Day 4 – Larrasoaña to Pamplona

Posted from Pamplona, Navarre, Spain.

Last nights room consisted of 7 bunks and 14 people. None the less it was the best sleep yet. But at 5:30 the stirring started. I refused to get started in the dark so I stayed in bed as more people got going. The albergue required we be out by 7:30 so I eventually got started, had a cup of machine coffee loads the pack and started, one of the last. It was just starting to be light. I took a picture of the place as I left.

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The morning was cool and very quiet. I left the small village and the trail went along a small stream.

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After about 3km I arrived at a small cafe by the stream. I had a coffee con leches and a tortilla (scrambled eggs on delicious bread). I continued on as the terrain continued to change. Forest to rolling hills. I passed through several cute old villages.

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Slowly I approached the out skirts of Pamplona. I’d been walking alone but as I approached town I caught up to a group of three. I walked with the for awhile. The daughter was about 50 from Bellingham and she was with two elderly men, one her father about 75. He was a farmer in the Okanagan Valley of BC. He had raised apples and other produce. He was very knowledgable about the wine industry that has grown very fast there. Eventually they stopped to buy a SIM card. We were now firmly in the suburbs.

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I then walked the rest of the way into town with an Irishman that was a retired principal. As we approached town we came to a nice park so I stopped and say by the river. It was about 11:00. At noon I walked in to the old city and stopped at the first private alburge, one I had read about. I was greeted by Ceasar and very enthusiastic Spanish man. He helped check in to a very clean modern place. It reminded me of hotels I’ve heard about in Japan that are very small bed rooms.

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There was storage for our stuff but we had to put our packs downstairs.

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I did the routine, the facilities were great, I even splurged and used the washer dryer for 6 euro. I rested, I read, I napped. Very nice. Later I walked around old Pamplona. It was a very European old city. Cathedral, squares, shops, cafes and bars. I ran into one of the Irishman from last night and a woman I met the first day. I sat with her (ate her French fries) and talked about which pilgrims we’d seen. Later I stopped for tapas and wine before heading back to the Albergue. I had great wifi so I face timed with Carolyn, mother and Kathleen. I don’t have to leave until 9 tomorrow and breakfast is provided. I’m seeing a slow start to my day.

Walk 15.8km
Steps 37357

Day 3 – Roncesvalles – Larrasoaña

Posted from Larrasoaña, Navarre, Spain.

First a feature of my blog is located in the menu item titled About. If from time to time you look at the About menu you will see a map of my progress. It appears to work best if you click on “map” to turn off the satellite view. It also seems to work best on a computer.

Last night the lights were switched off at a 10 and quiet fell over the albergue. At 6:00 the lights came on and the place came alive. The sun doesn’t rise until 7:45 so what to do? I could think of nothing but walking. So I put on my headlamp and started down the path…in the dark…without breakfast. After 45 minutes I came to Burguete and found a bar (cafe) open. As the sun rose I had the most wonderful tart of cheese, sausage and potatoes along with two coffee con leches. Delicious. Today’s walk was through a variety of landscapes. Pastures, rolling hills, small villages, scraggly under growth, old forest and pine forest. Today was a long walk and I passed the preferred stop to go on 5km to get closer to Pamplona for a shorter day tomorrow.

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I arrived in Larrasoaña, a very small Spanish village, and checked into the municipal Albergue. For comparison last night was the Four Seasons, tonight the place that was a Motel 6 thirty years ago. But it was a whole new group of people. As I waited in line this older Irish gentleman kept asking what the manager was saying. I had no idea, she was speaking Spanish.
I started my routine and when finished. Walked down to get some bananas for tomorrow. On my way back one of the women from Holland I knew waved from the patio outside the only bar. She was with the Irish guy I’d met (and that was in the bunk above mine). I stopped for a beer. Soon two other Irish guys joined us and the Holland lady left. The Irish guys were a riot. They had an amazing knowledge of American TV, movies and 80’s/90’s music. They were interested in US affairs and had a great time with all things Texan. (JR and Dallas). They kept going to buy pints of beer and would bringing me a small glass of beer. They said they were protecting me from the Irish way… No complaints from me. We finally went to the pilgrims dinner and I had wine, garlic soup, beef stew and ice cream. Afterwards after one more glass of wine I headed back to the albergue to find a interesting sing along from the albergue crowd underway. It sounds goofy but was really fun to watch. I have some video.

Today was a long walk, my upper thighs were tired. Tomorrow will be shorter.

Walk 27 km
Steps 42447
Elevation up and down.

Day 2 – Orisson to Roncesvalles

Posted from Roncesvalles, Navarre, Spain.

