One thing I have learned is that I should look at my elevation map before I leave in the morning – today was a lot hillier then I expected – nice surprise 😳. That said it was a pleasant 16 miles in unexpectedly cool weather (that’s good). Met some nice folks and reconnected with some others.
Not a lot to say about the day or at least nothing interesting enough to need to share – so here are my 2 favorite pics from the day.
This posting will be pretty short, I have nothing terribly witty (shocking I know) or insightful (not so shocking) to offer. Todays walk was quite pleasant, my knees felt good and I had no problem caring the weight of my pack. I walked with a young women from the states that reminded me of Maddy, my daughter, she kept me throughly amused all morning. It takes a 22 yr old women to out talk me and she did. A fun conversation tends to make the walk easy no matter who it is with.
Today’s end point was Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Santo Domingo was one of the great heroes of the ancient Camino – look it up and report back it’s worth the trouble and I am not here to do your research, I already know the story and it’s a good one. The cathedral here that is his burial place is one of my favorite Spanish churches. Spanish Churches tend to be over the top in the bling department and a bit much for my taste. By Spanish standards The Cathedral of Santo Domingo is quite understated.
Today is also a festival day here and that has been fun – lots of adults and kids in traditional dress. I still haven’t figured out what the festival was but it was something like Labor Day mixed with a local religious holiday 🤷🏼♂️.
I am looking forward to a nice walk tomorrow and who knows who I will meet along the way. As always here are some pictures from the day.
For those who do not know me very well let me tell you a little secret – humility is not really my thing. I am very well aware of my white male privilege (that’s what I have friends (you know who you are) and a daughter for) and I trend to either wield it like a sword or carry it like a shield. The sword to fight for justice when my access it helpful (I know I know) and a shield to protect my ego from the world. Now I know that that is not very nuanced, but for this story its enough and its my blog anyways.
My privilege leaves me thinking that I can do anything, the world (and my mom)has told me so.
Like I said humility is not really my goto but the Camino has this amazing way of stripping away your pride and making you come face to face with your shortcomings (its kind of like family that way.) Today was one of those times.
Let me start this tale of woe from the beginning. Last time I walked the Camino I had great problems with my feet. This time so far so good. This year however on the very first day ascending the Pyrenees I wrenched an already bad knee. Needless to say my knees have been bothering me ever since – not a problem, I have had knee issues my entire adult life and I deal (I am very brave)(side bar – A very wise friend, Clarke Hendley, once told me “you know Bob, sarcasm does not translate onto paper” and I have spent my life ever since trying to prove him wrong with little success).
Ok, back to my tale of woe: After my walk yesterday I was really hurting and even got myself wondering how munch longer I could go on. Proof that to much time to oneself and with ones own thoughts can make you think all kinds of negative things. So this morning when I woke up and my knees (yes now plural) were still hurting and I did the one thing I said I would never do – I sent my heavy backpack forward to where I am staying tonight and carried just a small day pack I keep rolled up in by bag for evening strolls. YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND – I said I would NEVER do this and I did. Guess what? A little humility and self awareness can paid off. 30km later I arrived feeling better then I had in days.
Pride has no place on the Camino and as I have learned one more time the Camino is a metaphor for life – A little humility goes a long way.
As we pass through this Easter season its nice for this old priest to remember that everyday has the possibility for resurrection – even if it is just a pair of beaten up pair of knees.
Stage 6 Torres del Rio to Logroño – Food addition vol. I. But first the walk today was just over 20km, so no big deal and a nice break from yesterday. It was a little hillier then I expected but that’s just fine 😳😬. I hate to tell those of you in CT dealing with so much rain – the weather was beautiful, cool and sunny (my favorite). I have a great little place to lay my head tonight so I am looking forward to going to bed soon. Long day tomorrow but I am ready 💪🏼🤞🏼🤪.
Ok, enough of all that – who cares, you shouldn’t.
