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St. Jean Pied de Port or Roncesvalles

Camino(s) past & future
Completed Camino Frances (2010 & 2013); Camino Portugues (2011)
#1
Hi Everyone,

I notice on the Camino Forum that some people prefer to start their Camino walk from Roncesvalles, as opposed to starting from St. Jean Pied de Port. What is the main reason for this? The pilgrim's guidebook I am reading recommends starting from St. Jean Pied de Port. Thanks in advance. :)
 

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Anna-Marie

Active Member
#2
The main difference is that if you start in Roncesvalles, you miss walking over the Pyrenees (though you do still have some serious descents). A 26/27-kilometre or so walk over a mountain is a pretty intense way to start walking, but lots of people do it. (I started in Le Puy, so didn't have to make that decision. :) )

If you want to start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port but don't want to do the whole thing in one stretch, you can break up the trip by stopping at albergues in Honto (5km from SJPP) or Orisson (10km).

Buen Camino!

Anna-Marie
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
#3
crad80,the stats from the Pilgrim's Office record the many various places that pilgrims begin from.
http://www.archicompostela.org/Peregrinos/Estadisticas/estadisticas2006.htm Look down the page under PUNTO DE COMIENZO.

Many, especially Spanish pilgrims, start from Sarria. Lots start from Leon, or Pamplona, or Pontferrada. Really, you can start wherever you choose, and don't have to start somewhere in particular just because a guidebook starts there. (I often wonder how many of those who start from SJPP end up feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of it all, and give up early on.) The choice is up to you, and what you feel comfortable about doing, how much time you have, and perhaps what your reasons for walking are.
Margaret
 
#4
I had totally planned to start at St. Jean Pied de Port, but am now rethinking after 9 weeks away from any exercise at all (family vacation - actually husband working most days while I stay with young daughter, and I'm alone with my daughter pretty much the whole day and so don't really have the opportunity). I'm not leaving for another 2 months plus, and hope to get myself back in shape, but am seriously rethinking my plan. Anyone want to convince me that 2 months back in training will be enough to conquer the Pyrennes on the first day? I'm so excited about doing the Camino, but this 9 weeks has been both emotionally draining and physically kind of harmful (as in I was used to walking at least 10 miles each day, and now haven't walked much at all).

thanks for the buck up! I can use it right now!
Lulusmom (aka Kari)

PS - time on the trip is limited, as tickets have been purchased.
 
#5
Margaret, Just read your post, and it lightened me up a bit. Whatever will be, and don't let this decision be TOO big a deal or disappointment. thank you.

LulusMom, Kari
 

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sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#6
Margaret is right. Even though the walk on the GR route is very beautiful, there is no historical or traditional reason for starting at St Jean so any pilgrim deciding to start in Spain, need'nt feel they are leaving out an important stage. Most medieval pilgrims started from their front doors and Spanish pilgrims especially wouldn't have dreamed of walking back along a difficult road to start in another country.
The Codex Calixtinus describes two routes that cross the Pyrenees - the route from Borce, via Somport, to Puente la Reina and, from the Pass of Cize starting from the village of San Michel, via Ibaneta, to Santiago. Pilgrims walking through St Jean, Ostabat or San Michel were subjected to unjust tolls and were damned by the writer of the Veneranda dies sermon in the Codex.
When Don Elias Valina Sampedro re-marked the way, I doubt he bothered to venture into France and early guides, including Nancy Frey's chapter in the Lonely Planet guide, started at Roncesvalles.
There is some evidence that three of the routes through France joined at Gibraltar (see the stele below) and perhaps that would been a more historically correct place to start the Camino Frances.
 

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sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#8
:D No, not that one!
About 3km south of Saint-Palais on the route from Paris and Tours, you reach Gibralta and a stele which marks the spot where the three routes from France (from Le Puy, Paris and Vezelay) join before continuing south to Ostabat and then Saint-Jean-la-Vieux, St Jean Pied de Port and over the pass to Roncesvalles. This is where you join the GR65 to continue on the Camino Frances.
Some historical accounts claim that up to 5000 pilgrims could be accommodated in the hospitals and inns at Ostabat in the 12th c but today it is a small village with one albergue.
 
#9
AHHHHHHHH now I see,

I thought for a moment, there had been a post recently about deviations and detours from the Camino but I though "geez Gibraltar is a bit extreme" Laugh
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#10
I have done several caminos, and none of them included the climb out of St. Jean Pied de Port. I have only ever done that route in a car, and once on a mule. Nine-tenths of the Spanish pilgrims I meet start at Roncesvalles, and so I do that too... there´s something about paying all the extra money and taking all the extra trouble to go over that mountain just to turn around the next day and climb back up again... I never could really justify it to myself.

I don´t feel I am any less a pilgrim for all that.

And just to be pedantic: when you begin in St. Jean you are not really "crossing the Pyrenees." You are walking up one of the smaller of the hundreds of mountains that makes up the range, to the Pass at Roncesvalles, and the next day you walk down the other side. But it does sound heroic, no? And anyone who starts a journey with such a "bang" can always use that arduous day as comparison for any tough days that follow.
 
