May 21, 2011 Navarette to Azofra

Agreed with Sebastian to meet at 07:30 to walk to Azofra. We talked and walked all day and had a super time. Sebastian described a difficult situation and how he would let this go at Cruce de Ferro.

We met two Spanish men whistling Opera (Carmen) and sang and danced with them. At Ventosa we had coffee with Joanne and Joy of Vancouver. Sadie of Canada was just leaving and she told me I was known as “Rocky’s brother” among pilgrims. This struck me as very odd — it was never that way growing up.

Off to Najera where we met the tall German kid having coffee with Cloud and her Essex boyfriend. Cloud bought me a beer. Very nice! Sebastian and I bought a liquor called “Cilantro” after seeing 4-5 men in the table next to us drinking this yellow, oil liquid from a large, plastic bottle. They shared some with us and we asked if we could buy a bottle. Soon one of them had sent off and had 2 bottles at 17E each to sell us. Very heavy glass in our backpacks.

We happily skipped along to Azofra, meeting Nikki and her German friend along the way. Sat in the courtyard of the very nice albergue (2 person rooms) and sipped on my bottle of the cilantro with Rocky, Joanne, Kat, and many others. Had was done by the hospitalera and then headed to dinner, which was loud and fun and in the street with Sebastian, Rocky, Joanne, Kat, Debbie of Ottawa, and me. Roomed with Sebastian and had a good night’s sleep.

May 20, 2011 Viana to Navarette

Agreed to meet at 07:30 with Monique to walk and talk about why she had cried at Mass last night in Viana. She described it as a snake shedding its skin, which is painful and also the next important and beautiful part of its life. We walked to Logrono and at the house of Feliza we met Sebastian, the fun German from Cologne. When we got to Logrono we sat for coffee at the cafe/bar by the legislative building and there had a nice chat also with Sebastian. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Monique, who was very sad to part. I felt it was a blessing to have Sebastian with me (also Flaurent, the French who had walked from Vezelay) and we came to Navarette together.

Navarette held no memories for me whatsoever. Am wondering if I somehow had skipped this town in 2008 by walking on the road or something. Rocky had bused there and was waiting at the front door of the albergue with about 20 others who promptly pushed and shoved to get ahead of their fellow pilgrims. There were plenty of beds and I was assigned a cot in the attic. In the room were Nikki of Australia and Flaurent of France as well. Flaurent and i had a long conversation about the Chemin de Vezelay and he gave me his heavy Vezelay guidebook materials. Am wondering now what to do with them … all in French and also very detailed… and heavy.

Had a good sleep after a dinner with Rocky and Sebastian.

May 19, 2011 Los Arcos to Viana


Arrived Villamayor and found Monique. Walked with her and talked of her past relationship and plans for study in acupuncture. Arrived in Viana with her. She was tired and tense, tried to cajole her toward happiness, but not having a room for the night made her justifiable tense.

Night in Viana albergue. Met Sebastian there, a German firefighter at sink in men’s room. Dinner with Monique, Arlene, Sheila where we talked about why we’re each doing the camino.

May 18, 2011 Estella to Los Arcos

Walked out of hotel to find camino and who should be there but Luke and the two girls. Talked to them to see how Luke’s knee was doing. He was carrying his guitar which hopefully is becoming easier to manage. Saw Renee at the same time. She was heading to store and ultimately this was the last I would see of her on the camino.

Set off alone for Villamayor and there met Monique. Walked with her through beautiful green fields to Los Arcos where we found Rocky. Stayed at municipal albergue where saw Joanne and Kat, Roberto and Philippe, and many others. Walked much of day with Dave of Canada, so invited him to dinner with Rocky, Monique and I at Restaurante Museo del Peregrino.

Dave is a tech consultant (retired) who started a company and turned around another company in Canada, apparently leaving him fairly wealthy. His wife was born in Leon and had died of cancer in 2005, which led him to the camino to get in touch with her memory. He met a German woman here on his last camino and was married. In process of divorce from her now.

May 17, 2011 Cirauqui to Estella

People began rustling around the albergue at 06:00 and a Korean girl turned on the light (not good pilgrim etiquette) at 06:15. I managed to stay in bed until 06:30 then up and out at 07:00 (early for me). I enjoyed a slow walk to Estella. Met Sheila from San Francisco and sat for a bit with Roberto of Italy, Felipe of France (had met him with Roberto at the top of Col Orisson) and Ariel of Netherlands at a park as I came into Estella. The dog’s name is Ma-at and is 8 months old, with one month of his life spent on the walk with Philippe from Le Puy in France to Estella. So that dog had something like 1000 km already on his odometer.

