First Day Pilgrim

I stepped down from the train in St Jean Pied de Port in trepidation having seen the mountains rearing up in front of me. I was actually here, after months of saving my pennies and hiking up and down the Lake District to get fit, I was here to tackle the Pilgrimís route to Santiago de Compostela, 500 miles away.

That night I ate a hearty meal hoping that the extra calories would get me up the Pyrenees and across to Spain. The following morning rising at 5.30a.m. I began the long climb. The weather was misty but the warmth was already gathering around me like a cosy fleece as I trekked along. A couple of dogs came running from their gateway yapping in glee at my attempts to ward them off, their owner cursing them in a barrage of Spanish.

Further along the track meandered up and through deep forests, my senses filled with the sound of birds and heady aromas of new growth all swathed in the sweet mountain air.

After five hours of steady hiking, I finally reached the top where a small chapel awaited me. I entered and gave thanks to whichever God for helping me to arrive. Taking bread and cheese I wandered to a small hillock and took lunch whilst gazing across the Pyrenees, in one direction back to France and the other into Spain. My thoughts turning to the journey ahead, according to the book this was the highest point until I arrived near to Sarria some 350 miles away.

A couple came into view and sat beside me introducing themselves as Belgian and also walking the pilgrimís route. We talked for a while and then carried on together down into the valley of Roncevalles and the hostel awaiting with a comfy bed and hot food and the promise of sweet wine. As it was, we talked and drank until the small hours joined by pilgrims from other countries, the bed only held me some four hours before I was up and off down the road again with the company of others, ready for our unfolding adventure.

Travel and adventure the very best of combinations! Why fear what you have not experienced? There is a whole world of new friends, new places new adventures just waiting for you to take the first step. Itís easy just one foot in front of the other.

J Ward

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