Pamplona-Puente la Reina Day 4

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The night before, I looked at the weather forecast on my phone to see how cold it was going to be.  Very cold.  Once again, we started our day by headlamp, packing up our stuff quietly and heading out the door before the sun was up.  Starting this early meant that we could end the day earlier by around 12:00 or 2:00 p.m., giving us more time to explore around the towns, have a few beers, and make new aquaintances with other pilgrims.  Leaving this early also gave us the opportunity to pick and choose from any albergue to stay in without having to worry about it filling up before we got there.  This isn’t a real problem in the late spring, but in the busy season (around May to September) slots in albergues and hostels can fill up quickly.

We stepped out onto the cobblestone streets to begin the days hike, but Mel and Caroline had to do one thing first: a bull fight.  Not a real one, just a bull fight between the 2 of them.  The day before, Mel had bought a bull mask and Caroline, a red handkerchief.  They thought, since we were in a city famous for its bull fights and the running of the bulls, they should commemorate or honor it somehow.  So, before beginning, the bull fight happened.  I can’t say anything else about it except to tell you to look at the picture below.

It was a beautiful day for walking the Camino, it only rained a little bit.  It started out cloudy, but as the day went on the clouds moved on and it became sunny.  It still didn’t change the fact that it was still muddy as hell on the trail though.  Once again, my boots and rain gear saved my ass.  The background scenery for todays hike was amazing.  Once we left Pamplona, there was nothing but green fields as far as you could see.  I savored days like this on the trail.  I learned that sometimes while hiking, I liked to get ahead of everyone and just enjoy the silence and scenery.

I also learned something else on this day.  The people you hike with on the Camino can either make or break your camino, much like any other backpacking trip I suppose.  In my case, I’d gotten lucky.  Our 4 different personalities sort of complimented each other.  When someone was hurt, we slowed down and waited for them.  If someone was sick (which happened later on), the others went for medicine and filled up their water bottle while they rested in bed.  And, if someone didn’t understand the menu, then we all looked at Dom and waited for him to translate.  This wasn’t just true of my little group of 4, this was true of most people I ran in to.  Most pilgrims had these same traits.  Over the next month, I heard countless stories of strangers helping each other out while expecting nothing in return.  Everyone pretty much looked out for everyone.  It kinda restores your faith in people a little.

There was one really cool marker along the trail this day, Alto del Perdon.  This was the top of a very large hill where several windmills have been placed and a series of wrought iron sculptures had been placed to commemorate Camino of the past.  From the top of the hill, you can look down and see a small town and along the ridge line you can see a row of windmills.  It was a hard hike up to the top, but well worth the view.  We rewarded ourselves later by stopping at the town below for lunch at a cool little B&B.

Everyone’s feet were hurting by the end of the day because of Alto del Perdon.  Hiking up was one thing, but going down was almost just as hard on my knees.  Mel’s foot was still bothering her so we had slowed up a little as well.  We opted to stay at a new albergue which was just a little on the outskirts of town.  And wouldn’t you know, it was on top of a hill.  Another big ass hill.  A major upside to the days hike was I couldn’t really feel my pack weight anymore, which was awesome!

The albergue at the top of the big ass hill was the Santiago Apostol albergue.  The place wasn’t completely finished when I stayed there, but should be by the end of 2013.  Being just outside of town didn’t set too well with me until we actually got settled in to the albergue.  Inside was a bar, pool, and a pilgrim’s menu for dinner.  Walking out of the back door gave you an amazing view of the landscape.  This place surprised me…in a good way thank God.  I passed the time writing some more postcards back home and watching some popular Australian comedy movie with Dom, Caroline, and Mel on Caroline’s iPad mini.

Dinner time came and we met a couple of new characters: John and his son John.  For the sake of the conversation, I’ll just call the father Old John.  Old John had walked the Camino 2 times before already.  The first time, he walked it by himself and the second time with his oldest son.  His youngest son, John, is in his late 20’s and a musician.  The 5 of us had a great time sharing stories and experiences we’d already had.  On a side note, I recommend ordering the wine with your meal.  Old John and I were the only ones to order wine that night with our dinner and we got it in a beer mug, and it was full.  My teeth were definitely purple by the end of the night.  We ended the night shooting pool and talking about the road for days ahead and the kind of weather and conditions we’d be getting into.  Since the albergue was at the top of a hill and not many people wanted to hike up to it, we had a pretty peaceful nights sleep.

Destination: Puente la Reina

Distance: 24.1 km

Accommodations: Santiago Apostol Albergue- Nice hot showers, small rooms available, pilgrim menu is good.  There’s plenty of stuff to do here to keep you occupied at the end of the day, but I think next time I’ll stay in town more just to mix it up.  I’d give it about 3 stars, maybe 4 once it’s finished.

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