SJPP to Valcarlos

Mar 27. Day 1.

It looks like my body cannot sleep beyond 9 hours. Which is a good sign as I am not sleep deprived. But it does imply that if I go to bed early, I will wake up early. Poor Joon!

It has been two straight nights since we haven’t had ‘proper’ dinner portions. Guess what – there are no hunger pangs nor stomach rumblings. Our daily buffet breakfast and buffet dinner during the Holy Land Pilgrimage had probably built some reservoirs!!The Palestinian Christine family who hosted us one night in Bethlehem did share that their main meal of the day was lunch, when both husband and wife are able to turn home for the joint lunch. Dinner was a very simple affair of fruits and light snacks. This seems like a great practice. Let’s see.

We had brought a Lenten booklet that our Parish head distributed. The daily readings are helpful to frame a spiritual context to our Holy Land Pilgrimage and Camino Frances. We read this in the mornings.I took a look around the town from 6.30 am as I was interested in some morning photography. There was only a man waking his dog.

(All picture uploads have failed for now. So, placeholder names for now while I try to resolve).

The Golden Arches in SJPP

This bridge which we walk over to start our Camino was lighted up with colors, creating that purplish hue

The Citadel was a French military garrision in the 16th century. Part of it is now used as a school.

View of SJPP

As the sun rose higher, the upper parts of mountains took in this coloration

We left SJPP just about 8am. The morning was cool, Joon had her down jacket and I, my down vest plus fleece sweater. The 11.4 km uphill today to Valcarlos took us 4 hours 20 mins, with morning stops accounting for 30 mins or so. The illness continues to plague us, especially when we are sleeping together and thus, perhaps creating contagious cycle between us. I felt much worse in the afternoon, when I showered and rested, experiencing some chills for the first time. Joon had chills some previous nights and her cough sounds bass-ominous.

The colored guide sheets from the Pilgrims Office was very helpful. It’s important to get this, so you know when the river is on the left or the right of your hiking paths. Was it a happenstance that the luggage transfer staff mentioned that I could get this, in addition said office being very near it?

I had downloaded maps.me app plus the local databases as this App works on GPS (i.e. you can use it even if you don’t have cellular or data service). This worked very well till a critical point.

TIP: Consider Maps.me but use with the brain engaged.

Leaving SJPP for Valcarlos was along some inner residential roads. Traffic was light. We came to a turn off, which took us past farms and pasture lands. It was refreshing to be back hiking surrounded by nature.

Within the first hour, it dawned on us that we may not come across any cafes. That turned out to be the case until just after the 2nd hour of our walking. Fortunately, we had some bars in our packs.

Idyllic countryside

We saw many farm animals, chickens, sheep, cows and horses. Even got close to a pig whose sty was by the trail. And this is the Year of the Pig!

We settled into a routine, the stages were not that steep. One could say, this day was getting our walking legs in/despite our current physical condition.

Eventually, we came across a built up area with supermarkets, cafe, etc. We stopped for a delayed breakfast. ‘Signs’ can come in all sizes and shapes. Using the Maps.me App, it suggested that we should start walking on the main roads, where big trucks and buses run. Our internal alarms went off, so we stop on the road after about 20-30 meters, to consult the hand out guide from the Pilgrims office. A old French gentleman came up (he was sitting in his motor home by the parking area), and through some French deduction, we figured there was a safer trail to take. The Camino signs were not as clear, and Maps.me totally mislead us. As we walked this trail that paralleled the busy road, we could see a couple of backpackers/pilgrims walking on the road. I trust they are safe but the experience will be daunting.

Near the end, there was a moment when we wondered how we were going to cross the River as we could see Valcarlos in front of us across the river, but the path seemed to going on this side of the river. The paper guide showed the way, but in our haste to get there, we mis-read the picture. Fortunately, that dead ended quickly, so we’re able to retrace and find the proper way.

Never did a bridge look good as this one. The right perspective can add a glow to any perceived circumstance.

We made our way to the designated restaurant, Benta Ardandegia, to have our lunch and pick up our bags, and a map plus a Pin Code to enter the municipal albergue. Despite a sign saying the albergue was closed from 0800 to 1200, the caretaker didn’t show up til late evening. Two pilgrims didn’t know the Pin Code, so, we let them in. They were fortunate we were there, due to our luggage transfer! Somehow, the Camino used us to help them!

This municipal albergue probably set the standard for alberques. There were only 4 of us in a 10 bed dorm. There was another wing of 14 beds, not opened yet. There were lockers. And they offered self serve breakfast, instant coffee or tea and wrapped mini muffins. We had bought yogurt.

The veal at lunch was not tender and tasted fairly bland (it could be my cold is a contributing factor). The dinner paella with chicken was much better at Bento Arkenza.

Since my condition was not improving, a trip to the pharmacy was made. It’s extremely difficult to use a CPAP machine with a stuffed nose and scratchy throat. The nasal decongestant worked and I slept for 10.5 hours!!

Thus, our day ended. It’s going to be a war of attrition with the cough and cold besetting us. But we have this figured out.

PostScript: The Napoleon route over the Pyrenees officially opens on April 1, but due to the mild winter, quite a number of pilgrims are taking that.

Author: Ben & Joon

Residents in the great Pacific North West. Living life as it happens, learning our purpose and trail blazing our own paths. Namaste.

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