This morning the first alarm went off in the dormitory at 4:30 am. Its owner couldn't locate it, so it kept going at full volume until everyone was thoroughly awake. Since there was no point pretending, everyone decided to get up. We were once again reminded that it always takes a while for people to get into a routine of un-packing and re-packing their knapsacks that doesn't involve 4-5 attempts and utter chaos.
We headed down to a somewhat meager seeming breakfast in the hotel, and then reluctantly bid our new companions farewell and 'Buen Camino!'
We had to be out of the dorms by 8, but our bus back to St Jean Pied de Port didn't arrive until 11, so we sat out front and watched the stream of eager and determined looking pilgrims heading off down the trail to Zubiri and beyond. As a final gift for us from St James, it began to pour and it was only about 10 degrees out. This made it very slightly easier not to simply get up and keep walking towards Santiago, although it still took a lot of willpower not to!
We went in to Casa Sabina for a coffee to warm up, and then visited the cathedral for a bit. It was actually quite magical to be in there alone in the dark for a while, and reflect on all our experiences on the Way of St James. Eventually we went into La Posada for another coffee, and then it was finally time to catch the bus.
At the stop we met a pair of American ladies who we heading back to St Jean to start the hike, and a German man who was busing to Pamplona. We thought we might be the only people on the bus back, but it was more than half full.
After more than a month of walking, the speed of the bus was a little horrifying. The road was even worse. The first 45 minutes consisted of a steep descent down incredibly tight hairpin turns, on a road that wasn't wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other. Several times the bus met a transport on a corner, jolted and scudded to a halt, and proceeded to reverse back up the hairpin turn until the other vehicle could pass. It was a very steep mountain road, and although the forested scenery was beautiful, the frequent brushes with death were a bit distracting.
Going by way of the road did let us see Valcarlos, which is where hikers are directed to cross the mountains in the event of bad weather. Valcarlos is actually quite a large town, unlike Orisson, and it looked quite nice. However, it looked like a fair bit of the path was on the road, which I think would be unpleasant with the constant traffic. This impression might be incorrect however, because we did see the lady from New Zealand in Roncesvalles, and she said the walk by way of Valcarlos was beautiful.
We arrived back in St Jean safely, stopped at a bakery for sustaining croissants, and then boarded our train for Bordeaux. As we sped across the rain soaked landscape it felt like our Camino was over, and our transition from pilgrim to tourist was complete. As we sped across the rain drenched countryside it was a good time to reflect on all the many things we have seen and experienced over the past 42 days. It really has been a 'Buen Camino' and we are enormously grateful to everyone who has helped us and followed along on our journey.