I woke up the next day and the weather was absolutely stunning. I resisted my childish urge to start shooting up the place with the hunting rifle and yea. Lets just leave it where I found it and send a message to my friends that will be back in April. Would be a shame if it went to waste.
On the way out I found some police tape and I wondered if this used to be a crime scene, but I was leaving now anyway.. I refilled my water bottles at the cathedral, burned a couple of candles for a safe journey and I had good hopes that it would all work out. Either I would walk up the moutain and sleep in my tent, or in a little ancient shelter that was basically some rocks and some plastic roof OR (what I was hoping for) was to sleep in a little house, built for pilgrims that gotten in over their head to at least give them a place to stay. Also I was hoping the fountain would work on top of the mountain, WERE this all not be as expected, I would just have to continue the mountain and pass over it in one go. Something I already did 2 years ago and shouldn’t be too impossible. It was all a little risky but I had good hopes and the weather was just gorgeous. I walked out of town and I had supplies and hung my solar panel off my backpack for some extra charge.
What do you mean fermé?
The part out of St Jean Pied de Port is just absolutely shit, a literal crawl up the mountain and by far one of the hardest parts on the entire camino. The average pilgrimage experience – Fly from X on a Y hours of flying, maybe a shitty layover in Z town and then 1 day of restless sleep in St Jean and then BOOM up the fucking mountain. It properly breaks most of them and the reason why police was in such a hurry to find the missing guy 2 years ago is because theres all kinds of wildlife the further you go up. Vultures, wild horses, the occasional bear and I also saw fucking El Chupacabra on one of my many treks across a couple of years back. Its not weird at all for people to be caught of guard while taking a piss in the middle of the fog and just disappear on the mountain. That all being said – its gorgeous, wild. When you get above the tree line it becomes all increasingly spectacular. Wild horses behind the sun setting behind some distant hill, overlooking the entire valley, then walking into Spain and yea. I love it there. The reason I went there 2 years ago was because during my first camino I didn’t feel like I paid too much respect to this wonderful place. Several months before that I was in a pretty brutal car crash where I got scooped off a pedestrian path that made me doubt if I still even had it in me, the mountain however healed me and when I returned back home I noticed that I wasn’t startled by cars revving up next to me. So to me this entire mountain is special, I had already slept here many times, in the shitty ancient refuge (that I tried to build up better than it was by throwing sheep shit up against the sides of the rocks), in the little house making a coffee/tea for pilgrims that woke me up in the morning. Also camped there many times and it was just all spectacular and beautiful and I was looking forward to crossing it this time around.
After the excruciating first part I came by a tree that has been there for ages, I had smoked my fair share of cigarets under it but only bowed to it now. I liked this tree because many pilgrims must have sat under it for ages and the view of the valley on the French side was really beautiful. A little further I walked up to a gite/albergue (hostel), the place run by some old ladies that really reminded me about my grandma, great chefs as well and they were really friendly to me back in the past, giving me the pingpong room at a discount and some free food. The ladies were still alive thank God and gave me some water but too bad they were still closed for the season. I chilled a little bit and sent my parents a message saying that I was going to cross the mountain and I told them if I hadn’t contacted them the next day by 1500h, they could maybe call the cops and tell them I haven’t checked in. For me this was just a safety net and a pretty reasonable thing to do but for my mom it was a start sign to panic lol..
The road was nice and sun was burning, I found some snow the further up I got and used it to cool down a little and play around with Lucy. Greeted by some wild horses that were more curious than afraid by my and Lucy’s presence. The air was becoming thinner the further up I got but it was all well worth it. Had a chill rest by some Maria statue and I had a good feeling about the water fountain and the little house being open, I mean what would be the point of locking/closing it up? Sorry we closed the mountain so we also removed all the safety nets for the unfortunate wanderers? Does NOT make any sense. Vultures circling overhead and some horses put up a little show of galloping for Lucy and my pleasure. Just as Im about to reach the summit I decided to take a little rest next to a cross. The sun was radiating pure gold and I just couldn’t help but enjoy the mountain, Lucy was running around and having fun peeing on everything. I was thankful for everything at that moment. More so than normal. Realizing Im absolutely blessed that Im able to do this and that I did went with my gut feeling of leaving last October. So easy it would have been to put the whole thing off for another half a year and COVID would have rolled around right about the time I was about to leave. Now? Im already back on the party track, pilgrims around, clear signs, easy to follow reasonably flat roads to walk on, a lot of infrastructure. Full realization of my journey and bliss swept over me as the sun went from gold to a pinkish color. I decided to push on, small bit to the summit from here, then 20m to the stone refugio that I fixed, another 2km to the water fountain and about 8km to the little house where I was planning to stay.
MORE SNOW, almost melted but the wind had blown all the snow in high piles and it was hard to follow the path, I sunk away in deep slush puppy and heh, I hope this isn’t going to be the whole path up to the house, on 2ndhand it didn’t really matter, since my feet were already wet anyway and as long as I kept walking it would be fine. I Found the old refuge of bricks and it seemed good, I couldn’t help but notice the small patches of grass growing on the stones and I wondered it this was due to my shit slinging efforts 2 years ago. Snow had blown in shelter so I decided to head on towards the Fountain of Roland, legendary warrior of old. As Im getting closer I could already hear the water flowing and cool! Water! First box of blessings checked, at least I could decide to camp on the mountain now if the little house proved to be closed but this shit is going to work out exactly like I hoped.
I continued through the slush puppy and Lucy was jumping and running around in the snow, being more active than me by a long shot. At some point I yelled at her and she came back into the light and lol, WHERE DAFUQ IS YOUR JACKET HUH?! Yea fun time was over and she was clearly freezing her little blonde ass off. The house wasn’t that far and I would just go back the next day and look for her jacket.
Walking up to the house, there was less snow and I realized I could also put my tent up were it to be necessary. I pushed against the door however and it was open, the back window had been blown out during one storm in passed weeks but they had some makeshift window in there. It was pretty nice actually. There was an inflatable mattress with the just the pillow blown up but it would be a better pillow than my pants. I made some food and a coffee and gave Lucy some food and wrapped her in my Mexican blanket. Later on I just wrapped her in my vest with the Mexican blanket around it and she was snoring louder than the wind blowing around the cabin. Very nice, very lucky and blessed.
5 * refuge
Lucy started barking the next morning and someone was at the door, by the time I got my pants on and opened the door, the guy was already nordic walking on. I still yelled at him and waved at him and he waved back. I had a quick breakfast that I had left and went and found Lucy her jacket pretty fast. No cellphone reception whatsoever however and it was still a little ways to the Spanish side. I packed up after enjoying the sun a little and then raced to meet my own created deadline. 1445h I finally found some reception and I sent my parents a message straight away, perfect fucking timing if you’d ask me haha.
I took the normal road towards Roncesvalles instead of taking the traitorous path through the forest. At Roncesvalles I was greeted by a nice Dutch volunteer called Annemieke, it was nice talking to another Dutch person about all kinds of stuff and she was a typical Dutch rebel like me.
Laundry, shower, food and camping next to the river..