Tuesday, April 12, 2016
8:40 – I decide to skip the hostel’s take on a continental breakfast (instant coffee with stale white bread and margarine) and walk to the cafe across the street for steaming cafe con leche, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a warm croissant. I use the free wifi to catch up on news from home. But do I really need to know that Stephen Harper has given a speech to Republicans at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas mansion? I vow to read less news over the next month.
8:50 – I know that today will be a lot easier than the first two days but I’m still greatfull that I don’t have to lug a CPAP machine in a bundle buggy.
8:55 – The scenery on the first two days was spectacular but I know this won’t be the case every day. Today is said to be a “pleasant” walk but the first thing you see as you leave Zubiri is a large ready-mix plant. It begins to rain as I climb higher above the town so the rain jacket goes on for the first time. It’s downright dreary at the moment.
10:18 – I’m well past the industrial area now and the sun is shining once again. The path has also changed from mud to fieldstone. To be honest, I prefer mud to these wet, uneven stones where you have to watch your step or risk twisting an ankle.
10:50 – Because I lingered over breakfast (okay, free wifi), I was one of the last people to leave Zubiri. I didn’t expect to catch up to anyone until well into the day but already I have passed six pilgrims. Remember, Mike, it’s not a race.
11:34 – I’ve had a nice chat with a South African man who has purchased an abandoned abbey that he and his partner intend to restore and re-open as a museum / residence. The main structure was built as a fort around the year 1000 but a new entrance and a bell tower were added in 1212 when it was converted to an abbey. He explained many of the contradictory elements of the building – Christian crosses and moorish symbols on the same altar, 24 stars over the door instead of the traditional 12, etc. When I was about to leave he offered to stamp my pilgrim’s passport.
12:07 – I come to the town of Akeretta but decide to keep on walking. It’s a good sized village but there isn’t a person in sight. Siesta time!
13:27 – I’ve been walking parallel to the Arga River for the past hour. The ground is damp and in some places there is mud up to the ankles. The walking poles come in handy when leaping from rock to rock and crossing the odd brook that flows over the path.
I’m sitting on a stone wall and changing my socks when an inquisitive white dog approaches.
14:00 – The Camino does strange things with your mind. I just had a photo-realistic flashback to a summer’s day in 1968 when Mary MacAloney and I were playing in the old greenhouse behind Mrs. Gillian’s house on Rupert Street. I have no idea where that came from. Yesterday I had an equally realistic memory of a high school fundraiser where some Italian students’ mothers got together and put on a spaghetti dinner in the school cafeteria. The catch is that my flashback was set in the present and my buddies Dan LeBlonc and Mike Mumford were there, looking just as they do now. However, Mrs. Viscardi and Mrs. Monopoli looked just as she did in 1979, colourful aprons and all.
14:20 – It’s overcast, about 10C and beginning to rain. The two women from Wisconsin help me put on my rain poncho for the first time.
14:50 – I don’t know the history of this place but it looks like it could have been a monastery. There’s a BMW in the driveway today. Who knows who lives here now? Could it be the secret Spanish retreat for Hollywood stars? Elton John is said to have a villa somewhere around here. But then I’ve heard that one in just about every country I’ve visited!
16:30 – Someone said these are cherry blossoms. I have no idea what they are but they are pretty and they are everywhere! Unfortunately juniper is also prevalent and I absolutely detest the smell of juniper.
17:02 – I walk the last few kilometres into Pamplona with the two women from Wisconsin. We joke that I’m taking my life into my hands when I wear a red rain poncho around Pamplona. I trust the bulls are tied up today.
17:30 – The first person I come across after passing through the gates is a semi-famous pilgrim who claims to have walked 15,000 km covering various casinos in Europe. He asks for a donation and I help him out. The second person I meet is Zane, the racehorse owner from Australia. We practically collide as he bounds out of a store into the rain without his coat. I accompany him to back to his hostel for a beer and agree to meet up later for dinner. It’s official: I’m definitely staying an extra day in Pamplona.
18:00 – Everyone’s heard of the free tapas served in Spanish bars. Well, these tapas (or ‘pinchos’ as they are known in the Basque Country) aren’t exactly free but they are to-die-for. I can handle 2€ for a large piece of seared foie gras served on toasted baguette with grilled zucchini and cartelized pear. The foamed cod on baguette with grilled peppers was good, as were the stacked grilled veggies with toasted Parmesan and the warm goat cheese on sourdough bread with with grape preserve. It sounds like a lot but rally the servings are quite small and besides, I’ve just done eight hours of solid cardio with a backpack and wet pants.
23:00 – I’m the last one back to the hostel and probably not that popular with others who are already in bed. In my defence I will say that I can be in bed in about 15 seconds with minimal noise whereas some hostel newbies go through 45 minute rituals that involve plastic bags, zippers, clippers, water bottles that make a noise when opened, makeup removal, exfoliating, cleaning of boots, YouTube videos without the use of earbuds, and last night, an air compressor ran all night in adjoining bunk. I’m not feeling quite so guilty now.