We’re 2 hours up the hill, a good start – we’re yearning for a clear day but the Pyrenees doesn’t cater for all and as any mountain climber will know, things work in a different way up there. We were looking forward to gazing at every landform you could imagine … not to be. Instead we had to settle for fog, rain, strong winds, zero temperatures and no view. I have a saying these days although I’m sure all sayings were used up a long time ago. The saying is: “if you can’t see what you want, then look closer or look for something else”.

So I did. I saw the ghostly look of oak and beech trees on slopes steeper than I thought such trees could grow as the mist and fog curled itself around the their tall trunks. I noticed the little birds, their sounds so clear when the fog brings shrouds of silence. I have never seen leaves so green as they were continually washed by new water. The moss on the trees becomes more magical as the fog hides it then pulls the curtain away to reveal its latest trick. The white haze challenges you to notice what otherwise might have been lost in the exquisite display on a fine day.

The climb is continuous save for short slight relief slopes that give hope of easier paths ahead, but it is unforgiving. Just when you realise it’s too late to turn back, protective and comforting forests invite you in. The thick covering of gathered leaves from years gone by cushion your aching limbs into climbing a little further. A hut appears to give the ‘first day’ limpers a chance to rest or replenish, while others simply eat, their crowded heat a human fire for cold limbs and wet clothes.

Then there were the people. Our lodgings last night was our ‘au revoir’ to the French leg as 80% French now becomes 80% foreigners. A lot more people with English voices seem to make the French even quieter than they have been. Many Irish voices bring their unique county lilts, the Texan youth makes you feel mature with his ‘yes ma’m’ – ‘no sir’, the trio of young Americans full of enthusiasm take the walk up a gear, the 2 untested older Aussie couples just happy to be there, the Spanish are bold with their holas as a new language now dominates the track, while the French close ranks and seek out cosy spots that remind them of home.

Once the top is reached the down is as continuous as the climb, a few muddy spots, the odd body-stopping windy corner, but no more climb. Soon the track offers options, a rarity in this single minded path – a clear sign says ‘straight down’, the other says ‘more gentle’. Most go straight down as clear signs remove the uncertainty. Some hear warnings of the ‘clear sign track’ and take the more mellow but longer way (still with its challenges). We heeded the warnings because we’re old. A review at the end, revealed that most were happy with the much shorter very difficult ‘straight down’ while a few older ones had been demoralised with strains or falls.

The bustling pretty stream accompanied us on the last stretch along a tree lined valley reminding us of the delight we received from the many and varied creeks and rivers and the Roman bridges that allowed us access to the other side. We are now in the medieval Spanish village of Roncesvalles resting from one of the best experiences of the camino – crossing the Pyrenees.