Roncesvalles has, so I am told, 18 permanent residents, so it does pretty well to maintain the beautiful and very large bascilica at which we attended mass last night. The church was full and the service was all in Spanish. At the end the priest called the pilgrims forward - 40 or 50 of us - and gave us a blessing in all the appropriate languages, including Korean - quite an achievement. Then we went to the restaurant run by residents no 11 and 12 and, for 9 euros each, bought the pilgrim's meal. Many restaurants on the Camino do this. They offer a set menu at a cheap price but you don't know until the plate is plonked down before you what you're going to get. Given my dietary strictures, we were a bit apprehensive, but had resolved to eat whatever it was that was set before us. We were, after all, ravenous after the trek over the Pyrenees. As it turns out, that St. Christopher's badge seems to be working pretty well. There was a bean soup - about 50/50 beans and water, and quite tasty and enough for 3 helpings. Then, a whole trout each with chips. Then some very pleasant sugar free yoghurt, and all washed down with a bottle of cheap and cheerful Spanish red.
We had been warned about the Alberge at Roncesvalles but in fact it was a very pleasant stay. A little like sleeping in a giant marae, both in style and feeling. The building is an enormous gothic stone structure, probably about as tall inside as St. John's Roslyn and somewhat bigger in other dimensions. Snoring wasn't too bad, although I was aware of the effect of all those beans on the people around us. We were woken at 6 by one of the monks singing some Gregorian chant, packed and set off, again, at 7:10
Today's walk couldn't have been any more different from yesterday's. We walked 27 km through gently rolling farmland and forests. Up a little, down a little, but, like the economy, trending downwards. It was a clear still sunny day and the route took us through a different charming little village about every half hour or so. We stopped at one to buy some very good coffee, and a late breakfast of bread and fruit. At lunchtime we passed the industrial town of Zubiri and bought baguettes, tomatoes, cheese and apples. Every village has a water trough fed by clear, sweet spring water so maintaining a diet that Ian Gawler wouldn't snort at has been not so difficult. The last stage of any journey always seems to be the worst, and the 5km into Larrasoana was long because we were never sure whether or not it was just around the next corner.Problems today were about sunburn and the beginning of the inevitable blisters, but both are being managed so far.
In Paris I had a haircut: a very drastic haircut from a barber who spoke as much English as I did French. I wanted it short for the Camino, but probably not quite that short: about as long all over as my beard. But as it turns out,the barber's misunderstanding was providential. It's cool and very easy to maintain.The other small innovation I made today was to buy a stick. After a steep descent through a piece of land that hadn't decided whether it wanted to be a track or a riverbed but was at that moment rather leaning towards the riverbed option, I picked up a pilgrims staff at the next village. It does help on the slippery bits and makes me feel very authentic.
We're here now.Obviously.We turned a corner on the forest path, crossed a very old stone bridge and here was yet another ancient, picturebook village with a small village square and a drinking fountain above a water trough. There are two bunkrooms of about 25 beds each, clean showers and toilets, a courtyard outside for washing clothes, all of which we hae used, and clean bunks which we have not.