Monthly Archives: September 2013

Day 7 ( Logroño to, uh, Logroño)

A day of rest. I rested my knee and the rest of my body. I walked around the town, and found that despite the fact that I felt all of my new friends had moved on, there still remained a number of pilgrims that I knew. It was refreshing to see that I was not the only one taking a day of rest.

I was able to catch up on my blog posts and even post I am sure you can tell. I enjoyed having a room to myself and the fast wi-fi that the hotel had. Ironically, my room had a black and white photo of the California street hill in SF. It was shot in about 1950, judging by the cars on the street. The buildings and the cars may change, but that hill will remain the same. It was kind of eery to see the view from my walk to work, welcome to my room in such a strange place as this.

I spent some time in the cathedral, seeing if God had any idea of what I was doing here. No luck, but it was calming.


Had a quick dinner and off to bed

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 9.77
Steps taken: 13,309
Floors climbed: 3

(With stats this low it may be difficult to sleep tonight)

Overdue photos

Here are some of the photos I hadn’t published with my posts.

Pamplona Cathedral
This is one of the few photos I took of Pamplona. Since my phone was dead all day, and I was busy with errands, the first time I was able to take pictures was around 6:30. That was perfect timing because the light is great at that time of day.

My backpack
Here it is, fully packed and with a scallop shell signifying that I am a pilgrim.

Alta de Perdon
At the summit of Alta de Perdon, with the sculptures of Pilgrims in the foreground and wind mills in the background.

This is one of many sunrise pictures I have taken. It’s pretty easy to be up and on the road before this early, because the sun doesn’t rise until 8:00.

Puente la Reina
This is the pilgrims bridge for which the town of Puenta la Reina is named.

These are the church bells that rang every 15 minutes in Cirauquai. Yes they were right across the (small) square from my room. I slept well nonetheless!

Roman Road
In need of a little maintenance, but still going strong after 2,000 years.

More photos later.

Day 6(Torres del Rio to Logroño)

The day began quietly. Quietly waking up in a room of 12 strangers, and trying to get ready in the dark. Ever tried to take care of a blister with moleskin and duct tape in the dark? How about quietly stuffing you sleeping bag back into its sack? Not very easy. This polite gesture on my side did come back to haunt me later in the day.

I had a quick breakfast at the albergue, because the first town was not for at least 11 km. The first 4km were steep incline and tiring. The descent was even steeper. On one part of the descent I felt my right knee pop. It just sort of buckled underneath me. It seemed to be OK while walking on flat terrain, but was aggravated on uphills and downhills. Uh-oh.

And the the day got better. It began to rain. This is where my quiet packing of the morning came back to haunt me. As it started to rain, I had to drop my pack in the middle of the path and pull out my rain gear…which was at the bottom of my bag. Everything had to come out. Rookie mistake. By the time I had dressed and reloaded my pack, I was soaking, and the rain had subsided. Just my luck.

As I approached Viana, I met up with Marla and Ruth. We went into town to have lunch. And I began to consider my options. With my knee in the state that it was, I opted to take a taxi to Logroño to rest. While having lunch, we were joined by two young German girls, Janine and Ann. Janine had hurt her foot, so I offered to share my taxi to Logroño with them. After a while they agreed.

As most conversations go, we began talking about why each of us were walking the Camino. Ann said that she was walking to keep Janine company. Janine was walking because her father had always wanted to walk the Camino. Her father had died this year. I almost began to cry. I told her that I too had lost my Father this year. I then said her father must have been very young. She said “Yes, 46. Cancer.” It struck me down.

Even when you are taking a taxi on the Camino, you meet the people you need to meet.

I got to my hotel in Logroño and promptly took a bath and a three hour nap. A about 6:30, I decided to wander down to the plaza to see if I knew anyone. I did. I saw a number of fellow pilgrims, and met some new ones.


I had a nice pilgrims menu at a local restaurant and then went back to the hotel to sleep, not sure of what I was going to do tomorrow, and felling a little bit alone.

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 16.16
Steps taken: 22,011
Floors climbed: 74

Day 5 (Villamayor de Monjardin to Torres del Rio)

The walk was a fast one for the first 10k. The path was wide and smooth through hayfields. There were no small towns or even fountains so it was a long stretch. The first part or the trek I walked with Veronica (from Mexico/Maryland). Then I walked alone and found my own pace. It was a peaceful walk, with a few other pilgrims here and there. About a half an hour before I got into Los Arcos, the path ran next to a ridge. From over the ridge I could hear a race track. (Like listening to Laguna Seca). Cars or motorcycles, I am not sure, but they were going fast. I thought it was ironic that here I was choosing the slowest form of transportation (walking) listening to speed racers. Just before Los Arocos I came across a goatherder and then a man on an off-road Segway. Quite a mix of people on the Camino. Once I made it to Los Arcos, I met up with Veronica again. She was going to take a bus up to Logroño, so we said our good byes and wished each other “Buen Camino.”


