Getting lost from the very beginning
The sleep in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port was better than expected. My roommates went to bed at 10 pm and I only woke up once for 30 min. At 6.30 the Brazilian lady got up and she made me get up too. Taking a shower or not was the question. Not. I just brushed my teeth and packed my stuff in my backpack. So now I was about to start my first meters on the Camino. 800 km ahead of me. But it all starts with some little steps. So here I am. Ready to take them. Ready to start. But immediately after leaving Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port a sign is pointing left AND right? What now? Well I do have my guidebook. Lucky me. After checking the guidebook I turn right. Only to find out 10 min later that I am all by myself. ANd that this is the recommended way by bike over the pyrenees. So glorious Konrad has to turn back and walk the first km backward in his footprints. That’s a way of starting! After taking the left path the road goes upwards steeply. I enjoy a last glimpse of the town Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. As I already see many other pilgrims I am convinced I am finally on the right track this time.
The first stage leads across the pyrenees. And it such a beautiful stage. Not easy – that’s true, but landscapewise The Way of St. James welcomes me with all the beauty it can come up with.
Slowly I start to focus on my rhythm of walking. And my usual thoughts start to move in the background. After the first kilometers I am happy with my feet. They seem to manage the steep path and also my shoes are doing a good job. I know, I know… it is only my very first day. But I feel good, cause my feet do.
Weather on the camino
Also the weather presents itself very picturesque. It is cloudy. Very windy. And kind of cold. But when the sun comes through and combined with the walking my body heatens up pretty much. I constantly put on my fleece jacket only to take it off some minutes later. I wonder how long it will take me to get a cold. But nevertheless I love the changing weather conditions. It is already nice and new to feel the weather. And I have the impression that my cloths are doing their job perfectly fine. My rain jacket is heavy but I already start to love it. And most of all my hat already becomes a part of me in protecting me from wind, sun, rain and all evil.
Dos expresos por favor!
Oh what a place for a coffee break! The Refugee Orisson lies beautifully within the mountains and I enjoyed ordering my first two espressos. I was inspired by the sign „Coffee makes everything possible“ and by the Jarmusch film „Limits of control“ where the main actor always ordered two espressos in two cups. After leaving the Refugee it started really to rain which means I got plenty of chances to practise my dressing and undressing skills a couple more times.
Resting to move on
I do many short breaks. Not only to change my outfit. But most of the time to take pictures. I enjoy this combination. The walking and the photography. I allow myself an extended break at the Marie figure shortly after Orisson. The view over the pyrenees is amazing. I do not fall asleep but I take a short power nap. And I feel it: this is what I am. A traveler with a camera. It is not something I try to become. This is actually me. This is a feeling I have not had for a long time in my professional life. I film and photograph weddings. And events. I am not bad at it. My clients love my work. But something was missing. It is not everything that I am. The traveling is missing. I mean, I did travel to many different places. I was lucky to have done weddings in the US, Cuba, France, Spain, Denmark, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and South Africa. But I never put the travelling in focus. Already on my very first day I can see it completely clearly: I need to put the trip itself in focus of my work. And boy, I need to go back to Ethiopia as soon as possible! I miss my family there. I was adopted by a Dassanetch family in the far south while doing my social anthropology research. Although I have no idea how I will transform my business in detail, I am totally surprised about this clarity and continued my way.
The camino provides the answers
After I continued my walking I started to ask myself a basic question: how do people go when they have to go? And right after the corner I saw a guy behind one of the trees. This was the first time that I thought… maybe the Camino does provide some answers. Although this one was a pretty basic question, I must admit. In finishing this thought I recognised a bag on the way. „Hello bag“ I hear myself saying. I have no doubt, that it belongs to a pilgrim. And it is pretty obvious, that he walks the same direction like me. What should I do with this bag? I probably should take it with me. And hopefully the owner will come back or I can recognize him somehow later on. Only a few minutes later I see a friendly Japanese guy walking back on the camino. Since he is the only one walking into the opposite direction, he must have left behind something. I wave him hello with his blue bag. He waves back with both of his hands, thanks me and we have a brief chat. This was the first contact for me beyond the usual „Buen camino“ and „Hello“. The pilgrims are all just getting used to being a pilgrim. Me too.
From pilgrim to prilgrim
Michel is already used to walking around all day. I met him on the bus yesterday. Actually he was sitting right in front of me. But we did not exchange a word then. And now we meet again on the camino. We start to talk. It was my first deeper conversation with a pilgrim. He is from Belgium and was walking around his hood back at home everyday for seven months. It was his way of curing his burnout. But instead of walking the same paths at home everyday he now wants to walk the camino. I enjoy his company and listen to his story. He is also asking me for my reason to do the camino. What is the reason why I am here? I tell him, that I want to change my business. Which is totally true. But it is only one part of the answer. But I am not ready yet to speak about the other parts. The photography makes me do pauses on a frequent basis. And one thing the camino teaches you on the very first day: everyone walks at his own pace. As long as you walk together because you have the same speed you enjoy the company. But it is totally ok just to stop, wish the other a buen camino and rest. I enjoy the feeling, that you might see him again later on the way. But it could also be the very last time that you saw each other.
Walking in the rain
After some more or less challenging uphills and downhills and some nice forests I saw some really heavy clouds coming up. Although my camera is rain proof, I am pretty sure this would have brought her down. I pack everything away and put my rain jacket on and prepare myself for the shower which I skipped in the moring. And then it started to rain like crazy. Everything beneath my rain jacket (it ends over my knees) got wet in three seconds. And the water in my trouser was slowly finding its way upwards. I was so happy to finally reach a shelter with other pilgrims. And I was asking myself: do I now have to go in my long underwear to dinner or with my totally wet trousers? I seem to have packed fine but what was really missing was a light shorts that I could wear while my trousers dry. But it turned out, that the camino also provides an answer for this question. Not immediately but some 30 min later. After arriving in Roncesvalles. Because there was a box with left overs from pilgrims for pilgrims. And in that box was a perfect shorts for me. My new favourite shorts for sure!
Roncesvalles = Mass pilgrim place
In Roncesvalles you do not have many choices. Actually none. You stay in the Pilgrims hostel and you eat there. It does not have ultimate charme, I must admit. But it has a bathroom and a decent pilgrim menu. And I start to cherish the company at the group table. I get to know Marcia who is a crazy and lovely lady from Argentina. Or Peru. I actually have no idea. She does not speak a word English. And I also get to know Jürgen from Germany. He is doing the camino for the 4th time. I wonder if I will ever do it again. I mean, first of all I have to finsih this one. But the first day on the camino made me feel optimistic. And the best part of the evening: Marcia does not want her dessert and gives it to me instead: DOUBLE ICE CREAM!!!