Day 3: Zubiri to Pamplona

I have walked 68 kilometres so far! Maybe that does not sound like much to you, but why don’t you come walk the same 68 kilometres through the mountains and then we’ll see how you feel!
Today I woke up when people around me started making noise. I haven’t set an alarm yet, and I don’t want to disturb others by doing so. Plus, people always make noise when they’re leaving.
So, about a 6:15 start. I wasn’t sure whether to take the actual Camino or walk along the road to the next town. My guidebook suggested that if you detoured off the Camino to Zubiri, you should just take the road. I asked others, and they all said they were taking the Camino. I decided to as well.
I began hiking out of town and things were uphill right away. In fact, once we got far enough up to see well, it was obvious that the road stayed level the whole time while the Camino went up a mountainside to go around some sort of quarry. I wrote yesterday about my attitude toward going uphill. Once again, I needed some help from God for a change of attitude. Which he did 🙂
I was hiking alone, and had a morning filled with meadows of wildflowers. Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, daisies, those light blue flowers that are everywhere in Ontario too… I wish I knew more flower names. It was beautiful, and my heart was filled with joy at God’s creation.
I was meditating on Psalm 23, reciting it to myself and then considering it line by line. Last year, he makes me lie down in green pastures was the line I really needed . He leads me beside quiet waters was a line that really stood out. Then I realized I was walking beside more or less still waters – there was a babbling brook nearby. I walked past waterfalls, brooks, a stream, all morning I kept basing different waters and God kept reminding me of this line. I wonder who brought it to mind in the first place!

Around 11:30 I made it to the edge of the Pamplona suburbs. (Yesterday I met a girl who was planning to walk all the way to this suburb! That’s 17 kilometres farther than I walked yesterday! Oh my.)
It was strange to be back in the city, and a little stressful. Out in the countryside, there are not a lot of things that can prevent you from noticing Camino signposts. In the city, there are a million things competing for your attention! About 1 kilometre in, though, signs were much more obvious. Maybe people complained! It was also weird to be around so many people at once, too, and all non-pilgrims. But many of them gave a nod and Hola, or a Buen Camino, or even a blessing. That was very nice!
I found my way to old Pamplona and up through the old city walls – and made it here by 12:30. My albergue tonight is a former church – actually I’ll have to check that, interior might still be used as church – but the edges along the … nave (I should know my church architecture better) have been transformed into cubicles with beds. And there’s free wifi! So a nice post from my phone, meaning pictures! Once I’ve laid on my bed for long enough, I’m out with some friends to explore Pamplona.
Tomorrow is not a long walk, but it’s up and over a mountain again. It’s the Alto del PerdĂłn, where there’s a famous pilgrim monument. I’m looking forward to seeing that, even if it’s uphill all the way to it!

Oh – and update for those who are worried (Amanda): I haven’t had any light-headed spells and have hade enough food and water. Oh, and I did slip while going downhill this morning, but my pole stopped me right away without injuries. If you’re praying for me, it’s working! Don’t stop!

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Again, no pictures yet. But here´s today:

Despite sleeping in a humongous albergue (seriously – 72 people on 1 floor, and 3 floors altogether), I slept in this morning. i was sure that I would be awakened early by other people getting up, but my ear plugs and eye mask seriously did the trick.

I was on my way probably around 6:45. The first walk was quite a nice way through wooded areas and two small towns.  We walked literally through the middle of a farm. I was quite interested to see the farm equipment and animals! Gates block animals from wandering off, and there are signs for pilgrims to close these behind them.

Despite the fact that my guidebook made it look like things would be more or less flat until a medium climb (can´t call it big after yesterday!), there are of course lots of hills. Up, down, up, down.  I was complaining mentally about this, but had a change of attitude later. My asthma does not love the incline, but taking tiny steps at a medium to slow pace works so much better than trying to speed up only to have to stop every ten steps.  At my slow pace, I can more or less keep climbing the whole time. We were in the valley for the beginning of the day, but crested another mountain around 10. Then down, down, down quite a ways. My poor arthritic knee does not love the descent!

