HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!!!
After four days of hiking we are currently in Puenta de Reina. We do not want to bore you with a day to day diatribe of our travels. Suffice it to say we have made millions of steps and gone up, up, up dozens and dozens of hills and mountains and down the other side. Instead, in the next couple of days we hope to give you a fairly clear understanding of what the Camino Trail is all about.
Day 1 – 27.1km done in 7 hours, 10 minutes – SJPdP to Roncesvalles
Day 2 – 21.5km done in 6 hours – to Zubiri
Day 3 – 25km done in 7 hours, 45 minutes – to Cizur Mayor
Day 4 – 20km done in 7 hours, 30 minutes– to Puente la Reina
Some days we are on the trail before the sun is up and most days we can see our breath as we start our day. Day one had a brutal start with about a 14km hill………..but surprisingly it didn’t do us in. Before long we were hiking in the clouds that shroud the Pyrenees and were hardly able to see the trail. The folks at the information centre in SJPdP had advised that it was going to be a long, steep hike but the view at the top was SOOO worth it. Well….maybe the 4 or 5 days a year when it is clear and we were certainly not hiking on those days. We couldn’t see our hand in front of our face!
Before long every single hiker was wearing all the warm clothing they had brought along, as the wind picked up and the fog swirled around – it was BLOODY FREEZING!!! Our lunch was a picnic behind a small brick wall in the middle of nowhere – just the wall with nothing else around. We were extremely thankful for that windbreak as we quickly downed our cuisine de jour before we seized up and weren’t able to move again!
The countryside was full of bell adorned cows, sheep and even horses that offered a melodic symphony to distract us from the grueling climb. Unfortunately these animals also “offered” their droppings all along the trail to provide further distraction and give cause to watch where you next stepped. With the visibility being what it was, however, it’s not like we were missing the view because of these little obstacles!
Our descent was through a lovely pine forest along a soft, leaf covered path. Most of the trail has been gravel – anything from course sand to large, softball sized loose rocks. We have gone through creek beds, along vineyards, past pastures, beside farmer’s fields, into forest trails, pretty much any and all rural landscape you can imagine. One of the highlights has been the many, many small villages the trail takes us through. These villages are so quaint, so clean, so picturesque that some of them seem to have just stepped off of a postcard. As we make our way through them often a local will wish us a “bueno Camino” as a friendly greeting and warm encouragement to continue our journey. Just a simple thing but it means soooo much to us as we invade their simple, quiet existence.
Another unexpected delight is the comradery that develops between “pilgrims” (as we are now known). As each day progresses pilgrims pass us and further down the trail we go by them and we continue this depending on when breaks are taken. Words of encouragement are given to those in need and bits of humour are exchanged at every opportunity and encounter. There are people here from all over the world – some will walk along joining us in conversation and others continue on the trail with just a smile. We all seem to have developed a kinship, even though with some we cannot even speak a common language. But when we see them at the end of the day all settled into for the night we are filled with warmth and joy for their success in reaching that day’s goal.
Each day provides highlights. One day we had just stopped for our usual picnic lunch and after resuming our hike we rounded the corner of yet another village and there was a patio bar that seemed to be calling Wayne and John’s names with the offer of an ice cold beer. What could they do????? An hour quickly passed as we sat in the wonderfully warm sun with no packs on and our feet, free from boots and shoes, feeling free and unrestrained. Even Donna joined in the frivolity and gave serious consideration to parking there for the next several hours………..maybe even days!!! That beer was GOOD!
About 8km before Pamplona the trail goes through what we expect are bedroom communities for the city. As a result we were walking through crowded city streets with traffic, crosswalks and noise. Gone were the peaceful, rural trails so we hurried through this portion and into Pamplona as fast as our feet could carry us. Once crossing the drawbridge into “Old Town” Pamplona our pace slowed substantially – it is an absolutely beautiful city. Our cameras came out and we tried to capture the essence of the city, the historical and narrow streets and the wonder of the old buildings so well preserved and presented. Add this to the list of places worthy of further exploration!
The hike leaving Pamplona was another long, long pull up and over a mountaintop. When we reached the summit there was a delightful artistic rendition of pilgrims walking the Camino. Most hikers stopped here to rest after the climb, enjoy the view over the valley below and have a bit of nourishment before starting the descent. This gathering spot was another opportunity to interact and share with fellow pilgrims and created a warm and inclusive atmosphere.
Our bodies are coping very well so far – our feet are very tired at the end of the day but are ready to go at the start of each new day. Our backs seem to be okay with the workload and the multiple trial runs of lightening our packs in Fayence seem to have paid off as they are manageable and not an issue at all (despite Donna’s anxieties!). During the first 3 days we encountered a small amount of drizzle and mist – enough to force us to don our raingear which immediately caused the rain to cease and desist. Our hike into Puente la Reina today was in full sun
Our spirits are high and although we have not found this to be “life changing”, as the literature promised, we are taking pleasure in each day and enjoying all that the Camino Trail is.