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Sunday, September 4, 2011

When I got to Pamplona one of the first things I did was insert the Spanish Blackberry data SIM card into my cell phone so that I could start connecting to the internet and send email confirmations to some of the accommodation booked ahead.  At first it didn´t work but a visit to the Vodaphone office where a very nice young man went online soon had me re-registered with Blackberry online.
I´d met Bell in Johannesburg so we travelled to Madrid and Pamplona together.  Tricia was already at the Pension Sarasate when we arrived.  At 3:40 I met Alan at the bus station and showed him back to the Pension.  Judith arrived at 18h26 from Madrid - and so we were five. 
We had a lovely dinner at the same Italian restaurant where the amaWalkers June group had eaten.  The next day we walked around Pamplona, visited the Cathedral and museum, the bull ring area and had a picnic lunch in the park.  At 2pm Caroline collected us from the bus station to take us to St Jean.
The Gite Compostelle is right on the Camino route so we didn´t have too far to walk to the start the next day. (It isn't the Ritz but at 15 euro pp in a double room it is good value for money and beats staying in a tent at Orisson.) Christine arrived at around 4h30pm and I went up to the Accuiel St Jacques (pilgrim Office) to wait for Brian who was supposed to arrive at 7:30pm.  After waiting for over an hour I sent a message to his Mom who replied that he had arrived at the airport in France (Biarritz) but his backpack had not,.  He was told that it would come the next day so he planned to sleep in the aiport and travel to St Jean the next day.  The airport closed at 9pm and they chased him out so he had to find a hotel which charged him 75 euro for a small room. We went to dinner at Pascal´s, a local Basque restaurant, with Tim Proctor from St Jean.  
 The next morning we started our walk up the hill to Orisson, about 8km from St Jean. It was a baptism of fire! Straight up from the first step. For those in Durban, it is like the Alverstone hill with no let up for over 20km - up, up, up from 200m to an eventual 1440m in 25km.  It was a gorgeous day but very hot and Christine soon struggled in the humidity so on the approach to Hunnto I put out my thumb and a very nice young man took pity on us and took us up to Orisson (about 3km further on).
   We had a couple of cold cokes there and watched vultures soaring below us!  Caroline arrived at 1:45 and toom us back to St Jean and the Gite.
After many sms messages between me and Brian´s mother I learned that he was on a bus to St Jean even though his backack had still not arrived.  I met him at the Pilgrim´s Office and got his credencial.  Then I took him to Boutique Pelerin to buy him a pair of shorts, a shirt, socks and underpants.  I´d left my sticks in Pamplona so I bought two wooden sticks and Brian bought a telescopic pole.  He was starving so we sat at a sidewalk cafe and he ate a large baggette with ham and cheese.
We bought a four course take-away meal at a little place across the road, set the table in the ´salon´in the Gite and had dinner in. I used the opportunity to do the ´breaking  the ice´ ceremony where everyone had a chance to tell us their name, what they liked to be called, when they had first heard about the Camino and what they expected from it.  It was a great evening and everyone shared a little more about their lives, their reasons for walking el Camino and what they hoped to get of it.
By late afternoon there was a typical mountain storm with heavy rain and thunder.  The rain drummed down and it looked as though we were in for a wet walk the next day.  In the morning it was still raining so we all donned our rain coats (Bell gave Brian a rain jacket as she had bought an ALTUS) and Caroline fetched us at 8am to take us back up to Orisson. For other pilgrims out there I would recommend doing it this way.  You can book a bed in a dorm in Orrisson, or sleep in a tent but it was great to have a good night sleep and a hot shower before starting off the next day on the longest part of the trail.
We started out in drizzle and thick mist.  Compared with the day before we couldn´t see the views, excepting for the occaisonal glimpse of deep gorges and high mountains whenever the mist cleared a little.  The first 12km or so are on a narrow tarred road.
The pilgrims looked like druids trudging up the hill in their black ponchos with hoods and click-clickety- sticks tapping on the road.  There were herd of sheep grazing on the mountain pastures, white cows and higher up horses and ponies.  Once you pass the turn to Arneguy the arrows direct you off the road onto a grassy path which soon becomes a narrow stony track. I was grateful for the mist as I couldn´t see the sheer drop down on the right side of the path.  About 3.5km from Roncesvalles one has a choice of continuing straight down the mountasinside into a Beech forest or taking a left onto a road to the Ibaneta Pass and Roncesvalles.   

