Tonight we sleep on the floor in a large gym in Zubiri, Spain. The travails of finding lodging in St. Jean Pied de Port, our starting destination in France, were exhausting. There we ended the day at dark, standing in front of the Pilgrim Office with its patient translators taking two pilgrims at a time and explaining what to expect on the Camino, handing out pilgrim passports and lists of lodging along the way. By the time all were attended to, we had the impression that it was another record-breaking year on the Camino de Santiago.
|St. Jean Pied de Port|
|Shipping containers fixed up for sleeping quarters at Roncevalles|
About fifty of us slept that first night on the floor of a martial arts dojo, head to foot. It was a good thing to get up and out of there, and on the trail for the first day's adventures. Over the Pyrenees, a 1500 meter climb, and down again to the castle at Roncevalles, Spain. Waiting in a long line to get checked in, I lost a little bit of my individuality, understanding that now I was just another pilgrim in a very big castle. As thrilling as it seemed to be sleeping on castle grounds, our sleeping digs that night were in a shipping box made into a bedroom with 4 bunkbeds.
Today on the trail there were many older women, young people, retirees, bikers. When we arrived at the albuergue I had a strong deja vu, or dream memory of seeing that place with the outdoor hallway hanging with washing linens, people all around, sitting, talking and hanging out.
We are in Estella. After feeling pretty invincible for the first week - no blisters, no pain - I am suffering with a red rash on my legs, very tender, and lots of body pain. We are in a youth hostel with four Bulgarian bicyclists.
|A stop along the way where they were making pizza in a double wood fired oven.|
|Navarre has so many houses with red geraniums gracing the windows and doorways.|
Before dinner we went to mass with the locals. The sermon was not understandable, I verified with a native speaker afterwards, because of the amplification and acoustics. The dinner at the bar was super-fun. Inviting Doni from Ireland, Flo from Germany, Clemintina and three other French people to sit with us, we sang, Lisa and I harmonizing on any tunes we could think of. Aaah, this is pilgrim life, I began to understand.
Lisa had a great idea to stay in Huerte, just east of Pamplona, avoiding the crowds in the albuerges in town. In fact, we were the only people staying in the large school building, renovated for masses of pilgrims. Taking the bus into Pamplona, we went to the Navarre Museum, seeing Roman mosaics from the first century, many ancient sculptures and paintings up to present day artists. Walking the streets, vendors were selling crafts and demonstrating skills like blacksmithing, basket weaving, jewelry making.
|Pamplona is the most famous city for the running of the bulls, but it goes on all over Spain.|
The next morning we walked out of town through the university, then up the hill towards the wind turbines on the skyline. The metal sculptures at the peak of the hill were reminiscent of Don Quixote and Sancho, along with pilgrim figures.
|Top of the grade, leaving Pamplona.|
I was sitting in the little church in Monjardin, and the priest's assistant, probably a spry 85 years old or so, came to maintain the church. He kept making a pounding motion and pointing to me, and I finally got it - he wanted to stamp my pilgrim passport, a way of recording the places one has visited along the camino. I went to get it back at the albuergue and returned. He turned on the illuminating light and showed me the silver crucifix, about 18 inches in length, and then said I could follow him into the back room to see additional icons. There were several beautiful statues of various sizes, including one of San Isidro holding a shaft of real wheat. He kissed me on both cheeks and asked God to bless my camino.
We had a family style, lively dinner at Monjardin, where the albergue is run by a Dutch organization, and it was there that we met Ginette, Clare and Michel from Quebec. Ginette expressed her concern about having to sleep in a top bunk, with the added potential of falling, since she had a concussion a couple of years ago. I was happy to trade my lower bunk for her upper, and she offered to buy me a beer for my favor to her. Ginette has many, many travel stories and told me about being a cook for a group of geologists in Alaska.
The next morning we started out early. It was the chilliest morning yet, and I had on my jacket and hat. As we walked over some cracked pavement, I put my attention on some small obelisk-like stones, and suddenly I had fallen on my face. Lisa and a German fellow scraped me off the ground, and I was bleeding from my forehead and knees, but not seriously. I felt lucky not to have gotten a concussion, echoing Ginette's worry of the night before....After a few minutes of recovery we started onwards. The fall left a big scab trailing down my forehead, and I learned to keep my eyes on the road when it is irregular.
At 10 1/2 kilometers from Monjardin we stopped at Los Arcos to pick up some items for lunch, our typical routine. I picked up an apple from the display outside of the store and brought it inside for purchase. Little did I realize I had committed sin number one - Never Touch The Fruit In The Grocery Stores. As soon as I entered the store I saw the many signs, but it was too late, I was chastized. I explained that I saw no sign outside, but she must have repeated herself at least 3 times. Perhaps I mentioned that it was not the custom in my country and I did not know, but as I left the store, I was shaking my head from left to right, and happened to meet the eye of a pilgrim entering the store. She followed me out of the store then, and said You NEVER do that! That I was a bad person, and I agreed with her, and wished her a good day and life.
As I recovered, still daring to eat the apple of sin in front of the church, I thought I'd make an attempt to go to the post office to mail back to Madrid the extra items that I really didn't need with me on the trip, and that were weighing down my pack by a couple of extra pounds. A senora offered to show me the way to the post office, and I asked her if she knew the lady of the fruit store, and if so, to please give her my apologies. She said something to effect of, I don't talk to her because she charges more than anyone else in town. Aha! An explanation! But I noticed the tears forming at my eyes and the halt in my voice as I told the story to her. It had hurt. And...the post office closed before we could get there.
Back in front of the church with Lisa - she said "you've got to go in the church". Stepping in, I was awestruck with the gothic construction, ornamentation, murals on the ceiling, and gilded surfaces. A major restoration effort was going on in this town of 1300.
|The church at Los Arcos.|