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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 


Filtering by Tag: St Jean Pied de Port

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port - Roncesvalles - Part 2

Ivan Blanco

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Please refer to the Part 1 to read the full story

Vicente and I up in Croix Thibaut

Vicente is probably the most amazing person I've ever met, if I was half as strong as him, I would be Superman! Vicente suffers from the rare condition spastic paraplegia, which causes a progressive stiffness and contraction of the lower limbs which might him have to use a wheelchair someday in the future.

Vicente leaving Roncesvalles

That was why he also decided to do the Camino, it is for him a now or never game. He actually was walking 15 km uphill from St. Jean Pied de Port since 7 am and when I got to him it was already 7 pm. The sun had only one hour more to shine and seeing him walking like this I just had to ask if he needed help. He actually was so tired and his legs hurt so much that he simply couldn't go further, we then decided to call a cab with my phones that didn't have any signal up there and his without battery; the nearest village was like 5 km away. Fortunately enough, he had an external battery charger and his phone which had signal was able to call. Getting a number from the auberge where I stayed allowed us to call a taxi coming from Valcarlos, which came like 45 min afterwards... we were really up high! So while we were waiting it almost got as dark as night; I had to go with him in the taxi. Andoni, the taxi driver, left us around 10 pm in Roncesvalles where we could have our well deserved rest. This truly was one unique encounter that I will never forget, both Vicente and me we probably saved our lives up there or at least we avoided to spend one really really cold night. 

Vicente's will power, strength, energy and braveness are truly inspiring and I couldn't get more moved by his story. If you wish to help out, you may reach either the American or the Spanish association that fights this genetic condition.

¡Gracias Vicente y buen Camino!

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port - Roncesvalles - Part 1

Ivan Blanco

Ready to go

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My Camino de Santiago began on September 10th. First thing, I had to build up my bike, which was delivered in Speedy Gonzalez time: picked up at 6pm the day before, it was in Saint Jean Pied de Port already when I got there at 7:30pm, bravo Seur!

Building it was fun and I could chat again with the Canadian bike pilgrims I met the night before. But the best thing was that I got the chance to start my Camino Photo Project. I'm taking 3 distinctive portraits of Pilgrims and Locals that live on the Camino. Once finished, it will show the amazing strength of Cliff and his wife, to whom that same day the Camino took a completely different meaning: be strong you two, I'm sure you will get through it, "ánimo"!

On the Camino, everyone has a different story. Roby's for instance, who works at the Auberge we stayed, is one of a 6 month pilgrimage from Strasbourg and back to fight brain tumour together with the ARTC Alsace association.  

Is that the way?

Is that the way?

If that itself wasn't already quite a moving morning, I still had to leave Saint Jean Pied de Port. I did it on a really sunny moment: 1 pm. Ok, yes, I admit it, it was quite a stupid moment to start. The sun was hotter than where I came from, Nice (southern France), and I simply couldn't choose a path worse than this: the Route of Cize. It is only 26 km but it goes up to 1480 m and the steepness never ends. Having a bike and the luggage, this was almost an impossible challenge, the best demonstration of this is that even walking pilgrims overtook me.

Second recommendation for the Camino: get up earlier!

However, I cheated! But stay with me. I only reached the Croix de Thibaut, some 1300 m high and 15 km from Saint Jean Pied de Port. The reason was that I found there Vicente, probably the most...

To be continued in Part 2.


My Camino de Santiago - St. James Way

Ivan Blanco

Bordeaux train station (France)

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"Off I go!" Did I say to myself. Or as the German comedian Hape Kerkeling says in his bestseller with the same title "Ich bin dann mal weg!", which also grew the popularity of the St. James Way pilgrimage among his fellow countrymen (the movie is on its way too).

The most popular way is the French one and it starts from Saint Jean Pied de Port and finishes in the end of all St. James Ways: Santiago de Compostela on the North West of Spain, Galicia. It's a 800 km pilgrimage that can be done either by foot, bike or on a horse (check it here for more info).  

So this is how I start my pilgrimage back to my hometown: I was born in Switzerland and lived there until age 12, then I went to Negreira (15 min car drive from Santiago de Compostela) and spent there my high school and early university years.

That's a lot! Don't worry, half of it stayed home.

Long story short, I always promised myself to do at least once the Camino de Santiago and there I was, having a 3 months leave when at the middle of it I took the decision to simply "Off I go!"... Not so easy thou, I want to do it on a bike starting at St. Jean Pied de Port, but wait, I live in Nice and my bike is in Negreira!

First recommendation for the Camino: don't worry, almost everything in life has a solution.

The plan finally was, think of some photo projects (I love photography), ship my bike to St. Jean Pied de Port from Negreira, book an "Auberge" (hostel), get a flight to Bordeaux, from there arrange a BlaBlaCar to Bayonne (I always wanted to visit this place) and I even was lucky enough to find a very kind Couchsurfer who hosts me the first night. Day after that, I catch the train+bus to St. Jean Pied de Port: "L'Auberge du Pelerin" I'm coming! (I hope my bike too!)

Stay tuned for updates, pictures and stories of my first ever pilgrimage!