The bed in the hall was a great success. It was a little sort of alcove thing really and it meant we had a private room of sorts. No snoring except Clemency´s and she is very fortunate thatI don´t, no not ever, not even a little bit.
We got up at six and there was breakfast provided: instant coffee in bowls and white bread rolls with jam. We had some muesli of our own and got underway at about 7:10 am in rain which was pouring, persisting down. In fact it was fairly swishing down We climbed steadily out of town and uphill, past small farms and sheep wearing cowbells. Well, I guess they´d actually be sheep bells. The land was forested in parts and as we rose higher the views back over France with the bright green trees and the fog in the valleys were breathtaking. Nearly as breathtaking as the wind we encountered as we got even higher: cold steady wind with squalls of rain and in some places, deep mud underfoot. We had raisins and almonds and about 11:00 we stopped to eat half the lunch we had brought. At 12:30 we had the rest and what with the cold and the wind and the tiredness in the legs it was getting pretty difficult putting one foot in front of the other. And you know the tricks that mountains play. You are on the highest hill you can see, and at the top of it, only half a mile away, you know it can´t get any higher. But it does. And it plays the same joke, successfully, all morning long.
Pilgrimage is like life. That´s the point, really. Just at the stage when reserves were running out, the path leveled and turned down. And an eagle soared overhead: a Golden Eagle, the sign of St. John. I thought of home, where at that moment people of our St. John´s parish were getting ready for bed after another Sunday. Of course it was just a coincidence; eagles are common hereabouts, but to me it was a voice calling "Ultreya: press on, be encouraged." There is nothing so encouraging as a long downhill after a morning´s climbing. We passed into Spain at some unmarked stage, and made it to Roncesvalles at 1:50. Six hours and 40 minutes for 25 km over the Pyrenees. Not bad if I say so myself. This is a tiny town with a monastery and a collection of ancient looking buildings. We found the Auberge, got a bed and booked ourselves in for a pilgrim meal at one of the restaurants. There´s no shop here, so breakfast and lunch will have to wait for tomorrow´s fortunes. The auberge is one giant room with, I think, 125 people sleeping in one room, but it looks clean and orderly. It has showers and wakes us at 6 with Gregorian chant. At the moment we are feeling pretty chuffed. Less than a year ago I had a bag of my own urine tied to my leg and I could hardly stagger up to the Roslyn shops. Today I walked across the Pyrenees. It has been due in no small part to the encouragement of many who may be reading this. Thank you. Ultreya