Well howdy Pilgrim! We’re on the Camino or St James Pilgrim’s trail that stretches from St Jean-Pied de Port to Burgos, Spain
We are undertaking approx. 40% (or 340km) of the famous Camino de Santiago trail (total 790km) that takes you across northern Spain starting from the Pyrenees Alps in St Jean-Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain, hence the aptly named ‘Road to Santiago’ or ‘Camino de Santiago’.
Whilst many of the 250,000 annual walkers are completing a religious pilgrimage of sorts or taking time out from the daily grind. Some walkers take up to 40 days to complete the whole trail and even some Spanish courts deem the completion of the Camino as an alternative to ‘community service’ sentence.
Everyday, you have fellow walkers greeting you with ‘Buen Camino’ or ‘Good Journey’. Many of the walkers are carrying their own packs, sleeping bags, provisions, guitars and so on, whilst we opted for the baggage transfer option so we only have to carry our light day packs with our lunch and water and our band aids, pawpaw ointment and Advil / pain relievers.
We arrived from Biarritz by train to start an initial stage of
7 days of walking (avg. distance 22km+/day) with two (2) rest days in Logronos before starting we do subsequent stage of 5 days of walking (avg. 24km/day) ending in Burgos.
1st day walk - 21 June from St Jean-Pied de Port to Roncesvalles; was solid day out with 25km to complete (adjusted with climbs/ascent to be 32km) – we climbed from 150m to 1450m (picture a road bike climb of 15% or 20% gradient and you get the idea of how steep it was in some sections) and then we had an extremely steep descent into village of Roncesvalles. Our poor old toes were shattered after the downhill section especially. BUT the walk and scenery was spectacular and worth the temporary pain – we saw beautiful horses which are bred for the bullfights/arena performances, highly prized sheep that produce some France’s famous cheese, contented cows, old growth forest and amazing landscape vistas (see photos by Dave) along with loads of walkers from different countries – Italy, France, Spain, Korea, England, USA, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Japan etc, some of whom are doing this trail for their 2nd or 3rd times or more. Some walkers take their dogs with
them and few are completing the trails on their mountain bikes.
After the walk, we rested in luxury in a refurbished convent in Roncesvalles that was gorgeous – very modern, simple and elegant. For example the doors had no door jams, river stone floors in the main areas and the walls were a mix of rocks and old wooden beams, ceilings were unfinished concrete coupled with wooden floors with white walls.
Dinner was simple affair for 9 euros each which comprised of some vegetable soup, bread, a grilled whole trout with potatoes, tub of yoghurt for dessert and a bottle of red wine.
Most of the walkers stay in albergues or gites or youth hostels so they just walk in after each day of walking hoping to find an available bunk for a small fee say 5 to 9 euros/night. The one last night seemed like it house 200+ walkers and it had a very strict curfew of 10.00pm when the doors were locked and the walkers had to be out by 8.00am the next morning.
Given we were staying in a hotel, we were ones of the last ones to leave for our 2nd day walk
-22 June – Roncesvalles to Akerreta; so there was hardly anyone else with us until later in the day when we caught up to them. It was a 29km+ walk with not as high to climb or descend today thankfully but a solid 6.5hours including lunch on our feet. We stayed in a 300-year old guesthouse – really beautiful. We enjoyed dinner tailor made after we told chef what we liked of cream zucchini soup, beef stew for Dave and Cod and peppers for Robbo followed by some local sheep cheese with quince paste, accompanied with beautiful Spanish dry red wine or ‘vino tinto’. P.s Robbo has dropped off her consumption levels of wine, so Dave has to pick up the slack.
3rd day - 23 June – Akerreta to Pamplona
Today’s walk was short affair of only 15km travelling from countryside into the historical city of Pamplona, home of the famous annual ‘Running of the Bulls’ festival.
We spent the afternoon visiting the 11th century Cathedral and museum along with an art gallery exhibition of retrospective of photographs taken during the
1960’s of the running of bulls festivals. We estimated we walked for 5 hours around the old
city clocking up an additional 5km – we were exhausted after that.
Dinner was fantastic with Dave enjoying fantastic meal of roast lamb and Robbo having lobster and avocado salad.
**TIP** if the staff don’t speak English then don’t try to order two entrees with the idea that one is served with your husband’s main meal. Both my salad and vegetables all arrived at once so Robbo had eaten by the time Dave’s meal arrived. KISS next time.
