FIRST NOTE: Thank you all so much for your comments on these posts. I DO read them, but can’t reply to most of them, so mea culpa. But I feel your warmth and interest with me.
Well, it’s not a short summary, but it will catch me up, at least for the most part. Any insights will have to wait if they’re not here already. Getting it down is the goal at the moment. Scribbling in my journal (thanks again, Libby) and doing voice memos to myself as I walk . . . those will help pick up some pieces later!
Thursday, September 5, 2013 My day in Pamploma
One important thing I want to do on this day “off” is send some things home, to lighten just a bit this albatross I carry around or ship ahead. I awake on and off during the early morning, listening to other pilgrims leave for their daily trek, and doze until 10:30 a.m., a complete luxury. After a refreshing shower with absolutely no waiting line, I dress and pack up my sleeping bag, the larger Canon camera I insisted on bringing, and my trail-running shoes, which weren’t serving me as well on the Camino as they had in Australia’s outback, rainforest, and ocean shoreline. Ah, well.
Arms full, I search for a taxi stand just outside the medieval walls, and direct the driver to Mailboxes, etc., where I ship and insure my goods. An expensive overextension of my packing, but who knew? The FedEx box will arrive in Fort Collins in less than a week, though I would have preferred to pay for a slow boat, but this is not an option here. I could have sent the box by Spanish Correos (Post office), and it might never get home. So 95 Euro for shipping and good insurance, with a tracking number! What a great idea . . .
I wander the streets at a leisurely pace to get back to the old city, try for an internet that has a plug, a farce, I find. A story to be told at some point when everything else is REALLY boring.
Finally, since most of the plazas have free wifi for tourists, I head toward the Plaza de Castillo and a Sangria at Hotel/Café Iruna, Hemingway’s old hangout. And I try to post. The camera is giving me problems. Won’t take the photos into iPhoto, and it’s apparently iPhoto’s problem. (Eventually I will reset this, but it will not be the last of my electronic issues. Maybe it’s the Camino’s way of telling me something . . . )
I’ve been told in my reading, as well as by a sign just over my left shoulder, to go into the side bar of this hotel, where Papa Hemingway still stands, leaning against the massive slab of wood, turned in greeting toward anyone who enters. I already know this statue will be posed at the bar, but it is eerie to enter and see him, half turned toward me, asking, “Well, what took you so long?”
The rest of the evening is uneventful. I sit at an outdoor restaurant table, watching the crowds enjoy some live local music in the center of Plaza. A fellow North American peregrino, Joan from British Columbia, asks whether I might join her for dinner and I do. The three course menu advertised on the restaurant’s chalk board is apparently only for lunch, so I would walk away, but for my temporary companion. So we have what I consider to be a mediocre and overpriced dinner, followed by a much more rewarding conversation with Neil from a Call Center. Six cents per minute. A cheap date, especially since my Bright Roam/Movistar sim card still doesn’t work, and I can get no response from Bright Roam. Very disappointing, since I have had good experiences with them in the past. But no more.
I walk back to my little Pension’s convent style room and organize myself for the morning’s walk out of Pamploma.
I say I am determined that I will be carrying this pack myself from now on, but for the trek to O’Cebreiro in Stage 26 (of 33) much later on. Well, I will learn that whatever I’m determined to do . . . sometimes becomes instead very different from my plan. But I am doing one thing I did determine to do. I walk.
The trek continues . . .
Friday, September 6, 2013 Pamploma to Uterga . . . oops, to Obanos
Another beautiful day, with an absolutely hellish (and unexpected) up and downhill topography. The Alto del Perdon (Hill of Forgiveness and boy, I have no idea what sin I committed that got me this punishment!) is the top of a mountain with a long iron-scape of pilgrims walking and on horseback. If you saw the movie, The Way, you will remember it as the place where Yost asked Sara if he might look like one of these iron cut-outs when he finishes the walk.
Well, just know that the cast and crew did NOT walk up and down from Pamploma or Cizur Menor to get to that magnificent ironscape with the windmills in the background. They drove up, I’m sure, just as did the man who was selling juice and water out of his cooler across the road from the scape. I thought the Pyrenees stage was tough!
Rather than go all the way to Puenta La Reina as John Brierly (have I said he seems to be the guru author of an excellent guidebook to the Camino?) lays out, I decide to go to Obanos . . . and then retract that after I plunge down the trail after the Forgiveness peak. I settle on Uterga, the next town DOWN (another (!) in Brierly’s book) the mountain. However, when I get there, I discover that the only albergue is full and the senorita unsympathetically offers me a room by myself for 50 Euro instead of a bed for 15 Euro. I tell her I cannot afford that, and ask if there is a taxi to Obanos. She says, “It’s only 4 km down the road,” and I nod but shake my head. She calls the taxi. “One half hour,” she says with no warmth in her voice. This is the first time I have encountered the sullen indifference I feel from her. I head for the WC and she says, “Clients only. You will have to buy water.”
She needs to climb the Hill of Forgiveness.
The taxi arrives in 45 minutes (Spanish time) and drives me to Obanos, stops at the Albergue I request, and even goes inside to see whether there is room at the inn for me, before he helps me unload my backpack (the full Monty that day . . . ) and get settled in the place. The taxi might be the best 15 Euro I have spent this week. Like a “true Pilgrim” ala Jack from Ireland in The Way.
