SJPDP to Orisson – Day 1

Just 8km up the slopes of the Pyrenees seems like a walk in the park now, compared to our Day 2! The steep stretches sure got us prepared for what was coming our way the next day.

The day started with breakfast – bread, cheese, orange juice, coffee, a fruit and a slice of apple cake. We sat around the dining table chatting with the Gite owner and three other pilgrims – a Texan, her friend, an American living in Indonesia and her sister in law from Guatemala. We talked about France being almost entirely energy independent, the simplicity of life in Guatemala in comparison to Texas and global warming effects on temperature changes in India. The lady living in Indonesia had spent many months in Dharamshala and Kalimpong and made visits to Kerala and Chennai to try the cuisines and was greatly appreciative of everything Indian.

After breakfast we had an ‘energiser session’ conducted by the owner. We stood around his entrance room with our eyes closed and meditated on what the Camino means for us. It was nice! We left, after getting our stamp in our passport and wishing the others a buen Camino.

We followed the arrows leading us on our path up the mountains. John soon learned that our fellow pilgrims would all overtake us! Walking up slopes puts a lot of strain on my lungs and I have to stop every now and then to catch my breath! Tiny steps, don’t look up, look down…this became the mantra to walk.

We were walking through beautiful countryside. Sheep being herded by barking sheep dogs, cows grazing in the fields and the beautiful shades of green of the meadows and fields.

Most pilgrims were headed all the way to Roncesvalles and only a few of us would stop at Orisson, nestled 800m up in the mountains.

Kayola, that holds the spill over crowd from the larger Refuge Orisson and where we had our booking, was closed when we reached at 12.30. So we headed up to the Refuge (800m up the road) to check in and get some lunch.

We headed back to Kayola after some beer and tortilla and armed with a sandwich for the night. We shared the little cottage with 7 others. A Hungarian English teacher who’d done his thesis on Indian literature, a Hungarian couple doing their 13th Camino and 4 Germans, one of whom was into meditation and loved the book Shantaram. They were great company!

Around midnight the winds started howling, lashing against the windows and doors. The window where we were asleep kept getting pushed open as it didn’t have a very strong clasp. There was no sign of slowing down even at 6am.

We were going to be in for a scary walk in the mountains!

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