Day 3 was walking into Pamplona. Yes! THAT Pamplona ala the running of the bulls. We just missed them a month ago. Walking into a metropolis is not the most fun, so by the time we arrived at our lodging, we were a bit snarly ourselves.
A Pilgrim’s meal was not included that night, so we had to hunt and gather at nearby tapas bars. Poor us, right? More on that later, maybe.
Day 4 Out of Pamplona
We were excited for this day because it includes a climb up Alto del Perdon, the Hill of Forgiveness. At the top is a sculpture depicting a number of Pilgrims either on foot or on horseback as they make their way along the Camino to Santiago.
Look closely and you might see two people photo bombing everyone else’s picture.
Problem is, we took all sorts of amazing photos before and after the one above, but the WiFi at our lodging “down the mountain” in Puente de Reina has the
s l o w e s t
bandwidth EVER. The above is the only photo I could upload all night.
So, trust that we are safe, sound and strong at Day 4. We’ll get to the next post when we can.
Having survived Day 1, we looked forward to Day 2 being shorter by 4K. The weather report said 88% chance of rain throughout the route, so we thought we were so smart to anticipate that it might still be a long day due rain.
Knowing we’d be donning rain gear a good portion of the day, we packed it at the top of our day packs, ready for prompt retrieval. We got an early start (for us, anyway) around 8 a.m. Before we got out of the hotel parking lot, quarter-sized rain drops splatted at our feet.
“What’s the rule?” We asked simultaneously. (See previous post called ABC’s of Camino under R for Rain.)
The Rule (learned the hard way): If it starts to rain, you put on rain pants AND your rain coat. And we did.
The walk out of town was through a beautiful forest, so we convinced ourselves that it must be a light rain, because the trees were blocking it from hitting us.
Fast forward about 5K and we realize that we must be taking one for the entire Camino team in the area because it still had not rained. Figures, we put on the rain gear and it doesn’t rain. We were too superstitious to take it off until after lunch, but by then the sun was shining.
We knew we had two mountain passes to climb that day, but we still had time to enjoy the scenery. And this time, get pictures of the horses.
What goes up must come down.
The uphill effort had our hearts beating hard, our lungs at full speed and capacity, as well as our leg muscles saying “hello again.”
It was the last 4K that killed us. Already tired and sore from the day before, we had to navigate a steep, rocky, craggy and often slippery trek down hill 1000 feet.
How anyone could complete that segment without poles is beyond me. We stopped talking. We stopped smiling. We were miserable, and it was all either of us could do except walk more like a four-legged creature than the humans we are.
Plant a pole, lean into it with your weight and then raise a foot and put it down oh, so carefully. Plant the opposite pole on your left side, put your weight into it, raise your other foot and carefully put it down.
Rinse and repeat umpteen times.
Going uphill is hard because you can hardly breathe and plod along slowly. Downhill is worse. Especially at the end of 7 hour day. Donna said it perfectly, “Everything below my butt hurts.”
We dragged our lower limbs into the town of Zubiri and had to spend a great deal of time in attitude adjustment. The shower helped. “Legs up the wall” was first. Then stretching as best we could.
Again, too tired and sore and exhausted to take a lot of pictures. But here’s the room for the night, and the view:
We left St. Jean Pied de Port at 8:15 am. The red, white and green flags were strewn across the old town’s cobblestone streets to celebrate a Basque festival. We enjoyed marching bands during the day before and tried not to listen to the bands that played two-hour sets at 9 pm, midnight, and 2 a.m.
25K, nine hours and change later, we arrived at Roncevalles. The only place to stop for food or rest or beverage was at the 7K mark. We weren’t really hungry at that point but we split a “tortilla” to load some carbs.
(Tortilla in Spain is essentially potato and egg “quiche,” gluten free for yours truly.)
Our legs were wobbly and at the very end I said, “I feel like my legs are boiled spaghetti and I’m trying to control them with my brain alone. No tongs.”
In Between Time
The Camino through the Pyrenees is an uphill effort we’d never experienced before. Thankfully, the weather was perfect. We never had to put on rain gear, for one. And even when climbing above the tree line we enjoyed a light breeze. Sometimes we gave out-loud thanks for both shade and a breeze in the same stretch.
From whence we came is pictured above. Zoom in and you’ll see a road far below where I was standing to take this picture. Way down yonder is St. Jean terrain.
Bucolic is the word Donna and I used to describe the trek through and over the Pyrenees. At first we thought those beige things were rocks. Nope. Sheep.