The Spanish red wines are beautiful and inexpensive….we saw them in wine stores for 2 euros+, less than the price of olive oil.
Unfortunately we got very little sleep as the hotel didn’t have air conditioning so with the open windows we were serenaded with a mix of rogue fireworks from midnight onwards (sounding like mortars going off) and some dudes talking and singing until at least 3.00am in the piazza below us.
4th day – 24 June – Pamplona to Puente la Reina – 27km
It was nice to leave the big city to go back into countryside, passing tiny towns. This walk was very reminiscent of Tuscany as many wheat fields, hay bales, grape vines, almond trees and
various crop farms. We had delicious lunch of fantastic cheese, ham and fresh bread, sitting in front of a 12th century church, linked with the Knights Templar, who long defended the pilgrims on the route to Santiago. Pretty wild. We stayed in a nice hotel and enjoyed very local meal with fellow walkers.
5th day – 25 June from Puente la Reina to Estella – 22km plus detour to get to our hotel = 25km+ in up to 38 degree celsius heat – it was HOT out there campers!!!!. The forecast is more of the same for next 4-5 days. Even when we were having a beer at 9.00pm that night in the town’s main piazza, it was still 31 degrees.
The scenery comprised more crops, very little or no shade just wandering along farm trails plus the emergence of more vineyards/grapes as we move towards Spain’s famous wine producing region of La Rioja.
TIP - It can be very challenging to find anything open for dinner at 10.00pm as most open from 11.00pm onwards so we opted for a falafel sandwich (quietly praying for no unexpected surprises later if you know what we mean) and some Spanish frozen
yoghurt for dessert. Happy to report no serious gastric complaints.
IN OTHER NEWS……….
Today is our official two-month anniversary of our adventure since we left from Sydney on 25 April 2011.
Well one thing can be said we are loving it, looking back it has been fantastic to visit all the places we have done so far and truly live in the NOW / in the moment. We have really been grateful to be able to take in the natural beauty, fresh air, sunshine (only estimate 5-6 days with overcast/rain in 60 days), great wines and food and hanging out with each other.
On the flipside, we have noticed that spending so much time together does have its moments and recently we have taken to describing those few patches using terminology of a weather reporter or meteorologist. For example, there may be a ‘shit storm’ developing followed closely by ‘a cold front’, ‘some isolated disturbances’ then with ‘some more settled conditions prevailing’. We have learnt how to create our own space from each other which is needed and you naturally have when you have work as a buffer and/or do things separately on weekends / week
nights (e.g. reading heaps, Robbo going for her morning walks, doing our ‘own’ yoga sets/stretching).
6th walk – 26 June from Estella to Los Arcos – 25km in the HEAT baby!....it was still 32 degrees at 10.00pm.
Another good solid paced walk completed 5 hours after an early departure of 8.00am. Dave took some beautiful photos to check out. It was lovely and quiet as we opted for an alternative route for 65% of our walk today so only 2 other walkers we came across aside from some locals. The bonus was the route also provided some extra shade and breezes that was every welcome. Even passed by a winery providing free wine (& water) to the Camino walkers via a beautiful fountain / fuente.
We stayed in nice hotel, Hotel Monaco - gave us exactly what we needed - a cool room with a ceiling fan, clean comfy bed and shower. Dave enjoyed some well-deserved chilly beers before we opted for dinner at local restaurant situated in a cool wine cellar for 12 euros each for 3 course meal of home cooked food and wine. Walked around town to let dinner settle before having an early
night as the next day we know will be at least 7 hours on the HOT trail.
7th walk 27 June from Los Arcos to Logrono – 32km+ in the HEAT again. We left even earlier today to get a jump on the sun. We completed in 6.5 hours including lunch but our feet were struggling towards the last sections as it was so hot. We found our hotel, blissfully it had air conditioning and we had the best siesta / snooze (2hrs+) that afternoon.
As we still pretty shattered in the evening so we opted for a Camino recommended café that served a simple set menu dinner, so no thinking required and very quick service.
Now we have two full REST days in Logrono, a university town with population of 130,000 to rest our weary toes and legs before heading off for 5 more days of Camino trail taking us to Burgos for approx. 120km+. The town is set in the middle of the La Riojas wine region so loads of wine and tapas bars line the cobble stone streets.
The weather forecast is for falling temperatures but still sunny so that should be good
for the upcoming days.
Adios Hombres!!!!!!! xx
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