Each October, I have the pleasure of taking a group of new hikers over the Pyrenees to experience a taste of the Camino de Santiago. This year, we were a party of 12 and I must say, the group bonded so well and we enjoyed every step along the way, even though it wasn't plain sailing! I vlogged the journey, from the initial travelling day to arriving in Pamplona. I hope you enjoy this mini blog series.
ST JEAN PIED DE PORT TO THE REFUGE ORISSON
DAY 2 – Biarritz to St Jean to Orisson
The one with the broken train, the walnuts and the emotional round robin.
WEATHER: It has rained all day, but more of an ongoing drizzle.
MILES: Total: 5 miles, but all uphill!!
HEALTH: all good. Everyone is happy. No aching bones and no foot issues.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:
🧤 6.30am – Wow! The breakfast was amazing! A full spread of cheeses, fruit, toast, sausages, bacon, creamy scrambled eggs and the strongest coffee that will put hairs on your chest! In France, they give you disposable gloves to wear so you can help yourself to the buffet. We discovered that these gloves also make excellent sandwich bags for packing out a sneaky lunch! Awesome idea Kev!
7.30am – Taxi drivers, Jack & Denis arrive and within 15 mins we arrive at Bayonne train station.
8am – The ticket office is covered in scaffolding so we head over to the machine to grab our train tickets. The ticket machine represents a video game from the 1980s! Corrine (French customer service assistant) with her little red hat comes to our rescue and twists knobs, pushes buttons and gets us 50% discounted tickets! Result! After we purchased them she says in her string French accent “there is no train today, but we order you a taxi”. Um… ok?
We wait. And wait.
🇫🇷 8.30am – A nice looking French man arrives with snacks, water and weird-looking yoghurts. In my mind, I’m thinking “does this mean we are going to be here for a while?”
We wait. And wait.
☕️ The nice-looking man appears again. This time with shots of hot coffee for everyone.
🚽 Omg! The train station may be in a state of refurbishment but the loos are wicked! Yep, the toilet self sanitises and a women talks to you whilst you are doing your business. I have no idea what she was saying but it was entertaining netherthless!
We wait. And wait.
🚕 One taxi turns up. It fits four people. We have x 12! To cut a long story short, we all ended up in St Jean pied de Port by 12.30 pm travelling in three different taxis.
🥾 12.05pm – Oh no! The pilgrim's office is closed for lunch. You couldn’t make this up! Have I mentioned that it is a torrential downpour? I think they call this “type two fun” 😂- everyone is still smiling though and we decide to crack on and not wait until 1.30 pm for the pilgrims office to open. We start walking. The Pyrenees, here we come!
👶 I’ve decided that the Camino is a bit like childbirth. You forget the painful bits! It was steep heading out of St Jean and I kept having flashbacks of the first time I walked this section.
🌰 The lovely Denise collected walnuts from the trail. They tasted Devine!
✋ We stopped at a small hostel just over halfway called Hunto – a little French lady with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp slowly opened the door halfway. “Reservation?” She asked no one in particular. “No? Do you have a Cafe con Leche? I asked, forgetting so was in France and not Spain. She ignored me and then told us to sit outside in the rain ☔️ rather than in the small gazebo. This day just gets better! “Welcome to France!” I announced, to no one in particular!
🌧 3pm – The rain stopped and we walked through the mist and cloud as we climbed higher and higher. We had talked to a few pilgrims along the way, taken photos 📸 of the views when the cloud broke and stopped to chat to the cows. Everyone has found their rhythm and people are walking at their own pace. I turned the last corner knowing that the Orisson Hostel was only 50 yards around this bend. There it was! I walked into the bar and was greeted with a round of applause by John, Caroline, Rob, Theresa and Leisa. This ritual happened as each person came through the door. It’s such a lovely welcome after climbing that mountain!
🥘 6.30pm – The pilgrim meal is always special at the Orisson. After our food and wine, we were invited to stand up and tell the room who we were and why we are walking the Camino. We met a lovely guy called Fred from Canada who had recently lost his wife, a lady from Ireland who was a single mum and was just enjoying some time out from her teenage daughter. One lady had everyone in tears as she shared her health story and how the Camino saved her life. There were so many stories from all sorts of people. Spanish, Brazil, Ireland, Netherlands, to name a few. It was rather intense listening to heartbreaking tales but it brought the room and the group closer together.
🛌 9.30 pm – I’m now tucked up in bed on the top bunk. We are in a room full of 10 pilgrims (mainly our group). It’s mixed with both men & women. Someone is already snoring but a gentle girly snore. This is known as the Pilgrim lullaby!
Night night. See you tomorrow.