Wednesday, September 4 – Zubiri to Pamploma
Today’s weather was similarly spectacular, the heat similarly brutal, but the tree cover significantly diminished. I wondered often whether I might have heat stroke before the day was over. (Have I said that already?) But stopping for a coffee in Larrosoana, or a glass of juice with ICE and a plate of delicious tomatoes in Irotz, filling up my water bottles at a local fountain, seemed to help a bit for awhile. I knew I could go farther, perhaps all the way to my destination, so I continued to trudge. Bryson’s book completed yesterday, I began John Irving’s In One Person, a delightful coming of age book about a bisexual young man growing up in First Sister, Vermont. Surprisingly, the book listening keeps me going at a zen pace, breathing my Lamaze breaths, stopping for a sip of my water often, and trudging on.
I’m sure this will get easier. I will become more and more fit, and my thoughts ramble, even throughout the book dialogues. I am headed to Pamploma with the reward of two nights, not just one, sleeping in and resting my feet. I had imagined I would wander around checking out the historical sites, and wondered whether that would be the most important thing on my list. Hadn’t posted anything to this website since Saturday, and I wanted to catch up there as well. Writing on my Word doc is great, but getting good internet access AND having the energy to compose hadn’t quite come together yet. Pamplona would be my opportunity.
Again, it is about 4:00 p.m., eight hours after I began, and I look ahead across a road to see my completely exposed, steep, steep climb in the 90 degree sun. Again, I feel completely wiped out, but I must make it to Pamploma because my backpack has been delivered there.
Next to me is a park, a small one, with little kids and an older man visible. I cross the street and ask if they are going to Pamploma. The mother of the children is sitting in the shade, and I realize there are six people to fit in this little car of theirs. The young boy speaks a bit of English and asks where in Pamploma I want to go. I say I don’t care. He looks at the older man and tells him, “No importante.” A discussion ensues, and I try to say that I realize there would be no room for me anyway.
The boy then turns to me and explains, “My grandfather will take you, and then return for us.” I have heard over and over again about the kindness of the Spanish people toward the peregrinos, but this is almost too much. I ask whether I can pay and the boy says, ‘No. Free.” The grandfather is getting the car started, and I climb in. We make minimal conversation. My understanding of basic Spanish is not even passable, but I do get what he’s saying, and I respond with meager words and some gestures. I ask to be dropped off at Puenta Magdalena, at the edge of the Old City of Pamplona. He thinks I have a reservation at the hostel there, but I say no, so he drops me just outside the Medieval wall, and I thank him again and again for his kindness. Another stranger saves a live, I think, more than a bit dramatically.
I walk in through the Portal de Francia toward the Centro and the tourist information center, get a list of some very inexpensive hotels, as well as a map and the location of the local UPS office, and begin to walk around. On the Calle Nueva, a woman asks in English, “Are you okay?” and I say I’m just looking for a cheap place to sleep for two nights. She points me to a building just beyond and says she is staying there, 20Euro per night. More saved for a good dinner, she says, and asks if I’d like to join her later to eat. I hadn’t met her before, though she’s another Jill, and she is from Victoria, Australia. We arrange to meet, I greet the old woman who has the pension, pay her 40 Euro, receive my Camino stamp, and settle into my little monastic room. It has towels, a tiny double bed, a tall wardrobe, dresser with mirror, nightstand with plug, and three very clean and efficient toilet/sink/shower rooms. Heaven.
Again, I walk to the Municipal Hostel (114 beds in 2 rooms, but not tonight, no thank you!), pick up my larger backpack and return to the little pension. Freshly showered and with laundry hanging in my wardrobe to dry, I again walk to the center. I run into Benedicta, a Danish woman who stayed at the same Auberge Pelerin in SJPP as I did. She is leaving tomorrow, having done the Camino from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela two years ago, now completing from SJPP to Pamploma. If one lives in Europe, I can see the advantage of this. The two Irish groups I met were going from SJPP to Pamplona and then home, to return again next year for another week or so.
At the appointed time, I meet the OZ woman, Jill at Plaza del San Francisco. She has found a restaurant she wants to try . . . Michelin ****. I say I cannot spend 50-100Euro for a meal and she says that’s what it will be. “No pressure,” she adds. So we look at the menu at the restaurant inside Hotel Europa. Completely out of my league. I leave her and wander to Plaza del Castillo, where I hear my name. The three Canberra woman are beginning their Sangria sojourn before their own dinner reservation, so I sit with them and order a salad, ready to add another course – perhaps paella. But the salad is magnificent and enormous. Tuna, eggs, onions, olives, on top of a platter of greens. I’m in heaven. The Canberra women, Chrissy, Lizzy and Sheila, finally depart to meet their dinner reservation, and I’m quietly alone amid the hustle of the Plaza.
Then bed in my own little room, about the size of a convent cubicle, but all mine. Towels, even! And a bath and shower down the hall. No crowds. No 110 people. Just me. I can hear guests getting to the other eight rooms on this level. I sleep on and off until 10:45 the next morning.
Today’s walk – 22.1 km. minus the grandfather’s kindness. The total kilometers again don’t reflect the heat or the terrain, but who’s counting!