Getting into the Camino Groove

Updated with photos and a video May 10, 2012

So here the 4 of us were in a restaurant in Pamplona. I threw out the idea of hanging in the city and then taking a bus or taxi to hook back up with them the next night in whatever city they might stop in. The point being that I could enjoy my rest day in Pamplona and keep my Camino family unbroken. Then Jim threw out the idea of Audrey hanging back and doing the same. Done and done.

But as it turns out Pamplona isn’t such a big city with so much to see, so after getting breakfast and walking around for a while we checked in to a modern hostel named ‘Jesus & Maria’. Then we bought things to make dinner and breakfast since the place had a kitchen. The rest of the day was spent resting, reading, facebooking and getting ready to meet back up with Jim and Franz the next night in Cirauqua.

Audrey contemplating Pamplona

About as close as I’ll ever get to running with the bulls.

Main Square in Pamplona

The city of Hemingway

Since we went to bed at 9pm, we were walking out the door by 6:45am. Audrey was having some knee pain so we decided to take a bus/taxi to a little town at the bottom of the hill called Urtega. This would make the day 15km of relatively flat terrain instead of 27 of which was a lot of downhill. So while walking through Urtega I looked to my left and saw two familiar faces. It was Franz and Jim. Audrey and I couldn’t escape them if we tried. I guess it we were meant to walk together. And so we did. It was a blustery but beautiful day the countryside. The long green grass looked like ocean waves that went on for miles.

Burrrrrrrr

A day of beautiful scenery

I could sleep in this grass.

Around 2pm we landed in Cirauqua which is a really unique mountain village with a hostel, church and supermarket. I’m lame – I didn’t take any pictures this day, but Google does a fine job. After a nice afternoon rest the hostess made a fantastic and huge dinner that caused me to fall asleep by 10pm.

I woke up at 5am and decided that today was the day I would walk alone and meet the others in Estella. They landscape was pretty similar to the day before and this caused me to walk so quickly that I arrived in Estella at 10:30 am, 2 hours before the hostel opened. I grabbed something to eat and explored. Promptly at 12:30 I greeted the hostess at the door. I was the first one of the day. So, as of now the others have not showed up. I didn’t realize what a big city this was so I hope they find me, but if not, I’ll just see them tomorrow in Los Arcos…I hope…

Estella fortress

Entering Estella.

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4 Days to Pamplona

First Pilgrim sighting in Bordeaux

Updated with photos May 7, 2012.

My long day of travel was rather uneventful. I saw my first pilgrim in Bordeaux and knew he was headed towards Santiago because of the scallop shell attached to his backpack which nearly all pilgrims, including myself, carry. When I arrived in Bayonne the other walkers trickled in and eventually we all boarded a little train to St. Jean Pied de Port. You could tell that everyone was really excited. I began chatting with a father daughter duo from Washington DC. When we finally pulled into St. Jean, it was a mad dash to the pilgrims office with me leading the pack. Good thing because my quickness and ability to speak french got me one of the last 4 beds in the municipal alberge (hostel). Eventually I was joined by the DC duo, Audrey and Jim, and a German guy named Franz. Enter my Camino family.

Adorable St. Jean Pied de Port

The door to El Camino

The arrival of pilgrims…

Honestly, Day 1 is too complicated to describe in a short paragraph so I’ll have to tell that at a later time. But what I will say is that it was an experience that has left Audrey, Jim, Franz and I with a special bond. (Updated May 8, 2012. Read about Day 1 here.)

Franz & I starting out Day 2

So, skipping ahead to Day 2 of walking which started from Roncesvalles with our target being Larrasoana. The scenery was beautiful- rivers, mountains, farms, forest and 500-year-old stone bridges. While Audrey and I walked and talked, we eventually were able to laugh about the previous days events which was a good sign. This particular day was 25km and we were all pretty whipped when we arrived in Larrasoana after 9 hours on the road. So you can imagine our frustration when the grumpy hostel hostess told us she only had 3 beds. Audrey, Franz and I took them and Jim headed down to the nicer, more expensive private hostel. When we walked into the sleeping room, we all decided it was a shit hole but that it would suffice for one night. Eventually we headed out to the only restaurant in town to pay 8 euros for a frozen pizza and to get yelled at by the tired and stressed woman who was trying to run the place all by herself. After we filled our tummies, we returned to our hostel and slept pretty good considering there where 40 others in the same room half of them were snoring. Thank God for ear plugs.

Day 2 – Mountains,

forests,

and rivers.

Day 3 of walking was even more beautiful because we finally got some good weather. Audrey and I snapped pictures constantly and continued to talk and laugh. We were having such a great time together and it was a shame because my plan was to stay in Pamplona for 2 nights. The 3 of them needed to continue on since they were planning to walk the entire 800km to Santiago. Frantz told me he was really sad to see me go because the 4 of us made a great team. When he said this we both got a little choked up. I was really sad to leave them but my body needed rest and I wanted to explore Pamplona. So by 2pm we arrived in the city and I splurged on a hotel. Then we all agreed to meet for one last dinner together.

A taste of Day 3 scenery