camino de santiago

“Two hours ago when I was getting settled into the bunk for the night my main concern was the rubber lined pillow. I feel like you are one out of Orange is the new black, what is her name? I should have brought a pillowcase, just like everyone said to do. I hope all places are not like this. I place tomorrows t-shirt over the pillow wondering if I will wake up with my face stuck to the horrid blue rubber. In fact I am praying that I don’t wake up to the snores of my fellow friends. We bonded tonight and I really don’t want to have to spend all of tomorrow giving them death glares!” I don’t have to worry though it’s not the snoring that wakes me. “An Orchestra of light and bombardment wipes out the sounds of any thing living. The dorm explodes into a bright electric blue light. Everything is highlighted in a distorted way. Like I have totally blown the highlights in an image yet shadows seem darker and more devious. Peaceful sleeping faces now appear skeletal like. The shower of thunder that follows is deafening and rattles me as I try to hide in my sleeping bag.” The storm isn’t a passing one, I eventually drift off to sleep. I am so tired there are no dreams. When we are ready to leave the next morning I can’t find my hat. I search blindly with my hands in the pitch dark. I eventually turn on the torch on my phone and give my bunk and area a good going over. My hat is gone. I am traumatised. We follow the route out of town that we spied last night. It takes us along the side of a fast flowing river. There are just the two of us walking single file along the track. I get flashbacks from the Blair Witch Project and start to sweat! I am relieved when we reach the next town by seven am, it’s still dark and cafes are not open but at least the sun will be up soon. Our route joins a busy main road. We literally bump into Louise and John from the bar last night, the Koreans bump into them. We all stand laughing as the light breaks. We each maintain that the other went the wrong way!

Sean ordering breakfast breakfast in one of the coolest Cafes (El Horno De Irotz) we came across early that morning. It was in the yard of a family house. They were doing coffee and smoothies and pastries, when one pilgrim asked for an omelette that was out of the ordinary, it wasn’t a problem. Such wonderful people. We could have stayed there all day, except that it was only just before 8am. We even added a pin, to join all the other happily fed pilgrims from around the world!

Just outside of the town we spied this church that was full of love.. hearts. How sweet!

The was only one part that I disliked immensely about the first section of the walk and that was the giant slugs that were EVERYWHERE. For the first blissful two days I didn’t really notice them. They like it when its dark and damp early in the morning. Which was just fine as it was too dark for me to see them. However, they got trodden on a lot and it was the exploded oozing masses on the ground that caught my eye. When I figured out what they were I did a little dance and made a some unearthly noise. If you have ever had the misfortune of standing bare foot on slug in your garden or every touching them while gardening you will understand the absolute fear I felt when I saw these humongous creatures. I would move to the other side of the pathway dancing and squealing to avoid them when we came face to face! It gave Sean no amount of entertainment. I don’t usually squeal, it got to the point where only dogs could hear me. It took about five minutes but I made Sean take this picture to get some perspective, just to show you that I am not being a big girls blouse!

Just as we were making our way onto Pamplona we ended up walking with this lovely lady from Norway. She had a massive bag on her back and was worried that she was slowing us down. Truth be told when she said that she was from the beautiful Norway I didn’t want to leave go of her. We told her about our trip to her country in January. She said she was proud that we loved the land she grew up in. We only walked together for 20 minutes or so, yet she is yet another soul who will stay with me. Just so full of positivity! When we walked into Pamplona, we said our good byes as our friend went to sit on a park bench in the glorious sunshine. She wanted to spend some time in Pamplona as she had read a love story that took place in this wonderful city. I heard many reasons from so many people for taking this trip and staying in various places. This remains my favourite.

Still living my own little romance story, I wave at the American couple I saw last night who didn’t get a bed in Larrasoana last night. I am glad that they look rested and happy. You remember the scene in Shrek when Princess Fiona is walking along the forest singing to the birds and then… one blue bird Explodes! Ya it was like that happened. My own happy bubble is shattered by a man screaming something in Spanish. I am a little shook and confused and then figure he is like the welcoming committee. He is dressed as an old fashioned guard and is repeating the same phrases over and over. I become some what concerned when he keeps walking behind us wailing all the way through the city gates! We lose him in the maze of cobbled street. Pamplona is huge and very busy. Its only been three days but its a shock to the system!

Can highly recommend this restaurant/tapas place. We were starving when we reached Pamplona. Sean ordered from the bar in front of him and I ordered off the menu. I got a plate of fried eggs and chorizo and a huge basket of bread. Sean received a wee sandwich. Needless to say I won the food-off. Two glass of vino and we were back on the road still on the look out for a hat. We sat in Plaza San Francisco watching the world go by when a lovely American lass called Katie came over and asked where we resting or lost. I said I was looking for somewhere to get a hat. Katie said she knew of this shop and would walk us towards it. Pilgrims on the camino are just awesome like that. There was mention of stopping for a hot chocolate but she went on her merry way once we reached the shop.

I ended up finding a proper old mans hat shop and replacing my beautiful hat. I picked one amazing wax wide brimmed hat, however, the nice shop owner found something that was more fitting to a pilgrims budget. I so would have bought that hat for €75 euros, it was gorgeous, but could you imagine if that one went “missing.” It was like the shopkeeper was reading my mind. It was just as well I made my purchase then, it was had started to drizzle all of a sudden in the city.

