Roncesvalles was my first taste of a “real” albergue. 120 pilgrims in one large room – oh my God, I thought, is this what it is going to be like for the next four weeks? Yes and no. The offical hostels at Roncesvalles is the largest one room hostel along the whole Camino – as far as I am aware.
Arriving in Roncesvalles the first thing to do is visit the pilgrim office, here you will pay your €5 for the night and be given a slip of paper to take across the road to the Albergue. At the hostel they have volunteers on the door who greet everyone – ask where you are from, etc, and tell you the rules of the house. The main one is that lights out are at 10pm, get used to it, this is a fairly normal time – additionally, often you will be locked out if you don’t get back in for that time.
Honestly, by 10pm most nights I was ready to crash anyway. Considering I would have been up since about 6am and would have walked 20 or 30 km’s in the heat of Spain.
There are two main problems sleeping in a room with 119 other pilgrims, snoring and the “bag rustlers.” Firstly the snoring – the easiest way (and perhaps the only way) to stay sane is to invest in good ear plugs. I did and normally I was never bothered unless they were right beside me, then if they wake you just make some loud coughing noises to disturb them – it stops the snoring for a while and lets you get back to sleep.
The “bag rustlers” are the mad pilgrims who want to get a head start on everyone and leave at 5am or such crazy times – some of them will actually walk in the dark. Mad. These pilgrims wake you in the morning as they bang around in the dark, or using their torches and rustle their bags as they pack long before everyone else – on these pilgrims I have wished the worst of blisters – yes not very nice of me.
The hostel at Roncesvalles is clean, a big plus, well run and friendly. They have over flow tents and an area if you are camping yourself. So they never run out of space. For some information on Roncesvalles check this link.
On my second Camino I drove here and left my car for the 5 weeks I was walking. I thought it was a crazy idea when I was driving there – but I was told at the albergue that I was not the first and will not be the last. There is a large free car park – no security though. However my car was fine upon my return.
Getting here from Pampola – there is one bus per day, also one bus per day going to Pamplona. The bus is often full of pilgrims and during the busy periods the one bus ends up being three – but all running at the same time in the evening.
Once I learn how to add photos to this blog – I will. But now back to West Highland Way.