When we unzip the tent in the morning it is immediately clear: it is going to be a gray and sombre day today. The rain cover is going over the backpack and our rain clothes are ready for use. Resistant to wind and weather we go on the road. As we slowly climb up, the sun also tries to get the upper hand. Slowly but surely she succeeds. She puts a golden morning glow over the awakening forest, which is still shrouded in a sleepy mist.
When we arrive at the first col of the day, the sun proudly shows that she has won the battle. She breaks violently through the cloud cover. It must have been this sort of view that Edvard Grieg had when he wrote his masterpiece “Morgenstimmung”.
The morning is glorious. Our fleece vests quickly disappear in our backpack. We are sent from col to col via a winding path. A white mare stands gracefully on top of a ridge. There are also some other horses. But her attitude clearly shows that it is she who is in charge. She exudes life experience and wisdom. Peace and strength. Her manes blow in the wind. But the beautiful animal does not move a finger when we pass it. With her firm gaze she commands our respect.
We keep climbing on easily accessible paths. A long time even on paved forest roads. Despite the boring asphalt underneath our feet, the route is never boring. Gradually the sun loses ground and we have to wrap our bodies back in warm coats again.
On the Col de Roncevalles we meet pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. They ask us where the “albergue” is located. Because I as well walked to Compostela a few years ago, I quickly feel connected with the pilgrims. I chose a different route at the time and have never been in this place before, but I still show them the right way. “Buen camino”, I say to them, while I choose the opposite direction with Wim.
We regularly endure strong winds when we rise up to the highest peak until now: 1440 meters. When we descend we meet even more pilgrims. One is already more battered than the other. They lie in heaps between the freshly fallen snow.
Yeah, snow… You read that well. It is abnormal for the time of year and for us perhaps even a dramatic weather phenomenon. Not much later we get a view of the high giants of the Pyrenees that we will soon have to cross. A bit of fear shows in our eyes when we see that they are all covered under a thick layer of snow.
We descend for more than three hours and eventually end up in a dense fog at tonight’s sleeping place. We find a metal hut along the path, where we can spend the night sheltered. It is dusty and pretty poorly decorated. Just as it should be on a trek like this. In a cupboard we find some foods. Under a thick layer of dust the labels of the cans are barely legible. We leave them for a potentially next stranded hiker. We still have enough goodies in our own rucksack, and therefore don’t touch the emergency rations in the cupboard.
We eat our evening meal on the little wobbly table. I sit on a tree trunk, while Wim can dine luxuriously on a chair. We find this simplicity unaffordable and we are very happy to have found a roof over our heads on this freezing cold night …