I bought a phone in town and then went to find the Internet at the local library so I could send an email to Rock and Luke with my new phone number. I decided to stay at swanky hotel here to unwind and knew that Rocky, who I though I’d see here, would appreciate that. Waiting for her at Plaza Mayor 12:45.

Just now starting to get into the camino spirit. Could be the cervesa I’m enjoying, but am recognizing there’s really no need to rush and that every day holds its charms. I’ve decided to let go of my anxiety about where Luke is and how Rocky is. They’re both adults and going at their own pace. I’m appreciating Estella now. Charming town with narrow Calle Mayor and older people who look grim, but hard to protest with beautiful weather. The Plaza Mayor is dominated by a large Romanesque revival church with two towers and the place, which I’d walked by but not through in 2008, has its charms.

Had dinner after finding Luke, who had taken bus to Estella and was waiting for Gal and Lila at the municipal albergue. Earlier I’d had nice visit with Luke, Robert and Philippe at park. Night at nice hotel. Rocky, I just learned, had gone on to Los Arcos for blister care and rest, so she’s now ahead. I slept quiet night by myself at Chapitel Hotel just below the grand citadel/church above city. Would happily recommend this boutique hotel to pilgrims stopping in Estella. A charming, older building with an ultra-modern interior.

May 16, 2011 Puenta la Reina to Cirauqui

Church door near Cirauqui

Slept until 08:30, then downstairs to have breakfast and meet with Luke and make plans. Went to Farmacia with him, bought his drugs and some white tape for my toes, which had developed blisters. Decided Luke would stay at PLR with Gal and Lila, rest a day, make plans, and then connect via Internet/cell to stay in touch. Recognizing his slower pace and his growing interest in the two young ladies I realized I potentially will not see him until journey’s end at Santiago.

Decided on a short walk today in order to slow down, relax a bit, and enjoy one of my favorite little towns. So I walked only 7.5 km to Cirauqui and am on porch overlooking church as I write this, visiting with Kim and Janie from Arkansas. Very nice day with clear blue sky. Cool breeze. I washed laundry then wandered the town. Found bowl of fish soup at bar feeding about 20 workmen. Good soup with lots of bread to dip. Back to albergue for laundry and conversation, then Mass at the church at 19:00. Energetic and enthusiastic older priest who seemed much loved by the elderly ladies.

Dinner at 19:30. At first I was nervous that there were few English speakers at table. Kim, Janey and me, plus 3 Basques, one Korean, one Hungarian. The Basques were very interested in talking, so I had my first experience as an interpreter. The Basques were curious why I had done so many caminos. Told them I was a priest and a friend of Santo Santiago. The middle one said, “Es claro!” After a great dinner and enthusiastic conversation headed to bed in the same bunk I’d enjoyed 3 years earlier — looking out toward the south, seeing nothing but green hills with vineyards in the distance. Cirauqui was great international experience. Met Americans, Dutch, German, Korean, Spanish, British, Hungarian, French.

May 15, 2011 Pamplona to Puente la Reina

At Pamplona last night I’d made a plan with the others to walk to Puente la Reina and meet at 19:00 at the famous bridge for which the town is named. I worried about Luke being able to make this walk, as his knee was swollen and painful.

Once again I found myself unprepared for a Sunday, the day of the week in which shops open late or not at all. So I left the hotel at about 08:00 with no food or water. Toward the outskirts of town I found a news kiosk opening and bought 4×0.25 liters of water plus 2 sugar donuts. I wolfed down the donuts (guiltily of course) and walked to outskirts of town where I found a baker with some much-loved chocolate croissants (whew), and then I headed for the climb up to Alto de Perdon.

A large group of Spanish schoolchildren of about 10 years of age were walking along, unintentionally accompanying a stream of pilgrims up the hill. I tried to engage some in conversation but they had been well taught not to talk to strangers. I met a tall Dutchman (Marty?), a nice Italian who loves American music and a New Age Portuguese man who I remember as having been drying his red shirt back at the Roncesvalles albergue’s bathroom. I made the top of Alto de Perdon with the Italian fellow. On the way up I also met a nice Danish pair — two women +/- 50 years old — who needed help with their camera and gave me 1/2 sandwich since I had no food.

