Today was our first official day of walking, although yesterday we actually walked a greater distance. We weren’t sure what to expect for Easter Sunday- to know whether things would be closed up tight or not. But they weren’t. We went to the Pilgrim’s office in St. Jean and one of the attendants explained that there was a festival up in Valcarlos. Valcarlos is on the other route to Roncesvalles, the one we’d have had to have taken if it had been snowy. So we got a ride up there and wandered around. It wasn’t a big town but there was a central square opposite the town church and around 12:30 there was a sort of procession. Dancers of all ages from the little peeps of 7 or 8 up to adults. They all filed into the square and did a series of dances. Fun to see. Then we walked the 12 km back to St. Jean.
We started this morning, officially. St Jean at sea level up to Orisson at about 800m. It’s about 8km total of distance. Hard, steep and particularly steep toward the end, the last 2.5 km. You walk most of the way along a windy road and then duck off onto a farm “road” that’s a series of very steep switchbacks. The view was stunning, slightly daunting up ahead and dropping off behind to the valley from whence we came. But it was perfectly clear, sunny and warm, shorts and shirtsleeves weather. You climb a final 700m where it looks like there’s nothing ahead but more climbing and you turn a little corner and the Auberge Orrison is down a gentle little slope, almost the only downslope of the day. There’s a lovely patio opposite the auberge where people rest in the sun to get acquainted while intermittently retreating to rooms to shower change and do laundry.
At 6:30 they have a delicious communal meal at long tables and at the end everyone introduces themselves, where they’re from and why they are on the Camino. There were 12 countries represented and oddly just one couple from France. It was fun. After dinner people hunkered down for the next day. Joycee and I shared a room with one couple from New Zealand and another from Australia.