roland, commander of Charlemagne´s rear guard was defeated by the Basques in 778 and by that became a hero, inspiring the famous Song of Roland (see legend).

I re-met Paula and her funny friend Marco from Italy (both had been for one night in the same albergue in Saint Jean Pied de Port). Marco told us that the Saint Jaques Association in Rome, where he got his pilgrim pass, forced him to indicate in written, why he decided to do the Camino. Apparently he did not agree to so much insistance from the association, so he just put “Sex” there, as his main purpose. I remember that we laughed so much about this comment, because sex is probably the last thing you will find on the way to Santiago.

Day 48, 17:59 – Pamplona

pamplonaJune 17: Zubiri – Pamplona

Until here made it Charlemagne. Probably the city I most liked. It´s historic, not too big, charming, has a University and people are sitting on the street at night, hearing live music. Unfortunately, I lost some time with my cel phone because I had to find a Vodafone store to purchase a local SIM card and after placing it, the anti virus program was blocking my phone. So I couldn´t even take pictures anymore.

Day 49, 14:54 – Puente la Reina

puente-la-reinaJune 18: Pamplona – Lorca

Zubi Erromanikoa!

At the town entrance of Puente la Reina I saw my first stork on a large chimney. I thought it would be my first and last one so I spend a lot of time and efforts to take pictures because it was not so easy to come close to that chimney. If I would have known that from there on there are still hundreds of storks to come (almost on every tower, chimney or parroquia there were nests), I would have been a little more relaxed.