September 10, 2008, Espinal to Villava, 19 miles 900 feet ascent, 1,200 feet descent. Hike from 8 am to 4 pm.
*Mostly in shaded forsts and trails bordered with holm oak, maples, holly, Scot pine, walnut trees.
*Pure pleasure of walking all day.
*Early morning mist as I walked down into the valley.
*Bought salami, cheese, bread, a straw sun hat with rhinestones and turquoise beads to replace the one blown away yesterday. Shopped in a tiny store in Burguete, where the older woman at the counter wrote down the prices on a piece of paper, added the total in her head, and gave it to me for a receipt.
*Staying in a monestery doromitory for pilgrims built hundreds of years ago.
*Walk to center of the plaza for the Pilgrim Menu dinner. Four Australian women invited me to join them, and later to come visit in Australia to play golf.
4,000 ft. ascent, 2,000 ft. descent 20 miles. Walk across the border from France into Spain.
Oops, I misread the first walk from St. Jean Pied Pont, France into Spain. I was thinking the pass is 1,600 feet elevation. Not so. It is 1,600 cm and the ascent for the day is almost 4,000 feet. Then it is about 2,000 descent into Roncesvalles and 16 miles.
The plane trip from London to Biarritz, France, took an hour. Then a bus ride across town to catch the train to St. Jean Pied Pont. I explored Biarritz while waiting 2 hours for the train. Walked up to one castle to see another across the river. This charming old town is on a river near the ocean, and there are people surfing. Definitely a place to come back and stay a few days.
After 2 hour train ride, where I visited with a young French woman, Cecelia, and the pilgrims, at least 50 on the train, walked up to the reception building for Pilgrims. After receiving my Pilgrim passport it was 8 pm, most of the hostels were full and I was standing in the street wondering where I was going to sleep. A French woman took me with her to an old building down the street, motioned for me to stay, went up and got an old woman and they took me up to her sitting room. It had a sofa for me the sleep on. The price was 15 Euros. The older woman took her purse out of the desk drawer to get me change for my 20. Then put her purse back in the drawer.
The first woman took me by the arm down the hall to the bathroom, very nice and new. There was much chattering, none of which I understood, but said Decor and Qui. Then she kissed me on both cheeks and left. I went out for dinner, found Cecelia and two other young women from the train ride and had pizza with them. Cecelia kissed my cheecks goodbye and I have not seen her since.
The advice was to start the hike early, as it is 8 hours to cover the 16 miles to Roncesvalles, Spain, the first hotel or hostel or food.
Since I was on an earlier time from England, was excited and couldn´t sleep too long, I got up when the owl kept hooting. It was pitch black, no one was up and out I went. After finding my way across the river and out of town, where it was really dark, I put on my headlamp and putted up the hill and putted and putted. Two hours and there was lightening in the distance. Three hours and it was light enough to see without my lamp.
By now I am up into the common grazing area of the French Pyrenees. There are flocks of sheep herded down the mountain side to a small corral. They look like white water flowing down the steep green slope. Herds of blonde cattle, bands of 7 to 20 mares with foals roam freely. All animals have bells around their necks, so it is a beautiful sound.
The wind becomes more than stiff and straight into my face near the top, often making me stagger across the road. Even my trekking poles don´t hold me and they are so difficult to control, I attach them to my pack. For quite a ways, the path is tar and quite well marked with the sign of the shell, which is the Pilgrims symbol and the red and white bars which is the corresponding Grande Ronde trail across the country. I picked up first a couple of years ago in Geneva, Switzerland, walking 100 miles south into France on it.
I am the only one out, until 7 pm I pass a hostel and see people eating breakfast, so soon they will join me. By 8 am I see one man pass me, there are several behind him. Suddenly a van beeps me to move over, and it is filled with the people who were walking. They get a ride up to where the path goes from tar to trail near the top of the pass. My thoughts are distinctly unpilgrim-like toward them. I try to tell my self Everyone has their own journey. But, of course, mine is harder.
The mountains are well logged and an open view. It is misty and very windy. Finally over the pass, after passing some springs for water for Pilgrims and a big cross, the path heads straight down hill. The Romans put a road here and where there is solid rock, I can see the ruts from their wagons. And their roads typically go straight up and down, no matter how steep. Charlamagne also moved his troops through this pass.
About noon, in a light misting rain, I arrive in Roncesvalles, have soup and a cheese sandwich. There is a huge abbey built here to house the pilgrims with a great book shop for Pilgrims. I pick up a guide in English with history and strip maps which have a plastic pouch to hang around my neck so I can read the days itinerary, have an elevation chart and map of the towns. It is really helpful.
By now it is only 1 pm and there are many Pilgrims arriving to stay. I can´t face the walk being over, so keep going on down the trail through the woods. About 4 miles later in a small Basque village, I see a woman tending her flowers and it looks like she rents rooms. She does and so I stay with her. The building has beautiful wood stairs, floors, renovated bathroom and comfortable bedroom. What a nice find for the end of my first day on the El Camino. The restaurant down the street serves dinner and I am very happy.
The 84-mile hike across England was completed on September 2, with a walk to Bowness-on-Solway. The hike began with a full rainbow across the rolling green countryside. With a lightly cloudy sky, the hills across the River Eden were my only glimpse of Scotland on the trip.
My favorites: Walking along the River Eden, which is now a tidal marsh with the tide being out. Curlews, sandpipers, gulls chripping, dipping, fishing. Bursts of sunshine with one quick downpour.
It was over quickly, only 7 miles today. Then on the train to London at 12:30 pm, arriving at 4:30 pm.