#11
Hi Kari
2 months is plenty of time,especially for someone who has been walking 10mls a day beforehand plus you need to stop training at least 2 weeks before you start anyway to gain the best from your training.
it is my belief that it is best to start from SJPP,the reasons being--many people say it was their most treasured memory and glad they did not miss out--you will make a bond with your group of starters that you will not get anywhere else on the Camino this family of SJPPers that you keep bumping into along the way that take pride in answering the often asked question "where did you start from?" from SJPP and I walked the PYRENEES.
Roncesvalles is a circus and hard to get to,the bus from pamplona does not get in till 8pm so you have to find your bed your bearings amongst all the other new starters,eat a hurried meal-evening mass if you want and bed and lights out by 10pm!!
the strongest people I met along the way where always women, their strengh of will put us mere men to shame.
as a father of 5 I would rather walk a dozen Pyrennees than give birth and look after young children.
I have walked from SJPP twice now the first time I expended more time and effort my mind full of doubts at my ability to do this thing than I ever did walking the flipping thing.
I have no doubts about your own ability to walk the one/two days of what will be the most uplifting walk of your life-don't miss out on it.
buen Camino
Ian
 

JohnnieWalker

Nunca se camina solo
Donating Member
#12
Rebekah Scott said:
Nine-tenths of the Spanish pilgrims I meet start at Roncesvalles, and so I do that too...
Absolutely right...it is very unusual for a Spanish pilgrim to come into the Pilgrims' Office having started in St Jean.
 

camino-david

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
#13
Hi Kari,
Firstly, if you have been walking 10kms every day until recently, I am sure you will soon be fit enough to walk the Camino, and really the Pyrennees is not that difficult. I admit I have only walked the Camino once so far, and I started from St Jean, and stopped the night at Orrison the first night, which is only 8 kms from St Jean, leaving 17 kms to get to Roncesvalles on the second day. The first 8 kms are also the steepest. If the weather is kind, the route from St Jean to Roncesvalles is very beautiful. It does not matter from where you walk - Sarria, Leon, your front door etc. it is not a competition. There is the oft repeated saying 'that you walk your own Camino', so there is no specific route, or length, or even method of transport. Having said that, in my experience, the further you walk, the better the experience. Buen Camino - you will find it amazing.
 

markss

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from SJPP (3/10 & 10/10); Primitivo (6/12)
#14
My guess is that few of the people who have begun in SJPP would advise starting instead in Roncesvalles. This not out of any sort of snobbery or debate over where an actual starting point lies. SJPP to Roncensvalles is absolutely one of the most, if not the most beautiful stage of the Camino. If you have the time, don't miss it!
 

CaminoJohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2006,2008,2011; VDLP, Sanabrias (2018)
#15
I have always started the camino in St Jean...I flew into Paris and it just makes sense..very easy to get to... I have walked both the Route de Napoleon over the mtn and the valley route. Both are wonderful and really not that difficult. Certianly no more than the slog up to O'Ceberio..On the mountain you have to oppourtunity to view snow covered peaks...in June! and crossing 'over" into Spain on a trail is truly wonderful (at least for this North American where borders are highly regulated) I will be crossing again this June! This time from Madrid via San Sebastian.
 

renegadepilgrim

Veteran Pilgrim and Traveler
Camino(s) past & future
2010: Camino Frances, 2011: Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Hospitalera), 2012: Camino Portuguese from Porto, 2015: Camino Norte
#16
I walked from St. Jean because it was easier for me to get to from the US....flew into Paris, train to Bayonne, bus to SJPdP. If I had to do it over, I would have started in Paris! I forgot that there is a route that starts there. Of course, then I would have had to learn French AND Spanish before leaving. :)

If you have been walking 10 MILES/day, then you will be fine for the Camino. I tried to train by doing 5-8 mile hikes before I left but it was so hard to get that time in before I left. I suffered the first day from SJPdP to Roncesvalles because my pack weighed too much. I had to wait until I got to Pamplona to ship stuff ahead....once I lost the extra weight, I slowly built up endurance and did fine. Lost a few pounds in the process, too! If you are strapped for time, there is no shame in starting in Roncesvalles or Pamplona or even bussing ahead to places like Logrono or Burgos. It's your camino!
 

WolverineDG

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#17
Well, I always had it in my head that I should start at SJP just for the thrill of walking over a border :gasp: , then realized that I could do that any old day of the week by going downtown & walking across the bridge to Mexico. :roll:

Anyways, I wouldn't beat myself up too much for not starting at SJP. Even if you start at Pamplona, or Leon, or even Sarria, you will still be walking further than most everyone else you know & they will be both impressed AND think you're nuts for attempting the Camino. :lol:

Personally, if I wasn't going to start at SJP, I'd start in Pamplona. Roncesvalles is fine, but really all you're there for is the mass in the little church & sleeping in the barn. The walk to Zubiri the next day is ok, but the day after to Pamplona is almost 18k of non-stop walking, no bars, stores, or places to rest along the way until you are almost to Pamplona, so you might as well just start in there in the first place.

