Day 3: The Start at Last! (St Jean Pied de Port to Espinal)
After a breakfast of slightly stale bread and jam (the albergue's toaster wasn't working) a swift coffee and yogurt I was off!
With my headtorch bouncing jubilantly off the old French stones at 6am, I started my trek across Spain! My left leg is strapped quite heavily and coated lovingly in volterol as it's been giving me grief in the build up to my Camino expedition; I'm quietly optimistic that it can get me over the daunting 800km foray!
The views back over St Jean Pied de Port were fantastic, I even caught the sunset gliding over the Eastern Pyrenees. With barely a soul in sight I cantered on full of enthusiasm and giggy expectation.
It was short lived. My heavy water bottled banged against my muscular but dainty thigh, the sun beat down on my like Ringo Star and all I could see in front of me was bloody gigantic mountains! I won't even mention the French bloke with a snaggle tooth that kept sailing past me on the downhills... But, to add insult to injury, I had the most annoying, unprecedented, bum cheek chafe. I mean it was unbearable, damn these built up glutes, the squat rack has come back to haunt me yet again! Needless to so I was in a pickle, I puffed a little talc on it in a secluded, wooded alcove but it came to no avail - though I am now leaving a trail of white dust like a sweaty Tinkerbell. With my desperation deepening and ass cheeks reddening I dug through my rucksack and had no choice but to jam a sock surreptitiously up my arse. It's not glamorous but it bloody worked, I powered on after that. The sock, from now on affectionately named the arse sock, literally saved my bacon.
That being said, what a first day! Like a true novice I had brought no food with me and was the hangriest man in France by 10:30am (five and a half hours walking mind). The only thing keeping my diminishing frame going was the alluring prospect of a food van near the summit.
Eventually, I could see the glorious outline on the hazy horizon maybe two kilometres off. Daring to speed up I began salivating at the thought of a greasy sausage bap, dripping egg yolks and something in batter. Tentatively stepping towards the counter and poking my nose into the Aladdin's cave greasy nourishment, I was horrified. No chip pan, no burgers sizzling, just hard boiled eggs and brown bananas - I'm not joking: disgust doesn't cover it. Begrudgingly, I handed over my €2 and sat down heavily and ate my sloppy banana whilst staring loathingly at l vendor.
Trudging on (and I mean trudging) I finally got to the bottom of the bloody mountainside, the up hills are actually fine but the down hills really hurt my knee so I have to slow right down and go quite cautiously which is annoying. That being said I really feel that I was close to collapse; I was so hot, so tired and so thirsty that I had the rescue helicopter on speed dial.
Whilst panting heavily and sitting in the shade of a wall, a long haired Bristodian named Steve sauntered past adorned with hippee tattoos about peace and carpe diem. Nice bloke though in fairness, we had a cheeky half and some chips (praise the Lord) then, feeling re-energised, I decided to walk a further six kilometres to an albergue further on so as to start making up for lost time by staying in St Jean.
It was worth it but equally a mistake as I was close to tears in my shower. Walking over mountains for 10 hours in roasting heat is not on my list of favourite things.
Quietly crying in the shower and attempting to massage my aching limbs I was absolutely DREADING tomorrow. Oh dear, oh dear.