St Jean Pied de Port to Roncevalles

I am so unused to having my own space that I caught a bit of a cold last night in my cold room in the old stone boarding house. The extra body heat of more people in a room is good for more than company.

I won’t let that delay the start of the second half of my walk, though. After looking at the weather forecast with rain coming late today I decided to keep walking past Orisson and get over the Pyrenees to the Spanish town of Roncesvalles. It turned out to be both a spectacular and very meaningful day.

I was off with the sun and walked 8 km to the refuge at Orisson where the ashes of my mentor Capt. Ed Mandin were scattered by Father Mike and Lloyd Rath. The photos Lloyd sent made it possible for me to find what I believe to be the spot they chose. There was no mark, but the place retains its awesome beauty. I said a quick prayer and gave Ed some words of thanks for his kindness and friendship, and then continued up the hill. 

I was also thankful for the calm and peaceful day at almost 1500 meters. There is not much shelter up there when the wind blows. I am far from being the most fit person I know, and not even the most fit Old Guy, but I am amazed at the endurance I’ve achieved in the 5 weeks since I started this walk. I climbed more than 4000 feet in elevation in 16 km in around 4 hours including my stop in Orisson where I was scrambling up and down the hillside. My total climbing today was 5000 feet. I’m a little tired at the end of the day, but I am really enjoying this fitness and don’t want to lose it.

Apparently France and Spain are arguing about the location of the border, so there was no “welcome to Spain” sign, but I got my picture taken at a nice stopping point. Ah España! I am staying at a pension tonight rather than the giant Albergue which holds more than 200 pilgrims. I gave myself another little break. Apparently so did Martin Sheen.


Ed Mandin spot

From below

Adios Orisson 

Up hill

Half way


Ah España!

In themoviehestayed in the dormitory. Real life was apparently kinder👣

Arroue to Ostabat & St Jean


Poor internet and a good time with friends and friends of friends in Ostabat. Sunday in St Jean Pied de Port brings little improvement to Internet, but the start of a much needed day of rest.


The Gite just outside of Ostabat was an excellent place and had a nice surprise. During the singing of Basque songs before dinner (repas) I got a note from my cousin Joycelin with the name of the relatives of her close friend (Bernie). It turned out that I was actually staying at the house of the relative (Lucie & Bernard). I got some photos and gave them best wishes from California which was appreciated. It’s one of those things which is so bizarre as to leave a person with not much to say but just smile and keep singing. Your relatives wish you the best Bernie!


Off this morning for the last 20 km walk in the first half of my adventure. St. Jean is a little short of actual half way, but it’s 738 km from my starting point in Le Puy, and 780 km to my destination in Santiago. This is the starting point for most pilgrims, and time to bid adieu to my walking friends Hermann, Helen and Nick. Hermann is headed North for the Camino Del Norte, Nick is going to walk tomorrow over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles in Spain, and Helen will take a bus to meet him. They’ll be heading back to Sydney before long having completed the Spanish portion of my walk  last year. I will miss them all.


My walk across France took me 36 days which is almost 22 km per day. I am kept from having a swelled head by the fact that Ian from Melbourne (who is almost 70) did the same walk in 22 days. So I have someone to try to emulate.


My stats for the 36 days:


Steps. 1,206,000


Miles.  685

Floors 4617

Basque singing

Lucie says hi to Bernie from CA

Arrival at half way

Classic St Jean Pied de Port photo

The four walkers say adios



Walking France on €50 a Day

Much to my surprise I have discovered that lots of people in France and all over Europe like walking. People of all ages shapes and sizes are out on the trails and Grand Routes (GR) of France. This includes GR65, the Le Puy Way of the Chemin de Saint Jacques. In order to accommodate all these walkers, all cities, most villages, and many rural areas along these routes have established small hotels (Chambres d’Hotes and Auberges) and pilgrim hostels called Gites d’Etape. Some hotels include both individual rooms and dormitories, but are pretty self-explanatory. The Gites, however are interesting.


Gites are both private (privat) and communal. All provide a bed in a common room, shared showers and toilets, and a safe secure place to spend the night. The communal Gites are usually operated by cities and villages, and are often in pretty basic old buildings with little personal attention. Most do not offer dinners, but many have cooking areas where guests can prepare meals and coffee for breakfast. The few communal Gites I stayed in were very clean, but one friend did suffer from bed bug bites at a communal. Most of these places in France apparently charge around €12/night. 


I much prefer the Gites Privat. Although most are closed between 1 and 3-4 in the afternoons when the owners rest, I was always given a warm welcome and made to feel at home. Most dormitory rooms only held 4-6 beds. Most of these Gites offer dinner, and all offer a breakfast of coffee, bread, juice, etc.. Cost for the private Gites is between €12-20/night. When dinner (repas) and breakfast are included, the cost for a stay is between €30-35/night.


Here is the bottom line on costs in France for one person walking alone:

Lodging:                               €12-20

Dinner/main meal.                €8-20

Breakfast:                             €3-5

Incidentals/coffee/beer/fruit: €5-10


So at a bare minimum, not buying wine for friends, or getting an extra chocolate or biscuit, walking a Camino will cost a single walker €35-40/day. In many places the cheaper Gites are not available. In order to have a few comforts, €50/day is a pretty good figure. For couples who may wish to have the privacy of their own room from time, €75/day is a pretty good figure. €100/day will allow hotel stays on most nights when they are available.



One thing to remember for all dormitory type places is that you are expected to be out and away before 9 in the morning, so no sleeping in. As I recall, Spain is a bit cheaper. I’ll report separately when I get there.

Naverrenx to Arroui

The Gite last night was called “the Alchemist”. Someone puts signs up along the Chemin with wise words in French. It was also a wonderful place to stay. The artisan chef is also a master storyteller, and between he and his partner, managed to keep the English speakers up with the stories, all while serving up the food. A fine night.

We had a short 20 km walk today. I got lost once but other Pelerins set me straight. A day like today with 5 hours walking leaves me tired, but the recovery after shower is much quicker. I am at a large Gite tonight outside of a town with 3 names which I won’t write. We are definitely in Basque Country now. I don’t have a good photo of the Pyrenees today, but they’re looking quite impressive. 





Arganon to Naverrenx

Interesting day. Dinner last nite and breakfast this morning with a giant pet pig. A nice, sunny 20 km walk to a beautiful fortified town, met Ann and Ken from NC, attended church and had wine with a French priest. Then a great vegetarian dinner with an artisan chef.

It’s always the people who make a trip, but the imposing presence of the Pyrenees mountains getting bigger against the horizon is always in my awareness.

Pig in a blanket

NC Pelerins 

Pyrenees in background 

St Jacques

Wine with the priest