St Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

I don’t know whether it was tiredness or fear, but when I could hear everyone getting ready at some ungodly hour and talking with excitement, I stayed hidden in my room.

It was relief that when I came down, most people had left, giving me time to process where I was and what I was about to do. The only person at breakfast was a lovely Danish girl who weirdly had an Irish accent.

As I sat eating breakfast, I could hear the thunder of boot after boot hitting the cobblestones. I wondered why this sound made me want to shrink away further.

I kept trying to tell myself, my Camino, my way. I took my time writing a blog to get me going and probably procrastinate a little.

I no longer had any reasons to delay further. It was time to go and with wobbling legs, I made my way outside… to deafening silence.

There wasn’t a single pilgrim to be seen. I wondered how I would ever find my Camino family if I am always last.

All thoughts were soon lost as the climbing began, straight up. It wasn’t long before I started talking to myself, trying to convince myself I was just out on a Ladybirds hike and they had just left me behind, like really far behind. That distraction didn’t last long when that bothersome second voice of mine told me the Ladybirds wouldn’t do that and the reality was that I was tackling the bloody Pyrenees and the incline was brutal.

I realised I hadn’t left my first heart for Bree like I planned upon leaving St Jean, but I figured I would find the right place. That place presented itself not long after.

Rounding a bend, there in a side paddock were some beautiful oak trees framing a view of the Pyrenees with a lazy mist lifting off. It was my first real view of the mountains that had been terrifying me for 12mths, but in that moment, all I saw was immense beauty. I knew I had been given a moment to help me get up the mountain.

Despite some inclines that were causing some intense breathing, I was feeling okay physically and started thinking that I had built it up in my mind so much I was going to be fine… until I turned a corner. No, I hadn’t built it up, it just got steeper and kept going up.

At one point a I read a sign that said 5.6kms to Orisson. When I thought I had gone another 2kms, I was horrified to read the next sign saying 5kms. How could I possibly have only gone 600mtrs??

The bounce in my step returned at the next sign that said 3kms when I felt like I had only gone 600mtrs, but again, it got steeper.

The difference was, I was no longer alone. I met BC from Canada and as I was huffing up the mountain, she asked if I was a Camiga after recognising the photo of Bree.

I laughed at this point. The whole reason I am doing the Camino is to share Bree’s story. It never once crossed my mind that I would be huffing so much I wouldn’t be able to get a word out!

Finally, the oasis arrived, but not before BC and I performed a bit of screening for a woman who couldn’t wait the 100mtrs to Refuge Orisson!

I was delighted to see Irish from breakfast had found a bed. After dropping our bags into our room, it was Sangria time, sitting on the balcony with the most incredible view.

Dinner was served at 6:30 and it was a communal experience that was overwhelming in noise and mix of languages. Following dinner though was my first testing moment. The hosts invited everyone to stand up and state their name, where they were from and why they were doing the Camino.

I panicked. I wasn’t ready to announce this, but anything else would have felt a lie. This was my moment though to step up and start my journey.

As they came closer to me, my heart pounded. Could I do it and could I do it without crying? I stood up and clearly spoke and said I was walking the Camino in memory of my daughter. It felt like a weight lifting off.

After dessert and some quick pics of the moon over the valley, it was a mass exodus to bed… at 8pm! And I was joining them! I climbed into my bunk and I think I was asleep before the light was turned off.

Tomorrow is hitting the peak and the run down into Roncesvalles.

8 thoughts on “St Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

  1. Karen you are so talented in writing this for all of us to share your amazing stories. I feel like Im there with you and the pictures are glorious . Stay strong and know you are amazing and we all love you. Sharing you Bree with other travellers walking their different paths must make you feel special. Loved the screening! Made me chuckle. Keep your sense of humour gorgeous girl. love and hugs xx Pat

  2. Beautifully written and I actually felt I was back there. Albeit I did the Valcarlos route as the mountain was closed due to snow in April. I look forward to following your Camino. Buen Caminođź‘Ł

  3. Hi Karen,
    I misssss you, sweetheart!!
    I Love reading your posts though, and have so much admiration for your courage to face your fears, for your beautiful Bree. So looking forward to reading more about your incredible journey xxx

    1. Thank you lovely! Maybe you won’t get up to so much mischief with me gone! 🤣 You’ll see me before you know it. xx

  4. I’m loving your amazing descriptive blog. I actually feel like I’m right beside you. Your heavy heart and fears will disappear with every step and awesome encounters of both nature and human that Cross your path. Love and hugs from oz xxxx

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