We leave our hotel and walk towards Old Pamplona’s Main Street, the square of drunks bare at 7:00 am. Breakfast is fruit in the Parque de la Taconera, the sun yet to rise.
We stride out into the new day glad to be walking again.
The Camino is exceptionally well signed and making our way out of Pamplona by following the steel scallop shell plaques embedded in the footpath is simple.
There is not a cloud to be seen as the sun climbs into the blue sky.
The outskirts of Pamplona are unremarkable, modern developments of interlinked units with a industrial style of architecture. In the far distance we see for the first time our challenge for today, a high ridge lined with spinning wind turbines.
From where we are the turbines look small however the scale compared to the mountain and its vegetation makes me realise they are huge.
We are still walking on the roadside footpath when we encounter our first real incline for the day. This slope would have had me huffing and puffing on day one, now my Pacerpoles click like the steady beat of a metronome as we steadily climb.
On the very outskirts of the last suburban area we briefly leave the Camino path, we have seen a long stretch climbing ahead with no buildings and Pam (always the Lady) is not keen to spend fifty cents in the wild.
A cafe/bakery signed as being 300m off the Camino path is our destination and turns out to be a delight. We smell the fresh bread as we approach, order a Cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and a couple of croissants and sit down amidst the locals. An old lady with two little dogs greets us ‘Buen Camino’.
All is well in our little world.
I am not sure if it is just a modern Australian expression however I love the saying ‘its all good’, simple and succinct though grammatically incorrect.
Its all good.
The turn off the Camino taking us to the Cafe was the last paved section for the day and we make our way back before turning onto the rough white gravel track winding its way through fields of stubble and sunflowers.
The sun is truly up by now and I am thankful for my daggy looking Legionnaire cap protecting my ears and neck.
Walking a rough track carrying a heavy backpack is such a different experience to rushing along smooth bitumen being drawn by hundreds of horses. Each small crest offers a teacup of triumph, each gully a tumbler of terror.
In a modern vehicle such minutia passes unnoticed, the land is flattened out by the black ribbon cutting through hills and tunneling through mountains as occupants sit pacified by air conditioning.
‘Onwards and Upwards’ I sing my battle hymn as the incline steepens to the beat of my metronome Pacerpoles. Though much fitter, stronger and lighter by now eventually the gradient wins.
Shade is at a premium today, the pathway winds between naked fields of stubble and there are very few trees or tall bushes. In every patch of shade people gather panting and dripping.
Many of the people we have met are from cold climates and the going is tough. Pam and I being good ‘lil aussies are built of hardier stuff. We forge on with minimal stops to do our little thirty second jiggles catching our breath. My maximum pace is slow however we rest less than many others so over the day we keep pace with most.
The Wacky Races continue with new teams. Pam now makes the Mutley laughing sound heheheheh every time we actually overtake someone which just cracks me up and makes me lose my breath. We ‘Buen Camino’ all we meet and most return our greeting.
The gravel path is white and crunchy underfoot as we wind our way up between fields. I am interested in the modern farm equipment being used to cultivate the fields, four wheel drive tractors with air conditioning and great mufflers, five to eight furrow plows that turn over at the end of each run so only one line needs to be plowed, rotary chains to break the clods of dirt, front end loaders on the tractors lifting fifty bales of hay at a time.
I think back to the hours and days of my youth spent on old tractors with no roof, metal seat and straight pipe bellowing and feel the pang of envy. My ringing tinnitus seconds my emotion.
The ridge is drawing closer now and the wind turbines have stopped spinning. We are in the lee of the hill and the sun ricochets from every surface. The gradient increases with the temperature but only the steeper inclines bring Pam and I to a halt now.
There are plenty of those so we rest often.
I had dropped one of the two 1.5 L water bottles I usually carry earlier in the day and it was rendered useless by splitting open. We are down to our last liter of water when we make Zariquiegui, a little village where a fountain is on the wall of the first building into town.
Pam pours a bottle over my head, we both wash our faces and feel restored. Water is a little miracle in itself on such a day.
We press on through Zariquiegui, the wind turbines looming now. The last incline is steep and long and we crest the ridge panting. The wind slaps our face and slices through our sweaty clothes.
The wind turbines begin to spin again like an omen of achievement.
A series of iron silhouettes of a caravan of pilgrims past lies on our right however the shade of a concrete monolith with a raised section to sit draws my backside.
An industrious local with a van is selling cold drinks on the side of the gravel road linking the turbines and Pam buys a Solo equivalent. The wind cutting through my T-shirt is all I need to cool me down.
Walking uphill burns the lungs, downhill the knees. What goes up must come down and what goes down must come up, so sayeth the Pilgrim’s Law of Undulation.
The descent is steep and treacherous with large round stones lying patient in wait to turn an ankle or trip the hurried pilgrim over a cliff edge. Pam and I are steady and cautious in descent always. Our goal is to finish uninjured with our health restored and already we have seen many others fall injured by the wayside.
The descent slows a little, winding down to a tiny stream that crosses our path only an inch deep. We make our way up the slow incline into Uterga.
The street makes its way through the little town, small streets branch from the main road for maybe fifty meters like boughs from a tree trunk. I have forgotten to put the rubber tips on my Pacerpoles and I click down the street like I am wearing stilettos.
Turning a gentle corner we come across the welcome sight of the Albergue where we will hopefully be spending the night. This Alberque is a bar and restaurant and at the gate of the path inside is a sign 697 Km to Santiago.
My heart sings a little as I collapse into a seat under the shade in the gravel courtyard, we are an eighth of the way there. Pam, being the trooper she is, leaves me guarding the backpacks and organises our accommodation. We will spend tonight in our own room with our own shower and toilet.
The room is pink walls, white ceilings and beautiful with skylights opening to the deep blue above from both the bedroom and bathroom. We have tumbled into heaven.
An afternoon of swapping stories, sipping Vino Blanco and counting our great fortune awaits.
The Pilgrim meal is at seven and we spend the dinner amiably chatting to Reg and Mary, an older couple from Perth, Australia we met on day one climbing to Orisson. Reg is doing the Camino on two knee replacements yet he and Mary both seem to be doing fine. They are inspirational.
Everywhere we turn people become our friends.
This is the Camino Way.
Mick and Pam