We took a just in case plaster break on the way out of Pamplona. Sitting there tending to our feet when a french man came over and asked us to go to a bar with him. Okay, he said hello first and asked where were we from. He said he knew this cool place we could go. Some thing about his quest made us think he wasn’t really a pilgrim. We thanked him for his offer and said that we were moving on. When he became overly persistent, I think he realised he had blown his cover story and eventually left. It was our only really weird encounter of the trip.

The drizzle clears as we leave the city. I am a little sad as I know Steven and the rest are spending a night or two in Pamplona or just outside, in Cizur Menor. Most have travelled from the other side of the world to get to Spain and so are really soaking up the experiences. We are told many times how lucky we are to be only a two hour flight from mainland Europe. A world of history and Art is on our doorstep. I think how right they are and we should travel more, even if its a weekend trip. It could work surely cheap flights and cheap accommodation? I say to Sean that we should start planning mini breaks away, he agrees bit points out we should get today behind us first. He is right. Leaving the city we walk through university grounds and through fields and fields of dead plants. Its like an omen!

The afternoon sun is backbreaking. It is an intense thorny heat. My clothes are soaked through. I am blinded every time I look out from under my hat. There are very few trees, they ones that have a few leaves offer shade to sit and take shelter. I am grateful, so grateful to the lady in the chemist in Cizur Menor. We couldn’t find a fountain to refill our water bottles. So thought that we would ask in the Chemist if they had water. She didn’t but filled our bottles from the water hose. Don’t worry it was drinking water. I think that Alan and the others had the right idea to stop walking in the midday sun and stop for the night in Cizur Menor as this heat is torture. Shure according to the book we only had another 5 or so kilometres to the next town where we would take a proper break…. famous last words! The walk from Pamplona is up hill. It started gradually but its getting steeper and steeper. I wonder if we will be able to make it to the top of Alto del Perdón today at all. Its 2590 feet above sea level. That’s still a lot of steps up we have to take today.

We have almost slowed to a stop when we happen upon a Swedish couple. They are retired and are traveling the world, this is just one of the many adventures that they had spent years dreaming of. They were off to the Thailand next. I ask if they have enough water and if they would like some of ours. The man laughs and says that his hydration pack is full of wine and would we like some. I laugh and think I am already dehydrating at the speed of light and I decline this wonderful offer. But I pin it. What a good idea for much later on in the trip! We walk on and spy a tree. It has a bench. Sorted, we can finally get out of this heat. Take our hats off and see if our now soaking hair can pick up and bit of a breeze and cool down. There is no breeze or respite it’s still just as hellish under the nearly naked tree. There is a memorial near the tree. I think of the pilgrim who didn’t make up it the hill and I put my hat back on. This is hard. This afternoon is no longer about just walking, it a test of will power!

We stop in Zariquiegui and take shelter in La Posada de Ardogi. We start chatting to Mike from Georgia who is here for the second time, only this time he has brought his 17yr old grandson along too. He says that the next part of the walk up to the top of Alto Perdón is really hard. Considering the walk we had already done today he says that we should stop for the night. I am totally shattered but still have buckets of determination to get to Obanos. My legs as I stand have other ideas. I ask inside if they have two beds and they do for the pricey sum of €11 euros each. Dinner is also the same price. I pay the landlady the money and my body is overcome with relief that there is no more walking today.

It turns out to be one of the best nights of the trip. The Swedish couple are staying in our room also. After my shower I sit listening to my Swedish friend, he tells me of his life and their travel plans for the coming year as I apply tiger balm to my feet and legs. He tells me how fast life passes one by. ” You will work hard all your life, you will have a family, go on holidays with your family. Your children grow up have their own family and you retire. Then you look in the mirror and see that you are old.” I feel like I have been stabbed by his words. I tell him that his life sounds like one amazing adventure, is he not happy? He says that he has a wonderful privileged life afforded to him by hard work in a good job, that he is blessed to have the love of his beautiful wife and family. He looks at me though and tells me not to waste my life, to get out enjoy the world around me, to travel, breath in new experiences, saviour each and every story, this life is not about hours logged in front of a computer or listening to and taking other peoples crap. Life is not always about making others happy. When the time comes that I look in the mirror and see an old lady staring back, I am to have no regrets. Just a life full of adventures and stories of a life lived to the full.

Dinner that night is one of the best. It is more a banquet than a pilgrims meal. The food keeps coming and coming as does the wine. Tonights accommodation is privately run and there are may be 20 of us at the table, passing platters of food around like a family enjoying a long lazy Sunday lunch together. Sean and a German lad have great banter across the table. Some where its lost in translation that I am Seans wife and it translated into me being just Seans assistant. For what we are not sure and the table erupts with laughter at the possibilities. Mikes grandson and his friend chat with the other young girls at the table. Slyly topping up their glasses with more wine when they think no one is watching. I think what an adventure to have when you are seventeen. What a cool relationship they have this grandson and his grandpop traveling across Spain together. When these young ones go back to school in the fall what a story they all will have to tell. I watch as a Dutch man and Spanish man at the far end of the table try their best to win the attentions of the fair Angelique. I listen to a young English lass tell everyone how she is here to mend her broken leg. Her physio told her to do lots of walking for a few weeks to strengthen her leg. She figured it was better to walk the camino than walk in circles around her home town. At least the weather is better here she giggles!

It is really late we we all decide it time to go to bed. As we walk through the living room we see more bodies on couches and and chairs. Some have walked further than they were able today. When their legs gave out they found that the few albergue in this town were full to capacity, so our hosts kindly took them in, even though they had no beds. I go to bed happy, I sleep like a baby.

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