As always, YMMV. :mrgreen:

Kelly
 

Nandy61

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2010 CF StJPP to Santiago
2014 CF Leon to Santiago
2015 Primitivo
#18
Kari,

you will be FINE! Wherever you start. I started in SJPP having flown overnight from Boston thru Dublin and Biarritz, with no sleep, I finally arrived in SJPP around 5pm. My 18 year old daughter, who DID NOT TRAIN AT ALL, was with me. I made a reservation at Orrison as I feared we wouldn't be in the best shape (from the aforementioned reasons) to conquer the up-and-over in one day. If the weather hadnt looked so ominous when we awoke the next morning, we would've poked around SJPP a bit before heading out. As it was we got up and out around 9am in an attempt to skirt the rain. The rain never got to us afterall and we were at Orrison by noon, with plenty of rest stops and photo ops. It was good that we stopped there however, we were still quite jet-lagged, and the first 8K is steep. But, as has been mentioned over and over, it is a gorgeous walk! Stunning scenery on the way up, and near mythical woodlands on the way down. So worth it. Two days later, I met an Italian gal who flew into Pamplona and took the bus up to Roncevalles. It was not easy. She ended up spending the first night at the albergue in Pamplona and catching the bus up the next morning. Perhaps a lot depends upon where you live, where you are coming from; the logistics for linking up to the Camino are different from each corner of the world. I can say with certainty however, that if you're coming on an overnight flight, its a good idea to take it easy the first day walking. After that, your walking is your training; you will be in shape in NO time. So long as you don't overpack! ;)
Buen Camino!
Nancy
 
#19
I also started my Camino in St Jean, it just felt like the right thing to do, each and everyone of us are on our own Camino. The first day up to Orisson I felt was the toughest of all, some people dread the walk up to O'cebriero but I felt that was relatively easy compared to the first day. There many unique things to see from St Jean to Roncevalles, one thing that I've never seen before and didn't see anywhere else along the Camino are some little Basque ponies, they are so tiny, the colts or actually a better description, babies are about the size of a golden retriever! The view back down into the valley from the patio across the street from the alburgue is amazing, there are vultures circling through the sky, a cute, funny little Basque girl named Pantxika (she pronounced it Panchica) that works at the alburgue (and she worked her tail off) told me the vultures eat the pilgrims that don't make it up the hill, LOL. I also had too much weight for the Camino, I initially planned on shipping it home from St Jean but the postal rates were prohibitive, and as you'll see at the alburgue in Roncevalles and other alburgues are things people are willing to leave behind, I wasn't so I carried 40 lbs to Pamplona, which impressed a couple of Korean men I met at the alburgue in Orisson and walked with from there to Roncevalles. The second day is far easier in my opinion and goes through some unique and beautiful country. The only complaint I remember hearing when I arrived in Roncevalles is pilgrims that walked all the way from St Jean were absolutly exhausted, stay in Orisson if you do decide to do this. Someone else mentioned a bond you make with pilgrims you meet the first day, I can attest to that, you might not see them for 2, 3 or 5 days but when you do it is a unique bond you have that is not there with people you meet later on, it's hard to decribe and I don't want it to sound snooty, but for example there were 2 Japanese girls I met in Orisson, we walked together some days and sometimes didn't see each other for days at time, but when we arrived in Santiago we felt we had made the journey together and still hold that thought now.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#21
Free explorer said:
Is there any issue with traveling to Roncesvalles from STJPP in mid March? Is there a huge risk if the Orisson hostel is not open?
Free explorer,

One never knows what the weather will be! See my earlier response regarding winter walking in this thread >>http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/weather/topic9906.html#p118795.
Mid March is NOT springtime in the Pyrenees.

In bad weather you might walk the Valcarlos alternative route through the mountains as opposed to the Napoleon route over the mountains. In Valcarlos the municipal albergue is open throughout the year and HEATED.

Buen Camino!

Margaret Meredith
 
#22
Thanks Margaret. the blog was very helpful. Seems I will need quite a bit of wet weather gear.

If it is good weather, and I take the route via Orisson, I assume that I might need to walk the whole route to Roncesvalles, if the Orisson Albergues is closed? Are there taxis that one can pick up at Orisson or other towns should the weather deteriorate and I don't want to walk the whole way to R?
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#23
Are there taxis that one can pick up at Orisson or other towns
There are no towns between SJPdP and Roncesvalles, just farms and the bar at Orisson. If you have cell phone reception and the phone number of the taxi service in Roncesvalles, you may be able to call for a taxi.
 

WolverineDG

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#24
If you want to walk the route napoleon while Orisson is closed, & don't think you can make it in one day, you can take a taxi from SJP to the point where the Camino diverges from the road. It's not "cheating" to do this, especially considering your safety.

As always, if the weather is bad &/or the locals tell you not to go that way, DO NOT TAKE THE ROUTE NAPOLEON. The Valcarlos route is just as challenging & you can stay overnight in Valcarlos at the albergue or one of the pensiones.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#25
The route Napoleon consists of a tarred road for about 11km and thereafter pilgrims follow a grassy track to the pass. The tarred road swings to the right and joins up with Arneguy on the Val Carlos route. That is the last chance to get a taxi or hitch a ride. From there on, all the way to the top you'll be on tracks. Once you get to the top you hve a choice of walking steeply through the Beech woods or walking on a tarred road to the Ibaneta Pass and then down to Roncesvalles.
 

nreyn12

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide leading groups 2013-present
#26
WolverineDG said:
if the weather is bad &/or the locals tell you not to go that way, DO NOT TAKE THE ROUTE NAPOLEON.
Excellent and important advice.