I’ll start by explaining something I got several comments about and that was the short nature of yesterday’s walk. There are many books that outline the route and suggested stages for the camino. Each is slightly different. The one used by many English speaking pilgrims outlines 33 stages. The first stage is considered the hardest of all. 25km with a 1500m climb and a steep decent with very few intermediate facilities. After a 20 hour trip to get here it can be grueling. Orisson (where I stayed) is one of the alternate stops but it is small and usually fills with reservations. So I chose this as my first night (reserving in advance …the last reservation I have). Great decision because it was a beautiful location and the communal meal was very nice.

Also I have gone back and posted some additional pictures from yesterday since I had very poor reception at Orisson.

Last night I slept well until about 1:00 then woke up. It was very hot in the room and after awhile I put on my jacket and went outside. Above I could see the Milky Way very clearly and off in the distance I could see huge thunderclouds with a great lightening show. I went back to bed and was able to get back to sleep. This morning after a light breakfast I set off at 8:00 as the sun came up. Today I was toward the back of the departures.

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The road headed up climbing toward the top of the Pyrenees.

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Eventually the path headed up a steep trail. I passed sheep, horses and cows along the trail.

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Finally I reached the top and started back down. The terrain changed from open countryside to forests. The trail got progressively steeper working a new set of muscles.

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Finally I broke out in Roncesvalles my destination for the day. It is an old Monastery that has housed pilgrims for centuries. They have added a new wing in recent years.

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This albergue is different from the private ones of the last two nights. This is a community albergue and is very large. There are 3 floors with 70 bunks each. So there are lots of new faces and lots of people. It is actually nice with cubicles of 4 beds each. I’m on top bunk tonight, so far my dismount has not been pretty.

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Tonight I went looking for a glass of wine and came upon a mother/ daughter from BC Canada. I invited myself to have a seat (the mother was a hoot….loud, funny and a great story teller. They had been at Orrison and slowly a group of others joined. They were all going to the Pilgrims dinner (dinner/ breakfast isn’t included at community albergue) at the place we were at so I joined up. It started with so, so pasta (containing a some good chorizo sausage), followed by a very good whole trout and fries, with yogurt for desert and of course wine. I talked to a really cool retired teacher from Oregon. She had just retired 1 year ago. She immediately came to Europe for the first time and has been traveling ever since. She was 67 and was really fascinating. Afterward I went “home” to make my bed and organize my stuff before people started going to bed (it was 8:15). Sure enough while I was there the Irish couple that were across from me came back and went to bed (I anticipate they’ll be early risers). I’ve now at one of the two bars for one more glass of wine and to finish writing. So far my shoes are great. (No blisters), the pack feels good (though I could feel its weight in my knees going downhill) and I haven’t lost anything (I don’t think). I’m off tomorrow with no specific plans.

Walk 17km
Elevation change 600m up/600 m down
Steps 33844

Day 1 – St. Jean to Orisson

Posted from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.

Last night as dinner ended big storms blew through with lightening and wind. However, this morning was cool with mostly clear skies. I slept pretty well. Laszlo and Gabor started moving about at 6:30 so I decided to get up. There was a small breakfast downstairs of cereal, bread, jam and coffee. I messed with my stuff awhile and decided to get underway. I was the first one out of the albergue at 8:00 (slow group I guess). As I looked down the street I could see a few pilgrims headed out of town.

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And so I started to walk. It was mostly uphill but I just took it slow and steady. I’d exchange greetings as I passed others or more often they past me. The terrain slowly opened up as the elevation rose.

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My journey today was short and before long I saw a sign saying 30 minutes to Orisson, it was only 9:45!! So I found a shady spot and ate part of the lunch sandwich I had bought at the alburge. It was scrambled eggs, onions, peppers on french bread. Fabulous, and the views were amazing.

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After awhile I continued on and arrived at Orisson at 10:45. Check in wasn’t until 12:30 so I sat and watched the pilgrims arrive and move on (most aren’t staying here) and talked with Deanna from Holland. At 12:30 I checked in and started what I think is the daily ritual. Make my bed, try and arrange my stuff, take a shower (we only get one 5 minute shower), wash my clothes in the sink, hang them on the line to dry and try to take a nap. Tonight I’m in a room with 3 bunk beds, me and 5 women (2 US, 2 French, 1 From Holland). Now it’s 3:30!! I walked back down the road to a great view point and read and plan for tomorrow. At 5:00 I went back and had a beer on the patio and talked with a couple from Florida until dinner. Dinner was another group event for everyone staying at the Albergue (about 30 people). We had soup, pork, white beans, bread, and lots of wine. It was much better than I make it sound. I sat by an interesting woman from Singapore. She was originally from England but had been there for 35 year.

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Afterward I walked back down to a view back out of the mountains. I could see lightening off in the distance. It’s been a great first day of walking.

