Our journey from San Sebastian to St Jean was interesting. Our travel guide booked us a driver to pick us up at noon for a 1.5 hour trip to St. Jean. The taxi driver helped us load the car then proceeded to almost pull out in front of an oncoming bus. Minutes later he was about to turn the wrong way on a one-way street. Not a good start to the trip. Once on the highway he kept typing in numbers on his GPS and was not paying the right amount of attention to the road. Sunny suggested that he focus on his driving to which he replied "would you rather walk". Fortunately we made it safely to our destination.
The official start to our Camino portion of our trip began in the small town of St. Jean Pied-de-port, France. The town has a population of just over 1,500 people and is located at the base of the Roncesvalles Pass across the Pyrenees and its name means "foot of the pass" in pyrenean french. The city is on the Camino and apparently has over 1 million tourist visits annually. We spent two nights in a local b&b which was built in 1673. Our first day on the Camino started at 9:00 and it was an uphill climb to 1205 meters. The walk through the majestic Pyrenees mountains was spectacular. We had many great vistas and witnessed eagles soaring overhead as well as horses, sheep and cattle grazing on the mountainside. After two hours of an uphill climb to Orisson we stopped at the only roadside restaurant for a bowl of soup and a sandwich. Following our lunch we had another one hour walk to the Virgin of Orisson where we meet our driver. Given what we heard of the Camino we decided to break up the walk from St. Jean to Roncesvalles into two days--12kms mostly up hill the first day. We had a shuttle from the Virgin back to St. Jean and then they returned us to the same spot in the morning.
We started our hike from the Virgin at 9:00 am on Monday morning. The 15 km walk continued through the mountains and we arrived in Roncesvalles, a small town with a population of 30 people just after 1:00 pm. Now that we are back in Spain we must change from speaking French to Spanish (so confusing at times). We had the good fortune of great weather both days for our hike through the mountains. Although a bit chilling and at times windy, it could have been a totally different experience to have had to make the hike in rainy conditions. One of the great things about the Camino is the people that you meet along the way from all over the world. This particular leg of the Camino has about 57,000 people experiencing it annually with the most popular months being May and September.
We have loved the first two days and found that this apparently hardest section of the Camino was actually not that bad...but then again, look who we're dealing with--2 avid strollers and a spinmaster. Only 790 km's to go!!