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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Walking the Valcarlos Route

Many pilgrims who left for an early Camino are reporting 
the regular Route de Napoléon through the Pyrenees 
is closed due to snow right now. 
Pilgrims are being redirected to the Valcarlos Route.

Snow at Roncesvalles April 2012
How will you know if it is safe to walk the Napoléon Route?
When you are at the pilgrim office in SJPP, 
ASK if the route through Orisson is open. 
If they tell you "NO!" then LISTEN! 

That route is treacherous in snow 
and every year, people ignore the advice and either die 
or need to be rescued. 
And for your information, 
the government is now charging pilgrims +/- €5000 
if they need rescuing, which is fair! 

As my fellow pilgrim Nancy says,
both routes are scenic, but in different ways.
One is up high in the sky with sweeping vistas, 
and the other is through a valley with lush forests 
and a couple of picturesque Spanish towns. 
So you won't miss anything by taking the Valcarlos route. 
It is just as beautiful. 

The pilgrim office has a big sign on the wall showing both routes. 
When you are there having your Credential stamped, 
take a photo of that sign. 
It will help you find the turn-off to the Valcarlos route 
so you don't walk extra kilometers. 
I do know of several pilgrims who have missed the turn-off
so pay attention here.
You can use your photo to make sure you are on the correct path.

The Pilgrim Office will also be happy to give you
a paper copy of the route map.
The Pilgrim Office is located at 
39 Rue de La Citadelle in St. Jean Pied de Port.
It is staffed by very helpful people who have up-to-date information
on the weather and other topics Camino-related.

There is a great municipal albergue in Valcarlos
where you can break the trip up into two days.
It is possible to reserve ahead.

When you get to the center of Valcarlos,
in front of the municipal offices,
there is a sign for the albergue.
Go upstairs to the secretary's office to get the digicode 
for the albergue door.
The hospitalero will arrive later,
5-6 pm, to collect.
Just go in and find a bed.

There are also private homes where you can rent a "zimmer" or room,
Hotel Maitena, or apartments in Valcarlos.
So you have options.
But by all accounts, 
the municipal albergue is a good one.

When you leave Valcarlos, 
take care not to miss the turnoff.
You will watch for the yellow arrow (see it?)
on this sign:

Here is a video of a couple walking the Valcarlos
with their baby!
You can see some of the scenery
and get an idea of what you're in for.
Hint:  Click on the square in the lower right corner to make the video larger:

Day 1

Day 2

If you'd like to follow this couple to Santiago, 
just scroll over the video with your  mouse,
and click on YouTube.
Watching it from YouTube, along the right hand side,
you will see their other videos.
Remember, they are walking in WINTER
in 2013.

(Note:  On Day 9, at 9:47, 
he shows you what happens when you wear boots
and your feet sweat.)

if you are told NOT to cross the Napoleon Route,
please take the Valcarlos Route instead.
You will be safer and happier,
and you won't chance ruining your Camino
on the first two days!

Have a safe and Buen Camino!

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