TREKKING, DAY 4

Pamplona to Puente la Reina — 15 1/2 Miles

We awoke again with queazy stomachs — just not wanting to put anything in them. Dick felt good about his decision not to walk today. He was going to check into renting a car or taking the bus to our next destination. I took some stuff out of my backpack and gave it to him to carry so my load would be a little lighter. I love my backpack and didn’t want to be without it. I’ve rigged it so that my camera is attached to one side of the front strap and my water bottle is attached to the other side. When I want a drink it is right there at mouth level and I don’t have to stop to take a drink.

Dick said he would walk me to the start of the Camino route because I wasn’t sure of my way out of Old Town. It was very close but we still weren’t sure which way to go. We asked a policeman and he pointed the way, then Dick and I said goodbye. I started walking alone and was immediately lost. Two streets came together and I wasn’t sure which one to take and I didn’t see any Camino signs. So I turned around and there was the policeman — who had followed me — and again he pointed me in the right direction. It was then that I started to see the Camino signs — little clam shells embedded in the sidewalk every 20 feet. It was so reassuring to see them.

I walked through Pamplona and along beautiful tree lined parks, passing another young girl who was also walking the Camino. I called out “Buen Camino” and she answered with the same. Then I thought, “Gee, she is young and I’m walking faster than she is.” After about a mile I started getting worried. Where were the Camino signs? Why had they stopped? I looked everywhere and didn’t see any. Then a woman came by, looked at me and said, “Camino?” When I said “Si” this sweet lady told me I had to go back a block and turn left. Just then the young girl arrived and so did a fellow on a bicycle who I had run into several times on the Camino. I told both of them we were all going the wrong way. We all backtracked and were on the right track again.

The young girl, Kristina, and I started walking together again. Our strides were about the same and it was great walking with someone else. Kristina was from Italy and had just graduated with an engineering degree and was doing the Camino as a reward before starting work. We talked non-stop and were soon out of Pamplona and onto a real path instead of roads. The terrain started gradually going uphill and I was breathing hard at times and it was difficult to talk because I couldn’t breathe and talk at the same time. Kristina, on the other hand, had no trouble. Whereas I would have stopped to catch my breath I kept going to just keep up with Kristina. After about 7 miles I had had it. We were going more steeply uphill and I knew I had to stop. She, however was not even winded. I said my goodbyes and that I’d probably see her in another village.

I was finally able to stop for a minute or two to catch my breath and then the terrain went up to the top of the mountain. It was two more miles up. I passed a couple of little villages but walked right through them because I just wanted to get to the summit. Finally after 3 1/2 hours and 9 miles I was there. This was Alto del Perdon and placed at this summit were several huge metal sculptures of Pilgrims from the past. There were a bunch of other trekkers there who had stopped for a break. I stopped just long enough to snap a couple photos and was off again. For the first mile it was a dangerously steep downhill with large rocks and gravel that could easily slip out from under your feet. I made it O.K. without falling and then the terrain went gradually downhill with just a little uphill.

All day as I passed other trekkers I heard them talking about the blisters on their feet.  I was so thankful that to this point I had no blisters and my feet felt great.  Walking on I passed through several cute little villages but the problem was that they didn’t post signs saying their names. In one village I found a place to sit in the shade and finally stopped for a break. I still hadn’t eaten and wasn’t hungry but was trying to drink a lot of water. I checked my phone and had a text from Dick telling me he was catching a bus and where he had made reservations for the night. After this 15 minute break I got up to start walking again and all the muscles in my legs were killing me. This was always what happened when I sat down for a break. For me, it was better to remain standing and keep walking. I knew I should be getting close to Puente la Reina but had no idea where I really was. The path went into a central square in a village and I wasn’t sure I had walked out of it in the right direction. There were no Camino signs and I saw no other trekkers. Then I saw two women sitting at the side of the path and asked them if this was the Camino and they waved me on.

By this time I was getting really exhausted. I was using Map My Walk so I knew how many miles I had walked but wasn’t exactly sure how much farther I had to go. I was about ready to drop when the path abruptly came out of the woods and there right in front of me was the hotel that Dick had booked. I was so relieved. I checked in and found out I had beat him there. Once in the room I stripped off my smelly shirt and flopped down on the bed. Dick arrived a short time later and we both slept for the next couple of hours.

