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First Days on the Camino Francés

Posted by on Dec 6, 03:07 PM
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Pamplona was home for two days plus a little more. Sergio, Leire and their pup, Shiva the French Bulldog, helped us adjust to the new cultural climate in style as I Shiva lounged in their comfortable city-center flat and resuscitated the weary legs, occasionally going out for a tour of the city center and admiring the boldly and intricately ornate interiors of the nearby churches, with alters all shining in sun-bright gold and attractively graven images of Attentionso many holy men and women. What a contrast to the sober austerity of their French counterparts! Yet not more nor less pleasing to the eye of the soul. On the eve of the close of our respite in the city famous for its Running of the Bulls our generous hosts took us for a tour of the old part of the city, expounding lore to my my ready ears as we strolled the cider-lit cobblestone streets.

Most of these pilgrim refuges expect to be vacated by 8am which seems a tad sadistic to me this time of year…

VineyardsUpon setting off again on the way of Saint James we were immediately accosted by an unexpected 1200-foot technical climb, the top of which was a ridge lined with larger-than-life wind turbines painted yellow by the afternoon sun, and rotating idly, lazy in the light breeze. We were rewarded for the climbing effort by a wicked-fast, off-road ride through ruddy StreetShotbrown Spanish villages, church bell towers rising above the drab stone buildings. We finished early and stayed in our first albergue. An albergue is essentially a refuge for pilgrims and Wineresembles a dormitory-style youth hostel. Costs usually range from free (donate if you like) to the 10 euro range and usually hover between 3 and five euros per person. Most seem to have communal kitchens, some are heated and most have warm showers to clean off the dust and sweat accumulated from long day of walking. Many are run by the local diocese or municipality, some within monasteries. This particular albergue happened to be crowded with a bunch of snore-heads the night of my stay so the earplugs were essential. Most of these pilgrim refuges expect to be vacated by 8am which seems a tad sadistic to me this time of year, since the sky is still ink-Viewblack at that time and the air is sometimes frosty. Nevertheless, these places have made the ride so much more enjoyable that I begin to wonder sometimes if the pilgrimage has lost the ascetic tone that should be the pitch of an honest pilgrimage. I suppose that this lifestyle might be “roughing it” for many folks, but in contrast to the cycle-touring lifestyle I have enjoyed for the past several months this new access to a shower and sleep indoors seems as velvet luxury! But, enough about albergues.

There, a nonsensical twist of fate occurred…

GrapesDear reader, I must apologize for the meager scattering of pictures in this post. The fine weather accompanying the first few days in the Navarra region; the acute loveliness of the red, brown and green countryside covered in aging vineyards and the undulating dirt track, rocky and technical but oh-so-so-so-much fun on the CURTLOs Viana(they just eat it up!), inspired me to record loads of video which I hope to share once the opportunity of paring it down and packaging it up for the web arrives.

Day three on the Way of Saint James was almost as enjoyable as the first, and on the fourth day we crossed into the Castile, only managing about 60 to 70 kms (40 miles) per day due to the terrain. The next morning, leaving the town of Redecilla, we were assaulted by such crushing headwinds we thought it best to end the day at Belorado only 12 kilometers westward. There, a nonsensical twist of fate occurred: Randall and I forgot to pack up our walking shoes as we left the next morning! TowerAlterTherefore, to this very hour our shoes lie in the albergue in Belorado awaiting post to some destination in the south of the country to come.

Now with a belly full of wonderful Spanish squid and octopus I put the lid on this update and leave it to my dear little (little?) brother to render an account of “Soft French Cheese vs. Randall in Burgos”. Ta-ta for now.


  1. Hi guys! Nice to read your stories on the way! Hope you are doing well. We have met on the Camino de Santiago in the Albergue of Belorado on that windy day in November… Buen camino and good luck!

    — Eelco · Jan 14, 03:19 AM · #

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