Just ahead stood the concrete border marker between France and Spain, and I was excited to enter a new country. Although I had never expected a border guard or someone to stamp my passport, it felt odd to simply walk into Spain. If I ever tried walking from Canada into the United States in a rural or mountainous area wearing a backpack, I would have helicopters, the National Guard, and a pack of foxhounds hunting me down. There was not a “Welcome to Spain” sign, but the marker simply stated the region – “Navarra” and “Nafarroa” in Basque. From Page 31, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days.
Now, I’ll continue my journey on the Camino de Santiago. If you have my book, I’m in the chapter, Day 1: Having Flesh Torn From My Body By A Pack of Wild Dogs. Even if you don’t have my book, you can still enjoy this post, and learn more about walking the French Way or Camino Francés (map from Wikipedia Commons). I left my last post, On the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean Pied de Port to the Pyrenees, near the base of the Pic de Leizar Atheka. From this point on, there would be no pavement until Roncesvalles, about 12 kilometres away.
From the Pic de Leizar Atheka, the Camino flattens out. The hand-painted French flags and yellow arrows show the way.
Although this was still only the first day, 765 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela or Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, seemed like a long way!
Welcome to Spain and the autonomous community of Navarra.
As we look back to the border marker, the group of pilgrims in the distance are at the Fontaine de Roland. Knight Roland most notably led the rearguard of King Charlemagne’s army that was defeated in the area by the Basques, the Moors, or some unknown faction in the 778 Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
This signpost clearly showed the way of the Camino Francés!
The typical landscape along this stretch of the Camino. This was one of the early bollards with the scallop shell, the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Compared to earlier, this section had fewer pilgrims.
One more climb to the Col de Lepoeder, a historical spot before the descent into Roncesvalles.
The Col de Lepoeder was the height of land for the Camino in the Pyrenees. The climb of over 1,400 meters from St. Jean Pied de Port was over.
At the Col de Lepoeder, there was the option of two routes to Roncesvalles. I chose the more direct one to the left, staying on the Route De Napoléon.
Most pilgrims who began in St. Jean Pied de Port stayed in Roncesvalles for the night. The large albergue or pilgrim hostel has over 100 beds and has been an important stop since the 12th century. I had a brief break on an outside patio, and contemplated the remainder of my day. There were no albergues until Zubiri, about 22 kilometers away. However, it was early for me to stop and I still had lots of energy, so I continued. The church and monastery, Real Colegiata, wasn’t that extravagant from the exterior — at least not from this early view.
The early signs showing distances to Santiago de Compostela could be intimidating. This is the famous sign along the highway showing 790 kilometers to Santiago. This confused me since I had passed the 765 kilometer marker earlier and it was supposed to be just over 790 from St. Jean. Anyway, it was still a long ways to go!
One last look at Roncesvalles. While there were many pilgrims at and around the albergue, I was alone for now, as I continued walking in the mid-afternoon.
This was a good map and elevation profile showing the way to Larrasoaña where I would visit on the next day.
I had trouble determining if this cruceiro was that old. It looks at to have been refurbished over the years.
After an easy three kilometer walk from Roncesvalles, this is the famed Spanish village of Burguete.
The village was in the midst of siesta, and the streets were nearly deserted. Why is the village famed, you may ask?
Here, we are outside the Hotel Burguete. On page 34 of my book, I wrote, “…one of author Ernest Hemingway’s favourite places to stay in Spain. Hemingway loved Navarra and often wrote about the people, landscape, villages, and of course, Pamplona. Part of his 1926 book, The Sun Also Rises, involves the characters spending time fishing and relaxing around Burguete.”
The Iglesia San Nicolás de Bari in Burguete was of a Renaissance style of architecture.
I continued to walk along very quiet streets!
I stopped to admire this prominent home with a coat of arms over the main doorway. Let’s take a closer look…
The Camino gently climbed from Burguete. I had only seen two pilgrims since Roncesvalles, and it seemed odd to be suddenly alone.
Back on the road for the last stretch to the village of Espinal.
If the water is potable or drinkable, this fountain would be a welcome sight to pilgrims walking on a warm day. Check for signs before drinking the water as some fountains were contaminated!
A little stroll through this field to the village.
Espinal was also in the midst of siesta. After a quick break, I resumed my walk.
The Iglesia de San Bartolome.
Finally, I met up with another pilgrim here, and we talked briefly before I took off, only to miss a turn for the Camino.
I’m guessing Toki Ona is a restaurant.
I stopped for a moment to pay my respects for a fallen pilgrim at this elaborate memorial.
By now, I was tired and climbing even a small hill was more difficult than the earlier climb through the Pyrenees. I wanted to arrive in Zubiri before dark, and had to keep moving. A storm was also approaching and I didn’t want to be walking in the rain. This was the peaceful beech forest outside Espinal. The Camino would soon climb to an alto, or height of land, which exhausted me.
Sections of the path had recently been covered with stone; I assumed there was once a problem with mud. The stone was smooth and I had to be careful with my footing on the hills.
Entering the village of Bizkarreta / Gerendiain as clouds darkened.
Typical whitewashed houses in the village of Gerendiain. Did you know that for centuries, homes such as these, housed farm animals on the lower level and people lived upstairs? This was especially beneficial in the winter as the body heat from the animals rose to help warm the upper levels of the homes.
Another house with a coat of arms over the doorway. I met the pilgrim from Espinal and we began walking together.
Just before a downpour and the steep descent to Zubiri.
After over 47 kilometers of walking on my first day on the Camino Francés, I was happy to arrive in Zubiri!
The medieval stone bridge over the Río Arga. On the next day, we would follow the Arga Valley all the way to Pamplona.
My home for the night… we were lucky there were still beds available! For some pilgrims, this was where they spent their second night.
For most, Roncesvalles is a formidable destination for the first day. For me, it was a long and tiring, but satisfying day. On my next post, On the Camino de Santiago: Zubiri to Pamplona, Spain, my walking partner and I left Zubiri toward Pamplona, a city I had long anticipated visiting. Please join me.
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