After showering, using that wonderful blow dryer in the bathroom and washing my clothes we went to the patio downstairs for a drink. There was a German man sitting next to us who told us many stories and also said how far he walked each day. What took me two days to walk, he did in one day. He had also walked from Frankfort, to France and then through Spain. This was his second time doing the Camino. I asked him why he did this and he almost got tears in his eyes and said it was a life changing experience. That walking it had completely changed him — gave him a new life and also a new meaning to life.  But then he was quick to say that each person has to walk the Camino alone, on his own time and at his own pace.  Well, that´s certainly what Dick and I were doing.
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DICK NO CAN DO

DAY 3

Zubiri to Pamplona — 21.5 kilometers

After going to bed at midnight and awakeningI at 7a.m. in our quaint little hostel in Zubiri, I found Dick sitting at the side of the bed. He had been awake since 3 a.m. I think  he was contemplating whether or not he should walk today with his sore feet. He decided he would give it the old college try and we would walk together. We went downstairs to check out and the receptionist convinced us to stay and eat breakfast. Neither of us was hungry but having a little coffee sounded good. We’ve both had queazy stomachs since the first day and eating just doesn’t sound good to either of us. The receptionist was so nice and kept up a lively conversation with us the whole time. Then she made reservations for us at a hotel in the Old Town section of Pamplona.

We began our walk on a bridge over a beautiful river with multiple waterfalls. The Camino path started alongside this river and went through wooded areas where we crossed over little streams and most of the time we were shaded by huge trees and again the path was dotted with colorful wild flowers. This was the most beautiful part of the walk yet — I think it was because we could hear the flowing river as we walked along.

But Dick was having a hard time. Whereas I wanted to keep walking, he needed to stop for frequent breaks because his feet hurt him so badly. It didn’t matter if we were going uphill, downhill or on a level path he needed to stop every few yards. We got to know quite a few people on the trail because we would pass them, then they would pass us when Dick took his breaks. And then I’d explain to them in Spanish that Dick was having problems with his feet.

The breaks were difficult for me because I knew we were headed for Pamplona and the walk was only 21.5 kilometers and we should have been making good time. The path wasn’t too difficult, some up, some down and some nice level spots. But it didn’t matter what it was, Dick needed more and more breaks and I didn’t want to leave him and walk on ahead. The breaks didn’t seem to alleviate the pain much but he’d also take breaks because his backpack hurt and he needed to get it off his shoulders for a few minutes of relief. It was surprising how many people we saw who carried day packs or hardly anything at all. They were having their backpacks shipped to their destination for the night by big vans that would deliver them. I think about half the people we saw did this. The other half carried full packs like we were doing.

Finally, after a very long day we were approaching Pamplona. It was funny because I didn’t know where we were so I asked Siri how far away I was from Pamplona and she actually answered and said we were one and a half miles away. And here I didn’t think she would be able to find us in Spain! Somehow we started walking with a young couple from the States who had flown over here to do the Camino for 4 days. Wow, all that trouble for 4 days. Anyway, the girl said she did research in human behavior, about why people do the things they do and what they do that brings on illness. She then said she was trying to analyze her own behavior in wanting to do the Camino and she felt that anyone who did it might be trying to punish themselves a little. We laughed about that and I agreed. Remember, this is a Pilgrimage of St. James and it has gone on since 900 AD. To me a Pilgrimage is a penance and a penance is a punishment. So are we all here to punish ourselves? I knew that punishment was certainly what Dick was getting right now.

Dick was hurting so much that he said he couldn’t go on one minute more. We were only about a half a mile from our hotel but he couldn’t make it. There were no taxis in sight so we saw an Albergue and had the person inside call a taxi for us. It arrived in 2 minutes and in 3 minutes more we were at our hotel, Hotel Europe, located in the heart of Old Town. It was now 4 p.m. and this whole walk had taken us 8 hours. We were dead tired but had to shower and wash our clothes and hang them to dry — something we did every night. Then we went to the central square of Pamplona and chose a cute sidewalk cafe for dinner. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast but again neither of us was hungry. The waiter suggested I order the fish because it was so good. He said it was cuddlefish, a mild white fish but when he brought it to the table it looked like an octopus with it’s arms and tentacles sticking out. Not very appetizing! It tasted o.k. but was rubbery and chewy so I only ate a few bites.

Back at the hotel Dick decided he couldn’t do this trek any longer but that he didn’t want to go home. He decided he would take a bus to our next stop tomorrow and meet me there. We never dreamed this would happen but now we’ll just have to go with the flow.

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