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Between hearing the drunk pilgrims coming in at 1:00 a.m., and listening to 6 people snore in sync (Dom being one, sorry Dom), I wasn’t able to acquire much sleep; maybe a few solid hours. Either way, the 4 of us woke up and began getting ready to begin our days hike by headlamp as it was still pitch black outside. This became a challenge because you had to make sure that you packed up everything into your bag as quietly as possible, with only a small headlamp, and while trying not to wake anyone up. It was a skill we would have mastered by the end of the first week. I grabbed a quick cafe con leche from a vending machine and lit a cigarette while I waited for the others outside. We all clicked on our headlamps and began our walk to the edge of town, wherever the yellow arrows lead us, and turned right onto the trail. Todays destination, Pamplona.
About an hour or so into the hike, the sky began to light up and we turned our headlamps off as our eyes adjusted. Eventually we came to a small town and according to our trusty John Brierley Camino guide, there was a small place to grab some breakfast. It was like something out of a movie, like most sights we saw throughout the journey. Next to a small river was a little outdoor cafe with seating next to the river. Coffee was being brewed, and breakfast sandwiches were being toasted in a outdoor brick oven. We stopped and rested for a bit, eating, drinking coffee, sharing oranges, and hanging out with fellow pilgrims that showed up later. Reluctantly, we gathered our things and started hitting the trail again.
Pamplona was the first large city that I came upon on my Camino. In most of the larger cities I encountered (Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, Astorga…) there was always a newer part of town that has a more modern feel to it. As you move closer to the center of town, you slowly start moving towards the old part of town, which is usually paved with cobblestone streets, large stone churches, and more historical landmarks. I never really like hiking through the new part of town because of all the blacktop and concrete I had to walk over. Walking on those hard flat surfaces always hurt my feet and knees more than the trail did.
Once we walked through the newer part of town, we crossed over a drawbridge and through a large stone archway into Old Pamplona. The town is beautiful! There is a network of cobblestone streets leading every which way. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I have a terrible sense of direction, making it easy to get lost. I didn’t care because I loved getting lost and turned around in the old cities, it’s how I found the coolest and most interesting places. All over old town are tapas restaurants, cathedrals, cafes, restaurants, and little tourist shops.
We settled in at the Jesus y Maria alberuge, just down the street from the bull fighting arena. It used to be a Jesuit church and has since been turned into an amazing facility for pilgrims to stay in. It is a pretty modern facility with wifi, washing machines (which were a little tricky to use), computers to Skype on, and decent showers. If you walk outside the back where the washing machines are, there is a large courtyard with a beautiful weeping willow tree. I’d definitely stay here again.
After settling in at the albergue, Mel went off to the physical therapist (which Mel and Caroline called the “physio”) to have a look at her foot and Dom accompanied her to act as translator. While they ran their errand, Caroline and I went off to the post office to mail our postcards back home. Originally, I thought it would be a good idea to send back postcards of the days events instead of carrying around a journal. That idea died in Pamplona and I bought a journal at a nearby outdoor store.
After running our errands, we met back at the albergue and decided to have a siesta/time to ourselves. I walked over to a nearby cathedral and sat down for some peace and quiet, and I got it. I had the entire sanctuary to myself! It was the most amazing timing because I just so happened to have my journal with me. That was my first journal entry, sitting in a cathedral in Pamplona by myself with only a journal, a plethora of stained glass windows, and beautiful biblical sculptures throughout the sanctuary.
The rest of the day was filled with the usual errands: grabbing a quick lunch, exploring the city a bit, purchasing more supplies, and buying a few gifts to take back home. For dinner, the 4 of us met up at the albergue and went to a couple of tapas bars to try the local cuisine. Pamplona did not disappoint. The entire evening was a delight, hanging out with my fellow pilgrims, eating fresh tapas, drinking beers; it was a great ending to the day.
Distance: 20.9 km
Accommodations: Jesus y Maria Albergue- I would definitely stay here again! Nice bathrooms, internet access (can’t remember if there was wifi or not), recently updated, good location in the old part of Pamplona. The only down side was the sleeping arrangements, bunk beds in a row, meaning there were about 50+ people per room. I would definitely stay here again, 5 stars.