The hike from Saint-Jean to Roncesvalles is 15.3 miles (24.7 km) all told, but we broke it
up into two days with a stop in Orisson, so for us it was a 5-mile day and a 10-mile day
Where We Be
Crossing the Pyrenees into Spain
Some of the steepest hiking of the Camino comes right at the beginning
as you cross the Pyrenees into Spain -- but it's worth every ounce of effort
We got to see both moods of the Pyrenees -- yesterday
sunny and bright, today brooding and dark -- both beautiful
Rain threatened from the moment we awoke but
thankfully held off for the first few hours of our hike
We've rarely gone 10 steep miles with packs
so we found the day challenging but achievable
Occasional flat stretches like this came as a welcome relief
The austere beauty of high alpine country calls to both of us
We like to imagine how different our lives might be if this were our home
in the Pyrenees. Surely we're not the only ones who play this game!
Nearly at the top now -- hands numb with cold
A cross marks the spot where you leave the road and make the final push to the top
The smile says it all -- Robin is very much in her element here
After continuing to climb gently for awhile, the trail levels
out then descends steeply all the way to Roncesvalles
Black slugs were everywhere on a wet day
The mists came and went, making for an eerie hike through the woods
Trail markers on trees are always a comfort -- still going the right way!
With a sigh of relief we reached Roncesvalles shortly after noon. At left is the
Hotel Roncesvalles, straight ahead the Gothic church with attached hostel.
We also paused at this small medieval church, the first
resting spot for weary pilgrims after crossing the Pyrenees
The hostel didn't open until 2 pm and we were tired and sweaty enough that we
decided to splurge on a stay at Hotel Roncesvalles (€75). What a great decision!
We checked out the church with its beautiful stained glass windows
We also splurged on the most delicious dinner at the hotel -- a bottle of Navarre red wine, salads
with warm goat cheese, trout with serrano ham, grilled ribeye steak, coffee flan, and Basque cake
Hiking Day 2: Orisson to Roncesvalles
After a tough night's sleep with our eight fellow
bunkmates, we had a quick breakfast, packed
up, and were off -- definitely behind most
people but ahead of a few. It’s hard not to get
into a "race mentality" with so many people
around you hitting the road; you start feeling
like you're behind the eight-ball. This was
especially true this morning as storm clouds
loomed just to our east. It hastened our sense
of urgency to get going as soon as possible.

The trail headed uphill immediately and kept
climbing steeply. We were glad to have fresh
legs as we pushed higher. The rain held off but
was clearly coming down heavily in the valleys
all around us. The Pyrenees looked ethereally
beautiful in the mist, but eventually, inevitably,
the rain caught up with us then came down in
buckets. Ensconced in our own private world
within our rain gear, we just put our heads
down and hiked.
A last patch of snow still lingers on a north facing slope
Roncesvalles (Roncevaux in French) is famous for the defeat of Charlemagne and the death of Roland
in 778 AD. A small fountain near the town center is decorated with jousting knights and combatants.
The powerful hot shower alone was worth the stay, but our own private bed and
living area added to the sense of luxury after a sleepless night in a shared dorm