Frankly I thought it was a miracle when I woke up and found I could walk again. Maybe thats what the camino is all about! Husband had a renewed sense of vigor and felt that today we could make it to Pamplona. I suggested that it would be best to just go half way – about 10 kilometres. I originally planned on much shorter days to start with whilst we built up fitness and stamina. I had no desire to walk further and further each day as had clearly been happening the last few days. The trouble was yesterday the need for cash drove us on and the lack of ATM’s in these small villages was quite surprising. And the two days before were non negotiable as we stayed in the only options.
As the day wore on I was slower and slower – remember the slugs that I was racing over the Pyrenees? Well it was little tiny colourful snails now. It is definitely a walking meditation when you are looking down at your feet spending many hours observing slugs, snails and worms on the damp tracks. In Australia I am on alert for leeches, snakes and other blood sucking bities! At least I am not paranoid about those sort of things here.
Today the sun was out a little here and there and as it is Spring, nearly all the paddocks have little baby animals so that’s quite cute to see in addition to the slugs etc. It was still only about 15 degrees maximum but all in all the weather was quite good for walking. We passed a number of beautiful old buildings, the clearest of streams and followed the path of a river for some time. I would have loved to have taken my shoes off and put my feet in those water ways but eager eddie my slavedriver just wanted to keep going. As the day progressed my feet swelled more and more. The red rash around my ankles also became more angry. Husband continued with “Come on my love – its not far now!” as he sped off into the distance and then stopped and waited here and there (as I said more than once he had time to read the paper, have a cup of tea and a nap!)
We stopped at a couple of cafes enroute and i took my feet off and marvelled at the feel of cold concrete. Actually I would have loved to have taken my feet off but shoes, I mean shoes. I never realised how therapeutic concrete could be. The look of those ankles did bother me though. I had no desire to injure myself so much this early on as I would be unable to complete my camino, and quite frankly I had no idea what was going on down that end of my limbs.
Yesterday we had seen numerous groups of tourists walking small sections of the track up to some of those spectacular lookouts that were my greatest curse, and then back down to the air conditoned bus waiting for them at the road crossing. Today there was none of that. Must have been because we didnt leave Zubiri until 10.30am or because this section was not as scenic as the Pyrenees sections, or because everyones ankles swelled into whelts like mine and they all stayed on the bus or stayed home!
Anyway we finally came within 5 kilometres of Pamplona and there were a couple of little towns we could have found a room in. But husband suggested just over the next hill “my love” and then we could decide. It was about this time I started empathising with slaves. I had been singing little ditties in my head for the last couple of days with lines like “It hurts but just keep going, It hurts but just keep going” etc But today I was imagining myself in a group of captured slaves being marched forward by Roman soldiers. A failure to put one step in front of the other would have resulted in a spear through one of my kidney’s and certain death. When my thought process wandered like this – I realised that a few little aches in my feet were nothing. So eager Eddie had his way. What was I complaining for – We were just out for a pleasant walk in the country!
Finally we found ourselves a few hundred metres above a fast moving freeway of sorts. In the distance we could see a farely sizable city which we knew must be Pamplona. We could not see where the old city we were aiming for was but the sign up top suggested the first hostels were only 1.6 kilometres away. Anyone who has done a lot of walking with sore knees may know that downhill actually hurts more than uphill. That 1.6 kilometres was all downhill and it was painful. When we finally crossed the ancient bridge and saw the first albergue (pilgrims hostel). I collapsed onto a bench and pulled my shoes off. A Spanish lady was concerned about me (I obviously looked fantastic) and came over asking if I needed a medico (doctor). I laughed and said no no just a bit sore! (me duele todo actually – I am just aching all over!) She chatted (in Spanish) and was impressed to hear we were from Australia which to her was muy legos (very far). Anyway off she went on her afternoon stroll up to that last lookout I assume, the descent from which had nearly killed me !
