(My apologies to those of you who are following the blog. You are going to get an email telling you to read this entry. I noticed that my day 4 entry is missing, and I’m pretty sure I deleted it accidentally. So I need to recreate it and repost before I forget what happened!)
Oh, sweet pilgrim heaven! What a lovely afternoon and evening! But the day didn’t start out like that…
I left Pamplona this morning in the rain. I stepped out of the albergue at the same time as a brother and a sister from Vancouver and California, respectively, and walked with them for several hours. They were starting out from Pamplona, so they asked all sorts of questions. It was funny feeling like the expert, but I really did have lots of advice to share!
We had quite a few kilometres to walk to get out of Pamplona, and then up a long hill into Cizur Menor. It was pouring by this time. We could see how much higher the water level was than normal in creeks that we passed. A rain jacket does it’s best, but in this kind of pouring rain, I was wet through in not too long.
Outside of Cizur Menor we were out into fields and climbing up and up hills again. We couldn’t really see down into the valleys too well because of the clouds and mist. We crested a quite big hill and the rain paused and mist cleared just long enough to take a selfie with the valleys in the background. At the next village, I left Mike and Lezlie behind as they went to find breakfast. It was 8:30; we had been walking for almost two and a half hours, and I’ll bet thy were starving.
From there, I headed up gravel and mud paths. Always, always uphill. I though the gravel was terrible, because it’s quite slick in the rain, but the mud was definitely worse. It sticks to one’s feet and is quickly spread over one’s pants. Many people zipped by me on the path. I’m not sure how they can be so sure footed in the rain!
Eventually I found myself climbing uphill thinking that I had not seen any way markers for a bit. I was also alone, with no one in sight behind or ahead of me. I considered that maybe I had somehow missed a turnoff, but I figured that I was committed to the path I was on and I would figure out somehow where it ended up!
The rain had slowed enough for me to take my hood off, and when I did I heard a sound like the ocean. Only it was continuous, not ever-changing like waves. Suddenly the mist swirled around and I could see giant wind turbines right above me. The mist kept swirling, obscuring and revealing, and I stood in awe just listening and watching. It was a true God moment. I also knew that I was, in fact, on the right path.
I made my way up, much cheered and encouraged, but pausing often to watch and listen. Just as I was about to crest the mountain, a man came past me at great speed. He turned around to sing the Rocky theme song for me as I came up and over the peak.
There we stood and admired the pilgrim monument for a while. Mist continued to swirl around just enough for some peaks at the valley. Cars don’t even come up this high – the highway has a tunnel cut through the mountainside!
Once heading down, the rain mostly stopped but the incredibly steep descent was still on wet and slippery rocks. It took just as long to get down as come up, I think! But the weather was improving and my mood along with it. The view also made everything worth it!
I trudged along through the mud through several villages. Coming over the peak I had definitely come into a new region of Spain. We were out of the mountains and into valleys being farmed. There were fields of wheat and even the occasional vineyard. I ate my lunch on a park bench overlooking the valley, watching cars as they passed far below on the highway.
Eventually I arrived in Puente la Reina. I had earlier concluded that I needed to ignore elevation diagrams in my guidebook and never expect that I was done climbing until I stepped foot in my albergue. (And even then, you probably need to climb some stairs. Or your bunk bed.) I passed by several albergues to get to the one I had decided to stay at on the far end of Puente la Reina. The sign pointed me up a hill. A long, steep hill. In fact, several hundred metres up I still couldn’t glimpse the albergue and wondered if I was really in the right place. Upon arrival, though, I discovered a sweet pilgrim oasis. This place knows what pilgrims need and what pilgrims want! I took a long hot shower in a giant shower stall with a tap I could just turn on and leave on instead of continuing to press a button. I also knew there were no other women there yet, so I took an extra long shower! Then I took advantage of the washing machine to clean my muddy clothes, which dried quickly in the sunshine. Wifi access, a restaurant and bar, and a pool rounded out the wonderful things this albergue had to offer. I swam and the just sat in the sunshine with my tired feet rating in the cool water. An evening meal together in wonderful company finished off the great day. A haven of rest for a weary pilgrim. I am grateful for small blessings, and reflective of how much I take for granted at home. I complain that my shower doesn’t have great water pressure. I don’t think of all the people who would love to have a place to call home, and I complain that my bed is not comfortable enough. It reminds me of the verse, foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.
God, help me not to take things for granted! Let me notice and appreciate the many good things with which you bless me!