And from personal experience I will say, there's no need to feel sad if you end up on the Valcarlos route. Despite a few stretches that are directly on the road, this route is quite beautiful. Just watch closely for the trail markers, especially as you pass through the couple of small towns along this way.
Nancy
 
Camino(s) past & future
Completed Camino Frances (2010 & 2013); Camino Portugues (2011)
#27
Hi Everyone,

Thanks for the great advice!!!!

Buen Camino 2013.....Ci Vediamo!!!! C-rad
 

reg2450

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March 2013
#28
Great to hear all these wonderful words of encouragement. I will be travelling from SJPP in Mid March, but I had assured my husband (not coming) that if the weather is bad, and the locals urge me NOT to, I will go the easier route. I'm more than happy to walk to Orisson, in fact I'm really hoping it will be open!! Start off easy I believe - especially with Georgia. I've been looking at the weather - it looks cold on those mountains. Not too keen to bring extra layers and then have to carry them for 30 more days.....
Gina
 

nreyn12

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide leading groups 2013-present
#29
reg2450 said:
Not too keen to bring extra layers and then have to carry them for 30 more days.....
Hi Gina,
There is an easy solution if you do have to have extra clothes for your first few days but not after that. The Spanish post office, called 'Correos' has an excellent post restante system. When you arrive into Pamplona, you can go to the Correos, buy a pre-formed box, and post all your extra clothes ahead to Santiago or wherever you are headed.

Ivar, who runs this forum, will hold your items for up to 60 days, for a fee, while you complete your walk. Here is the thread with that information:
http://www.caminodesantiago.me/luggage- ... ompostela/

And just a warning, the low road through Valcarlos is not as easy as you might think!
Nancy
 

reg2450

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March 2013
#30
Thanks Nancy. I've heard that the low road isn't all that simple. I'm hoping my path will reveal itself!! Thanks for the information on what to do with the clothes also. I will need them for the first week or two I'm sure. I think it's best to be warm than cold (especially for my daughter).

Gina
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
#31
The Spanish post office, called 'Correos' has an excellent post restante system. When you arrive into Pamplona, you can go to the Correos, buy a pre-formed box, and post all your extra clothes ahead to Santiago or wherever you are headed.
I too, will be bringing extra clothing for the trek across the Pyrenees in early April (hopefully, via Route Napoleon). But I am concerned about posting them onwards to Santiago once I've crossed the Pyrenees. Aren't there two other mountain ranges that need to be crossed before one arrives in Santiago. Any comments? Suggestions? Reassurances?

I'm more than happy to walk to Orisson, in fact I'm really hoping it will be open!!
Gina, I believe you need a reservation to stay in Orisson. And the last I heard, it wasn't opening this year until Easter. Check with Jean-Jacque, the proprieter at
http://www.refuge-orisson.com/auberge_c ... ontact.php
Charleen
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#32
If Orisson is closed, you can spend two nights in St Jean.

Walk to Orisson - or beyond (it is about 12km to where the tarred road ends) and get a taxi to bring you back to St Jean.
The next day the taxi takes you to where you were picked up and you carry on walking. This way you can also leave your heavy pack behind on the first day and have it transported to Roncesvalles on the 2nd day.
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#33
If its a matter of choice, I would choose leaving from SJPP rather than from Roncesvalles...

No Doubts about it!!! This Stage is one of the most important, beautiful and challenging from all routes to Santiago!!!

Now, choosing between the lower route (via Valcarlos) and the Napoleon route (via Orisson) for me depends only on two elements:

1) Weather:
If the guys at the pilgrims office and/or the municipal albergue tells you that pilgrims should avoid the Napoleon Route, then Don´t go!! Get the lower route instead!!!

Even if you have thorough experience in low-temperature climbing/trekking/camping you shouldn´t risk yourself.

I, myself, have some experience with low temperatures climbing (Colombia, Peru, Alaska) but I wouldnt try the passage if people tell me I shouln´t.

I wont be carrying the proper gear to protect me from dying up there in case the weather turns into a nasty heavy snow storm.

2) Health and Fitness conditions:

If you have a known (and serious) back, knee or cardiac problem I would say you got to prepare yourself for the conditions you are going to face it. Its not that you can't do it, but you have to prepare your body to go up the pirinees and still be able to walk the next 30 stages to Santiago.

If, for instance, I get in SJPP with a strong back or knee pain from the long hours flight... I would also be willing to take the lower route... As I know already that my knees and back could refrain me from get to Santiago...
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
#34
As I know already that my knees and back could refrain me from get to Santiago...
I am seriously considering sillydoll's suggestion of having my pack transported from SJPP/Orisson/Roncesvalles, perhaps even to Zubiri. It just isn't worth putting my Camino at risk. I will see how the next seven weeks of training goes. Thanks for all your input. Charleen
 

Cowboy

New Member
#35
Be careful with mailing your extra stuff to Santiago post office posts restante. As I recall they only keep packages 2weeks before mailing them back to the post office it was sent from. If you mail it from Pamplona or before, you will not get to Santiago in time to collect. Maybe things have changed since my experience in 2008, other forum members may be able to comment. Michael
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#36
Charleen;

I am seriously considering sillydoll's suggestion of having my pack transported from SJPP/Orisson/Roncesvalles, perhaps even to Zubiri. It just isn't worth putting my Camino at risk. I will see how the next seven weeks of training goes.
If you happen to have bad knees and want to avoid unnecessary pain the next few days, and also avoid the risk of injurying yourself as to not been able to walk to Santiago anymore, than this is a very good idea!!!

