Leaving Pamplona early and my feet ache. My calves ache, and my thighs ache. Oh my shoulders ache too. I’m just a walking ache. Three of my fingers don’t ache but that’s all. Unsurprising I suppose, I’ve walked about 70 km in 3 days. Ten metres on the flat. The rest on hills. Who knew the Pyranees would be hilly. I should have paid more attention in Geography class. Continue reading “Camino Two: 4. Another Day Another 25km.”
Camino Two: 3 Pamplona Vagabonds
As my noisy fellow peregrinos started the usual palaver of packing for the road, I quickly threw some clothes on and went for coffee. The last bar I was in last night was open and busy. It’s 6.15. After two cups I sauntered back to the, by now, empty albergue, shaved and grabbed my stuff. Continue reading “Camino Two: 3 Pamplona Vagabonds”
Camino Two: 2 Gravity, It Gets You Down.
OK. This post accidentally lost I will have to rewrite it
The snorers kept me awake some of the night. No biggie. In the albergues it’s normally lights out at 10.00 and people start to move around about 6.00am. See that’s eight hours and I never sleep that long, and you can be a kind of prisoner when you wake up at four. So the snorers,farters, tossers and turners help spread out your sleep.
People seem to want to be away really early so the overcrowded bunk rooms are busy. I lie still, like a stalking lioness, until most of them have left. Then I pounce on the weakest and take him back to the cubs to eat. No, not the last bit. Kidding. No, after the speedy departures have pushed off I have a bathroom to myself and can pack my bag in peace.
The earliest ones try to make no noise. They fail miserably. The more they try, the more irritating they become to the others. Zippers are zipped, rezipped, and zipped again. Sleeping bags are rustled into pouches. The bunk is searched time and time again. None of them could ever be successful at burglary. Even if you were out nextdoors would hear ’em.
I set off on day two. The profile looked largely downhill. It wasn’t. There were plenty of uphill bits. And, if you’ve done any of this hiking malarkey you will know that descents can be painful.
The problem with ups and downs is Gravity. It wants you on the level. If you want to go up it holds you back. Want to go down? Great, says Gravity, but you will do it at my pace. That’s about 120 miles an hour. Isaac Newton should have sorted this out way back when. He’s got three laws of motion. Wouldn’t have hurt him to have another where hills are concerned. No. Half a job Isaac if you ask me.
Anyway I hardly talked to anyone today. Too busy swearing and trying not to fall over. I did meet a Spanish guy with a dog. Apart from his huge backpack he had a wheely case. On this terrain. I chatted while he was resting. Five minutes after I left him the downhill section deteriorated. How the hell he got down there I have no clue. Maybe he didn’t and he died up there and the poor starving dog wouldn’t leave his body. Like that Scottish dog they built a statue of. Greyfriars Bobby. Probably not though. That’s just me. You have a lot of time to think on the Camino…
Later I passed the Korean Snorer from last night. He was sat under a tree out of the sun, eyes half shut. He can’t be tired I thought. He was the only one who got a good nights sleep. I nodded a greeting and as I walked past I gave him three quick snores. Yes. Now he knows I know.
I rolled into Zubiri not knowing where to stay. Maria, the owner of the first albergue, collared me and convinced me to stay there. I could have done a lot worse. There were two nice bars in town. The better one had wifi problems so I hit the other one to write up part one of the blog. I had it almost finished when I hit a wrong button and lost the lot. I’m using a tablet and it’s much more awkward than a lappy. By the time I’d rewritten it the bar was closing. At 8.00! In Spain! Zubiri is not like Madrid. Not at all. Me and two other drinkers took our drinks outside and the owner locked the place up. I was still connected to the wifi so I got finished.
Now that I didn’t need wifi I hit the other bar. They were busy but still closed at 9.00. Couldn’t believe it. Oh well, home then. There were a few peregrinos hanging around outside our albergue. A German woman was asking everyone where they were from and writing it in a book. She asked me.
‘HG One,’ I said.
‘That’s not a country,’ she said.
‘No, but it should be,’ I said.
I’m a massive snob about Harrogate and HG1 in particular.
She looked puzzled. I left it. Couldn’t be bothered playing stupid games when the pubs are shut.
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Camino Two : 1 Onward And Upward, Definitely Upward.
The taxi rank in Biarritz is plumb bang in what’s recognised as the hub of the town. It’s on the map. All the locals know where it is. The tourist information centre knows too. Even I know and I’ve only been here a couple of days. In fact the only people who don’t know where it is are the taxi drivers.
It’s 6.30 and I have 75 minutes to get to Bayonne for my train. Miss it and I can write off the day and my schedule for the next 5 weeks will be in jeopardy. There is no taxi at the rank. I should have known. I’ve passed that rank half a dozen times and never seen a taxi.
I know the 14 bus comes at 6.42 and sure enough it arrives on time. There are no other passengers. I ask for Bayonne and just before the driver issued the ticket for some reason I add ‘gare’ one of about ten words I know in French. Fortuitous because the bus doesn’t go to the station. The lady driver points me to another bustop and I just catch the A1. I’m at the station with 5 minutes to spare.
At St. Jean du Pied du Port I made my way to the Camino office to get my Credential stamped. This is the document you need to stay in the albergues along the way. If you have read my posts on last year’s Camino all this important stuff is in there.
Anyway now it’s started and I set off full of confidence but empty of breakfast and even coffee. It’s uphill. Relentlessly uphill. This is the Pyrenees and this particular Pyranee is a bastard. A black belt Pyranee. Its tough but eventually from around a corner I can hear voices. Good. Orisson my planned breakfast stop. Except it’s not. It’s a small vending machine stop called Hontos I didn’t even know was there. There are a few peregrinos taking a break. There is a group of about seven Australian women, one of them has a blister. Already. With 797km to go. A glance at her boots under the chair tells the tale. Brand new. Don’t undertake the Camino with anything new. Especially boots. She’s not gonna make it.