As we now had only 4 kilometres to go and the Trekright app on my phone suggested there was no more than a 35m incline or decline we decided to give it a go. (I had just discovered this functionality a day before as I had a new phone just before leaving Oz). This seemed doable but both of us were feeling it now. Eager Eddie was complaining a bit also would you believe. I did contemplate taxi or bus – but husband kept suggesting we would regret it. The thought of being a slave kept me going. I kept thinking the shopping centres at home are about 1km long. God knows I could walk them up and down all day! So walking 4 kilometres was really just a stroll up and down the shops a couple of times.
Let me tell you – those last 4 kilometres into any town with a pack on your back are nothing short of torture. Just when you think you can take no more. You continue. I started counting steps in bunches of 100 before realising that that would make this one very long walk! I had to stop again (much to my husbands dismay) and peel off my boots and sit my feet on the cold concrete. Just love that concrete! I dont think he fully appreciated the agony of swollen feet. These brief reprieves allowed me to continue. Without these stops I was doomed to be completely crippled.
I think it was 6 or 7 when we finally walked through the French Gate into the old city. Thankfully we bumped straight into Janice, a nice Canadian lady whom we had first met in Orisson and who was staying at a hotel, and she directed us straight to the information office and the man found us a double room very close by to everything. Apparantly some sort of congress was on in town and most of the hotels were booked out. We immediately booked two nights at a grand total of 70 euro!
We headed up to the main square and met up with many of our pilgrim buddies from those first two nights. We had our meal right beside Bar Txoko which had been the meeting point I had with my good friend Yvette back in 1989 when we were backpacking in our youth. I have a photo of her sitting on the square with another backpacker as we waited for the running of the bulls. Yvette died very suddenly last year and left a huge circle of family and friends in mourning – along with two very beautiful young girls and a grieving partner. I held a quiet toast to her memory and shed a few tears as I walked back to our hotel.
After a nice sleep in I found I still had a major problem with my feet – but we were having a days break thank heavens. We headed out for breakfast and to pickup the bag which needed to be posted on to Santiago for our post Camino holiday (it was too difficult to send from France to Spain but easy to courier it onward on the Camino. Breakfast was an interesting mix of Pintxos – Mini baguette with bacon and chutney of some sort, a ham and cheese croquette, a potato and egg tortilla and a chicken and salad baguette. All about 1.5 euro each. With coffee and tea a grand total of 9.5 euro for the two of us. Very nice.
Now for a day of rest – we picked up the bag – headed back to the hostel and bumped into the lovely Shirley from the US of A. Shirley was wandering aimlessly seeking her abode for the evening after having departed from her travelling companions of the first few days. We had all dined together in Roncenvalles and we kept bumping into each other along the way. Anyway we directed her to the door beside us which was our good find for Pamplona and our 35 Euro room. Shirley was not quite as lucky as 1 person was still 30 Euro but at least the room search was over. We wandered around Pamplona together for a while sightseeing before we went back to the hostel.
As luck would have it husband was having a bout of stomach trouble and was able to sleep in the room (well lucky we werent walking today) and, Shirley had a rest whilst I continued on my search for new pantalones – yes I dont want to brag but my hiking pants were now officiallly too loose. I know they may have stretched a little but walking 20 odd kilometres a day does have some effect. Anyway Shirley had bumped into Janice from Canada whilst I was on this doomed quest and we were all set for dinner together in our hostel.
No new pants were to be found but before dinner I was lucky enough to strike gold with a massage from a health clinic. Angelique felt that I have a lymphatic problem and gave this great massage moving all the fluid up my legs. She then recommended I soak my feet in cold water at every stream and at the end of each day and elevate them whenever I could. After all this I had no time to find the post office and had to send the stuff on again – this time we returned to the Jesus and Mary Hostel and sent the stuff on to Estella as I wasnt sure where else we could be in the next few days.
Dinner was a relaxing affair with great service, nice food and wine, and, most importantly, good company. Another early night meant we could start early (or at least early in our books) the next morning. Everyone else seems to start at 5 or 6 – for us, aiming for 8am was a real improvement!. Buenos Noches!
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