Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Over Alto de Perdón to Estella

This was day 4 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

The ability of our bodies to recover overnight is simply remarkable. Every evening I felt tired and muscles were aching, but in the mornings I was continuously waking up pretty fresh and full of energy.

What was even more remarkable, M. did not have problems waking up before 6 AM every morning. Actually she had the alarm set for every morning and was the one usually waking me up. Miracles really do happen on the Camino!

This whole waking up to an alarm, set on a wrist watch, thing is a bit funny. Since we were using earplugs almost every night, the alarm was usually beeping for someone else - we often did not hear it. However, if not before, we did wake up ten minutes after it stopped beeping. No one seemed to mind.

A sunny but quite fresh morning was a nice change. Before we left we took the opportunity for a quick breakfast. Good supper, freshly squeezed orange juice and a large selection of tea they offered at the bar made our stay in this albergue even more enjoyable.

The first part of hike included climbing up the only hill of the day. It is called Alto de Perdón (Mountain of Forgiveness) and is one of the famous landmarks on the Camino.
Actually it is more of a small hill than a mountain. Since it was still early and we were quite fresh and full of energy, we did not have any problems with the little climb. At the top there are metal sculptures dedicated to pilgrims and a nice view over nearby wind farms.

We stopped for a while to take a few photos. Since the wind was blowing really hard we did not linger around for too long. We continued downhill.

Puente la Reina was the most interesting town we went through during the day. It was named after Doña Mayor, wife of King Sancho III. She built the famous six-arched bridge over the Río Arga for the use of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It still stands today. Puente la Reina is the first town after the Aragonese Way (Camino Aragonés) joins with the French Way (Camino Francés). This means we will be seeing even more pilgrims from here on.

Our destination for the day was Estella. We were hoping to reach it in time to still get enough free space in one of the albergues. We were still travelling as a group and getting seven beds late in the afternoon was not to be taken for granted.

Since we had 35 kilometres planned for the day, we planned to arrive around 5 PM, which is pretty late. As we learned so far, most pilgrims seem to walk shorter distances and consequently they arrive at their daily destinations a few hours before us.

We had been lucky so far, so we had hoped our lucky streak would continue. It did not look too good when we tried our luck at the first albergue. When they turned us down in the second one, we were getting a bit worried.

The third albergue had just two spaces left and we asked the hospitalero (a guy taking care of an albergue) to call the last remaining albergue in town and inquire about the situation. He said there are just 5 places left and placed a reservation for a part of our group. I had a feeling he was taking advantage of the situation and simply wanted to fill the last two of his beds. In my opinion there were still seven or more beds available in the last albergue but since we were all already very tired I did not want to take chances and insult the guy.

So we split up and agreed to meet up again in the morning. M. and I stayed in Albergue Paroquial San Miguel. It operates as an albergue donativo - you donate as much as you feel it is suitable.

After the check-in formalities we were showed to our beds - a top bunk bed and a mattress on the floor. Beds were pretty basic - old mattresses with (not very clean) plastic sheets. They were all out of blankets. This is why a sleeping bag on the Camino is a must.
Bathroom looked nice and clean and there was plenty of hot water. It was all we really needed.

Apart from another "lost in translation" moment during dinner the evening was pretty uneventful - we chose Maracaibo Restaurante in a corner of the main town's square.
After dinner M. was really tired and just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately it started raining cats and dogs just as we were finishing our meal. We decided to wait for it to pass before returning to our albergue. A very long half of an hour later we were finally off to bed.

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Camino Portraits: A pilgrim and his dog

This is the first post in a series of Camino Portraits. It is a portrait of a pilgrim with his dog.

We met them on our way to Zariquiegui. We never took time to talk, so their names will remain a mystery. We just wished "Buen Camino!" to each-other and after a I snapped this photo we were on our ways. Since they were walking in the opposite direction, they were obviously already returning home from Santiago. On foot. Yes, even some modern-day pilgrims do that.

If you look closely you can see each of them carrying their own backpacks.

Clicking on the above photo will reveal it in a much more flattering resolution.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Another rainy day

This was day 3 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

We woke up into a cloudy morning. Our shoes and clothes were still a little damp, so we did not really enjoy putting them on. We were out of the albergue door just as it started raining again. Not very encouraging, to say the least.

When we started walking our legs felt a bit tired from previous days but it was not to bad. No real problems, just moderate muscle pain. Fortunately we had no blisters. Well actually we had a small blister each, but they were not bothering us. Compeed works wonders!

Rain was not so strong as on the previous day and we also got used to it. It was bothering us quite a bit at first but on the second day we kind of accepted it and just walked on. What bothered me the most was the fact I had the camera tucked inside my backpack. It was also just too complicated and time consuming taking it out for a photo and putting it back in. Result - no proper rainy photos.

Breakfast was our first excuse to get away from rain for a while. Bocadillos con jamón (sandwiches with cured ham) and café con leche (coffee with milk) were enough to get us running. Shoes started leaking again but it was nowhere near the experience form the previous day. After another few hours of walking clouds started tearing up and we were able to see patches of blue sky again. We felt better.

There are quite a few interesting old stone bridges in the area. One of them is also the one Martin Sheen drops his backpack from in the movie The Way. Just before entering the city of Pamplona we crossed the Arga river. We used the Magdalena bridge you can see on the above photo.

The highlight of the day was the city of Pamplona - the first larger city on the way with a population of 200.000. Most pilgrims make plans in a way to spend at least one night there. Unfortunately our schedule did not allow us to do the same. We wouldn't mind stopping for a few days and if we ever have a chance to go back, we will try to do it in time to enjoy the San Fermín festival (and maybe even get a taste of running with the bulls).

When in Pamplona we took time to explore the beautiful cathedral with a museum. We did not like the entrance fee but in the end this stop came at a perfect time to let another thunderstorm roll by.

When walking through the city centre there were moments when we felt a bit lost. For the first time bright yellow arrows and shell signs were not visible enough. Thanks to friendly locals we stayed on the right way.

On the way out of the city we ran into the group of Italians from the night before. We all had same plans for the day and agreed to walk together. Good company helped a long walk through suburbs of Pamplona pass quickly.

Our destination on that day was a small town of Zariquiegui. It was a 27 kilometre walk from Larrasoaña.

Since at that time we were travelling as a group of 7 and La Posada de Ardogi was supposedly the only albergue in town (with only 16 beds), we decided to make a booking in advance. Since this is a private albergue booking was easily arranged by one of the Italians.

Walking through open fields with huge stacks of hay bales was really enjoyable. We took the opportunity to practise our Italian and got to know Roberto, Andrea, Alessandro, Antonio and Jolanda (who is actually Dutch) a little better.

Upon arrival standard routine followed. Stretching, shower, washing clothes and some relaxing before dinner. As a group we took advantage of the laundry machine and just threw all our dirty clothes in.

During stretching and massage I felt heavy pain in muscles running down on the outside of shin (Tibialis anterior muscle) and also in tendons connecting these muscles to bones. I knew muscle pain will go away in a few days. I was more afraid of tendinitis - known as one of the common show-stoppers on the Camino. I was hoping for the best.

All seven of us slept in one small room. It may sound strange but this was a definite improvement compared to the last two days. Beds were comfortable, with clean cotton sheets.

We agreed to continue walking together on the following morning.

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