In the main square at Los Arcos I stopped for a rest and some lunch. Met up with the rest of the gang from Villamayor de Monjardin. They were planning to go to Torres del Rio, so I opted to join them, despite how tired I was.

I began walking in the afternoon with Kay, a caregiver from Australia. As she told me of what she did for families, I was quite moved. She then told me not to worry about being tired, we all have guardian angels watching over us right now. It almost made me cry.

I rested a while and began to walk alone. I saw Pedro and Ruth from the night before, and got a call from Germany to cheer me up. I made it to Torres del Rio and went to the second Albergue (because it looked nicer than the first.) It was full so I headed back down to the first albergue. Just as I stepped outside, it began to rain. I had to walk a total of 50 meters in the rain today.

Confession: I have been staying in private rooms and hotels so far. I have not stayed in “a typical albergue” yet. Tonight was the first. I was in a room of 12 people. My roommates ranged from four young German students to a lone Japanese pilgrim to two older Dutch women and a few others that I didn’t meet.

The good thing about this albergue is that it had a washer and a dryer. Yeah! Laundry time! It’s the little things. While waiting for my laundry, Marla from SF and Gabriel from BC joined me. We ate chips and just hung out.

After laundry, I had dinner with the two Dutch women and a young man from Tipperary.
The Dutch women had begun their Camino in Amsterdam. They had already walked over 1700 km. Amazing. Tom, from Tipperary, had been walking from Lorca today. That was over 38 km in one day. Also amazing.

It was a dinner with long distance and speed walkers. I was neither, but happy to be in their company.

After dinner it was straight to bed. The room was not too noisy, so I was able to sleep fairly well (thanks to ear plugs.)

Another good thing about today: I am finally using some of the gear in my pack. Things used for the first time today: raincoat, sleeping bag, sleep sack, ear plugs, even the travel towels. Glad to know I’m not just lugging all this stuff across Spain.

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 26.31
Steps taken: 35,845
Floors climbed: 61

Day 4 (Estella to Villmayor de Monjardin)

The hotel was an extra 2-3km off the Camino, so it was going to make the day a little bit longer than the guide books said. I wanted to have a short day so was only going to walk to 9.5 km on the Camino to Villmayor de Monjardin. There was a pretty steep incline, and since the weather was predicted for the 90’s again I thought it wise to take it slow. This was a good decision.

Leaving Estella was a series of climbs through residential neighborhoods, which then dropped right back down to the level of the town. It was a frustrating way to begin the day. But, I was then rewarded with the wine fountain. (Just to explain, there are fountains all along the Camino for pilgrims to fill their water bottles. The water is good and usually pretty cold). In the town of Irache, there is a fountain that gives you the choice of either vino tinto (red wine) or water. All for free. It was only 8:30, so I only tasted the wine…it was pretty good. There is a webcam of this fountain:

It was a series of tough climbs and a couple of rest stops, but I was glad to be ending the day in Villmayor de Monjardin at 11:30. As I came into town I met the German couple again, they were going onto Los Arcos in the heat. I wished them well.

The town was small, so there were no hotel options. I chose to stay in a casa rural. Think of it as the pilgrim’s Air BnB. It is a three bedroom house, with kitchen and living area. There were three Spaniards and my new friend from Mexico staying in the house.

In the afternoon I explored the town, and went to the winery. Met up with friends from previous towns and just sat around and talked about the Camino and other fun stuff.

Dinner was a light meal, back at the house, and off to finishing up my long over due blog posts. Now, I have to update my even longer over due photos.

Thought for the day: I had toyed with the idea of taking a bus for this part of the Camino saying “It’s just vineyards and olive trees, and I’ve already seen my share of those.” But today I met someone, who I didn’t particularly like. I won’t go into details, but I think that you meet these people to learn something about yourself. I am still trying to figure exactly what I was supposed to learn, but what I do know is that the Camino is not only the vineyards and olive trees, it’s the people you meet.

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 16.2
Steps taken: 22,467
Floors climbed: 106

Day 2 (Uterga to Cirauqui)

The walk began very peacefully as I watched the sunrise. I quickly made it to Muruzabel and Obanos. The path was smooth, and the weather was cool. I had only seen a handful of pilgrims for a couple hours. Since it was still early (by Spanish standards) no shops were open. I stopped at the edge of town in Obanos and had a makeshift breakfast of almonds raisins and a biscuit.

By 11:30, I had made it to Puenta la Reina, the next big town on the Camino(I hesitate to call it a city). The town was on the river Arga, and was named for the bridge that was built by Doña Mayor (wife of Sancho III). The bridge was built for pilgrims to safely cross the river.

Since ‘I thought’ it was still early, I decided to press on. For the next two an a half hours I regretted this decision. The temperature rose up to about 93 degrees and the path became very steep and rocky. I made it to the next village, Mañeru, and had to stop for 45 minutes to rest. There was a shaded town square with a fountain and benches. A few other pilgrim stragglers joined me with exhausted expressions.