Walking out of Pamplona

I continued on to Uterga and Obanos but first made a diversion to Eunate and enjoyed new friends Kim and Janie of Arkansas and James and Laurel of New Hampshire. We laid in sunshine on the grass together and talked about home. Eunate was locked shut but the hospitalero of the adjacent albergue opened it for a few minutes every hour or so. I walked on to Obano by myself until meeting three Koreans approaching Puente la Reina. I arrived at PLR and heard a shout from across street, and there was Rocky getting out of car. She had hitched a ride over Alto de Perdon and also from Obanos to PLR. We walked together past the albergue, went to bridge to find the other albergue across river and saw Luke already waiting for us — sleeping on a bench at the famous bridge. He had taken a bus to PLR and Gal and Lila had walked. Luke’s knee was still hurting, so we strategized about how to get him to a doc. I decided to get a hotel for us and found one in the middle of Calle Mayor. I asked at the desk about a local doc and they called and directed us to nearby clinic. The Doc examined Luke via touch and sight and pronounced that he needed a shot of toradol and a prescription for naproxin. Had dinner at hotel with Canadian couple — she a retired teacher and he retired from a hiking tour company. I’m the one walking pilgrim from our little pilgrim family right now and am hoping that Rocky will get stronger and Luke will heal.

May 14, 2011 Zubiri to Pamplona

Last night Luke finally arrived at about 20:00 with Gal and Lila. They were unworried about a bed for the night, so it was just as well that Rocky had reserved at the Palo Avellano. They were appreciative and we threw our packs onto the beds and headed for the albergue dining room for a nice pilgrim dinner.

Monique, Roberto and Martin (plus another woman) from behind near Larrasoana.

Woke up at 06:00 after a good night’s sleep and had breakfast with several French folks. Good spirits all around. Discovered I had left my boots at another albergue we’d investigated and was very concerned until I saw them through the window of the other albergue. Waited for the albergue to open and grabbed my boots. Left Zubiri at 08:00ish in light rain.

Walked briskly to Larrasoaña, enjoying a brief conversation with Monique of Switzerland. Between Zubiri and Larrasoaña are many good gravel paths through woods. After Larrasoaña the paths have been “improved” into concrete sidewalks which now were very slippery due to rain.

I saw man with blowing parka on road ahead and helped him pin it down as I passed. Francisco was his name and we had a good, long conversation about literature — he loves to read American lit in Italian. His billowing parka is an example of how the apparent advantage of parkas turns into a disadvantage with the least bit of wind.

Left him at a rest stop where I met Renee, my clergy acquaintance, and her friend Carrie. Also there was Kat of UK from the Forum and her mother, Joanne. I left some time after Renee and passed her on muddy path above the rest stop. Continued on and met 3 Japanese men, one with a Mt. Rainier medallion. Then on to Pamplona.

Had made arrangements with Luke and Rocky to meet at Pamplona City Hall at 20:00 to share hotel reservation plans and meet for dinner. Got to Pamplona early (14:00) and walked around, trying to find Internet w/o luck. Heard whistle across Plaza de Castillo and saw Rocky and Luke — somehow they’d both beaten me here, though I’d never seen them pass me. I learned later that Rocky had taken a bus partway and Luke had hitchhiked from Larrasoaña due to his bad need.

Rocky had taken a bus to Pamplona and Luke had hitched a ride from Larrasoana after injuring his knee from walking. We started work on getting ibuprofen for Luke but all the drug stores were closed. We found one and got his drugs. Had 21:00 dinner with Luke and Gal and Lila at great vegetarian restaurant and saw Francisco there. Off to bed at a hotel Rocky had found. Ahhhh, rest. I slept very well.

May 13, 2011 Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Albergue lights turn themselves on promptly at 07:00, so I guess it’s time to get up here at Roncesvalles. In reality I’m already awake after a largely sleepless night. In a “double room” (2 beds, 1/2 height walls) with Lila. Rocky and Luke in another double on one side, Doron and Yael on other side. Our group slowly started getting up, then the hospitalero announced everyone needed to be out by 08:00 for cleaning. We all eventually headed out the door to Cafe Sabina for desayuno. On the road again at about 09:00. Walked with Lila first, then by myself to Burguete. We all stopped at an alimentation for fruit, then I left the group and walked on ahead. This was the last I saw Luke for most of the day.

Church at Burguete

Church at Burguete

After a time I met Roberto of Mexico and walked with him and Kathy most of the rest of day. Arrived in Zubiri at 16:30 and had agreed with Rocky to rendezvous here, so I waited on the bridge for her to arrive — which she did two hours later at 18:30. She’d had two very long days for a first-time pilgrim and she was surprisingly cheerful, but also relieved the day’s walking was done.

