Day 1 Rain, Wind & Sheep

Wed Sept 28. Irun to Pasajes de San Juan; 15km; 550 meters up & down.

It was a rainy start. Some lessons need to learnt again as I neglected to put on my rain gear before leaving the hotel. Putting rain pants and other gear on the street is a chore that takes more time.

We had figured out from Internet searches and guide book where the Camino trail started. We used Google Maps to get there and off we were. Seeing the first yellow arrow was very re-assuring.

Leaving any city is typically alongside a major artery, and this was no different. We had to tolerate the carbon emissions for about 15 mins.

We were crossing this bridge over the river when a flock of white birds caught our eye. We stopped, enjoyed the spectacle and took in the picturesque scene. The crossing of the major arterial road to the beginning of the natural trails was about 50 meters ahead.

The flying white birds caught our eye

The rain was on and off. It was not the heavy monsoon rain, but with strong winds can be a bear. Parts of the trail were muddy. With pools of water. That’s when you know if your boots/shoes are waterproof. And that’s why we do not wear trainers.

The number of pilgrims on Norte were much fewer. The first pilgrim to engage in a chat with us turned out to be from Washington State, just like us! What a coincidence. His name was Jay, from Tacoma.

After 4km, we reached the Santuario de Guadalupe. There were great views of the Bidasoa Valley. We spent some prayer time in gratitude for God’s providence in our son’s major accident exactly four months ago.

Bidasoa Valley
Altar at Santuario de Guadalupe

Shortly after the Santuario, a decision to be made between the low level variant or high climb. We opted for latter as the views were much better given we are climbing 374 meters (vs 157 meters). It was a steep ascent, and poles are a great aid. We counted our blessings too that it did not rain during this stretch, and there were no flows of water streaming down.

About half way up this first steep ascent

Here are the views that makes this alternative route worth it. Do note that one is more exposed to the gale winds, and wearing a poncho makes things more challenging in such winds.

View of Irun
Panaroma
Descending from the summit, 1730 feet

Our second son had messaged us his reflections on Psalm 23 yesterday. So, when we came on this herd of sheep, my thoughts naturally gravitated to Psalm 23. I wondered internally whether there was a black sheep among the herd. Joon pondered about the 99 sheep and the lost sheep. But when we did spot the black sheep in the herd, I loved what Joon said, “He belongs in the herd.”

The black sheep who belongs

We knew beforehand that for this first stage, we would not have any cafes nor villages. So we had prepared the day before, carrying enough water, protein bars, etc. One thing that seemed to make a significant difference was the electrolytes in the water!

Pasajes de San Juan is a lovely town by the water. Many locals visit. We noticed that even Victor Hugo, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame & Les Miserables, had lived here!

Pasajes de San Juan

Tomorrow, we take a water boat across the port to walk to San Sebastián.

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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