So spending Saturday night in Pamplona wasn’t intentional, but wow, what luck. This town is pulsing with excitement and it is thrilling to be in the middle of it. But wait, you have to hear about my day first!
I think I have found my morning Camino groove. I get up around 6 and get coffee before 6:30 and I am on my way with the headlamp shining the way for me.
Lots of people get an early start to make sure they get a bed at their destination. For me, it reminds me of my morning training walks and I just love experiencing daybreak and the sunrise. It has nothing to do about racing to the finish.
This was my first real solo departure and I had to keep a close eye out for arrows. The LAST thing I wanted to do is have to retrace my steps because I made a wrong turn. Often the markings are clear, but not always. It keeps you alert!
I guess I should mention that I slept for 6 hours straight last night and it was wonderful! I finally felt refreshed and rested.
The first site upon leaving Zubiri was a huge mineral processing facility for mining and refining Magnesium.
Of course with my work experience being in manufacturing, I was fascinated by this huge facility. I can imagine not every pilgrim felt the same as I, but everyone stopped to take a picture. It is so much more interesting in the dark lit up so it looks like it is teaming with life than I am sure it looks during the day.
There was an uphill around the Magna Plant and at the top I stopped to peel off a layer alongside a woman I figured was Swedish. We said our hellos, bid a Buen Camino and she was on her way and I wasn’t far behind.
Some of the Camino paths are quite small and it is hard to believe that hundreds of people a day walk on them.
And sometimes it is so steep that stairs have been built to make the walking easier.
But usually people can walk side-by-side which is nice for talking and a little companionship.
Before 9am I walked into another beautiful town and then past an ancient monetary that has been restored.
I just had to marvel at some of the ancient buildings that have been standing for centuries and will stand for centuries more.
We passed a home with a variety of ducks who clearly had been trained by passing pilgrims that if they stand close to the fence line and look cute, they will be rewarded.
Throughout the region there are reminders that we are in Basque Country.
This culture is over 7 centuries old and spans 7 distinct provinces across the western Pyrenees in France and the northeastern part of Spain. The Basque don’t consider themselves French or Spanish; they are Basque with their own unique and difficult to learn language and to complicate things, each province has it’s own dialect.
You would think that living in Vermont I would have my fill of cow scenery, but not so!
Along the path I found a pair of sunglasses that had obviously been dropped by a pilgrim. I didn’t know what to do but reasoned that whomever lost them would not retrace her steps to find them so I picked them up and started asking every peregrina I saw if she lost her shades. It was a long shot and I expected I would drop them in the donation box at the Alburgue at the end of the day.
Just when I was needing a break, we came to the town of Zuriain and a bar! I got a bacon and cheese sandwich, a banana, an apple and a bag of nuts and dried fruit (thanks to my hiking coach Nancy Turner for calling me on the protein-deficient snacks I chose the day before). I washed down all but the nuts and half the sandwich with a Cafe Americano followed by an Orange Aquarius and was on my way.
I confidently headed back to the trail and then realized it was wrong and went back past the bar and up toward the road. I was lost, but didn’t want all the people at the bar to know so I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t. Another pilgrim was leaving at the same time. All I could tell was that he was Asian and he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak whatever his language was. But some how we communicated enough to figured out we were going the right way and we walked together for at least 30 minutes.
It turns out he is Korean and somehow, with very few words, I learned that he is walking the Camino because he is very angry. He asked if I was walking it as a Christian and I explained that wasn’t why, but that I am walking to reflect on my first 60 years and think about my next 30. Noah and I navigated some tricky turns in the way and helped each other not get lost. It was quite remarkable.
We passed a memorial to a fallen pilgrim from El Paso, Texas and each placed a stone but the cross.
I lost Noah at another rest stop that was literally a highway rest area where pilgrims could prepare for a steep uphill.
But the payoff was worth it and in the distance we could see where we will be tomorrow at Alto Pedron famous for it’s windmills and the giant pilgrim sculpture.
I stopped at a donativo at a monetary that had fruit and snacks and water and had a banana.
The woman I stopped with early in the day when we peeled off some layers came by and I asked if she lost her sunglasses. Yes! She had! I gave them to her and she dubbed me her Camino Angel. It turns out she is from the Netherlands.
The outskirts of Pamplona came into sight and it was time to make a decision: scenic or the normal route into the city. I knew I was going to go the scenic route even though it was a bit longer. It was on a path in a park along the river that led into the city.
Everyone else walking with me at the time went the normal route. The scenic route was not well marked and soon I was losing confidence in where I was going. There were no pilgrims around so I did my best to follow my online maps.
Then from no where two pilgrims appeared and they too were unsure of where to go. They were from Brazil and were able to communicate with people on the street to confirm we were going the right way. With my non-existent Portuguese and their somewhat better but very limited English, we were able to communicate with each other and made our way into Pamplona.
Which happened to coincide with Ayna and others in my Camino family arriving at the exact same time from the other direction.
We found our alburgue and hit the shower.
I then headed out to find some sandals because my shower shoes were not working for “evening wear.”
The clerk in the Caminoteca store saw my toes and told me the sandals I needed and suggested I also get gel caps for my big toes. My feet were very happy tonight.
I need to get to sleep so let me just say, Go! This is an amazing city full of history and life. Here are some photos.
Today I was someone’s Camino Angel. I didn’t do anything but connect someone with her sunglasses. A little common sense goes a long way in helping others. And small acts can mean the world to others.
Today I depended on three people to find my way on the Camino. We all had a common goal and that enabled us to work together even though very few words were exchanged.
Man, I am loving this!
What a great day for you. Love how your passion for each day’s experience is apparent. Also, it’s wonderful to see while languages may not be in common, there’s still meaningful communication among the pilgrims. Bonne continuation!
Strangely enough, parts of this sound eerily like running Hood to Coast. Meeting up with people you’ve run into before, sort of getting lost because the route is poorly marked and happening to run into another person to confirm you’re on the right path, discussing training methods and what not. Trying to get in a good “rest”, that’s always a challenge, but I’m glad you managed. Keep the updates coming, very entertaining and enlightening.
What an adventure1 I am loving the descriptions of your surroundings, reading about how well you are communicating with your fellow pilgrims even when there is a language barrier and your reflections on your day.
Thanks Maura. It is pretty amazing the magic that happens here on the Camino.
Robin, When we were in Bilbao a few months ago, we learned a bit of Basque. Of course, I’ve forgotten most of it but one thing I do remember is how to say “thank you”: EH-SCARY-COSTCO (like the store). So, eh-scary-costco for the great stories and pictures!
Robin, So great to feel the joy of your journey. The landscape and town photos look amazing. Keep up the good work!
It is breathtaking here Larry. So much history. I can’t wait to hear about your trip!
Rob,,I am enjoying reading each and every word of your commentary, you are honestly making me feel like I am right there with you! I imagined before you went and explained the whole trip to me, that it would be as you are telling it, and my gosh,, it is!! I really think. That going. Alone is the key,! Good night, and have another wonderfuul, interesting day, Lots of love to my Camino Angel! Mom
Thanks mom! I love you too.