Writing this on Monday, May 6. The last couple of days of our journey were intense, but we were so driven to finish the trek that we didn't realize how exhausted we were until the day after we were done.
We reached St. Jean Pied de Port on Wednesday, May 1. We were so excited to reach St. Jean, it was such a lively, beautiful town at the foot of the Pyrenees, filled with pilgrims getting ready to begin their journey to Santiago de Compostela, as it is the usual starting place for those starting the Camino in France. Those starting in Spain normally will begin n Roncesvalles, Spain. The first photo below shows us as we just arrived in St. Jean, stopping for lunch at a sidewalk cafe.
The second photo below is a copy of our map of the Pyrenees route. It shows the altitude gain of 1400 meters (4200 feet) from St. Jean, followed by a decent into Roncesvalles once we cross the border into Spain. Many pilgrims get injured on this stretch, especially if they are just starting out and are not yet used to trekking with a huge backpack.
The day before we arrived, the pass was closed because of the bad weather, but the pass opened on the day we arrived in St. Jean. That afternoon we walked the first 6 kilometers of the pass. The next day we started at the same place we left off. Getting the first 6 km of uphill done helped the next day.
On Thursday morning we continued the trek. The day started out pleasant, though cloudy. Because of trekking uphill we warmed up quickly and were just wearing our tshirt layers. Then it got windy and cold and soon started to rain. We soon had to put all our layers back on. Near the high point of the pass and downhill into Spain we came to snow that was left from the storm of the previous days. At one point we had to trek down a snow covered hill. Krishna sledded down the snow on his bottom. Several pilgrims did the same. Wish we could have taken a video of it.
On the Spain side we walked through birch tree forests. The paths were covered with carpets of birch leaves, so beautiful. As we walked into Roncesvalles it was raining. We went to the pilgrims office and received the Roncesvalles stamp in our pilgrim passport, the same stamp we received when we started our first Camino more than a decade ago. We had come full circle and have now, finally, completed this journey of 1000 miles! Such happiness and joy at that moment!
That evening we attended the pilgrim mass in the monastery church at Roncesvalles. There the priest blessed the pilgrims who were about to begin their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and we felt blessed to have finally completed our journey.
We spent some time at La Posada, a bar at the entry to Roncesvalles, greeting pilgrims as they arrived from St. Jean and sharing stories about the Camino. Krishna bought beers for many exhausted looking pilgrims and gave them lots of encouragement.
The next morning we said goodby to our friends from the US, Canada and Australia who walked with us the last 2 weeks, and began the second part of our trip. We rented a car in Pamplona are are now driving toward Santiago de Compostela, visiting some favorite places along the Camino and reliving some special moments. When we reach Santiago, our plan is to return our rental car at the airport and walk the last approximately 10 miles into the city along the Camino route (which passes near the airport) and reach the Cathedral on foot to pay homage to St. James and perform the pilgrim rituals once more.