Imagining The Road To Roncesvalles

Click thru to find out more about the path from St. Jean to Roncesvalles.

Click thru to see a larger version of this image, plus find out more about the path from St. Jean to Roncesvalles.

When I first found out about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I remember being most excited about hearing that you had to cross the Pyrenees to get there. Of course, this technically isn’t true – you don’t HAVE to cross the Pyrenees on your Camino. However, the most popular route, the Camino Frances, kicks off in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, and takes peregrinos across the famous mountain range on the way into Spain. I definitely plan to start my journey in St. Jean Pied de Port, but it still gives me a little bit of worry.

From what I’ve read, those who elect to take this route find that the first day on the trail is one of the most challenging. The road is straight up (and then straight down) a mountain, with a vertical incline of almost a mile. The surroundings can be treacherous, and I’ve read accounts from different times of the year with problems ranging from heavy fog to torrential downpours to blizzard conditions that call for trail closures. In the movie “The Way,” the main character’s son dies on his first day on the Camino. It’s implied (or at least I always thought) that he lost his way and fell over a cliff, but I’ve also read that pilgrims can get lost and die of hypothermia. This list of people who’ve died on the way to Santiago de Compostela includes a few people who passed away during this first day of the journey.

However, that’s not really what scares me. I’m planning to spend this first part of the trip with other pilgrims (I’m sure I’ll find someone to walk with), just to make sure I don’t fall off any mountains. What makes me nervous is the more mundane “killer” on the journey – many people don’t train adequately for a walk of this scope, and the first day is an incredibly demanding hike. People don’t correctly gauge their energy levels, forget to eat or drink enough, and generally have no concept of what it takes to walk for 27 kilometers (almost 17 miles) up a mountain on Day 1. I’ve even read that some people get so worn out that they’re delirious and disoriented by the end, which makes me think of how I felt when I ran my first (and last) marathon.

Sure, I’m planning to get in some training, but I know myself very well, and I know that there’s no way I’m going to get in enough time on a StairMaster to be adequately prepared for the incline. If we had some mountains around here to practice on, then maybe I’d get in the practice, but spending hours in the gym every day is not my cuppa. But that’s OK. The best part about the first day on The Camino will be meeting new people – and that most likely means commiserating with the other folks who’re just as ill-prepared as I’ll probably be! As strange as it seems, I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

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5 thoughts on “Imagining The Road To Roncesvalles

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Nola Roots, Texas Heart

  2. Pingback: Daily Prompt: The Twilight Zone | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

  3. There’s a great book in French by lady who decided to take this route to Compostelle on a spur-of-the-moment decision. No preparation and she was still smoking! She made it! That first day wasn’t easy, but she made it. So don’t worry, you’ll do just fine!

  4. Pingback: The Psychology of Scooby Doo Friends in the Workplace: Piety, Problem-solving and Paranoia « psychologistmimi

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