Zubiri to Pamplona to Puente La Reina

Written last night in Puente la Reina:

The road to Pamplona from Zubiri felt long, but mostly because of the relentless drizzle. In Larrasoaña we stopped for café con leche and muffins with chocolate centers. Yes, I have been drinking coffee. No, I still don’t like it. But we’ll see how I feel about it in Finisterra.

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The road from then on was mud and rain, dewdrops on blades of tall green grass, the clack of my walking stick and Lidia’s trekking poles. Many fotos del giorno, which may just be my Spanitalian transliteration of what I hear when they say “photo of the day” in Italian. Many cries of “tutti distruti” since we all have felt aches and pains everywhere since the first day.

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We were walking past a pasture with horses when one came up to the fence next to me, leaning her head out over the wire. Slowly I reached my gloved hand out towards her and gently settled it on her muzzle, petting a few times and talking softly to her in Spanish. I was a bit afraid she might bite, since horses have a reputation for startling easily. But she seemed very calm and welcoming of the attention.

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Eventually the sun paid us a visit, in time for us to enjoy a good view from a hilltop just before Sebastian caught up with us, with two more German men behind him. Many hours later we arrived, quite well beaten, in Pamplona. The walls and turrets of the entryway were much like those at the Castillo de San Marcos in Florida and the fort I visited in Cartagena with Daniela.

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It was late in the day, but luckily Chiara had reserved us beds at the albergue privado Casa Ibarrola, right at the entrance to town. The hospitalero César, bald and quick with jokes, gave us the tour of the facility. Compared to what we had in Zubiri it was like a spaceship. Each of us had sleeping pods with a privacy curtain, a locker, two power outlets, a light, and wifi everywhere, along with nice showers with plenty of hot water and a laundry machine and dryer. After the bare-bones albergue municipal in Zubiri it was a welcome change for tired souls.

We had beers nearby and were happily surprised when Sebastian walked in followed by our extended Camino Family and their new member, a friend of Merel’s and fellow Nederlander. We chatted a bit and then the girls and I went back to get the laundry from dryer.

Later we met with Adrián and his friends, all Spaniards. I first met him in Zubiri on the steps of the albergue, but I think Chiara and Lidia had met him already. We wandered the streets where they hold the Running of the Bulls, and stopped in for beers and group photos at a nearby bar.

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At dinner in Zubiri we had found ourselves next to two more Italians, and so I spent that dinner intensely focused but mostly confused. At the bar with Adrián’s group the shoe was on the other foot, except that the girls actually understand Spanish very well. Often better than me. After a while the girls and I left to explore Pamplona before stopping for pintxos and the most enormous bocadillos filled with tortilla de gambas de Huelva (Spanish tortilla, filled with shrimp that are presumably from Huelva).

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This morning we woke early and walked through the heart of the city in the morning light, until finally we left the urbanscape behind us and found ourselves on a path through rolling hills of grain and meadows. Spaniards ran with their dogs off-leash. One woman played fetch with hers. He leaped through the field, disappearing and reappearing with each bound above the plants. The sun shone bright and warm as we made our way to Alto de Perdón.

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The climb was at times steep and others gentle. At last we reached the iconic sculpture of pilgrims pressing on against the wind. We took photos, enjoyed a rest, and quickly made our way down the steep and rock-strewn path leading away from the mountain. We passed through several pueblos, each appearing deserted as it was siesta time.

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Finally we reached Puente La Reina, and now I’m sitting in the common area writing these words.

The experience so far has been more physically demanding than I expected. Pero vale la pena — it’s worth it. I don’t know that I’ve had some life-changing epiphany yet, but I am on an adventure. Walking down the path with nothing on my mind but the weather and the views and the sounds and the pain in my feet and the company of my friends. I’ve lost track of days and months, and I don’t much care. In Zubiri I dreamt for the first time since leaving, and again in Pamplona. Strange dreams about work and old flames and the Camino. I haven’t given them much thought yet.

Not sure what city we’ll stop in tomorrow. I’ll have to check the guide. Later tonight we may join the Spaniards for food and beer and a football (soccer) game on TV.

-Daniel

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