Day 4: Pamplona (21km)

20191120_0717162538426155709725020.jpgWe were very comfortable in our room. A breeze from the window kept us cool in the heat and the beds were comfortable. You could smell the fragrant detergent on the clean bed linens. Too soon, my phone began to chime the wake up call, forcing us into action, and we began to get ready. I slipped out of the room and went to make us some coffee in the communal kitchen. Here, I met Max the German and offered him a coffee. The kitchen was thankfully stocked with clean cups. Max was busy boiling up some pasta in the microwave. He informed me that it was his breakfast and had also been his dinner. I looked dubiously at the swirling bowl of boiling starchy water and tumbling penne and suggested that maybe it wasn’t the most practical of breakfasts for a long day of walking. But what did I know? He laughed at my concerns and thanked me for the coffee. This German clearly had doing the Camino on a very tight budget down to a fine art form.

The sun shone warmly down on us and the day began pleasantly. Then the heat rose and we took breaks in the shade of trees and boulders while drinking liters of water infused with electrolytes. I realised that I would need to restock my supply of electrolytes before too long and was annoyed that I had not brought more with me. Wanting to cut down on weight, I had culled half of my supply.

20191120_0717018771692883721914733.jpgAs we walked we met a couple of geese pacing behind a fence. An elderly man stood in front of the fence, admiring their belligerence. He turned towards us, smiling hugely, and greeted us with a cheerful ‘buen camino’ and walking on down the road. The geese had the front yard of a house all to themselves and were making sure that all the passing pilgrims knew to leave their territory alone.

Walking, I was grateful for the Columbia desert shirt and UV umbrella that I had decided to bring. My grandfather was Dutch and the sun, as much as I prefer it to the UK winter, is not usually my friend. I had a large bottle of sunscreen within easy access and felt the weight was well worth the labour as I would often reapply it to my exposed legs, neck and face throughout the day. We could feel the heat sapping our resolve and realised that the next day was going to prove even tougher. The weather forecast predicted a huge elevation in temperature and health warnings had been issued. Jennifer and I were quite concerned and discussed strategies to survive it.

20191120_0717587138903405564159941.jpgWe walked into Pamplona just after midday, crossed a bridge and followed the signs to a Municipal albergue which was run by German volunteers. They ushered us into their office and gave us orange juice while taking our details and cash for the beds. They then showed us to one of the bunk rooms where we were able to choose our beds. After unpacking our bags, we took turns having showers and decided to have a nap before venturing out to explore the city. We were both geeking out over the fact that there were ancient city walls to explore.

Before beginning my pilgrimage, I had planned on keeping an online journal to keep my friends and family informed. But I had received more general encouragement and had decided to advertise my blog more widely. Unfortunately, I was finding it more difficult to keep my travel journal up to date than I had expected. The heat and walking was sapping all reserves and what time I had free was spent with Jennifer and exploring. I was still working out how to manage my time and energy. So, after washing some clothes, hanging them on the outside line and doing a bit of writing and uploading, I dozed for a bit before rousing myself, bored and ready to explore. First, we found our way to the old walls and excitedly walked on them. We took a break and sat under an umbrella of a cafe on the walls and drank cold wine from glasses that dripped with refreshing condensation. The heat was so intense, that you could feel it enter your lungs with every breath. We lapped in the coolness of the umbrella’s shade and the iced wine and lounged in the chairs for as long as we dared before once again braving the sun. We found the cathedral and explored its cloister. Venturing into a small chapel and seeing that no one was near, I sang ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’, a simple song that I often teach my young choirs. The room rang with the silvery acoustics and I felt such joy coursing through me as I sang in that dimly lit hall. Only Jennifer was present and I didn’t need to feel any sense of shame or embarrassment.

The Germans who ran the albergue had told us of a restaurant that offered their pilgrims a wonderful and affordable pilgrim’s meal, but we had lost the flyer. So, we returned to the albergue, was given the address again and used googlemaps to aid us in finding the restaurant. The meal was amazing! But they gave us a whole bottle of wine that we could not finish. Before leaving, I asked the waiter if he wouldn’t mind decanting the remaining wine into my water bottle. He hesitated before discretely doing as asked. I figured the wine may be something that we could enjoy the next day and leaving the rest seemed very disrespectful to the wine. Blasphemous almost.20191120_0718392984037292424460277.jpg

Exploring the streets some more, we found a sweet shop and stocked up on some snacks. We slowly wound our way back to the albergue and collected the clothes that we had washed and hung up to dry. A couple of women had joined our room by this time and we greeted them cheerfully if sleepily. One was Sabina, a German from the Black Forest. She was sitting on her bed, draining her blisters and told us that this was her sixth Camino and may be her last. She was asked to join the German volunteers and they all were for mass. Jennifer and I got ready for bed, but the heat was sticky and I was restless in the cloying humidity.

Next Chapter

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