Sat down to write impatiently in my journal while awaiting Luke. As bikers and walking pilgrims passed I kept asking, “have you seen a guy carrying a guitar with a few Israelis and a Canadian?” After a time I heard reports he was behind us with 2 girls, drinking coffee under the trees.

While waiting saw Rev. Renee from Nebraska whom I’d met on the Camino Forum. We had good conversation about the camino and spirituality. She is staying at the pension at the bridge. Once we heard Luke was behind us Rocky and I made reservations for 5 people at the albergue — after learning that 2 albergues and all hotels are complete.

This was a hard day. Little sleep last night means I was mentally tired. Legs are ok, but toenails are too long and sharp sides dug into two toes, meaning bloody sock liners and need for bandages later. Also, weather is warm — 70-75 degrees, so I needed lots of water. Partly, too, I was frustrated to be in a group whose members each had such a different pace, which meant a lot of waiting rather than walking or resting. Gonna have to find a way to make this work.

May 12, 2011 Over the Mountain

A long and eventful day. We awoke at 07:00 and went to the pilgrim office (opens at 07:30, closed for lunch and dinner, closes at 22:00), then back to Maison Bernat for breakfast of bread, jam, orange nice, coffee. Back upstairs after playing with six month old Fiji (likes to teethe), then packed and headed out at a late 09:00. Stopped at boulangerie for chocolate croissants and bananas. On the road at 9:05.

Long climb to Orisson. Met Martin of Leeds. He speaks French and German well. Currently unemployed and thinking of TESL as next career.

At Hunta met three Israelis, one Quesbecoise. Names are: Gal, Yael, Doron of Israel. Lila of Quebec. Luke instantly bonded with Gal and Lila and pulled out his guitar and played for them at Hunto. Kept walking and met Roberto of Monterrey, Mexico and his cousin, Karen. Robert is a fluent English speaker and has business in Mexico City for package identification and ticketing. Met back up with Robert and Karen at Orisson and waited with Martin there for Luke and Rocky. Luke arrived with Israelis twenty minutes later, and Rocky arrived one hour later by herself. Had good, long conversation with Israelis as we rested from the climb. Clearly making good friends and am delighted to find these liberal Israelis ready and willing to talk geopolitics.

Before Orisson, fog had set in. Visibility was only about 20 meters. Left Orisson with Luke and Israelis, but quickly outdistanced them. Met Roberto of Mexico again, who had replaced his socks, and walked 1-2 hours with him until the emergency hut between Col Orisson and Col Lepoeder. Waited there for Luke and Rocky. Luke arrived with Israelis and his guitar case protected in a poncho. Is Luke bonding with Gal? She showed photo of him with guitar in poncho. At hut also met Roberto of Italy and 2 French (Philippe and Anna) with dog who began at Le Puy en Velay. They stayed overnight at hut that night, I learned later, and Roberto showed me beautiful photos of the bright blue sky when the fog had lifted). I waited with them there for Rocky and Luke. The fog was very thick, almost rain-like, and it was impossible not to get wet.

Daron and Yael arrived and wanted to take the easy way down, so I directed them to the path Roberto of Mexico had mentioned which turned out to be bad advice. Began walking to Roncesvalles with Roberto, but turned around after deciding to wait for Rocky, who was now quite delayed.

Rocky arrived after two Brazilianas and was all smiles for having completed this difficult stretch to the top of the pass. She was out of water and had begged a bottle off two Germans. I refilled her water bottle from my Camelbak. We set off together but she encouraged me to go ahead since she is slow on downhills. Walked by myself approx 2 hours to Roncesvalles.

Luke, Gal and Lila were already at the bright, new albergue at Roncesvalles. Luke had purchased tickets for third floor beds for him, Rocky and me. Beautiful, double rooms with half walls and comfy new beds.

Waited and waited for Doron and Yael. Finally went to the hospitalera and asked for her help to find them. After explaining the situation went to Cafe Sabina and called bomberos to go get them. Just after calling, Yael and Doron showed up in back of a red pickup. The path to which I had directed them was incorrect, dead-ending in a reservoir. The driver of the red truck had found them and brought them to Roncesvalles — thank heaven.

We all had a happy reunion, then we sent them to the albergue to get their beds. I stopped at 20:00 pilgrim mass in time to hear Gospel (John 6) and consecration of the elements. Went to dinner at Cafe Sabina and bought dinner for Doron and Jael as my way of apologizing. Had a long conversation with them about Israeli politics. They are both liberals and very enlightened about Israeli/Palestinian issues.

Back to albergue. Showered, did not wash clothes tonight. Lots of snorers. I’m back on the camino!