If Im not mistaken there are plenty of choices (express bourricot still does it. I guess...) to take your bag for you to Roncesvalles so you can walk very light, saving your knees and back but still going through the montain on Napoleon Route!

:D
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
#37
Cowboy said:
Be careful with mailing your extra stuff to Santiago post office posts restante. As I recall they only keep packages 2weeks before mailing them back to the post office it was sent from. If you mail it from Pamplona or before, you will not get to Santiago in time to collect. Maybe things have changed since my experience in 2008, other forum members may be able to comment. Michael
This should really be posted under a different heading, but here goes anyway: the Spanish Post Office keep parcels at the destination for 4 weeks, not 2. I tried it last year having posted extras from Puerto de la Reina and arrived in Santiago more than 3 weeks later.
As regards to choice of starting point SJPP or Roncesvalles, I have only ever considered leaving from Roncesvalles. I see no point to arrive in Madrid, make my way to Pamplona, take overland transport to SJPP only to have to walk back again, especially with an 8 hour jet lag, plus long journey and also take age into consideration. No point in ruining my Camino on the first 2 days. If I ever get the chance to walk the Francés again, i will start in Pamplona! Anne
 

nreyn12

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide leading groups 2013-present
#38
More about posting things:

charlesx said:
I too, will be bringing extra clothing for the trek across the Pyrenees in early April (hopefully, via Route Napoleon). But I am concerned about posting them onwards to Santiago once I've crossed the Pyrenees. Aren't there two other mountain ranges that need to be crossed before one arrives in Santiago. Any comments? Suggestions? Reassurances?
Yes, there are two more mountain ranges, plus the meseta between Burgos and Leon which can be quite cold at times. The Correos has post restante service in - at least - all offices in major cities. You can send a parcel to any Correos office along the way for pick-up when you arrive into that city. I usually send a box to Burgos, then when I get there I send it on to Leon, then from there to Santiago.

The Correos offices are closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Address your parcel as follows:
LAST NAME, First Name, PEREGRINO(A)
Listo de Correos
City Name, Post Code

A tip I got from a Correos employee in Pamplona: After the allotted holding period (two or four weeks, reports vary), the Correos will return you parcel to the point of origin where it will be held for another two weeks. If you use the same address for both destination and origin (return address), they will have no choice but to hold it for another two weeks.

Be sure you write your name as it appears in your passport, as you will need to present it to retrieve the parcel.

Pre-made boxes are available at each Correos office, for a small fee. Sizes:

Small box 230 x 140 x 80 mm
Medium Box 317 x 215 x 125 mm
Large box 390 x 280 x 190 mm
Extra large box 590 x 390 x 390 mm

The cost to send the parcel is based on weight and is quite reasonable.

The first Correos office you come to after SJPP is Pamplona. Then they are quite regular, so you can post things when you are ready to. The post codes for the major cities / towns are:

31080 Pamplona
31100 Puenta la Reina
26080 Logroño
09080 Burgos
24080 León
24700 Astorga
24400 Ponferrada
27600 Sarria
15780 Santiago de Compostela

Someone at the albergue (or Tourist Information office in the larger cities) can direct you to the Correos office in each town once you arrive. They are all quite central.

Hope that helps!
Nancy
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#39
There has been too much hype about the difficulty of the walk from St Jean.

You walk on a tarred road for nearly 12km and a lovely grassy track for another 9km. Then you can either go through the largest Beech forest in Europe or continue on a tarred road all the way to Roncesvalles.

The only reason that a hiking guide would class this as 'moderate' is because of the gradient - steep up and steep down through the forest.

The Route Napoleon is a piece of old takkie compared to the walk down from Jaca - or other sections of the Aragones!
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
#40
The Route Napoleon is a piece of old takkie compared to the walk down from Jaca - or other sections of the Aragones!
Yes, I appreciate that. But this would be the first leg of my Camino. Everyone says to start slowly ... and I have an iffy knee, and I want to finish my Camino. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Charleen
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#41
I agree with you 100% Charleen. I always take it really slow on the Route Napoleon and do it in two days. I have iffy knees, ankles, osteoporosis and use two walking poles.

My post was mainly to point out that reports on the Route Napoleon being a really difficult, mountain trail are mostly exaggerated. Its a pity if these put people off walking one of the most peaceful, scenic sections of the Camino Frances.
 
N

NoQ

Guest
#42
I've decided to give this stage a miss and start at Ibaneta. The distance is a bit long fr the first day and while there may be a tarred road and nice track most of the way, the height gain is huge.

I am comparing it to where I live and the 'mountain' behind my apartment. To go from 30m above sea level to 460m up this 'mountain' takes a lot of energy and more than 2 hours. So I look at going from 170m to 1450m as being way too much for me and a risk I don't want to take for a first day. If it were later on, I'd happily give it a go.

Anyway, for those that are worried about it or don't fancy the full stretch, there is a great shuttle organised every morning by Express Bourricot at a very reasonable price, that takes people to the point where the route leaves the tarred section at more than 1000m. We considered this, but decided to book an Express Bourricot trip from SJPDP to Ibaneta instead and start there. Just spent CNY on a trip to the Alps, so have seen plenty of amazing mountain views recently, anyway.
 

