April 5: We made it to St. Jean Pied de Port, the starting point of our journey. That town really takes the Camino seriously. As soon as we arrived in town, we were directed to the official Camino “passport” agency, and they asked us a few questions about our intentions and personal information, issued passports, and stamped them with the St. Jean official stamp. Then, without discussing any options, an old man escorted us and a few other pilgrims to a local hostel. That was it. A room full of bunks, a couple showers, a bathroom. The afternoon was nearly silent as fellow pilgrims prepared themselves for the walk. The air was rich with anticipation.
April 6: We accomplished the first leg of the Camino, from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Roncesvalles, Spain, covering 16 miles and and about 4,500 feet in elevation change. We left early and moved slowly. About ten minutes later, it began to rain and proceeded to do so for the entire first half of the hike. As we climbed up in elevation, it also got colder. Eventually, despite the shock to our bodies of this degree of activity, we found a rhythm.
We don’t really know when we passed into Spain, as there was no welcome sign. After finally reaching the top of the climb (at Col Lepoeder), it was a drastic descent into Roncevalles. It was a serious hike, and I know Cris was hurting, but she didn’t complain. The first day is always the hardest, and many other pilgrims have attested to this. We, however, had a certain amout of luck. About an hour after we settled in to our hostel accomodations it began to snow heavily. I don’t think I was prepared for that. The pictures tell the rest of the story.