Day 8 of my Camino The day starts really early in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Pilgrims are getting a quick breakfast so they can start as soon as possible … since the weather forecast doesn’t look good for the mountains. Temperatures below freezing and lots of snow. Some pilgrims even think of taking an alternative itinerary. Jeanine, who runs the kitchen, thinks we worry too much. It’s just a bit of snow! When we leave the albuerge it’s raining hard. Today we will only walk 23 kilometers to Roncesvalles. All uphill to an altitude of 1400 meters. The first few kilometers are calm and quiet. The birds are waking up … and soon we approach the first layer of clouds. To my relief, the pass is open … which means the authorities deem it safe enough for pilgrims. We arrive in Orisson. The rooms are all booked by pilgrims who want to walk to Roncesvalles in two days instead of one. It’s warm and cozy inside. And the coffee is hot. When we step outside, temperatures have dropped even more. And we put on our raincoats to protect against the cold and humidity. Mist turns into rain … rain turns into snow. A lonely tree makes these mountains look even more desolate. We should have taken the road through the mines of Moria! It’s hard to believe that two days ago, I was walking around in sunny summer-like weather! Some Korean pilgrims take a break while others move on. It’s amazing how many different people I meet on the way. An Australian, Germans, Irish pilgrims … People from Sweden, Italy, Japan … Hong Kong, Finland, the UK … Brazil and the U.S. We may not all share the same faith, but we are walking the same path. I reach the border between France and Spain. Only 765 kilometers to go! It’s amazing to see the contrast between the white winter snow … and the young green leaves that remind us that it is spring time. The top of the mountain pass is shrouded in a cold mist. But from here we go downhill again. A monument marks the start of the road to Roncesvalles. From here, you can take an easy, safe road… or a hard rocky road through the forest, that is very hard on the knees and the ankles. I still don’t know why I chose the hard way. The snow and ice are melting again. The road takes much longer than I anticipated. Finally, I arrive at the abbey. This is where most pilgrims will stay for the night. We receive a warm welcome from the Dutch volunteers that work here. In the evening we gather for Mass and the Pilgrim’s Blessing. A moving moment. So many different people that didn’t know each other at the start of the journey. Friendships already start to form … our shared experiences provide us with a common language … that surmounts our differences. And at 10 p.m. … everyone is fast asleep.