Time walked – 7 hours with a coffee break, a lunch break and a bathroom stop
Total distance walked for the day – 13.8 miles (73.5 miles total)
Weather – Cool and humid, 55 degrees F; windy with some rain, then sunny and warm, mid 70’s
Terrain – pavement, small stone path, rocky path
After spending the night in a hotel to catch up on work, Ray and I had to rejoin the path for the Camino. As we checked out, the desk clerk offered to show us the route on his map of where to go so that we did not have to retrace our steps from the day before. It looked easy enough until we started walking the streets of Zizur Mayor. A gentleman recognized that we were lost and steered us in the right direction. He talked to us for quite awhile, all in Spanish, and we picked up on a little of what he said. I told him that I needed an ATM since we were down to our last €30. I understood him to say that we should wait until we got to Puente la Reina. I left the debit card in my pants pocket where I had put it for easy access. Once I get my backpack on just right, I hate to take it off for any reason.
We walked for about 30 minutes before joining the other peregrinos. The sky was very overcast and dark so most people had their rain covers on their packs. The humidity in the air made it feel hotter than it really was. I had left the hotel with the bottom of my pants already zipped off and I took my jacket off within the first hour on the path.
Despite the possible rain, I was excited for the next few miles of walking. We could see the wind turbines in the distance from our hotel room. There was a memorable scene from the movie, “The Way,” about the Camino shot at this location. Most pilgrams start during the same hour in the morning, so the trail is most concentrated when we start out. Ray and I talked about some of the people who had already made an impression on us, but we would not likely see again since we stayed two days in the Pamplona area. There were several people on the trail this morning and we weren’t recognizing any of them.
Rather than eating breakfast before walking, Ray and I would rather get going and stop at the first café, albergue or bar restaurant. At least for the next few days, we will walk through several small villages between 3 and 5 miles apart. This convenience of having frequent rest stops sounded very appealing to me when I first learned about the Camino.
I counted 22 other pilgrams at the first coffee stop out of Pamplona. One girl had a large slice on watermelon that I thought looked really good. Ray and I ordered 2 coffees, 2 croissants and one slice of watermelon for $4.50. We didn’t stay long and it seemed to give me a burst of energy I needed to get up the incline to Alto de Perdón. It wasn’t a steep incline like we had encountered in previous days, but it was a long one. The higher we went, the more the wind picked up and it became cooler. I had already taken off my jacket and did not want to stop to put it on. I also knew that this hill peaked and quickly declined so we would be hiking out of the wind and cold.
We reached the summit and just like I wanted to, dozens of pilgrams were getting their pictures taken. We saw Cliff from Zubiri first, then Rhody, who had the same backpack as Ray and a knitted headband that I had admired. I was getting my phone out when I heard my name. Right next to Rhody was Yung Mi and I hadn’t even seen her. She was running toward me and we gave each other a big hug. She told me that she hadn’t seen anyone she recognized walking through Pamplona and was a little depressed. I told her I was afraid of the same thing, always looking for a familiar face. She took our picture at the metal sculptures and then asked someone to get a picture of a Ray and me with her. We stayed long enough that I was getting cold, so we said our “buen caminos” and Ray and I headed down the hill.
The decline was a medium to large stone path, not at all smooth. I reached out with my poles in front of me for balance and to take as much of my weight as I could off of my feet. I could feel the larger rocks through the bottom of my shoes and I still had a small blister on the inside of my right heel. Scuffling my heel against a rock was not pleasant. Ray was behind me most of the way down. As the trail leveled off, he complimented my technical skill improvement on the declines. I deliberately plant my hiking poles in rythym with my steps. Today, I reached out farther in front of my feet where before it had been such a sharp decline that I had been taking baby steps.
