I could scarcely believe my good fortune when a second day dawned clear over the Pyrenees. These were perfect conditions for climbing, with enough cloud to prevent the day becoming too hot, but still allowing gorgeous views.
Near the statue of the Virgin of Orisson there were huge vultures sitting lower on the same outcrop of rock. I regarded them for a while, but was too slow to get my camera out! When they rose and took flight, I was just astounded by their size and wing span.
There were more farm animals to encounter on the slopes,
including these sheep, and also some horses. The climb kept on going upwards, though the gradient became less steep as we got higher. Finally it came time to leave Napoleon's road behind, and head onto the mountain slopes.
Lyne and Denis had carried some special crosses from home to place on this cross, and they waited for me here.
Also here was Shinechi, a Japanese man we were to meet regularly along the way to Santiago.
I was glad to be finally climbing 'off road', though I knew we were so fortunate with the weather. At these heights I have seen many photos where people were surrounded by mist. And others have encountered alpine conditions here, that for a few, sadly, have claimed their lives.
Eventually, I realised that I was crossing into Spain. No great fanfare, just a stone route marker...
There were some muddy sections up higher, formed by leaves that lay here thickly on the ground. And the mud was quite the blackest I met anywhere, which I guessed explained why the slugs were so black! Washing my socks this evening was also to be a very 'black' experience!!!
I loved this section of the climb- quite alpine, and this area would be covered in snow all winter I would imagine. I was glad to know that Lyne and Denis were never far away, keeping an eye on my progress over the mountain so I wasn't tackling it alone.
Denis' sports watch - a gift for the trip from his children- allowed us to know when we had reached about 1400m, near the maximum height for this climb, and here there was a lunch stop to celebrate. It was starting to get cloudier and cooler by now on the top of the mountain pass though, and I wasn't sure whether we would still be dry when we reached Roncesvalles.If you look very hard, you can see a slight whitey area down in the valley below: those are the roofs and buildings of Roncesvalles. (And slightly further along, the buildings of Burguete.)
When I reached the place for the descent to begin, I took the road option, recommended on the info given by the pilgrim's office in SJPP. I was to hear later how steep and tricky the forest option was, and was glad I had taken the road route.
We arrived before 13.30, and had time to register for a bed for the night at the pilgrim's office before it closed for lunch and siesta until 4pm. We were on "Spanish" time now, with later lunches than what we had become used to in France...
At the albergue (run by the Collegiate church), Dutch hospitaleros made everyone welcome on arrival, with a calm, friendly manner.
We reserved for dinner, then relaxed until a guided tour of the village and museum. Later there was a special pilgrim Mass and blessing.
I found it slightly overawing to be in a huge dormitory, along with so many of so many nationalities. But the building was beautiful. And at 9.45pm the hospitaleros reduced the lighting and started playing some calming music...until lights off.
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