Kiwiangela

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walking May 2013
#43
" you need to stop training at least 2 weeks before you start anyway to gain the best from your training."

What do you mean by this? Thx
 

supersullivan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria-Santiago 2012. SJPP-Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia 2013. Ponferrada-Santiago June 2014. Leon-Santiago-Finisterre September 2014. April-May 2015: SJPP- S de C- Finisterre -Muxia- S de C.
#44
Kiwiangela said:
" you need to stop training at least 2 weeks before you start anyway to gain the best from your training."

What do you mean by this? Thx
Hi Angela, can't find the comment you quoted but as a former competition cyclist I might be able to explain a little: An intentional part of any structured training programme is to slightly overload your body in training, during recovery between training sessions your body physically adapts to try to prevent the overloading in future ie: lung capacity, heart capacity increase to allow your body to take in more oxygen and pump more blood around your body to better supply your muscles with their energy sources, progressively increasing training loads ( go faster and or longer or lift heavier weights ) keeps your body adaptions continually ongoing. The trick is recover enough between training sessions so allow the changes in physical capacity occur. Training phases are usually of 4 weeks but can be 3 or 5 in some cases, In a 4 week phase, weeks 1 to 3 see weekly increases in training loads and week 4 sees a reduction but to a level a bit more than week 1. Weeks 5 to 8 see the same pattern but week 5 will see you starting with a heavier training load than week 1 etc. After several training phases leading up to the event you are targeting ( your Camino ), the final fortnight sees a substantial reduction in training loads to allow maximum recovery and physical adaption take place before your event. This is a fairly simplified version of training phases as many other things like sleep, massage, nutrition come into play but even for non competitive activities that require a reasonable level of fitness this approach will aid fitness improvements.

Regards and buen camino

Seamus
 

Kiwiangela

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walking May 2013
#45
Thanks Seamus, makes perfect sense. I was planning to ramp up the training a bit during the last 2 weeks but now you've explained it, that would not be a good idea!

(Quote was from Sagalout up the page)
Thanks, Angela
 
#46
I am starting in sjpdep in mid April, hope to do napoleons route, I find the walk to roncesvalles easy but if advised will walk valcarios route, over 150 walk this route daily, as d'orisson has 18 beds, most people walk to roncesvalles, after d'orisson nothing but road/track. Plenty of water fonte so no worries about water, I carry 0.5 ltrs and fill up, a new bar/ restaurant now open between zubiri and Pamplona I think in Zabaldica, great food in lovely setting . Buen camino
 

reg2450

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March 2013
#48
Gracias Amigo/as once again for all your wonderful information. We will have travelled for 3 days (compressed into 2) by the time we make SJPP (20th March ---- OMG!!!!!). I don't mind having a rest period, but I am also aware of the Sunday/Monday closed days... (I guess I can prepare for that before leaving SJ).
I am really happy to have noticed that the weather has rapidly warmed up in the Pyrenees and we may yet be able to tackle that moderate climb!! Though I would like to stay at Orisson. I have not been able to book, and I don't think they are open yet. Tim from Erracaldia has recommended somewhere for me to stay on the lower route should we need to go that way as he is aware I don't want to tackle 20+km on our first day.
Bring on the sunshine!!
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#49
the weather has rapidly warmed up in the Pyrenees
And the rains have come; it looks like rain for the next week. If it is heavy rain, mud and slides are likely. Pamplona to Puente la Reina is expecting rain for the next week as well. The possibility of snow is not past, either. As always, play it by ear, and be sufficiently cautious. :D
 

healthytoo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais (2013)
#50
Could anyone shed some light on approximately how long it would take to walk to Orrison? I know this sounds a bit like "how long is a piece of string" as there are so many variables, such as how fit I am & how much I will be carrying etc...I will have about 6kg on my back & I have my 60th birthday on the Way in May this year. I am healthy of average fitness and have been training regularly for the last 5 weeks.

The reason I ask, is that after reading many of the posts by seasoned Camino walkers on this Forum, I've seen that many prefer to break the journey. I am walking with my husband and 2 other couples. The two other couples want to do the Pyreneean crossing all in one day, but my husband & I have booked the Aubergue at Orrison for a night. I'm guessing that the 10km will take us anywhere from 3-5 hours?? If it does take us that long to get up there, I think we'll be glad to have split the walk into 2.

Another way we thought we could tackle the situation is to walk to the end of the paved road up near Orrison then catch a cab back to SJPdP & catch a cab back to the same place the next day. Is that frowned upon by the "Pilgrim Police"? Also, what is an "Express Burricot"? How does one get onto the company that runs that service?


We would be there on the night of 3rd May 2013. We don't want to carry sleeping bags so will just have silk liners. It may still be quite cold up there. Would that be enough warmth with one of the blankets provided?

I love reading the posts on this forum. I have been a "reader" of these posts for about 5 weeks, & have learned lots already...thanks everyone.

Enrica from Caloundra Qld
 
K

karenfromcali

Guest
#51
Hi Everyone,
I am planning to begin my first camino from SJPP in march 2014. I am a female who is almost 50 and I plan on travelling alone (most of the time anyway). I'm a bit worried about safety as I understand there are fewer pilgrims at this time of year. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Karen
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
#53
Hi Karen ,
You will be guided by the pilgrims office on which way to go.
March can be very , very tricky.
And you will be in a group.

