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.

The one with the absolutely amazing scenery, a French lady peeing on the trail, and a penis mushroom! 

WEATHER:  Perfect! It was chilly as we left but it stayed warm all day and the sun came out to play around 1pm. 

MILES: Total: 11.7 

HEALTH:  everyone is in good health and no aches or pains. 

REFUGE ORISSON TO RONCESVALLES

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: 

💤 5.30 am – I’m in the top bunk and so is Kelly (not the same bed!) I see her phone light on so I send her a cheeky text “did you enjoy the pilgrim lullaby?” We had a whole conversation about snorers and the joys of sleeping in a dorm. I’m surprised we didn’t wake anyone up by our giggling! I pull my quilt over my head and put my torch on as I want to write my journal. I thought I was being discreet, however, I later found out that I glowed in the dark like one of those rocks in the film Cacoon! 

😴 6.30 am – Rob is gently snoring but he asked me to wake him at 6 am. I gently rub his arm… “Rob, it’s wakey wakey time”. He grumbles and rolls over. I poke him in the shoulder “time to get up Rob!!” 

🏔 7.30 am – we are up, packed and ready for breakfast.  I hear the young Canadian chap called Tuff say “wow, look at that!!”. My eyes follow his pointy arm as the Pyrenees are lit by the morning sun.  It’s hard to explain how special this place is, but these views are spectacular.  Breakfast is simple. Just bread & jam with big bowls of coffee or tea. 

📸 8.30am – Our Camino family is growing already. For our group photo, we have been joined by Fred from Canada and Anthony from Ireland. 

🐴 9.17am – As we make our way up the mountain we hear the District sound of cowbells. A few minutes later we see a family of horses emerging from the mist. The path is also Leiden with yellow and black lizards. Some are alive, others are squished. 

☕️ 10.13am – We are just over 4 miles into today’s hike when I spot a white van on the left. I’m excited as I know it’s a food truck and I’m so happy it’s here. (It’s not always there). John buys me a hot chocolate (thanks JK) and I sit on the log next to Anthony (from Ireland). 

👏 As our group slowly arrives everyone is given applause and a lovely welcome. The last one to come up the hill is Fred, the 71-year-old Canadian. We all stand on the road encouraging him up the hill. Fred is struggling a bit, but he’s doing it! Go, Fred! 

🏔 11.45am – The trail eventually takes us off-road and we see a glimpse of the amazing Pyrenees mountains as the sun breaks through the fog and mist. I’m pleased to report that my new pee-cloth is working like a dream!  

🇪🇸 John, Rob, me & Laurel (from Texas) reach the French/Spain border (a simple cattle grid and a sign welcoming you to Spain). We do a border dance 🕺 and carry on through the woods. The others go ahead of me and I enjoy a good 30 minutes of solitude walking in the woods. 

🍱 12.15pm – My belly is rumbling as I reach the little hut. Inside are two Spanish fellas (ex paratroopers). I remember them from last nights Orisson dinner and say hi. With a big smile on his face, the dark-haired man says “My name is Hosè 1, and this is Hosè 2” as he pointed to his friend. We relish in good conversation and camaraderie whilst munching on our ham and cheese rolls (which were a bit tough!).  John & Kelly arrive, shortly followed by Caroline and Kevin. We chat, but it’s getting cold so they head off into the mist while I wait for the group at the back. 

⏰ 30 mins later I’m still waiting and now getting worried. Where are they? They should be here by now. Finally, I see a figure in the distance that I recognise. It’s Julie. “Have you seen the rest?” I ask. “Yep, we all stopped for lunch in the woods,” she said. “They are a few minutes behind me”. With that, I feel better. I’ve been sitting around for a while now and my bones are getting cold. With Hal (pack) on my back, I wave goodbye to Julie and explain about the next choice they have to make. Take the steep forest trail or the easier switchbacks down the track. She nodded and waved me on. “See you at the hostel”. 

🌳 1pm – I’ve taken the switchback route as I can’t afford to take any risks on this route. It’s beautiful and peaceful. I don’t see a soul until the last little section that leads through the woods into the village. There were three French ladies, and one was taking a pee on the trail! Yep, right on the path. Her bare arse was staring at me and I didn’t know where to look! French ladies don’t squat like we do, it was more of a slight bend in the knees and pee was going everywhere! I moved swiftly on and jogged all the way back to the hostel. 

🍷 1.30pm – Theresa and Leisa were in the cafe drinking wine so it would rude not to join them! I can’t check in until everyone is here. I ask if they have seen John & Caroline, Kelly & Kevin as they left the hut a good 30 minutes before me, but no. That’s weird. I wonder where they are? 20 minutes later we see the familiar smile of Kelly as she trundles up the hill with the rest in tow. They came down the forest route which was slow going and very steep. Ah! That’s why it took them longer. Everyone took the forest route and the photos looked amazing. Even the mushrooms that were shaped like a willy! (See photo). 

🏨 Four of our group decide to upgrade and they are staying at the hotel across the way from the Hostel. I don’t blame them as it’s a beautiful hotel. 

🥘 We enjoy a pilgrim meal of soup or pasta, pork or trout and a bread pudding for dessert. Oh.. and more wine. 

An early night as we’ve got a long day tomorrow.