Roncevalles, 24 August 2011

 Well, I’m finally at a computer that has a good internet connection… of course the computer ¨speaks¨ Spanish, so my normal use of the keyboard often brings up unexpected results.  All typos and misspellings are hereby to be blamed on the computer, and not me… so may it be written, so may it be done!  

 I am in Roncevalles, just over the French border into Spain.  I left Madrid on Saturday, just as the crowds were thinning from the Pope’s visit.  I don’t particularly like mobs.  Not meaning anything negative about the Catholic Youth that were in Madrid, it’s just that there were too many of them and they were using a group mentality (which immediately halves their IQ right off the top).  They were difficult to cope with!  There is a book out titled something like ¨1000 things to see before you die¨, and one of them is the running of the bulls in Pamplona.  I will be in Pamplona in a few days (¨Inshallah¨, as my Muslim friends would say), but I guarantee you that I would be at least 100 miles away if the bulls were running!  I am a ¨city girl¨ and LOVE cities… I DO NOT like mobs!  

Roman Road

 Sooo… from MadridI took the train to St. Jean Pied dePort, France.  SJPP is one of the traditional starting points for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I had wanted to see SJPP, but had never intended to start walking there.  To start in SJPP your first day walking is an 8 hour walk straight UP hill.  That doesn’t seem to me the best way to start a 500 mile journey!  I had always intended to take a bus to Roncevalles… it turns out there was never an option.  

 I arrived in SJPP at about8 pm, found the hotel I had booked… and was led to my room on the fourth floor… with no elevator.  I wouldn’t have had a problem with that if I wasn’t on the verge of ptomaine poisoning.  I closed the door to my room and didn’t have the strength to even walk DOWN the stairs again for 12 hours.  I was sick all night… you know where you get to a point where you are almost HOPING you’ll die?  Yeah, that bad!  When7:30finally rolled around (any earlier than that in France might have been a sacrilege!) I dragged myself downstairs and threw myself on the mercy of the two women who run the inn.  They were wonderful.  

 One of them drove me to the clinic.  For anyone planning a trip to France, I recommend avoiding French doctors if at all possible!  They left me alone for far too long without doing a basic triage.  When the doctor finally did arrive, he failed to take even a basic medical history… didn’t take my temperature, didn’t ask what medications I might be on before prescribing new… you get the picture.  He did prescribe some medication that eventually made me feel better.  I am alive to tell about it and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

 I spent the next two nights in SJPP, but in a different hotel, (the one with the two helpful women was booked).  My new(er) hotel was pleasant… on the second floor (with an elevator) and had a great breeze off of the mountains (that was back when it was still unGodly hot, now I’m downright chilly!).  And my hotelier spoke English, which made life easier.  Yesterday I felt well enough to stroll around the (very small) town and ate a little.  This morning I actually felt worse again, but am hanging in there.  I’m still quite weak and standing makes the world spin a little.  

 But I DID make it to Roncevalles!  Okay… I took a taxi.  It is raining today… and chilly and I didn’t  feel like waiting until4 pm for the bus.  Roncevalles,Spain is little more than a curve in the road.  I would say it is a wide spot in the road, but frankly, it doesn’t even get any wider here… just one small lane in either direction.  It is not really rightly called a ¨town¨.  I think only 20 people actually LIVE here.  But it has two hotels, a 120 bed pilgrim’s hostel and a couple of restaurants.  I am staying in one of the two hotels.  The pilgrim’s hostel is 120 bed ALL IN ONE ROOM, with the bathrooms on another floor.  Frankly, I don’t want to distance myself that far from a bathroom yet!  

 So… Roncevalles had been a pilgrim’s refuge for a REALLY long time.  The buildings are all recycled monastery buildings originally used for pilgrims, subsequently gone-to-hell-in-a-handbasket and more recently refurbished for use by the new wave of pilgrims that have rediscovered the pilgrimage road.  It has a beautiful old church and a museum that I hope to visit this afternoon.  I have signed up for the ¨pilgrim´s¨meal tonight.  I HOPE to walk at least a LITTLE tomorrow.  I have two stamps in my pilgrim’s passport and have yet to walk a step.  I’m feeling rather fraud-like.  We’ll see how I feel in the morning… and what the weather is like!  

 In the meantime… thank you all who are supporting Gilda’s Clubhouse / The Cancer Support Community of Eastern, NC by sponsoring my walk.  I really DO hope to walk soon!  

 You know what I always say… Life’s a TRIP!