The last four days in London: My favs: Evensong at St. Paul’s by a boy’s and men’s choir. ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ at the new Shakespeare Globe Theater. Kew Gardens, a huge botantical garden. Walking by Buckingham Palace. Tour of the Tower of London.
Today I am on the plane to Biarritz, France. Then catch a train to St. Jean de Pied Pont. Tomorrow I walk over the French Pyreenes into Spain, 16 miles with 1,600 feet elevation, carrying a pack with ultra light camping gear. I am so looking forward to the 500-mile walk to Santiago, called the El Camino.
Friday, August 29, 2008 We have two nights at a B&B in Haltwhistle, an old market town smack dab in the middle of Britian. I loved the hostess’s tea set and having tea and breakfast in her glass alcove overlooking her marvelous garden.
Took the bus from Haltwhistle to Vindolanda, a Roman Fort which has a museum and a cafe where we had lunch. The only writing of a Roman woman was found preserved here under layers of mud. It is an invitation to her birthday party, addressed to another woman.
We took the bus 2 miles to Once Brewed, a tiny village, walked up to the Roman wall and turned east to walk along the wall 4 miles to Housesteads, another excavated Roman Fort on the wall itself. The base of the fort and some towers have been excavated. The top stones were robbed to build farmhuoses and villages in the 1600’s. The Wall took 7 years to build in 122AD, was occupied by Roman forces until about 350AD, then local forces took it over and finally left the country in the hand of robbers for several hundred years. There was no law and Scotland and England quarreled over the area.
Finally King Edward I lead the battle against Robert the Bruce a Scot, in 1306. Although King Edward died in the marsh we walked by, it was the beginning of victory for England. And order in this area. Eventually, by 1600, a few farmers filled in the largely uninhabitated countryside. It is still mostly farmers and not heavily populated.
My favorites today The Roman excavations and artifacts in the museum. Views over the open countryside Blooming heather on the hills. Croft reproduction (medieval cottage for seasonal work in the country)
Vicki finally found Kendall Mint Cake at a gift shop. One of our favorite treats on our previous Coast to Coast hike in 2004.
Sunday, August 25. Morning train ride on Sunday from London to Newcastle. *Church spires sprouting out of small villages *Swans in streams *Green fields bordered by hedges *Jersey and honey-colored milk cow herds *Two nuclear power plants
Check in at 1 pm at a Victorian Townhouse. Charming Youth Hostel. Take metro to South Shields, walk to the Arbeia Fort, built by the Romans to guard the entry from the North Sea up the Tyne River. Fort facts *Partially restored fort with the commanding officer’s home, barracks for the calvary and horse stables. *Artifacts excavated from the site, including pre-historic arrowheads, through bronze age to the Roman occupation.
Walked to the pedestrian ferry for a trip across the Tyne River. *Two ocean liners were on the river, one was the ‘King of Scandanavia’. *A big river and once had a huge shipyard.
Walked to the metro, went dinner and bed.
Monday, August 26 Metro ride to Wallsend. *Segendum Fort, built by Roman Emperer Hadrian in 122AD. *Museum of artifacts recovered. Pot chards, small lead god of Mercury, bones from garbage, stone tools to grind grain. *Original stones of the fort are visible, forming the fort, barracks, officer’s home, hospital.
A tail wind from Seattle to London made the 10 hour flight only 9 1/2 hours. We left Seattle at 11 pm on Friday, arrived at Heathrow at 4;30 pm and by 7 pm I was eating tomato soup with roasted red pepper, a roll, then chicken breast, new potatoes, salad and a Belgium beer, Stella Artois for only 7.95 at the youth hostel. Delicious. Then strolled the charming neighborhood around King’s Cross neighborhood.
Vicki, my travel companion, and I are ready to get the 9:30 train from King’s Cross to Newcastle, arriving at 12;25 pm.
Feel not too bad after the transatlantic flight, a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast.
Here is my plan Take train to Seattle August 19, 2008. Visit children and grandchildren. Friday, August 22, Fly from Seattle (leave 10:55 pm) to London (arrive 5:30 pm), with Vicki, my companion and client for the England walk on Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Hike Hadrian’s Wall Path, 84 miles August 24. Train from London to Newcastle Upon Tyne. August 25. Day in Newcastle to visit the Museum of Antiquities to see artifacts and history of Roman Emperor’s Wall, built to keep out the barbarians to the north. August 26. Walk Newcastle to Heddon, 15 urban miles through Newcastle August 27. Walk Heddon to St. Oswald, 12 miles into the rolling countryside.
August 28. From St. Oswald to Once Brewed, 15 miles, plus an hour to walk into Haltwhistle. August 29. Rest in Haltwhistle, a market town smack in the middle of Britian. August 30. An hour walk back to Once Brewed, then 11 miles to Gilsland. August 31. Walk 7 miles to Walton. September 1. Walk to Carlisle, 11 miles. September 2. Carlisle to Bowness On Solway, 15 flat miles to the Irish Sea.
September 3. Train to London. September 4-7 Visit London. High Tea at the Ritz on 9/4. September 8. Vicki flies back to Eugene. I fly to Barritz, France.
Solo 500-mile hike the Pilgrim’s Path Way of St. James on the French Way 500 miles from the French border to Santiago, Spain. I am taking ultra-light camping gear, and carrying all my stuff in a day pack. September 8. I fly to Barritz, France. Train ride one hour to St. Jean Pied dePont. September 9. Start hiking to Santiago, about 15 mile per day for 35 days. October 14, Fly from Santiago, Spain to London, England. October 15. Fly from London to Seattle. October 19. Train from Seattle to Eugene, arriving at 1:55 pm in Eugene.
I do hope to update you along the trail where there are cafes and libraries with Internet access.