DAY 3: June 5th, 2014. Pamplona – Puente la Reina, 24 km
We woke up with a mix of Italian and French opera playing. Folding the sleeping bag, applying Vaseline and plasters to my aching feet and rosemary alcohol to my calf muscles had already become my morning routine, something I would repeat mechanically every day after waking up.
After less than two days walking together, I had already the feeling of being part of a family where Sandra and Michele were the parents, and Diego and me their sons. Even though I really enjoyed their company, I suggested to split – it was, after all, my Camino, and I needed that alone time. So we did. I walked around 4 km before I finally left the city and found myself surrounded by incredibly beautiful green and golden wheat fields.
Today was a tough day. I finally reached Puente la Reina together with Diego –my big plan of splitting didn’t really work out, and I was still very happy to see him. We got a bed in the Albergue Padres Reparadores for 5 euros.
I found Armando and Jesús and we had some pinchos together. We met Peter, a Bulgarian we had met before and with whom I managed to communicate with his little French. He’s going back to Madrid tomorrow and flying back to Sofia – his knee is not holding.
It’s only day three and I have already met two people who are going back. I really hope I can make it to Finisterre, because I am really not feeling good. I’m in a physical pain every time I walk, but I don’t want to give up.
I’m lying down in the garden of the albergue together with Diego. There’s a group of Italians I met up in the Alto del Perdón who invited me for dinner, they’re cooking pasta all’amatriciana. The dinner reminded me of that scene from the movie “The Way” where all the pilgrims sit and eat together.
It was a fun dinner: a bunch of Italians, a couple from Brazil and two Germans sharing a dinner and doing their best to communicate. My passion for languages has always allowed to me to communicate with people from different parts of the world, and I’ve always felt so lucky. I can speak to whoever I want here on the Camino, and I have the privilege of getting to know people’s stories and dreams.
The other pilgrims are not so lucky, for Italians, Spanish and French hardly speak English (at least the older ones). But tonight I realized that communication is so much more than using the same words, for there is another language that is spoken by everyone and that goes beyond any geographical barrier. Sometimes eyes or hands speak for themselves, and the passion that can be read in some simple gesture can deliver a message as powerful as if it was spoken out loud.
So, when Didi stood up and started in German “Dear pilgrims, dear friends…” there was no real need for translation. A toast to thank the Italians’ kindness was enough to bring a smile back to Renata, that Brazilian girl who hadn’t stop crying from knee pain. The Camino unites us all.
Day three: my calf muscle are fucked up, but I’ll move forward, always forward, because despite the pain, I have never felt so good before.
DAY 4: June 6th, 2014. Puente La Reina – Estella, 22 km
As usual, the alarm was set at 6 AM. After a quick breakfast from the vending machine I started to walk, to stop just a couple of minutes later. I can’t walk.
Diego left me a couple of Compeeds; it felt a little bit better, but still I had to stop and apply more plasters to my first blisters. It was passed 8 AM when I was finally able to walk out of the village.
On the way to Estella, I met my French roomies from the night before, Patrice and Christine. What a woman, that Christine. After an invasive cancer, her left arm is almost paralyzed for life, but she lives her life with a constant smile on her face. Blonde with blue eyes, she is the toughest and most positive woman I have ever met. The cancer is now gone, together with her left breast. We walked together and talked for a couple of hours, and I was fascinated by the way she chose to live her life. My feet were hurting like hell, so I then let them walk at their faster pace.
After walking a few kilometers alone, I met Xavier, Miguel and Kim. Miguel is French, from Portuguese mother and Spanish father, so he speaks four languages. After reaching Santiago, he is going to Portugal to finally meet his siblings and then he will travel through Brazil by motorcycle. Kim is Danish, from Korean origin. She has never been to Korea, nor has she met her real parents. I find it really hard to understand how she is not curious of meeting her real family, nor visiting her own country. Despite her Asian appearance, she was 100% Danish. Xavier is also French. He looks older than his 32, because he has lived an intense life. He is a free soul, and I loved that about him.
In Estella, we stayed in an albergue con donativo run by a lovely couple of volunteers from Brazil, José and Egidia. There are separated dorms for men and women, and they serve free breakfast, too. The four of us went for a few drinks and tapas and we came back a bit tipsy. At the albergue we found Andrea, a blond lady from England, whose body was covered in tattoos and who looked like she had started drinking quite early in the morning. She offered us wine and earplugs, saying that she was a heavy snorer. Well, the Hungarian girl sleeping below her was way worse.
