After having spent the previous day hiking from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, up and over the Pyrenees mountains, it was inevitable that I would get a good nights' sleep. It's not everyday that you get to wake up in a 13th century monastery hidden away in the mountains but that's exactly what I experienced that morning. Upon leaving the monastery, I was hit by the cold morning air that always hangs over such mountainous regions, and I started to make my way away from the town by following the yellow arrows either on signposts or painted onto trees and rocks, directing me towards the towns that were yet to appear along the route.
The previous day had been hard work to say the least and I had left the small town and its monastery with legs that were aching. I was however, in luck as the second day of the Camino de Santiago is a lot easier than the first. It is a fairly smooth and comfortable descent towards flat land which begins to feel like a privilege to walk on, after having hiked over mountains.
I suppose the purpose of hiking routes such as this one, is to enjoy being surrounded by nature, to absorb the peace and quiet, to take in the fresh air, to leave the other world behind; a world of cars, roads, traffic, buildings, smoke and stress. Having said that, I would still say that for me personally, perhaps the highlight of walking along the early stages of the Camino de Santiago was arriving in the many centuries-old, virtually untouched towns and villages along the way.
After leaving Roncesvalles, the first village I came across was Burguete-Auritz. As a writer, I was very quick to develop a special appreciation of this town as upon arriving, I was to find out that this is where Ernest Hemingway used to stay when he wanted to take a relaxing break out of Pamplona during the running of the bulls festival. He would stay in the Hostal Burguete, a traditional Basque house which still functions as a mini hotel to this day. Hemingway's room is available for booking and it's cheap too.
But all the towns along this route are gorgeous, each having its own idiosyncrasies and stories to tell. In Burguete, I had stopped for a beer at the bar of Hemingway's hangout and met a Belgian and an Australian who I drank a couple of beers with before we headed off together, hiking the rest of the way to Larrasoana. That is another perk of the Camino de Santiago; it is extremely easy to meet people along the way.
The three of us had intended to hike to Zubiri but when we got there, the albergues were all completely full. So we carried on walking, through more forests and streams and paths of gravel until eventually we crossed the old stone “bridge of the bandits” and arrived in Larrasoana. Again, the albergues were full to our surprise but one of the old villagers offered us the bunk-beds in his garage. So that was where I slept. In a garage. In Larrasoana. It's safe to say, that's the only time I've ever slept in a garage.
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