I eventually do make it. To Orisson. I am tired and my feet and legs ache. I wish I’d reserved a room here. There’s not many beds so reservations are essential. But 7 km doesn’t seem enough when you’re planning. But it’s enough. That’s seven vertical kilometres. Your only option now is another 18 km to Roncesvalles. The terrain is supposed to get easier. It doesn’t. I left after a quick bite and some coffee. Up and up I went. Through the atmosphere, through the ionosphere and all the other spheres until I was in space. If the moon came out now, I remember thinking, I will be looking down on it. There are trainee pilots who haven’t been this high.
Man it was tough. Sometimes I rested every thirty steps. I passed struggling peregrinos and many passed me. Unusually introvert concentrating on their own struggle. The water replenishment stops were few and far between. And it was hot. And there were headwinds. It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve been to Ikea on a bank holiday. I really thought about unrolling the sleeping bag and giving in. I was mega tired. Eventually though, five hours after Orisson I reached the highest point.
The descent was almost as bad as the climbing and the last three klicks took about two hours. But finally I rolled into Roncesvalles and made for the municipal albergue. The nicely appointed new part was already full so I got billeted in the older annexe. Believe me I was just glad to be off the mountain.
I got settled in, y’know, chucking stuff everywhere, and took a shower. The door didn’t close properly and I soaked all my clothes, so that was a good excuse to wash them six days early. In the shower I admired my new pumped up calves and thighs. I looked like the Incredible Hulk but less handsome.
Beer was next on the agenda. It usually is. I called The Little Nurse back in Biarritz. As I recounted my near death experience she told me that whilst that was all well and good, she had found a new bar giving out free champagne and cheese. Great news she said. Well not for me it wasn’t. She continually makes better choices than me and quite frankly I’m sick of it.
After dinner I returned to the albergue before the curfew at 10.00. There were 16 bunks in my room. Me and one other guy had not been invited to the snoring contest being enthusiastically played out by the other fourteen. I plugged into my iPod, Birdy, Enya, and Lana del Rey did their best to drown out the cacophony. Because of all the weight I’d lost today, some of it from my ears the earbuds kept falling out so I just lay and judged the contest. The little Korean guy got my vote. Musta been 80 decibels. Great work.
So posting this from a tablet. It’s more difficult hence the lack of good pix. I’ll get better. Don’t whinge.
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Camino 10: Downhill Racer
After the incident with the dogs in El Acerbo I set off for Ponferrada. It was mainly downhill and the terrain was either scree-like or huge fissured boulders. Tough going. I spotted a woman ahead in the distance. She was moving very slowly, unsure of her footing. I could see that she was struggling from a mile away. Even from that distance I could also see that she could never be described as a small eater, adding to her problems. She had my sympathy, I had been a little overweight myself a few years ago. Mine had been a medical condition though. I suffered from an overactive knife and fork. Continue reading “Camino 10: Downhill Racer”
Camino 8: Ghost Town.
The Don Suero Hotel Leon, my home for the last two nights is right on the Camino route, so I sat outside with my morning coffee watching dozens of pilgrims continuing on their way. As I had taken the extra day in Leon I didn’t recognise many of them. People I had met earlier had mostly rolled out the day before. Continue reading “Camino 8: Ghost Town.”
Life in Spain 1: Waiters, what can you do?
The Spanish do things differently. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed about the idiosyncrasies of Spanish life.
Almost all Spanish Street Names are named after people. Not things or places. There is no Spanish equivalent of Acacia Avenue or Thames Road. It’s all people. They start off with the great and the good. Kings are definitely top of the list. Continue reading “Life in Spain 1: Waiters, what can you do?”
Camino 7: Leon, The Lost Day and The Detroit Rule
Only one snorer in my room of six last night. Me. Or so a scowly German woman told me over breakfast.
Well. ‘Good morning to you too’ I said.
Even at home I routinely go to bed wired to my Ipod. That along with some wine and beer has made snoring and other erm… noises in the albergues a non issue for me. Listen if you want to stay in albergues that’s the way it is. Stop complaining and get some earplugs. Or an Ipod.
I came across the scowly woman later on that same day and she sped away from me. Needlessly, as I had stopped snoring by then. No-one snores when they are awake and walking along. She should have known that. Continue reading “Camino 7: Leon, The Lost Day and The Detroit Rule”
Camino 6: Unnecessary Weather and the Headmistress of Mansilla.
It was raining when I set off this morning. Unnecessary I thought. John the Dublin lawyer from last night caught up with me. He was really moving which spurred me on in the rain. We went quickly through the next 3 villages and soon arrived in Sagahun over 19 klicks from Ledigos. John was on a mission and we covered it in a little over 3 hours. Had it been a race we would have come a close second and third to olympian Haile Gebrselassie, had he been on the Camino instead of winning the Berlin Marathon. Continue reading “Camino 6: Unnecessary Weather and the Headmistress of Mansilla.”
Camino 5: The Long and Boring Road.
The next day I walked to Ledigos. This is a notoriously long straight flat and boring stretch. There is 17km before the first village, Calzadilla. Just outside of Carrion there was a guy with a horse and cart. The cart had seats and the guy was touting for pilgrims to ride. I declined, not wanting my Camino de Santiago to become a Paseo de Santiago, That’s not the same thing at all. Oh no, not for me it isn’t. Later the cart passed me with more than a dozen passengers. At 15 Euros a pop. That’s €180 a trip. Two trips a day nets €2520 a week. Just a little bit more than a High Court Judge. So, law school students, have a little think about that. Continue reading “Camino 5: The Long and Boring Road.”