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 22, 2008 Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

Waking up on Day Two of the camino I laid in bed and slowly came to the realization that I would be walking just as far today as I had yesterday. True, I had no mountain passes to conquer, but I was now looking at not just another 25 km day, but another monthof 25 km days. My tired muscles hadn’t recovered from yesterday’s hike. How could they recover from 30 days’ hikes? I showered, dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast.

When I arrived downstairs I realized I’d made my first mistake of this camino: I’d dutifully handed my American passport to the person at the hotel desk/cafe bar, who promised I could have it back in the morning. Well, here was morning — all 07:00 of it — and the desk/bar clerk was nowhere to be seen. In fact, there was a sign at the bar that said it would be closed until 09:00. This meant that I’d be on the trail late and would miss by a couple of hours the pilgrims I’d befriended the day before. The thought of a solitary day didn’t sound that enticing, and I watched the minutes tick away off the clock, anxious to get my passport and go on to Larrasoaña, my next stop. At just before 09:00 the clerk showed up, gave me my passport, and I was on my way.

As I walked out of the hotel and toward the daunting distance sign, “Santiago 790,” I found myself completely alone, surrounded by the forests and green pastures of the Basque countryside. At the first stop in Burguete I had a quick cafe con leche and met a wave of pilgrims enjoying their morning coffee. As I’d learn time and again on the camino, the people who start earliest don’t necessarily get there first. I continued to walk along farm roads and forest paths to Zubiri, where I enjoyed a relaxing lunch. Then it was across the river bridget to Larrasoaña.

As I came into town I heard two large men talking in accented English. The one looked at the other and said, “I get the blonde. I think her name is Cassie.” “Why do you get the blonde? I get the blonde,” said the other. “You should get the brunette, the one name Ginny. She’s funny and nice looking.” I quickly realized they were talking about the American girls. Judging by the size of these two athletic and strong looking men, and judging by the small size and relative youth of the American girls I immediately turned into Father Protector, vowing I would let the girls know they were targeted by these two rather unwholesome men.

The main street of Larrasoaña was completely torn apart, right down to its foundations, for repairs, so it took some time to make my way through construction debris to the municipal albergue. I finally found my way to a building that has the City Hall on one side and the municipal albergue on the other.

I took a top bunk (the curse of late arrivers) in a room of three double bunk beds and headed to the shower, which was in the solitary bathroom of this 20-30 person hostel. The shower was dripping wet, with a small shower curtain that couldn’t keep the water into the shower and clung to the body as I tried to wash myself. No mere shower curtain could inhibit my joy at finally having a shower after a long day of walking. I mopped up as best I could afterward and headed to the back yard to wash out my clothes.

By the time I was done with washing and laundry I headed out the front door and there was delighted to find the American girls waiting for me. They’d heard I had checked in here (thanks to the Pilgrim Grapevine) and wanted to invite me to dinner with Stefan and Trevor — the two South African men I’d overheard that afternoon. We visited for a time and then agreed to meet for dinner at the local restaurant.

The dinner that night was an introduction to pilgrim fare. I learned quickly that pilgrims were expected or encouraged to purchase the Menú del Peregrino, which in this and most cases consists of a starter course, an entree with french fries, and a simple dessert. Along with the meal comes the choice of water or wine — same price for either. This last feature was a startling and joyful discovery! I had a delightful trout dinner (a local specialty) and enjoyed watching Stefan and Trevor as they did their best first to seduce then to tease then to befriend the American girls. As it turned out, each of the girls was completely able to handle herself. They put the strapping young South Africans in their places after toying with them a bit. As the night wore on the guys’ hormonal levels began to moderate and we all had a pleasant and cheerful evening.

As it turned out, the South Africans and Americans had all been placed in the albergue annex, a small building with only one bathroom and a shower with no curtains at all. While they all slept together in an atmosphere of lust, friendship, exhaustion and annoyance I had a peaceful sleep in the second floor of the main albergue with my only concern the window which the French lady kept closing, while I knew it should be open to keep the air fresh.

I’d walked over 50 kilometers now, and as night fell in this quiet Basque village I began to think I could do this pilgrimage thing.