The not so grand vitesse

I awoke to a day 4 of this journey in Pamplona with some reflections on why I’m doing this and what I want fro the trip.  

So far, it’s put me in touch with local people and others walking the Camino.  But I haven’t allowed the time to really see the towns, like Pamplona, along the way.  Originally I planed 2 nights in Pamplona but bagged that for a second night in Logrono in a couple of days.  And I’d already booked a hotel tonight in Punte la Reina and I didn’t want to lose money on that hotel.  In retrospect, I would have been better off staying in Pamplona as the hotel was quite nice and the food good.  But I ruminate on the Swiss couples that were touring the cathedral and having dinner at Hemingway’s favorite restaurant.  So, I’ll put returning to Pamplona on my list for future trips – it’s worth a few days.

So maybe there’s a lesson there to be a bit more spontaneous and go with the flow – unfortunately the Camino is crowded which essentially means book at least a day ahead to get accommodations in anything other than an Albergue (and even then it can be tight, especially in the towns that are often considered the ends of “stages” in the guide books).

The other thing I’ve marveled on is the technology advances – cars passing on the roads (and trains, like the TGV and Renfe high speed lines) cover the same distance in well under 3 minutes that I cover by foot in an hour.  Or the flight to Paris from the states that covered in 6 hours as much distance as we, or our forebearers could cover in a year.  Amazing what science and engineering hath wrought.  But the existential question is whether that is all good, or whether it has created disadvantages.

So today involved another 24 kilometers on the trail.  The bath and relaxation yesterday made a huge difference – I was back to the pace I make at home… close to 5 km/hr.  That the trail was better also helped.

We climbed out of Pamplona with a steep climb within a 3 km of Alto de Perdon, which is the highest point on today’s segment.  There is a monument to the ancient pilgrims at Perdon, and also a Stonehenge-looking ring of stones.  Alto de Perdon is somewhat famous as the spot where an ancient pilgrim was aided by their quest for water by St. John after refusing the devil.  And St. James gave the pilgrim a drink from a scallop shell, which is why they are symbols of the Camino today.

(Note: different sources have Saint Jamesor Santiago as the one who aided the pilgrim – They are, in fact, the same person: St. James is also referred to as Santiago).

Today’s walk started wet: the ground was wet and there was a dripping rain – just enough to make the pavement and trail wet, but not heavy enough to bother with the poncho.  There were clouds in the tops of the mountains with fields of yellow and green sweeping across the valley.  Simply beautiful – this rivals Tuscany at this time of year.

As we crossed the Alto de Perdon, there was a last burst of rain and as I descended into the lush valley below the sky turned blue with puffy clouds.  Perfect temperature and conditions to take off my jacket and continue the walk.  Unlike the segments before Pamplona there were no horses (not even ones with cowbells), just fields of lush green and yellow of crops starting to grow.

The spring flowers have started to arrive – grape hyacinths, flowering trees, and poppies (I’ll sleep well tonight as poppies will make me sleep….).  Saw a couple of huge heads of cabbage in someone’s garden.  This was a really nice walk today.

I even got to the hotel early. Under other circumstances, the place would be a disappointment – the internet connection seems kaput (technical term), the toilet was running (fixed with a judicious jiggle of the handle), and the shades are balky.  But, it’s a single room, private bath, and for the occasion it’s quite luxurious.  And they offered a fixed meal for the walkers, dorm style. I was seated with a nurse from Holland and shortly thereafter in walked the couple that I met yesterday from Nashville.  The camaraderie is worth the trip.