That night we dined with a whole group of pilgrims.
It was customary at this hostel for everyone to stand up, one by one, to briefly introduce themselves to the group. Here, I found out that the lady with the cowboy hat and tattoos was from New Zealand. Along the way she had linked up with a couple of fellow New Zealanders. I myself sat at a table with the three dutchies. The group made for an interesting combination of different nationalities and age groups, including a couple from Australia aged 80.
After dinner, the lady with the cowboy hat and tattoos, Miss Kiwi, went off to another dorm and I shared a room with the three dutchies, Anja, Ilse and Joyce. That night the wind picked up. The wind blew so hard that it was almost impossible to sleep with the window open. I was extremely cold and already regretting my decision to send my lovely thick sleeping bag back. Still I didn't dare shut the window, particularly after my roommates had said they'd rather not sleep with the window closed. It turned into a sleepless night for me.
The next morning the wind was still blowing heavily and everyone got up at 6 o'clock in the morning to cross the magical Pyrenees. That was too early for me, so eventually I was one of the last ones to leave the hostel.
The Pyrenees were exciting for me for two reasons. Firstly because of the fear from the home front, where I had been warned of a difficult crossing. The second reason was due to a particular question a friend had asked me. She had asked me to take a picture of her brother's grave to check if it was still in a good condition. During his hike to Santiago in the Pyrenees he was struck by lightning and died instantly. Her story touched me and naturally I wanted to do this for her and her family.
The dutchies had left early, so I set off alone. The wind was so strong it was an effort not to get swept away. Even the heavy backpack wasn't enough to keep me straight along the path. On the trail ahead of me, I saw a number of hikers with inflatable wind jackets swaying from one side of the path to the other. At times it was as though they were being lifted.
It surprised me that I was walking on a concrete trail. I had imagined the Pyrenees completely differently. The concrete path rose gradually and was in no way steep. I had expected a huge climb, as the first day had suggested. The views were panoramic and magnificent, with herds of sheep. It was mainly the strong gusts of wind that made it tiring. Without noticing, I crossed the French-Spanish border and finally reached the highest point, Cisa pass. This was a stop-off point for many hikers to take time to enjoy the stunning views.
Surprisingly I encountered the three dutchies again here, Anja, Ilse and Joyce. Ilse approached me and asked if I'd seen the grave of my friend's brother yet. I'd told them about the special request. I was shocked, because I'd totally missed this and not seen it. I was overcome with a feeling of failure. I considered walking back...but at the same time I realised this wasn't an option after hiking for so many hours.
Ilse saw me struggling and reassured me. She told me they had seen the grave and taken photos of it. As luck would have it, Ilse was a photographer and actually took some great photos. I was impressed and extremely grateful.
And yes, it was absolutely possible for me to cross the Pyrenees in one stretch, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on the stop in Auberge Orisson and all the lovely encounters ad stories. I was now able to let go of the initial fear I'd brought from the home front.
As four happy dutchies we descended the mountain towards the enormous monastery of Roncesvalles. We checked in and shared a compartment with four beds in a big, stunning dormitory. After a long day it was time for a nice glass of wine. Miss Kiwi was nowhere to be seen.