No other advice mate,
Buen Camino
 
K

karenfromcali

Guest
#54
lol. thanks Gerard :D

Thornley..thanks for your reply. I will check in at the office when I get there.
karen
 

Annie Little

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept-Oct 2016
#55
Thanks for the info everyone... I am leavng St jean Sept.. have booked Orisson... shall see what happens with weather... lots of info here :)


Annie
 
P

PANO

Guest
#56
I had totally planned to start at St. Jean Pied de Port, but am now rethinking after 9 weeks away from any exercise at all (family vacation - actually husband working most days while I stay with young daughter, and I'm alone with my daughter pretty much the whole day and so don't really have the opportunity). I'm not leaving for another 2 months plus, and hope to get myself back in shape, but am seriously rethinking my plan. Anyone want to convince me that 2 months back in training will be enough to conquer the Pyrennes on the first day? I'm so excited about doing the Camino, but this 9 weeks has been both emotionally draining and physically kind of harmful (as in I was used to walking at least 10 miles each day, and now haven't walked much at all).

thanks for the buck up! I can use it right now!
Lulusmom (aka Kari)
Kari, relax, be confident and keep the first stretches from SJPdP short. But also consider this: NO-ONE but you decides on where you start and how you get to Santiago! I've started my walk last month in Pamplona for logical reasons. (direct flight to Pamplona and why should I first go back to SJPdP just to return....silly in my mind) I don't feel that this, – nor that I took bus- and taxi-rides for the few kilometres to get into Burgos and Leon–, impaired my Camino-experience in any ways. In fact, I do not perceive those many peregrinos doing the 4-5 days Camino from Sarria as lesser pilgrims; to invest the little time they have available to walk 100km is admirable. What counts is the decision to start the walk! Remember, your Camino should not be a sporting event but a chance to find your own self. You don't have to prove anything to no-body.
Buen Camino

Pierre aka Don Pedro
 

MickMac

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances July 2018 - Meseta
#57
I had totally planned to start at St. Jean Pied de Port, but am now rethinking after 9 weeks away from any exercise at all (family vacation - actually husband working most days while I stay with young daughter, and I'm alone with my daughter pretty much the whole day and so don't really have the opportunity). I'm not leaving for another 2 months plus, and hope to get myself back in shape, but am seriously rethinking my plan. Anyone want to convince me that 2 months back in training will be enough to conquer the Pyrennes on the first day? I'm so excited about doing the Camino, but this 9 weeks has been both emotionally draining and physically kind of harmful (as in I was used to walking at least 10 miles each day, and now haven't walked much at all).

thanks for the buck up! I can use it right now!
Lulusmom (aka Kari)

PS - time on the trip is limited, as tickets have been purchased.
Go for SJPP the whole Camino is a challenge this stage one of hardest. I stopped in Orisson (About 8 Kms on road) intending to stay the night, but at last moment walked on, (from 12.00 hrs) the toughest and best decision I made. I had no training beforehand and found the stage overwhelming but made it at 18.00 to Roncesvalles. My fellow Caminoites supported and encouraged me all the way Buen Camino :)
 

MickMac

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances July 2018 - Meseta
#58
Could anyone shed some light on approximately how long it would take to walk to Orrison? I know this sounds a bit like "how long is a piece of string" as there are so many variables, such as how fit I am & how much I will be carrying etc...I will have about 6kg on my back & I have my 60th birthday on the Way in May this year. I am healthy of average fitness and have been training regularly for the last 5 weeks.

The reason I ask, is that after reading many of the posts by seasoned Camino walkers on this Forum, I've seen that many prefer to break the journey. I am walking with my husband and 2 other couples. The two other couples want to do the Pyreneean crossing all in one day, but my husband & I have booked the Aubergue at Orrison for a night. I'm guessing that the 10km will take us anywhere from 3-5 hours?? If it does take us that long to get up there, I think we'll be glad to have split the walk into 2.

Another way we thought we could tackle the situation is to walk to the end of the paved road up near Orrison then catch a cab back to SJPdP & catch a cab back to the same place the next day. Is that frowned upon by the "Pilgrim Police"? Also, what is an "Express Burricot"? How does one get onto the company that runs that service?


We would be there on the night of 3rd May 2013. We don't want to carry sleeping bags so will just have silk liners. It may still be quite cold up there. Would that be enough warmth with one of the blankets provided?

I love reading the posts on this forum. I have been a "reader" of these posts for about 5 weeks, & have learned lots already...thanks everyone.

Enrica from Caloundra Qld
 

MickMac

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances July 2018 - Meseta
#59
Walked the Camino from SJPP August 20th 2013 I fell down the polished stairs of thr Alburgue at 06.00 Hrs on the first morning thankfully with survivable injuries i.e. skinned arm etc.... Thank god I did not have to quit (The shame of it would have killed me)

Important note as you have to take your boots off in all the Alburgue take some normal light shoes or trainers with you .

I had little training and a 15 Kg pack (mad) disposed of half of my belongings on route.

Celebrated (If that is the word) my 59th birthday on route. Walked to Orisson in 3 hours approx from SJPP, but its not a race, do it at your own pace, sat under the canopy at Orisson exhausted,drinking coffee watching the buzzards and eagles below, whimpering "what am I doing here" ! and was comforted by several dutch women, shoes off etc..