Logroño is known for its food and wine, being the cultural center and largest city of the Rioja region. For those who don’t know, Rioja is the finest wine in Spain (IMHO) and one of my favorites in the world of wine. If you haven’t experienced good Rioja wine do some research and report back.
Today I decided to avoid meat, which is a colossal challenge in Spain. So today I am sticking with seafood as my protein source (I know dad, you can get protein from non meat sources but that’s just boring, my dad’s vegan (what the hell?)). Here are some pics of what I discovered, ate and enjoyed. The best was the salad with the pulpo, toasted pine nuts, parmigiana reggiano and balsamic vinegar – this is defently getting recreated at home, but I’ll grill the octopus.
Stage 5 Puente la Reina to Estella – Today’s walk was really nice. I walked alone most of the time through wheat fields and vineyards. Ran into so folks I had met before and met a few new one. It was a short walk at about 4 ½ hrs and I got into Estrella by lunch. As I was wondering this very old little city I ran into Stefano as he arrived and we checked in together at local monetary that houses pilgrims. It is an old building that has recently been completely redone making for a nice place to lay my head for the evening. I am currently writing this in the garden of the monetary as the sun sets and the air cools – its been a pleasant day.
Today was the last of the shortish days, tomorrow is around 30 km with many more like it to come. So not much to say about today’s walk other then is was very pleasant with a couple of steep goes but mostly rolling hills, lots of flowers and other plants and birds (and of course sheep – always sheep). So instead of rambling on I’ll end with a few pics from the day and a short quiz. First person to identify the tree with the green “fruits/pods” wins.
Stage 4 Pamplona to Puente La Reina. Todays walk was just about perfect. I started a little later then I like at 7:00 and spent about 30+ minutes walking out of the city of Pamplona. I am not a big fan of the time the Camino spends in Urban areas. It tends to be hard to follow the path as the markers can be difficult to find. If you loss your way you may need to walk back and find where you went wrong and it is both frustrating and seemingly huge waste of time. It is a times like this that you need to remind yourself that time is one thing you have plenty of. You can probably guess what’s coming next – I got lost this morning for about 15 minutes but was able to find my way back when I saw a couple of pilgrims on the other side of the park from where I was.
This is when the day quickly I proved. One of the pilgrims I saw was Stefano my Italian friend that I prepared dinner with the other night (see stage 2). Stefano is a recently retired doctor (immunologist) from southern Italy and a great talker. Passionate about everything, as far as I can tell, and an amateur botanist particularly interested in edible wild plants (how very Italian of him). The day consisted of walking 5 hours in both rain and sun, both up and down hill and getting and giving a language, cooking and botany lesson, with family and a little politics on the side (in full agreement on all things political that came up). It was a 5 hour conversation with long periods of silence on some of my favorite subjects.
The thing you learn quickly out here is that folks who come to Spain as a group tend to stay as one to the exclusion of others. Folks who travel alone meet far more people and experience the Camino not just through one’s own eyes but that through eyes and life experience of others.
There are all kinds of way to do the Camino
For many of us, myself include, traveling alone can be lonely but if you take the opportunity find others along the ways you can also find a new perspective. One of the wonderful things about my sabbatical this year is that not only am I traveling alone now, but later I will be traveling with Priscilla my wife – the best companion along the way I could ever be blessed to have.
Stage 3 Zubiri to Pamplona – Once again I started off early in the hopes of missing the forecasted rain, this time at 6:00 in the dark and walk through the very dark woods with my headlamp for the first time and later to the setting moon and then a beautiful dawn. The walk was lovely being sunny most of the time and very quite. I had the chance to walk along the Argo River almost the entire way to Pamplona. At times I walked with a person or two and for a long time by myself. For those of you reading this who don’t know me well let me tell you “alone time” is not my go to but it was AWSOME – a chance to think and a chance not to think about anything (you could call that prayer time if you were so inclined).
