Day two of the Camino Frances, Orisson FR to Roncesvalle SP

We couldn’t wait to get out of Orisson, and we headed up the road to cross the Spanish border and get to the converted monistary at Roncessvalle. It was raining lightly, the wind was blowing, and we left the paved road where the signs indicated, and started across a grassy and sometimes muddy trail. We had seen maybe 5 cars in the 2 hours we had walked on the road, so it was a real small country road. We had seen the correo system at work at Orisson, where a bunch of packs were waiting to be picked up and delivered to Roncessvalle. We added our packs to the pile, put 5 Eu in an envelope with them, and let the correo carry our packs. We only carried the tiniest of packs, with some snacks, water, and a warm covering. We set off, wearing a hat, a raincoat and carrying an umbrella. We left our poles in our packs to be transported for us.

There were horses on the route, and one seemed like he wanted something from me. An apple?


We were following the route taken by Napoleon and before him, Charlemagne. In 778 AD Charlemagne had been invited in by the leaders of Navarre to help expel the Moors, but when he arrived they would not let his army inside the city walls. This infuriated Charlemagne, and on his way back to France his troops raided and pillaged Pamplona. As his army exited via the route we were one, his rear element was attacked by vengeful Basques from Pamplona, and the rear guard led by Roland was isolated from the main army and wiped out. This incident was memorialized in the Chanson of Roland, and the basques were not sorry. We got to Roncessvalle, and decided to treat ourselves to a hotel room. The bathroom and room was deluxe, and we had our laundry done for another $10. For many people, the Camino starts in Roncessvalle, and that makes total sense. The pilgrim hospice at Roncesvalles was started by the relocation of the hospice at Ibaneta in 1132. In the 17th century Roncessvalle was hosting 25,000 pilgrims per year. That is about 150 pilgrims per day of the busy season!


We stayed at the hotel at Roncesvalles, 148 E, for 2, plus we bought a nice breakfast. Below is the albergue part of Roncessvalle. This was a very spendy stay, and future accommodations would be a lot cheaper. The albergue part of the establishment is run by volunteers from Holland, and they were dealing with lots of people in a very organized manner. The bunks looked clean, the showers were clean, and it was not a dark hole. I think this is the way many albergues are along the Camino Frances. However, we were committed by then, and loving our private shower. Some German ladies we had met took us on a tour of their bunks in the womens wing, and we later found out that I was not supposed to be in the women’s wing.


We didn’t know where to go to get some dinner, and we went to a nearby restaurant. It started to sink in to us that this was a destination resort, and the albergue and pilgrim services were just an afterthought. We sat down and noticed that the service was very very slow. We wondered if they were sending us a message. We finally got something, and a diner one table over had a siezure. I looked over and it was like his body turned to liquid, and he turned boneless and flowed out of his chair and onto the floor. I was sure he was dead. We waited a looooong time before we got our ticket, and again we wondered if they were holding us hostage. It seemed they were sending us a “not welcome” message. We figured we were lucky to get out alive, and headed off to bed.