After being awakened by crashing thunder claps and the rush of pouring rain, I left Pamplona in the dark at 7:10 a.m. under drenching skies. Intermingled with a group of 20 Koreans who had stayed at my albergue last night, we trudged through the city in our ponchos, past the citadel park and the university, until we reached the outskirts. I popped into a row of porta-potties for a bit of welcome relief. It was 3.2km to reach the medieval Puente crossing the río Sadar.
On the outskirts, we walked on a bidegorri, or “red path” in Basque, surfaced in red for bicyclists. Just outside of the city, as we approached Cizur Menor, it suddenly stopped raining and the skies turned blue for the rest of the day. This would turn out to be one of my favorite days on the Camino, first, because of the magnificent scenery, and second, because I would meet Darina, who would become one of my closest friends throughout my walk.
We passed through rolling farmland, the path lined with anise, blackberries, thistles and prickly weeds. A small village perched charmingly on a hillock and rectangular hay bales squatted in neat stacks in the fields. One of the pilgrims passing the haystacks said, “Where’s the Irish?” He was referring to the movie, The Way, in which Martin Sheen and his companions met Jack the Irishman at similar hay bales.
After Cizur Menor, I continued another 6.1 km to Zariquiegui where I stopped in at the little Church of St. Andrew, or San Andrés, with its Romanesque doorway. I got a sello for my credenciale and said a prayer for our family and asked for blessings for my pilgrimage. At a little café in town, I met Ingrid and Pat from Seattle. After the town, there was little shade but at least a nice breeze. The path to Alto del Perdon was a constant uphill climb but not overly demanding.
The highlight of the day was reaching Alto del Perdon, where wind turbines twirled on the ridge line and rusted sheet metal pilgrims headed westward in a line. The sculpture has the inscription: “Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas.” In English: “Where the wind path meets the path of the stars.”
The site was windy and crowded with pilgrims resting after the long uphill climb. I rested at the top for a while, chatting with other pilgrims and taking pictures.
The steep descent from the top was rough, over loose round stones in relentless afternoon heat. I made my way down gingerly with newlyweds Claire and Matt, slipping on the rocks now and then. Pat and Ingrid eventually caught up with us as we walked between tall box trees and holm oak wood. We were all getting low on water and Ingrid found it funny when I said I felt like my eyes were shriveling up in my head.
We bypassed Uterga and walked through vineyards and almond trees along a ridge parallel to a quiet country road.
The complete stage was to Puente la Reina (another 2.2 km); Claire, Matt and Pat continued to the end of the stage, but Ingrid and I stopped at the fabulous El Jardin de Muruzábal, run by the welcoming couple, Alicia and Carlos. It was a lovely albergue set on a green lawn dotted with white chairs.
After Darina from Slovakia mentioned she was going to rent a bicycle from Alicia and ride 2.4 km each way to Santa María de Eunate, I followed suit. It was great to have the option to visit this special church by means of transport other than on foot. I sailed downhill through hay and corn fields to the Romanesque church. Darina was already there, reading a brochure and enjoying her contemplative time, so I left her alone and spent some time in the church in prayer, and then walked around the grounds.
Santa María de Eunate is a 12th century Romanesque church linked with the Knights Templar who historically defended pilgrims on the way to Santiago. Its octagonal form is modeled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church has an external cloister with delicate and more substantial pillars around the outside.
Riding back to town, a cool breeze made the corn stalks rustle, whisper and dance, sending messages to open hearts passing by. My hair was whipping about in the wind. When I reached the steep hill back into town, I got off the bike and walked it uphill. I stopped to admire the church in the center of town, San Esteban.
The entire excursion was an amazing experience, and I was grateful to Darina for her infectious energy and enthusiasm; she inspired me to do something I might not have considered doing otherwise.
The pilgrim dinner was served outside on the porch of the albergue; salad with olives and eggs, baked ziti with cheese, pork (which I didn’t eat), potato tortilla, and ice cream sandwiches. A lot of wine flowed, as was always the case at pilgrim dinners. I found out Darina was an English and history teacher of middle-schoolers in Slovakia. She announced to her boss that she was taking a gap year to do the Camino; in the winter, she planned to go to New Zealand and Australia. She said her boss wasn’t happy about it, but she was determined to go.
I met a young man from Budapest who had been working in the fraud department at Ernst and Young and was now taking a gap year. He had no idea what to do with his life but he knew that it wasn’t working an office job. He was fascinated when I told him my oldest son was doing a butchery apprenticeship; he liked the idea of some kind of apprenticeship. Another young man I met at dinner was being ordained as an Episcopal priest.
Thomas from Germany didn’t know any English but he had a great sense of humor and a constant smile on his face. He did a round of greetings in different languages, with dramatic gestures. “Hola, señora!” “Olá!” “Hej!” “Bonjour!” “Hallo!” “Ciao!” He cracked me up!
What a wonderful group of people and a convivial and joyous atmosphere. I was filled with incredible gratitude for the gifts of this day.
Leaving Pamplona in the rain
To Cizur Menor 1.8 km
Cizur Menor to Zariquiegui (6.1 km)
Zariquiegui to Alto del Perdon (altitude 790 meters) (2.4 km)
Alto del Perdon to Uterga (3.8 km)
Uterga to Muruzábal (2.5 km)
Muruzábal to Santa María de Eunate (2.4 km each way)
Bicycle ride back to Muruzábal
*Day 6: Sunday, September 9, 2018*
*34,826 steps, or 14.76 miles: Pamplona to Muruzábal (20.2 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Chocolate Time in Loulé.