I pressed on to Cirauqui ( which fortunately was on the top of a hill.). In the town square there was a small albergue. I got a room facing the square and the church. This was a wonderful albergue run by a family. Dinner was down stairs in the wine cellar and I dined with Swedes, Germans, Italians and Americans. It was a simple yet delicious meal topped off with the wonderful company. At one point during the meal an older woman, who had walked the Camino last year, said that the one hill going into Mañeru was called “the hill from hell.” I laughed and agreed.

Later after the long day I reflected. It had been a mainly solitary day of walking. I had a few conversations here and there, but for the most part I was alone. After a day of solitude, the welcoming dinner and conversation was just what I needed. And when I thought further about it, we we all suffering with “the hill from hell.” Even if we were alone while we climbed we had all done it together. It was a good thought to end the day.

One last thought for the day: the albergue was right across from the church, whose bells rang every fifteen minutes. It was quaint during the day, but when it got later I thought that they must stop ringing at 10:00. At 10:15, I thought, well maybe they will stop at midnight. I was fast asleep at midnight, but did notice them once at about 2:30. I guess you get used to all things.

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 18.4
Steps taken: 25,051
Floors climbed: 52

Day 3 (Ciraquai to Estella)

The first part of the day was on parts of a Roman road. It it mind boggling to think that they have survived this long, but the road was also very difficult to walk upon. I’d like to see if Caesar could send out a crew to get these roads fixed. The first town that I came to was Lorca. It had a couple of bars, so I stopped and had some breakfast–a tortilla (like a frittata) and some fresh squeezed orange juice. While having breakfast in came the friends I had made the first night in Uterga- the German couple and a woman fromSan Francisco. It was a happy reunion.

Leaving Lorca I intended to go on to Estella to find a nice hotel, or albergue with wi-fi. I left my friend from San Francisco at an albergue in Villatuerta. On the way from Villatuerta to Estella I met a woman from Mexico who had a list of nice hotels all along the Camino. My new best friend. (I have a feeling i will be making a lot of “new best friends” on the camino). We walked to Estella and got to our hotel, which did not cost much more than an albergue but had ….wait for it…air conditioning!!! In addition having the font of all four-star hotel knowledge, my new friend was also dealing with grief and loss.

We are all so similar. Suffering and in search of a good hotel.

One last thought for the day: the guide books lie. When they say the trek is only 15 km, it is actually 20 km. I will plan my days accordingly with this new realization.

FitBit Stats:

Kilometers walked: 22.45
Steps taken: 30,588
Floors climbed: 58

Day 1 (Pamplona to Uterga)

With very little sleep I contemplated staying in Pamplona for an extra day, just to rest. But I opted to soldier on and start the walk.

I left Pamplona at 7:30am. Since the sun doesn’t rise until 8:00 here I was able to enjoy the sunrise from the city outskirts. The first part of the walk was out of the city and through the suburbs. In the city, I passed (or was passed by) a few other pilgrims (5-10.) but when I arrived in Cizor Menor – the town that the Brierly guide recommends – there were easily two hundred more pilgrims on the route. I tried to find space to walk alone, but it was difficult for a while. I stopped for a breakfast of yogurt and used my handy spork (thanks, Albert!) and then set off again. I got into a rhythm that if the path became too crowded, I would rest until the crowds passed.

The flat land continued for another five kilometers, and then the ascent to Alto de Perdon began. The path became very rocky, and difficult to climb. It was hard on the ankles and the incline was pretty steep at times. After resting in Zarquiegui (I have no idea on how to pronounce that) I continued to the summit (slowly at times.).

The view of both valleys was breath taking, and the wind mills were fascinating. Thinking that it was all downhill from here I headed for Uterga. Indeed it was downhill, but the path was even steeper with more stones, if that is possible. It was very tough on the ankles and knees. It took almost two hours to go 3.4 km.

Made it to the Refugio and had dinner with new friends from Germany (Nuremburg) and San Francisco (the Mission). Small world.

My Spanish seems to be getting worse not better. Only about 5% of the people on the Camino are Spanish. I have spoken more French, Italian and German today than Spanish.

I am exhausted tonight and will try to do a shorter day tomorrow. There will not be too much of a climb tomorrow. Here’s to hoping that there are not too many stones.

Stats form the FitBit:
Kilometers walked: 21.78
Steps taken: 29,670
Flights of stairs climbed: 108

The guidebook says…

“You could easily spend a day here [in Pamplona] exploring many interesting monuments and museums.”

I easily spent a day here exploring the city and doing last minute errands. Yes, I bought a new phone charger, since the last one semi-exploded on the TGV. I got a Spanish phone number and went to the post office three times. (I made friends with the older woman at the post office who helped me mail the water from Lourdes. We had quite a fun time categorizing that for customs. )

I know that doesn’t sound like much. But with very little Spanish, no knowledge of the town, and no smartphone, I felt it was a great accomplishment.

I was finally through with all my chores by 6:00, at which time I treated myself to a frozen yogurt and wandered around the city taking it in.

I tried to go to sleep early so I would be well rested for my first day, but insomnia had other plans. I was able to get about two hours sleep before starting my walk. :(