As of the writing of this post (6:45pm local time) the rain has not made an appearance. I am still glad I got such an early start to the days walk because I arrived in Pamplona by 11:30am giving me ample time to explore this rather interesting city. Had a lovely lunch of a dish of octopus and one of eggplant, ham and cheese which is as close to a vegetable I could find besides olives (which while green are a fruit I believe) and hot peppers, both of which I have had more then my fare share of and plan to eat more. Continuing on the vegetable stand- there is a lot of white asparagus in Spain, it is everywhere. Asparagus is about the only vegetable I really don’t like (no need to comment unless you agree, that’s how this works.)
Ok, where was I before I went off chasing that vegetable squirrel? Oh yeah, my day in Pamplona. I walked the city because walking more seemed to make sense at the time. On my stroll I came upon the Plaza de Toro – as one does. The Plaza de Toro is the 2nd largest bull fighting ring in Spain and the 4th largest in the World – look it up and report back. Interestingly it is the oldest engineered cement structure in Spain being built in 1922 and the end point of the Running of the Bulls. I took a self guided audio tour and it was quite good. It focused on the structure, the fights and the lives of the men and bulls involved (and yes “men” because only a man would be silly enough to fight a bull) and the running of the bulls during the Festival of Saint Fermin. St. Fermin was a martyr put to death either during the Decian or Diocletianic persecutions – If you are really bored, look it up and then re-examine how you spend your time.
Ever since I was a child and first heard of the running of the bulls and later read Hemingways The Sun Also Rises I have wanted to run with bulls in Pamplona – yes I was that kid. Now that I have seen a very unglamorized and not at all romantic short film on the subject and have stood on the sand of the ring that has been saturated with the blood of so many bulls and not to few men over the century I am not so interested. “Look mom I am maturing” and I’ll call that progress.
Sage 2 from Roncesvalles to Zubiri – While Saint-Jean to Roncesvalles to the most physically grueling stage of the entire Camino I find the walk to Zubiri the most mentally taxing and technical. It is one of the shortest days at 14 miles but it ends with a number of miles of walking up and down hills with trails made of ankle breaking wet slate and shale turned on edge creating an almost impossible surface to walk on safely (or at all). That said it was a great day.
This sign is a little disconcerting since 20ish km ago I passed 1 that said 765 km and that was carved in stone
The day began walking through the forest and small Basque villages in the cool and softly lit hours of the morning and ended with a great meal. Having left early in the morning to miss the rain (a current theme) I crossed the ancient Roman stone bridge into Zubiri at noon about 15 minute ahead of the storm. Found a place to lodge for the night and went out to have lunch and write.
In the evening Stefano, an Italian gentleman about my age, and I prepared dinner for 8 of us. Lorenzo and I were not to pleased with the end result seeing that the available groceries at the small local market were quite limited. Our audience on the other hand were thrilled and the night continued with a great conversation drifting from time to time from English to German, the native tong of everyone else at the table. This was not a problem however as Christine, student from Cologne, Germany, took the role of being my translator very seriously. As the conversation devolved between two Germans, one of Assyrian and another of Northern European descent, into a disagreement over how you define your cultural, national and familiar heritage I went off to bed. In the morning all was well.
One of the things I love about the Camino is how it both celebrates the things that make us different while a the same time bringing so many together.
Yesterday (the first day) is what I and most other pilgrims believe to be the most difficult day of the entire Camino, even when the 15.3 miles walked makes it the shortest of the stages I will attempt. The hike from St-Jean-Peid-de-Port, France to Roncesvalles, Spain is the day you cross the Pyrenees. It is by far the steepest stage of the walk, the elevation chance is significant and fast. Your complete exhaustion and pain (knees) is rewarded by magnificent views and good company. This year I was blessed with a sighting of a Pyrenees Condor, a rare and amazing bird. I will say when you are totally exposed in gale force winds on the open high pastures and one of the world larges scavengers is flying overhead It will cause you to question the choices you have made that have brought you to this point.
The day ended with a good meal share with 8 folks from all over the world. At that dinner the countries represented were: Spain, Germany, France, Canada, China and the US. As is so often the case they all spoke English which left me feeling both grateful and a little sad that I am not multi-lingual, I can barely speak English.