Dinner with SJPP bunkmate Kristy Jones (Vancouver) and a group of people she has gathered around her. Canadian, American, Russian, Argentinian, British and more. A table of eight for the Pilgrim’s Menu at a little bar whose waitress makes up for that cold fish woman in Uterga.
Today, only 15 km, but a bear of a day, between the heat and the terrain.
Saturday, September 7, 2013 Obanos to Lorca
From Obanos, I start fairly late, nearly 8:30 a.m. and wander to Puenta La Reina, the Bridge of the Queen. Since I haven’t had any breakfast, I stop and order a cup of tea and croissant, and arrange to send my big pack to Lorca, with the help of a lovely, English-speaking hotel receptionist who also calls ahead and makes sure of a reservation for me at La Bodega del Camino Albergue. Puenta La Reina is today the site of a motorcycle gathering. At least that’s what I remember . . .
The day’s walk is up and down as usual, but no (!) so I feel smugly capable of arriving at my destination without being half dead. A fairly good dinner there, though I long for the salad that is the first course at the Albergue across the road. But no matter. Tomorrow. This place even has a dryer, which I share with two women from England who are kind enough to offer. When the hostel owner calls ahead again for my reservation the next night at a new Albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin, named appropriately Albergue Villamayor de Monjardin . . . I ask for three spaces, to include the dryer women. And all is well.
Today’s distance, 16 km.
Sunday, September 8, 2013 Lorca to Villa Mayor de Monjardin
I completely lose track of the days of the week, let alone where I stayed last. This writing will keep my memory intact, at least somewhat. In the early hours before dawn we could hear the pouring rain, and for those who like to get up and leave the albergues by 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. (with headlamps, because it is still dark), the rain was part of their start this morning. But by the time the sanest of us decide to begin the drizzle had stopped, and the cloud cover, was welcome.
Today’s walk was again not too strenuous, especially with only my daypack, though it has plenty in it. About five or six pounds, I estimate, with the MacAir, all the cords, my pills, glasses case, and water, rain poncho, etc. The essentials for the day. I find that by mid-day I have to replace my hiking boots with the little mint-green Croc sandals I brought only (I thought) for the shower and night-time bathroom treks, but they are quite useful after lunchtime when my feet are already sore from the up and down. No blisters, though, and no toenails threatening to turn black.
Yea, 1000 Mile Fusion socks. Yea, U.K. Yea, Amazon.
The trail today goes through Irache, the “hype” stop . . . a monastery which not only makes wine, but has a wine fountain for pilgrims to taste their product. I have heard about this place and initially envisioned an old stone fountain with the wine pouring slowly into our scallop shells (though the shell Ashley gave me is sewn to the outside of my pack, next to my back, like the reminder of my children’s heartbeats while I trek). But instead, I approach the side of an old building with two stainless steel spigots, one for water and one for wine . . . is someone behind the scenes creating one from the other? I doubt it. I have a taste out of a plastic mini-cup provided, but actually it isn’t very great wine after all, quel surprise, and the last thing I need before my trek up the mountain to my bed is a full glass of wine. Again, imagine me, drunk this time, face down again with pack on top of me, though it wouldn’t squash me since I’m just carrying a day pack today.
Arriving at the new Albergue Villamayor de Monjardin is a real treat. Two brothers, new owners of this place that has been open only six months, and they have thought of almost everything. Each bed has an electrical outlet next to it so charging the computer or phone or whatever is no problem. A kitchen for those who want to make their own dinner. Large cubby compartments for one’s belongings, and blankets in them! My dryer-women friends had arrived long before I did, and only very high top bunks were available by the time I got there. The top bunks are high because the brothers were considerate enough to make sure there was space for the occupants of the lower bunks to have adequate head room to actually sit up in bed, a very novel circumstance for bunk-inhabitants. Good for the bottom-feeders, but for this short little runt, climbing down from a great height in the night for a pee or two fills me with a slight dread.
The blond dryer-woman is on the bottom bunk of my set, and kindly offers to switch with me. She is tall (and younger, perhaps not so many pee breaks in the night), says she doesn’t mind at all, and for that I am grateful. We seem to be paying one another back for our alternate favors.
Larry from Denver and Joan from Victoria are staying in “my” room, and I’ve seen them a few times in the past days. I’m sure we will jump-hop one another here and there as we go along. I’m doing that with the Canberra women, as well as several others who recognize me by my hat, but whose names I forget about five minutes after I learn them.
I am able to GoogleVoice both Neil and Ashley, and also talk with Mike, my ex-husband, who is recovering from treatment for tongue cancer, so it is a good evening all around. If you walk the Camino, try to stay here . . . it is an exceptional, well-thought-out value for 15 Euro. Again, the owners call ahead to reserve a place for me in Torres del Rio (also referenced in The Way).
Today’s distance 20 km.
NOTE: I will add the categories and tags tomorrow, when I have most of a day off in Santo Domingo de la Caldazo. Perhaps get another post finished by then as well. Until then, I’m in the Bar Jacobeo in Ciruena, one of the strangest two-part little burgs I have ever seen. More on that later.