Once the trail leveled off, Ray felt a drop of rain and then I did. We had not practiced for rain, so this would be a good test to see if we were prepared. Ray’s jacket is waterproof, and he didn’t think the rain would be that bad, so he put his jacket on under his pack. When preparing my pack for the day, I had stowed my rain poncho in a side pocket for easy access. Ray pulled it out of the pocket for me so that I didn’t have to remove my pack. Because I have this anal retentive thing about folding and returning items exactly as originally packaged, this was the first time my poncho had been out of it’s stuff sack. It went right over my head with the extra pouch fitting perfectly on top of my backpack. I knew there was a way to hook it between my legs, but Ray and I decided that since there was no wind, I didn’t need to figure that out. By the time we got ourselves ready for the rain, it was coming down steadily but not hard. I had to tighten the cords around my hood a couple of times to keep the rain off my face. We walked in the rain for about 20 minutes before it stopped. Ray didn’t want to put his big plastic poncho on because it does not allow for air movement. I was pleased that I was quite comfortable in mind but because I had shorts and a short-sleeved shirt on underneath, and it was not very warm out.
The rain stopped just before we reached the next village, Uterga, at the perfect time for lunch. I don’t like to be too full while hiking so it’s good for me to work up an appetite. This was just past our half-way point for the day. We stopped at an albergue/restaurant that had indoor and covered outdoor seating. The inside was full of wet pilgrams, so we chose two of the few dry chairs outside. Ray went in and brought out menus and then went back in to order our sandwiches and coffees. It’s worth saying again that the coffee here is really good. I got a salmon, egg and lettuce half S andwich, and Ray got a half tuna. I finally remembered to snap a food pic. With the café con leches, we spent €9.
The seating started filling up quickly. Two gentlemen asked if they could sit with us, which was fine with us. Most eating on the Camino is communal. Ray offered them a towel to dry off their chairs as they had been in the rain. I love that Ray is always prepared. As I stowed my poncho, I remembered that he wanted us to buy the ones with corner grommets in case we needed a tent. I had no doubt that he could handle whatever challenge would come our way. Once they ordered their lunches, we introduced ourselves to the two men. One was from France and did not speak English, but the other was Claude, a sailor from Montreal, Canada. He had already been on the Camino for 5 weeks, having started in France. I remarked how clean his clothes looked, and he laughed. When preparing for our journey, I read a lot about how hard it is to keep your clothes clean. Nearly one week into our Camino and I’m still obsessed with laundry.
More rolling hills and beautiful countryside after Uterga. We reached a small village within a few minutes and found an albergue where Ray got a coke and I used the restroom. It was a beautiful albergue in Muruzábal, and there was already one peregrino relaxing in the sun on a lounge chair in the gorgeously manicured yard. Once we were on our way I started thinking about how many great places to stay we were probably missing because I had relied so heavily on the guidebook to plan our daily stages.
The flowers of spring are blooming on either side of the trail. I saw, what I hope to be, the first butterfly of our journey, and I’m loving the tall poppies along the way.
It 3:30 in the afternoon when we arrived in Puente la Reina, much later in the day than I wanted to be in a town without a reservation. Before we could find a place to stay, we need an ATM to get cash. We found a bank right away, and I approached the ATM. When I reached in my pants pocket and removed my phone to retrieve the debit card, I was confused. The card wasn’t in my pocket, and I was sure that was where I had put it that morning. I checked a couple of other pockets, but knew exactly what had happened. Since I use my phone for the photos to document our Camino, the debit card probably fell out at some point. I had been prepared to possibly have a card stolen, but didn’t think I’d be so careless. I mentally kicked myself a couple of times and then unpacked a different card. We now have one back up instead of two, so I’ll have to be much more careful.
We found the Albergue Puente that Maribel in Cizur Menor had recommended. They had bunk beds for €12 each, or one private room left for €34 including towels and breakfast. The private room was worth it if, for no other reason, we could have the outlets to ourselves. They had an outdoor terrace that looked inviting, but by the time we unpacked, showered, did laundry and grabbed dinner, it had started to rain again. Instead, we checked on worked and went to bed.