Walk 8 km
Elevation change 800 meters
15939 steps (total not just the walk)

St. Jean Pied de Port (foot of the hills)

Posted from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.

I slept a great 8 hours. I got up once to wander out to the bathroom in the hall and could hear a super loud snorer. Once back in my room I could still hear him, I think that is what the albergues will be like but they’ll be in the same room.
I wandered around Bayonne in the morning ( a cute French town) before heading to the train station. While sitting on the platform waiting a young woman sat next to me. She was reading a camino guide. I asked her when she was starting to walk and she said today. My first camino conversation!! Her name is Mariel and she is a British doctor ( a GP ). She had blocked 6 weeks out of her dairy (calendar) to do the camino. She is very well traveled. We road the train together to St. Jean then sat in the park and had sandwiches. She said she had been trying to get her application in order so she could go to Australia to practice but the process was so cumbersome that she switched to South Africa and was headed there in a few months. It reminders of what John had said about trying to get licensed in Australia. After lunch she headed off to start the camino, I stayed behind resting since I can’t check into my albergue until 3:00. We parted with a Buen Camino. I walked along the ramparts of the old city with great views into the Pyrenees where I will walk tomorrow.

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I went to my albergue to get checked in. It’s a small place for 20 I’m in a room with two Hungarians, Laszlo and Gabor.

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In the evening all 20 people gathered for a dinner/welcome. After introductions and an aperitif We had an excellent dinner of white bean soup, salad, boiled eggs, stuffed tomatoes and rice with wine and dessert. It was lots of fun. There were people from France, USA, South Africa, Singapore, Holland and Hungry.

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In the morning I walk!!

Travel Day

Well the day of travel went well it was just long. I had an airplane seat with much leg room and I practiced being conversational by taking to the woman next to me (something I don’t usually do). She was in her 60s, retired from JC Penny and traveling with her husband whom she didn’t want to sit with (curious). They were on the way to Burgundy to bicycle through the vineyards for 10 days. Sounded fun (though potentially dangerous).
After landing I took a train into Paris and enjoy a beautiful Paris day with lunch In a nearby park I knew about. At noon all the office workers came out into the park to enjoy the sun. Sind even stripped to their underwear for sunbathing. That’s something you don’t see at home.
I then boarded a train for a rather long, 5 hour train trip to Bayonne. I arrived about 8 and walked across the street to my hotel.

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I checked into my teeny tiny room and took a shower (it was upstairs not in the room).

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I then headed out on the town. Okay in reality it is a rather small town and pretty quiet. I walked a bit then went for my dinner. The waiter had no English so I ordered from the menu board the item that had the most words I recognized (Assietta Gaiska). It worked I had a delicious dinner of steak, with sautéed tomatoes and onions, a fried egg, salad and fries.

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I was surprised today that I didn’t see any other peregrino (pilgrims). Bayonne is the town where you catch the train to St. Jean the start of the camino. Maybe I don’t know what a peregrino looks like.
I’m pretty tired so I’m hoping for a good nights sleep.

Basic Camino information

Here is a file that contains the route of the Camino de Santiago that I will be following.  This is a Google Earth file so you must have Google Earth on an iPad or computer to use it.

Camino Frances Yellow

 

Here is a link to a preview of an upcoming documentary on the Camino.  http://caminodocumentary.org

The movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen takes place on and is about the Camino, the movie is on Netflix streaming.

If you are really a glutton for punishment you can read Camino forums at the following website:  https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/

Time to go

Well departure day has arrived (oh my), this morning I laid everything out, looked for stuff to eject then made the final pack.  Here is my pack list:

Packing List
2 short sleeve shirts
1 long sleeve shirt
1 merino wool pullover
2 pants/zip off shorts (thanks to Kathleen for pointing out my omission)
4 socks
3 underwear
1 light jacket
1 rain jacket
1 pair of walking shoes
1 pair of lightweight shoes for evenings
1 sun hat
1 baseball hat
1 bandana

sleeping bag – rated to 50 degrees
bottom fitted sheet
pillow case
silk sleeping bag liner

6 clothes pins
6 safety pins
velcro straps
plastic spoon (I decided against a fork)

ear plugs
bandaids
razor
misc pills

toiletries
camping towel
headlight
iphone
earbuds
charger
2 reading glasses
watch
guidebook
draw string day pack

passport
credencial (pilgrims passport)

When I get to France I’ll buy:
small knife with corkscrew
1 walking stick
water bottle

TOTAL – 19 pounds

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Green bag has one change of clothes, orange bag has sleeping stuff, blue bag has “extra” clothes.

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Bon Voyage party

In anticipation of my departure to Spain the family had a Spanish themed party. Phillip made his best paella on the grill ever and I made sangria.

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And for entertainment I gave a fashion show of my pack (Sadie kept photo bombing the event).

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