Monday, November 11, 2013

Camino 2013 - Day 3: Borce To Canfranc Estación, Spain

I woke up with my mind made up.  I would join Gv on the bus.  I wasn't very fond of the traffic I'd walked along the day before and the idea of busier Monday morning traffic, traffic with lots of trucks, was not my idea of good hiking conditions.
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Cross at dawn.
The day turned out to be a gorgeous and sunny.  I can't remember when the bus was scheduled for but I think it was sometime between 8:00AM and 9:00AM.  We walked to the next town, Etsaut, which was literally on the other side of the highway from Borce.  It took a couple tries to figure out where the bus was supposed to stop but we finally asked a utility guy who directed us to the town square.
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Morning sun on the Pyrenees mountains.
We waited around for what seemed like a long time but was probably only twenty minutes or so and the bus didn't come.  The utility guy, who had stopped in a cafe for his morning coffee, saw us waiting and offered to give us a ride.  Gv and I, along with a few of the Germans who were not feeling well, piled into the guy's van and off we went.  We wanted him to drop us off in Urdos 5km (3.1 miles) ahead but he said the trail was damaged passed Urdos as well and he knew where we could be safely dropped off.  I have to admit that I felt a bit irritated when we passed Urdos.  I couldn't shake the feeling that we were cheating.  I've since rationalized it by saying that the Camino was not safe here and none of the important parts, the Aragones and French ways, would be skipped (We were still on the Arles Way and I never said I would walk the entire Arles way).
2013-09-09 Pyrenees Panorama
View from the trail.
He dropped us off about 5 km past Urdos.  As he dropped us off he said his name was Christoff and that he was named after the patron saint of travellers, Saint Christopher.  We all smiled at this.  He also dropped us off by J-M who had stayed in Urdos the night before and had walked the bad parts.  The bus, running a bit late, pulled up a minute later and dropped off more pilgrims.
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The wild dirt trail up the mountain to Somport.
From this point the trail climbed steadily up along a very nice dirt trail. With the sun out and the blue skies the view of the Pyrenees were incredible.  Autumn flowers poked up here and there.  At one point I thought that blossoms had fallen from some flowering tree but then I realized the flowers were poking out of the ground and had very short stems.  These turned out to be autumn crocuses (Thank you Gv for identifying them).  The trail passed through forest and lush green fields with cattle and sheep.  You could hear the cow and sheep bells from quite a distance.  I felt pretty good as I climbed the mountain trail.  Gv was slower but she kept a steady pace behind me.
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Colchicum, also known as autumn crocus, covered in morning dew.
This part of the trail climbs up to the Col du Somport where you officially cross into Spain.  The elevation you climb from Oloron-Ste Marie to Col du Somport (1,420 m, 4,659 ft) is higher than the mountains you climb between St Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles (1,304 m, 4,278 ft) but you climb it over three days instead of just one.  Most of that elevation climb (880 m, 2,887 ft) is on the third day.

At the Col du Somport we stopped at an albergue to buy lunch (un bocadillo de tortilla francesa con jamon, i.e. a scrambled egg and ham sandwich).  J-M and another french man we'd met before were there as well.  I bought a shell for my pack, the first magnet of the Camino ... and an ice cream.  Col du Somport is also the official start of the Camino Aragones.

About the shell.  I was not sure where I would get my shell.  I'd hope to get one in Oloron-Ste Marie but that didn't happen.  As a backup I'd brought a small shell that I'd picked up in Fisterra on my last Camino.  The Matron of Honor, who works for a jewelry designer, had added a ring to the shell allowing me to wear it as a necklace.  I attached it to a yellow cord that had been blessed by a monk in Bhutan.  Now I had both the necklace which I wore and the regular pilgrim's shell that was hanging from my pack.

The rest of the day was downhill mostly.  The rain from the days before resulted in a lot of runoff along the trail.  The Camino followed both dirt trails and roads along this section and was very well marked - The Camino is better marked on the Spanish side of the border.  As we neared our goal we were escorted by a cloud of butterflies - it was quite lovely - so much better than the day before.
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The train station in Canfranc Estación.
Our goal was Canfranc Estación and we found a nice albergue near the beginning of town.  After doing our chores we headed out to walk around the town.  The highlight of the town is the old train station (estación is Spanish for station).  The building is gorgeous.  When we passed by it a tour had just started.  Everyone was wearing hairnets and hard hats.  I planned to go to a later tour.  The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the long, thin town before returning to the albergue.  We rested there and enjoyed the sun in the albergue's lawn.

I left the albergue at 6:00PM for the station.  I was sure the last tour was at 6:30PM.  I was wrong.  It was at 6:00PM.  I ended up missing it by ten minutes.  This really sucked.  I'd misread the tour sign. I would have to be satisfied with pictures of the outside ... through the fence.  *sigh*

We ate dinner at a bar at the other end of the town.  I had the first of many hamburgers.  I don't remember them being on the menus last time I was in Spain ... at least not until after Santiago de Compostela.  Either they were new or I'd been blind to them.  I think I was just blind to them last time.

It had been a good day despite missing the tour.  It might have been the fact that it was a very short walking day.  The sun also made things so much better.  Some day I will take the Wife to Canfranc Estación and we will tour the station together.

Pictures can be found in my Camino de Santiago 2013 Flickr set.

Total Distance on Day 3: 14 km (8.70 Miles)*
Total Distance Walked:  58 km (36.04 Miles)

2013-09-09 Track Image
Approximate Track of the day's hike.
[Click on map for a larger version]
* Note: This distance does not include the van ride we took out of Borce.  It includes only what was walked.

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