Days 5 & 6

64 miles down, 436 to go! 6 days of walking what would be an hour drive by car. And I need to still walk over 7 times what I have already walked. Hard to wrap my head around that.

Day 5: Pamplona was so much fun that I will definitely be going back there again some day. Day 5 started off a little strangely at 3:30 am. Will and I had gone out and joined the fun. We were right in the center where all the bars were packed and people were spilling out into the streets. We bar hopped to about 6 different places drinking beers, enjoying tapas, and occasionally chatting with Spaniards who had also done the Camino.

We headed back to our hostel around 11 p.m., and nearly all 14 bunks were full of sleeping Pilgrims except there were 3 empty beds in the corner where I saw some young Spanish guys had arrived earlier who didn’t look like Pilgrims (no packs, no quick dry clothing, no hiking shoes), so they were probably in town for the fiestas. Sure enough, they woke me up as they rolled in around 3:30 a.m. It wasn’t a big deal and I needed to go to the bathroom anyway. Since earlier Will and I had also come in late, I had crawled up the ladder and into the top bunk in my clothes, took my jacket and pants off, and slipped into my sleep sack putting my clothes at the foot of the bed. As the young guys were settling into their bunks, I reached down to grab my pants, but they were gone. Jacket still there, pants gone. I couldn’t believe it. Had someone stolen my pants? I had only brought the one pair because with the weight of a pack every ounce counts, so I had no backup pants. The room was dark and everyone was sleeping, so I grabbed my phone and put on the flashlight in search of my pants. About 10 minutes later and now fully awake, I finally located them. They had fallen off the bed and we’re on the ground between the bed and the wall. No need for the pants police. Luckily, I was able to fall back asleep because we had a long walk day ahead of us with a very steep peak in the middle called Alto del Perdón. We had heard the sad news that an American pilgrim had died of a heart attack the day before climbing this peak. News article:

Will was enjoying the Camino so much, that he decided that instead of two days is Madrid before heading home, he’d spend one day there and one more on the Camino. The air was crisp and a bit chilly as we walked out of Pamplona, but the sun was out and we were treated to another day of stunning landscapes.

We reached the top of Alto del Perdón and it was a bit windy.

The walk down from the peak was initially a little treacherous as the path was covered with rocks, but then came some of the most gorgeous scenery I had seen so far. A funny thing about the Camino is sometimes there are lots of people on the trail, and you greet them with a smile or an hola or a buen Camino as you or they pass. And then other times it is quite solitary and it feels like it is just you and nature. As we walked down the hill, it felt like suddenly we were the only ones there. All I could hear were birds and the wind rustling through field after field of vibrant green wheat with rippling waves spreading across them.

Another hour down the road, and we came across Ana, the woman from Uruguay and who now lives in Switzerland who had stayed in our same albergue two nights before. We walked the rest of the way that day, about 2 hours, chatting in Spanish as she didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French. After Ana retired at 65, she did her first Camino walking from Switzerland to Southern France. For this Camino she went back to where she ended before in southern France and started walking from there, so she had been on the road 5 days longer than we had. She spoke softly and told us the names in Spanish of the plants, trees and flowers we passed. Ana is 66 years old, doing these walks by herself, and she’s beat cancer twice. There are some amazing people on this Camino.

We walked through some small villages and during the last hour both Ana and I were dragging. My blisters were fine and actually healing pretty quickly, but the muscles in the top of my thighs and front of my shins were sore. We ended our 6.5 hour walk day with her in the town of Puente la Reina.

It was Will’s last day, so we “splurged” and paid 56 euros ($62 or $31 each) and got our own room in a hotel with 2 beds and a private bathroom. Luxury! The albergues cost anywhere from 5-10 euros (about $6-12 dollars) and often included breakfast. In some places, they offered a communal Pilgrim dinner for about $10-15 dollars (I’ll just translate euros to dollars from here on out)…this was more common in the smaller towns and villages. Will and I did some more sampling of the local drinks and tapas, and stayed up until midnight chatting with some of the locals in the bar next to our hotel. My Spanish was getting a work out.

Day 6: Will left at 7am in a taxi to Pamplona where he was grabbing a bus to Madrid to fly home from there. It was sad saying goodbye, and I promised to do lots of hiking with him when I got back home.

I didn’t need to check out until noon which was quite different from the albergue 8am check out. The average Pilgrim day so far had been get up around 6-6:30am, breakfast around 7am, on the road by 7:30-8am, walk 5-7 hours, shower and rest, 7pm dinner, 9pm sleep. With the late check out, I decided to do a rest day and leave later and just walk a couple of hours to the next village. Since it was a short walk and sunny weather, I decided this would be the first day I’d carry my larger pack. They have a really nice service on the Camino where you can pay about $6-7 dollars and they will take your heavier pack to your next albergue. I used my lighter day pack up and over the Pyrenees and then with the blisters, I gave myself some time to heal. To be honest, carrying the heavy pack is the thing I had most worried about for the Camino. For the past 5 years or so, my hips have been chronically sore. I’ve been to many doctors and specialists and no one has been able to help. I wasn’t sure if carrying the pack day after day would make things worse, but there was one way to find out.

I left at noon starving and forgot that Spaniards typically don’t eat lunch until 2-3pm so everything was closed. I found a little market, grabbed a bag of chips and headed out. I crossed the bridge that gave the town its name and some nice pilgrims took my picture.

I had thought the walk would be flat. It was not. The majority of the walk was a slow burn up hill with no tree cover and it was quite a warm day.

My hip joints did feel tired, but going up the hills I went slow but felt strong. Halfway up one particularly steep hill, I met a woman named Melissa from Mexico living in Florida, and we walked and talked the rest of the way speaking sometimes in English and other times in Spanish.

The landscape was dryer and there were lots of vineyards.

I am now in a mountain town (hence all the hills) called Cirauqui.

I’ve again signed on for the Pilgrim dinner which apparently is in a really cool cave. Now that I’m solo, time to go make some friends :).

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