The first day of walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Roncesvalles, Spain was almost all uphill and 16.22 miles. The morning was warm and humid, with the humidity hanging on the mountains. Through the old citadel, getting our passports stamped and across the bridge, the day began. We walked on the side of the road, through amazing forests of trees growing at an angle as the hillside was so steep and through green pastures. Stopping to look back, I could tell we were gathering altitude. As we left the villages, I could still hear the distant church bells, the ever present cow bells and now as we continued up, the tinkling of the sheep bells.
By afternoon the heat was oppressive and my stomach was not happy. We stopped and ate at the statue of the Virgin Mary, looking out across the green landscape. It was here that we still had about 5 miles or so to the top where we would then cross over into Spain. Lunch finished we continued walking and came to a lovely celtic cross. The thought crossed my mine that someone could just bury me here as I was exhausted and we still had hours to go.
At the top, we had to decide which path to take as we had been told one was very muddy and dangerous. There was an elderly man from Germany asleep under a tree at the crossroad next to his bike. We had met him off and on during the day, changing places on the road. Looking at the map, we got our bearing and what we thought was heading down, was still heading up through a few more switchbacks. Once at the top and not another false peak, the wind was blowing so strongly that one of our packs took off across the ground. I was quick enough to catch it before it went over the edge.
It was getting late and the trip down the mountain was difficult as our legs were so tired. Once down we followed the stream into town and found our hotel. Such a wonderful sight. Dropping our packs at a table, we ordered a beer and some wine at the outside tables. I had made it ... day one and supposedly the most difficult day was now behind me.