Cattle roamed free and did not mind us at all. They wore huge cow bells, but we quickly learned that the free range herd of horses (not pictured on either of our cell phones) also wore bells. And so did the sheep.
This is the perfect setting. Shade. Flat-ish. Canopy of trees. Unfortunately, the same setting turned ugly when we took an “alternate route” that went straight downhill for almost 4K. No pictures to share because it was all we could do to not tumble down the trail.
We had to wait in line to check in to our hotel room, and I was able to chat with the other travelers in Spanish. I asked questions of the receptionist in Spanish and translated the answers to English for Donna. Strangely comforting is the best I can describe the feeling or relief to be in Spain, where I have more words than in France.
We have a third floor room loft room at Hotel Roncevalles. Two full sized beds pushed together is luxurious to us.
View from one of the windows actually doubles as air conditioning. Thankfully it will be a cool, crisp night.
Before the projected rain pours down manana en la manana.
We left LAX at 1:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, arrived Paris at 9:30 a.m. and then connected to a flight to Biarritz. We got to Biarritz hotel around 4 p.m. Saturday and pinkie swore that we would not go to bed until dark.
We found a restaurant around the corner from our hotel that served an “early” dinner at 7:30 p.m. We were tucked in by 10 p.m. and slept until 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
We had time to kill until our 2 p.m. transfer by car to St. Jean Pied de Port, so we took off walking in the other direction from the day before, headed for the lighthouse.
We could have walked to the top of the lighthouse, but a) it was an hour’s wait, and b) the next day we would be climbing 3,000 feet into (and over?) the Pyrenees. Or, for perspective, like climbing that lighthouse 20 times.
We had a cappuccino in a cafe and then waited for our ride to St. Jean. At 1:59 p.m. a driver hops out and yells, “Taxi!”
Right on time! Awesome. He hoists our two suitcases into the trunk, jumps back in and says cheerfully, “To the beach! Yes?”
Two big suitcases and we’re going to the beach, he’s making a joke. “Ha ha. St. Jean Pied de Port,” I corrected.
”The Port?” He clarified as he pulled away.
“NO, no, CaminoWays, St. John Pied de Port!”
“No, we are going to St. Jean Pied de Port. To walk the Camino.”
”OK, St. Jean Pied de Port.” He enters something into his phone and Donna and I realize we have the wrong cab.
I said, “We already paid. CaminoWays paid. Wrong cab. Wrong cab. Go back.”
I don’t speak French, but I could tell that the words he spoke were probably not in the Duolingo curriculum.
As he made an illegal u-turn and double parked outside our hotel lobby, we saw a very confused looking couple talking to man with van. They were obviously packed for a day on the beach.
“Wrong cab, wrong cab!”
Our driver was sweet and friendly. Thankfully, he spoke Spanish, which seemed so familiar to me. It was a one-hour drive to St. Jean, and the scenery was stunning. Winding roads through tall mountains spotted with farms.
St. Jean Pied de Port
We’ll cross this river in the morning and the adventure begins! We walked around all afternoon hunting for the beginning of the Camino.
Found it! And then we reorganized every thing into what goes in our day packs (rain gear, first aid kit, Pilgrim’s Passport and 2 liters of water).
And we had two full-sized beds in this room on which to spread it all out.
The symbol of the Camino is the scallop shell. It is rare to see someone walking without a big one hanging outside the backpack. Donna and I bought ours Day 2 of our first Camino, the Portuguese Coastal Route in Spring of 2017. We carried them again on the 300 miles of the French Way from Burgos in 2019.
Donna framed hers and hung it on her living room wall, because, well, who’d have thought we’d be walking the Camino a third time? Let alone the whole 500 miles. She said she’s “unframing,” bringing it out of retirement one more time.
And here’s the plan for them:
• The “theme” of our Camino is gratitude.
• On the inside of each shell, I will write the name of something or someone I am grateful for. So will Donna, independently, on her shells.
• Every morning we each pull a shell from our respective collections and carry that shell until we find a place to leave it. Sometimes there’s a connection. Like last time, when I left Laurie Guest’s shell in a corn field. (Read her bio, and you’ll get it.) Sometimes there’s no connection; it just looks like a nice place for a shell.
I also plan on leaving a few shells blank…for the Camino angel(s) I’m sure to meet along The Way.
And the yellow one in the middle? That one’s for me. I don’t know where I’ll leave it, but I’ll know it when I get there.
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