DAY 5: June 7th, 2014. Estella – Los Arcos, 22 km
Andrea, born in Ireland, lives in London. She is doing the Camino because of her husband who died of throat cancer in 2012 at the age of 40 – walking for the Throat Cancer Foundation, leaving fliers for people to cooperate. Andrea saw the movie “The Way” and thought she could do the same. So she’s carrying her husband’s ashes until Finisterre and then Muxia.
She told me her story and showed me her husband’s ashes this morning while having breakfast, together with a card in memory of her dad who died a few months after and a lovely picture of her and her husband. I now see her with completely different eyes: she’s a really nice person who’s been going through a lot. I hope I will meet her again and that I will be able to get to know more about her story.
After saying goodbye to José and Egidia –we all got to like them very much- our little crew started to walk again, joined by Tim from Germany. In Azqueta Diego and I met Pablito, a local man that looked as if he had never changed trousers in his life. He took us to his place and insisted to stamp our credentials with his personalized logo, showed us an 800 year old stone and a tree that resembled the face of an elephant.
We spent a lovely and incredibly hot day walking through the already familiar golden fields. We arrived in Los Arcos dehydrated and burnt by the afternoon sun. It was a special day in the village, the Día del Encierro. We arrived just in time to grab a few beers and pinchos from the main bar, then all the streets were closed with fences and the bulls were taken out. We spent a few hours watching locals running with the bulls and enjoying beers. When the encierro was over, we kept chatting in the main square with other pilgrims, sharing stories and emotions, and maybe too much wine.
DAY 6: June 8th, 2014. Los Arcos – Logroño, 28 km
I left very early together with Diego, Miguel and Marcela, a Brazilian girl who even brought her hair straightener (!!). My knee is hurting more and more, and the pain is becoming difficult to bear. We split in Torres del Río and Diego and I spent the rest of the day almost completely alone under the burning sun and still surrounded by golden fields. We only met a couple of pilgrims on the way, including the American Jodie and her two daughters. The youngest was carefully moving the snails away from the path, so that people wouldn’t step on them. The oldest came back to offer her walking sticks. Such lovely girls, with incredibly blue eyes.
To kill the boredom we started to sing, and we ended up signing “Alla Fiera dell’Est” and “Certe Notti”, apparently the only songs that we both knew by heart. The wheat fields seemed endless to me, and we stopped for a lunch break in Viana, after continuing 10 km more to Logroño. We arrived late, at 5.45 pm, after being shouted at by an old lady (“This is not the time to arrive, pilgrims, it’s late”), and we found the albergue con donativo that included breakfast and dinner.
It is a lovely albergue next to the Iglesia de Santiago in Calle Barriocepo 8, where one Italian and one South African volunteer welcomed us. My body is crying to stop, and I know that I will have to listen to it. It’s the town festival, and the people from Logroño are celebrating Saint Bartolomé and the battle that they won against the French invaders. The whole town was a party, with medieval markets, historical representations and live music in the streets.
We had dinner at the albergue with all the other pilgrims coming from all over Europe, then we took the narrow passage that connects the albergue to the church. We were all given a paper with a prayer in our native language that we read together, then we took a few moments of silence to think about the meaning of our Caminos. We all hugged and wished each other a “Buen Camino”, then went back to do the dishes and chat. Xavier arrived as well, and together with Diego we spent some time outside smoking. It’s out last night together, tomorrow we will split.
DAY 7: June 9th, 2014. Logroño, 0 km.
Aware that I would not be walking today, I still woke up at 6.30 AM to say goodbye to my travel companions, not without tears in my eyes. I hate having to stay behind and not knowing if I’ll ever see them again, but I can’t walk in these conditions. The good part was that it was the town festival, so I would not get bored.
I met Jasper, from Germany: his ankle is in a bad shape, too. It is not allowed to stay more than one night in the same albergue unless you have a real reason and a medical statement, so I convinced Jasper to come to the hospital with me. Still, I refused to take a taxi: it was a pilgrimage, and I was determined to use my feet as only mean of transportation for the whole way. So it took us forever, but we finally arrived at the local hospital, where they told us both that we needed to rest, take some painkillers together with Voltarén and, in my case, wear a knee brace.
38 euros later, Jasper went to chill in the park and I went wandering in the town. It is a really nice place, especially with the festival. I met the American family, but besides that I realized that I didn’t know anybody anymore. I had soon got used to the feeling of finding familiar faces in places I had never been before, and the change was hard to accept. I would be walking with new people now, people who started one day later than me. But it was easy to make new friends, and I already met a group of guys from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Hungary that seem really nice. I will have time to get to know them at dinner; now it’s time to go peel some potatoes.