[Friday, June 20th]
Got up 7 am. Almost packed 7:50. Leave albergue 8:00. Mass 8:30 then cafe for breakfast.
We got crossed wires about Mass, because there was no Mass at 8:30. So we looked for cafes but none were open yet. So we hiked through town to the albergue Santiago Apostol. Turns out it is on top of a 100+ foot hill. (!!) If I had just hiked in from Pamplona I would probably have turned around and gone to one of the other two albergues. Anyway we arrived about 9:00 but they did not open until 12:00 noon.
Gail and Rosa stayed with our packs as the rest of us hiked back into town to get breakfast and then food for lunch. We got back to the albergue about 10:30 am. They opened early at 11:15 and we moved into our room.
We are resting now waiting for the pool to open, which is supposed to be at 1:00 pm.
Stork nest on church steeple:
Hey all! Last you heard was that we were in Valcarlos and intended to go to Roncesvalles the next day. That was a while ago. We have walked, by calculations, about 90 km [about 55 miles]. We walked 12km [about 7 miles] the first and second days, 22 [about 13] the third day from Roncesvalles to Zubiri… Then to Trinidad de Arre, then to Cizur Menor on the outskirts of Pamplona, and we are currently in Puerte de la Reina.
Since then, many blisters have come up on the feet and some have healed, but most haven´t yet. Today is a rest day. Muscles are sore, Rosa was unable to walk with us and others are near collapse. We chose to spend an extra night in Puente de la Reina and since pilgrims are not allowed to stay in the same albergue two nights, we chose another albergue with a pool and have been swimming and soaking our feet to relax the muscles and taking long siestas in the hope of recovering our strength to be able to walk further. The albergues are really nice: more than lukewarm water for showers, places to wash and dry clothes by hand (the Spanish heat takes care of the second part very nicely), and relatively comfortable beds unless you happen to get one that caves in in the middle of the mattress from excessive use. The downside is [that] the top bunks (which I usually sleep on) don’t have guardrails. I rolled off the topbunk last night, to find myself on my hands and knees six feet below where I should be, on the hard tile floor at 2 a.m.
Being a big enough group, most of the time we get a room or a corner to ourselves, but sometimes we get grumpy neighbors who don’t like noise. We haven’t really gotten in a really bad albergue yet. Nobody has gotten any bedbugs or anything like that. One might think that, since we are in Spain, we would be meeting a lot of foreigners, but no. We keep running in to Americans! In our albergue last night out of 20 or so pilgrims, only a handful weren’t from the U.S. It is so annoying at times. I know that I want to speak French with people and Kelsey and Becca want to speak Spanish but too many people know English and are not always patient as we attempt to articulate ourselves in their language.
Walking has been a great way to get time to think and pray. We have enjoyed talking to people in the albergues about our experiences of the day´s hike, or just sleeping. Everyone on the trail looks out for each other… Kelsey stopped one day to wait for the rest of the group and took off her boots to let her feet dry and 3 different people stopped and asked if everything was alright.
Our biggest struggle has been to be compatible with Spanish culture. They take a siesta from about 2 [p.m.] — [to] basically an undefined time –somewhere around 7-7:30 [p.m.-]ish, during which EVERYTHING closes down. Don´t try to get anything [done like] shopping/eating at restaraunts; during siesta time, nothing is open.
For pilgrims, the traditional Spanish breakfast of cafe con leche y pan [coffee with milk and bread] is insufficient to keep energy going. Arriving at the town at 2 or 3 [p.m.] means no food is available, so we have been eating lots of cold cut ham and blocks of cheese because that’s what’s available and can be carried without refrigeration or cooking. We are completely sick of this kind of food! The only relief we get from this food style is in the Pilgrim meals where they serve you tons of food (usually throughout multiple courses). The dinners are usually really good and are relatively cheap. We got a 5 course meal for 12 euros in Zubiri. It was so good! It was well worth the money and makes up for the calories that weren’t consumed previously during the day.
We attempt to go to Mass every day (some towns don’t have it or we missed the time), but a lot of times, the times of Mass and the times of restaurants being open for dinner and the time of our hopeful bedtime don’t line up, due to the Spanish siesta. Generally, no restaurants are open before 7:30 p.m. and generally Mass is at 7 or 8 p.m. We like to get to bed early so that we can wake up around 5:30 a.m. so that we can get out on the trail and get a lot of hiking done before the heat of the day. Another big issue is the fact that no windows have screens on them; they either let all the bugs in with the breeze or are closed.
The top of Alto de Perdon was AMAZING! We had a great view of the valley to either side of us despite the fact that the bugs up there were practically trying to eat us. While up there, we got pictures of Kelsey on Becca´s back, pointing her trekking pole at one of the many windmills while singing music from Man of La Mancha. The scenery has been beautiful and varied, though sometimes we don’t get enough time to look at it as we focus on not dying as we slide down the dry shale riverbed or rocky, dusty path that is the Camino. Most of the locals we have met are very friendly and willing to speak Spanish (or only speak Spanish) so Becca and Kelsey get enough practice.
We have enjoyed marveling at the 80-year-old women who walk the Camino like it´s nothing while we struggle along. The huge plus is that it’s not a race. No one cares where you came from, how early you left, how far you’re going, etc. What matters is that you made it to the albergue. A wave out here from a local farmer is more than saying hello, it is a sign of respect and admiration, both of which we have felt very often from people who run the albergues and from the other peregrinos.
One of the best parts of the day is arriving at the albergue and getting that stamp with the name of the albergue and the date. Our credenciales are starting to look impressive with all the stamps we are getting. And taking a shower, taking off the backpack and boots. And getting to explore the towns we are in. Trinidad de Arre was by far our favorite albergue. It was an old hospital, and we stayed in what we thought was a converted convent. It had its own chapel and a courtyard with a garden that was its own little paradise. The most amazing part to us is that so many of these spots are only accessible to peregrinos and we are lucky enough to be able to see them. And everything looked more beautiful after an 18 or 22km [11-13 mile] hike. And the food tastes better, too. We got to stay at an albergue run by the Knights of Malta, which was a history lesson in and of itself. Many albergues are old buildings with interesting architectural designs, even if they are sometimes cold at night. So far, no rain, and the weather has held out well as we have hiked. Now that we have gotten further from the Pyrenees, the heat has increased and pilgrims are more spread out on the trail, which is nice because otherwise it gets too cramped on the trail.
More later…say some prayers for our feet and muscles,
Los siete peregrinos,
Becca, Kelsey, Jill, Gail, Rosa, Tom and Garin