Today I determined I’d walk as much as possible with the American girls, Kristen, Cassie, Ginnie and Stacy, enjoying their company as long as possible. The only problem: their plan was to walk 35 km/day — much more than I thought was wise (or that I could actually do).
We set off from Larrasoaña on more forest trails and beside more pasturelands, just as the day before. The only difference today was that it had rained in the night and the path was quite muddy. In many places mud puddles covered the entire width of the track, meaning the only way through was to walk in the mud. The result: blisters.
One rule for hikers that I would learn over and again: keep your feet dry. Moisture softens the skin and any irritation then raises a blister. As my feet got increasingly wet I could feel “hot spots” developing on my heels and ankles and between my toes. There really was little choice other than to continue, but as I walked farther I began more and more to doubt the wisdom of the REI salesman in Seattle who’d said I only needed “walking shoes,” not actual hiking boots. With waterproof hiking boots my feet would only have to deal with perspiration. With low-cut walking shoes there was no way I could keep water off my feet.
We continued to walk and to visit together, with me taking turns with each of the American girls to learn about their lives and find out what had brought them on the camino. They shared about their boyfriends and their future vocations and I came to enjoy and respect these determined and intelligent young women.
The walk took us up hills, by a highway rest stop, down hills, and finally across a bridge into the Basque town of Pamplona. By the time we reached the heart of downtown Pamplona the sun had come out, so we all decided to shop for food and have a picnic right on the busy sidewalk at the top of town. We laid out our meal and enjoyed watching the locals look quizzically at this group of ragged pilgrims eating lunch on a busy downtown sidewalk.
After lunch the girl were determined to dry out their clothes. They’d heard about a shower/laundry facility in town, so we asked directions to a modern facility that offered us showers and laundry. Before long our clothes were dry and we were all ready to head on to the next goal. For the girls it was Cirauqui. For me, tired as it was, it would be an albergue outside Pamplona at the suburb of Cizur Menor. I joked that the translation of Cizur Menor was “Little Caesar’s” and I would buy them each a pizza when we arrived. We made our way past the University of Navarre (for a stamp on our credenciales), up the hill to Cizur Menor, and we sad our sad good byes, recognizing we might not ever see each other again.
I made my way into the albergue, certain I’d spend the night alone, and immediately saw the two South Africans. After treating my blisters I walked with Stefan and Trevor to a local restaurant and had my first of many dinners with these two, soon-to-be-dear friends.