People walk at many different paces, and I tend to be a little slower. I know my hips will appreciate that more than speed, and I don´t need to risk any blisters (which are a bigger risk on the hills and very uneven terrain). It´s hard not to get up in a competetive spirit when people are passing you all the time, but I figure there´ll always be some place to stay.

Around noon, we were heading down the side of a mountain, and I could see pilgrims making their way up the next mountain across the valley. Not an encouraging sight! But I ended up with a very friendly walking companion, and that made the time and distance pass much more quickly. It was also incredible to be able to turn around at multiple times through the day, look back at the mountains behind, and think I just hiked through all of those! Over all of those! Quite the sense of accomplishment.

Finally, at about 1, we started our final descent for the day. It was incredibly steep, and on loose rocks. Quite the challenge! Again, so glad for my trekking poles! We made our way to an albergue in Zubiri, crossing an ancient Roman bridge. Legend has it that if you made an animal cross the bridge three times, it would be cured of rabies. (Wonder how many people were bitten by rabid animals, trying to “cure” them!) Our albergue is a former school. I sat in the shade for a while, and then came to find internet to post.  While I was waiting for the one computer to be free, I met a lovely couple from Ohio who had just cooked some food.  They offered me some of it, and we had a great time together. It´s so nice to meet people and talk, even it you´re quite certain you´ll never meet again.

Well, I´m off now to explore Zubiri. Some good stretching is in store tonight, too. Walking uphill and downhill really uses different muscles than walking through flat Toronto.  Still glad I did those training walks, though – I have no blisters like many of my fellow pilgrims!

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

How to even begin to describe what life is like here?

Yesterday I woke up before 6, had breakfast, and was out the door before 6:30. If you know the Camino at all, you know that there are two options for walking on your first day.  One is all the way up and over the peak of a mountain; the other follows a valley before being up and over a mountain.  The first is more climbing, and more popular. I had been praying that God would help me decide what route to take, but when I woke up I was still unsure.  Then at breakfast my hospitalera (the woman who runs the hostal) was talking about how it would be rainy, so you wouldn´t see lovely sights, and really, really windy.  She said people often break their legs falling when it´s that windy. She had once seen a girl fall over and remain unable to get up because of the wind and her backpack.  She had seen a man bracing himself against the wind and running a few metres every five seconds or so, while everyone else turned back.

Since I do not have a death wish, taking the Route Valcarlos was an easy decision. And, hey – if it was good enough for Charlemagne, it´s good enough for me!

Starting out, there was lots of happiness.  The route followed a river, and was off the main road.  All around me were lovely Basque houses and birds singing. Euphoria!

Eventually it started raining. It didn´t stop for most of the day.  Then there were also hills involved. What killed me was that every time the road went down, it felt like a waste of altitude gained – I knew I was just going to be going back up again later.

I found a walking partner in a young man from Korea. This was really a gift from God. Even though we didn´t do much talking, it was great just to have a companion and not be alone.

We crossed over into Spain, and I actually didn´t even know that we had until we crossed back into France. Then along the river for a bit until back into Spain for good.  It´s crazy that you can just walk across a border and not even know it. And people there are probably living in one country and buying their groceries or gas in another on a regular basis.  If you´ve ever crossed the border Canada/USA – it´s just so the opposite of that experience.

Then came the mountain(s).  Up, up, and up.  Sometimes we were walking along a path literally carved out of the mountainside, with a rushing river beside.  I almost fell over the edge once. Walking poles were great for balance and to help drag myself up.

Finally, finally, finally, we crested the peak. And then a swift downhill to the albergue.  Where I showered, and then pretty much sat exhaustedly.  Met some nice people, though!

I am paying for internet on a computer in my albergue right now, so no pictures yet.  People here know how to get money – pilgrims need a place to stay, and it´s more money if you don´t offer free wifi! I´m sure I´ll find one eventually where I can post, though.