Friday 8th Jan St Jean Pied de Port-Roncevaux
I left SJPDP at 07.45 alone and in the dark. It felt very familiar to head off down the cobbled street toward the Pyrenees near by even though it has been over a year since i passed this way.
I was in two minds as to whether i should travel up the mountain path like before or take the advice of the volunteers at the refuge at take safer alternative route by road, track and forest. this route only goes to a _ _height of 1050m as opposed to the mountain route at 1400m. The problem in the mountains is limited visability due to low cloud and potential snow blizzards. At the fork in the road which defines the two routes i chose the lower route.
Everything went well until i crossed the frontier into Spain at about 10.15, thereafter i slowly begin to develop cramp in both legs and my progress became slower and slower, my steps smaller and smaller and my stops more and more frequent. The problem with stopping to rest in the forest is that you can only rest your bag on the high banks next to the track keeping your legs at a 90 degree angle to do so, i dare not take my rucksack off as it began to feel as though i would never get it back on again if i did so. This isn’t a rest, merely a temporary reprieve from the awful pain. I began to shout out loud with every step until my legs finally stopped working- locked with cramp! I remember thinking this isn’t a good situation. I estimated that i was only 4km from the Monastery accomadation at Roncevaux. It might as well have been 40km. I decided to put my tent up, cook some food and tea and contemplate whether to camp here by the i’d stopped at. After an hour or so i finally decided to pack the the tent away and carry on. As soon as i got the rucksack back on my back the cramps returned.
I hobbled up the steep incline through the snow.
After a little while a strange feeling washed over me, i just felt as though i was surrendering and letting go- the pain eased and i felt quite euphoric. After about 30 minutes i reached the top of the hill and saw a huge cross on a modern church.
I was back on the road going down hill. Cars passing by peeped thier horns in encouragement. The trees looked beautiful in thier snowy overcoats. I began to feel good!
As i approached the Monastery a Spanish pilgrim named Paco guided me to the hostal and began to tell me that if i had been out in the snow for much longer the priest was going to call the Gaurdia civil (countryside police) to search for me.
posted Mon Jan 11, 2010