We woke up to howling winds – sounds we’d never heard before and only imagined. Our experienced housemates – the Hungarian couple and the meditating German decided to set off in the wind nevertheless. After standing outside the door to see the effects of the wind for ourselves, we decided to walk up the road 800m to the main Refuge and eat breakfast and then decide what we do next.
The wind was strong and lashed against our bodies as we climbed the steep slope. Everyone had left! So we had a quick breakfast of coffee, juice and bread and we started our walk of 16km.
The wind was beating hard against us as we walked. Fluids were pouring out of the eyes and nose! My mouth would at times be open, as I was out of breath and gulping in air through my mouth – the wind in its strength would tear through my open mouth! I imagined the cartoons that could be drawn of misshapen faces in the wind!! It was torturous to say the least, as the wind was unrelentingly keeping our progress slow. Our walking sticks helped us anchor ourselves into the ground when the gusts were too strong.
After 3 hours of walking in winds that were lashing us, I yelled out in my head to St James- come on and do something – we’re here because of you! At this point a heavy gust pushed us forward for about a 100m! Strengthened physically and spiritually, we moved forward.
The struggle was real, everyone on the way was having a tough time but ploughing their way through. Even the lady with her dog.
Walk on the inner side of the road- not on the cliff side, walk with tiny steps and bend forward, look down and don’t look forward, try not to stop.
My buff flew off my head, into John fortunately! We weren’t that lucky with the toilet paper roll that was being used to take bits to clean our noses and eyes! It flew right out of the bag and unrolled itself down the mountain side!!! There was nothing we could do to stop it! Here we were – the littering Indians!!!
Around 6km up in the mountains, just before reaching the highest point of 1400 m, we stopped at the food truck (the only food stop) nestled in the side of the mountain. Sitting behind it, we ate some boiled eggs, bananas and drank hot coffee. Walkers who’d stopped ate quietly, probably contemplating the walk thus far and praying it got better.
We reached the highest point and then started our descent. The winds had ceased on this side of the mountain, but our bodies were beaten and we were tired. The walk down was on trail paths that were rocky and uneven. The progress down was slow.
Around 3.30pm we reached our refuge for the night – a public albergue in Roncesvalles.
In order to help pilgrims crossing the Pyrenees along the St James’ Way, around 1127, the Bishop of Pamplona, requested by King Alfonso I ‘the Battler’, founded the Roncesvalles Hospitality Institution. A monastery tended to the needs of pilgrims. This continues today. The monastery holds about 300 pilgrims and has a few restaurants in the complex, servicing the needs of everyone staying here.
After a dinner of soup, patata bravas and beer we fell into our beds and slept!
The consensus among pilgrims who’d walked that day, was that the winds we faced probably had the velocity of about 100-120km per hour!! We heard the next day that some walkers did get injured! A prayer of thanksgiving that nothing worse happened!