I could not stand seeing the other Caminoites passing me so got up and continued on, cancelled my nights stay in Orisson at 12.00 hrs, took me another 6 hours to arrive at Roncesvalles had a fantastic blood stained Camino the best experience of my life "So Far" Buen Caminoo_O
 
Camino(s) past & future
Plan to commence late May 2014 - Camino Frances
#60
I have done several caminos, and none of them included the climb out of St. Jean Pied de Port. I have only ever done that route in a car, and once on a mule. Nine-tenths of the Spanish pilgrims I meet start at Roncesvalles, and so I do that too... there´s something about paying all the extra money and taking all the extra trouble to go over that mountain just to turn around the next day and climb back up again... I never could really justify it to myself.

I don´t feel I am any less a pilgrim for all that.

And just to be pedantic: when you begin in St. Jean you are not really "crossing the Pyrenees." You are walking up one of the smaller of the hundreds of mountains that makes up the range, to the Pass at Roncesvalles, and the next day you walk down the other side. But it does sound heroic, no? And anyone who starts a journey with such a "bang" can always use that arduous day as comparison for any tough days that follow.
Thank you for this post, I have been uncertain about starting from St Jean, and been receiving considerable pressure from someone I know who has done the walk, for contemplating alternatives starting points. I currently carry an injury and was really frightened (to be totally honest) that the first climb would be my 'the end' of my Camino - not the beginning. You have reminded me that everyone walks their own walk. Muchos Gracias.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#62
As Rebekah has said, "when you begin in St. Jean you are not really 'crossing the Pyrenees.' You are walking up one of the smaller of the hundreds of mountains that makes up the range, to the Pass at Roncesvalles, and the next day you walk down the other side."

If you walk it in two days, you don't actually walk to the pass on day one, only 8km to a stone and wood lodge on the side of the road at Orisson, once the site of the priory of St Mary Magdalene . The next day you walk over the pass and down to Roncesvalles. Many thousands of pilgrims of all ages walk this stage in one day - which confirms that it is not such a heroic feat after all!

The walk from St Jean to Roncesvalles, while not a walk in the park simply because of the steepness of the road, is not a mountain hike by any means and the path itself is less challenging than the one from the Alto del Perdon, the one to El Acebo or many of those on the Aragones route.

There is historical argument for starting at St Jean Pied de Port. Following the routes written about in the Liber Sancti Jacobi, the first modern publisher of a pilgrim guide,Elias Valina Sampedro's 1985 pilgrimage Guide to the Camino de Santiago (precursor to the Breiley guide), starts the 'Cize Pass' route at San Michel in France a few km from St Jean, which was the capital of the old Basque Province of lower Navarra until it was 'given' to France in the 17th C. I'm sure many pilgrims following this early guide would've wanted to start their walk from Valina's 'beginning' rather than skip the first stage to start at Roncesvalles.

Thousands of pilgrims arrive in Pamplona, get a bus to Roncesvalles and then hike back the way they came. One extra day over the hill doesn't cost that much and it is a fabulous start to one's walk!

I don't like heights, don't do mountain climbing or rock scrambling and the path from St Jean has none of these. Its a steep walk (not hike) on 14km of tarred road, another 5km or so up on a grassy path, and then a steep down, either through the largest Beech forest in Europe or on the tarred road to Roncesvalles.

I have walked both routes, the so-called 'road route' which is Aimery Picaud's (and Elias Valina's) original way through Val Carlos to Roncesvalles, and the Route Napoleon which is a GR hiking trail. There is almost more off-road walking on the road route than on the Route Napoleon. Both offer spectacular scenery and are stunning introductions to your Camino pilgrimage.
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#63
....
I have walked both routes, the so-called 'road route' which is Aimery Picaud's (and Elias Valina's) original way through Val Carlos to Roncesvalles, and the Route Napoleon which is a GR hiking trail. There is almost more off-road walking on the road route than on the Route Napoleon. Both offer spectacular scenery and are stunning introductions to your Camino pilgrimage.
As Sil, others and I have noted elsewhere the Valcarlos route was THE original medieval pilgrims' path through the mountains and pass to Roncesvalles; the present Napoleon camino over the mountains to Roncesvalles is later. It is named after Napoleon Bonaparte whose French troops entered Spain in 1808 during the Peninsular War commonly known as "La Francesada". Pursued by the British the French would later retreat from Spain in 1813. Intense battles in Navarra during these campaigns occurred at Burgos, Pamplona, Zubiri and Roncesvalles; all places we walk through today.

Here is a modern print depicting Charlemagne mounted finding Roland dead in August 778 on the Valcarlos route near Roncesvalles. (For a further description of this scene see this Roncevalles monastery history page) Hence the village of Valcarlos was named in honor of Carlos ie. Charlemagne. As you can see the scenery is spectacular and the passage hardly flat!!

Since I am old during nine caminos this is the only route into Spain that I have walked following the advice for "less fit walkers" in the CSJ Camino Frances Guide. Nevertheless I am always pooped when finally arriving at Roncesvalles 5 hours after leaving Valcarlos.






Whatever the season always ask for advice at the SJPdP Pilgrim office before setting out on either route !

Buen Camino,

Margaret Meredith
 
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