The Pilgrim´s office had advised against using the forest road as it was very muddy and slippery.  I was walking with Judith at that time and we asked a group of pilgrims whether this was the crossroad where we had a choice of routes. ´´No, replied an Irish pilgrim.  You take this path for 2km and then take a right or left.´ So down we went.  It was almost vertical.  A narrow sandy, sometimes rocky, path through the largest remaining Beech forest in Europe.  Down, down, down all the way to Roncesvalles.  Hard on the quads, on the shins and on the toes!
When I reached Roncesvalles I went to look for the others but could´nt find them so I went back up the path to leave a message for Judith letting her know that I was going on to Burguete.  What a pleasure the 2.5km walk through the forest was to Burguete. Flat, flat and shady all the way.  The others had already checked in. The lady of the house offered to drive us to Roncesvalles for the 7pm mass.  When we got there we met up with Christine and Judith who had stayed in Roncesvalles to wait for the mass.
Judith wasn´t feeling too well so I rang for a taxi to take us back to Burguete where we had a lovely meal cooked and served by the Pension owners - 11 euro for a three course meal.  The Pension Pedroarena (pronounced Pedro Arena) is a lovely place, spotlessly clean, comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms for 40 euro a double room and 35 for a single.  I recommend it to anyone wanting to stay in Burguete. This morning we had breakfast the at the Pension (3.50 euro) before setting off for Zubiri.  It was a lovely walk.  First through shady forest with plump blackberries on the brambles alongside the road.  Then higher up through oak and Beech and then on rocky paths down to a few streams and rivers. I walked mostly with Tricia and Alan and when we arrived in Zubiri at 2pm we found Bell and Brian waiting for us on the bridge. When we walked into the village we saw Judith who showed us where the Pension Amets is.  Perfectly situated close to the bridge.  Spotlessly clean, comfortable rooms but not with en suite bathrooms. However, there are bathrooms on the lower and first floor, a place to hang washing and a gate through the garden to the river below.
I am now on an Internet machine in a noisy pub not far from our room. We will have dinner at the Pallo de Avelano albergue this evening and hopefully, Brian´s pack will arrive from Biarritz.  All is well with the amaWalkers - looking forward to tomorrow´s shorter walk into Pamplona.



Anonymous said...

Hello All
So pleased to hear that the first 2 days have gone 'well' by the sound of things. Your routine already getting settled, and again, Sylvia's remarkable planning ability coming to the fore. It also sounds like the acccommodation is working out well, with the owners going the extra mile to assist and support you. Enjoy the walk into Pamplona. As I sit at my office computer I'm imagining the walk to Pamplona in my minds eye. It was the best!, but just remember like I told Rayna - it isn't over till its over .. as I seem to remember that it was further than we thought from Zubiri, and the last bit into Pamplona went on and on and on.
Actually wishing I was there with you. I did a 21.1 km race yesterday Sylvia, and can't believe how 'unfit' I felt while doing it. I'm a little buggered today - the slow walking, even with a backpack, is so much nicer. I never felt like this on any of the days while in Spain.
Good walking - enjoy the lovely meals and the hospitality of your hosts. Lots of love

Anonymous said...

Am missing new blog posts! WHERE are you all? how are you doing? what is the weather like? how are you experiencing the terrain? Has the errant backpack arrived yet? All these questions!! Hoping that somebody will find a gap to post a message so that your followers know what you up to.

Linda said...

Yes,me too Kathy. Syl's been very slack this trip. Hope to get some more news soon.