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Day 07 - Puente la Reina to Estella

Date: May 11, 2015

Location: From: Puente la Renia To: Estella

Mileage: 21.9 Km

Weather: Blue skies and very hot

Temperature: 80s° F

Lodging and Cost: Hostel El Volante 45€/Double 

GPS Location: ’42.663266” N and ’ -2.031972” W

Highlights: First sightings of the grape orchards and the grain fields, also saw a few olives trees along the way.

Summary of the Day:

Today wasn’t much of an exciting day as it was pretty hot from the start. John and I got up and were out by 6:40 this morning because it was calling for a beast of a hot day. The first thing that didn’t go well was that we had to walk about 5 Km to find a bar and get a cup of coffee, and then when we got there with a crowd of about 25, we found out that the shop was only selling bread and bottled water and juice so we pushed on for about another hour until we got to Lorca where there were several places. The café con leche was great and I got fresh squeezed orange juice.

After about 45 minutes we pushed on toward Estella. Along the way I saw the first of many to come, new grape vines in the fields as well as the grains that are already up about 12 to 15 inches. I can tell that summer is here. Besides the oppressive heat, the flowers are blooming everywhere and the bugs and the bees are flying from flower to flower.

Today we had no reservations for tonight and with the crowds coming close behind us there was a concern that we might not have a place to stay. When we got into Estella we saw the information office. The woman in there was very helpful in showing us a list of all the albergues, pensiones, and hoteles. We discussed which one we thought that we would like and then asked her to call for us. The one we chose only had 4 rooms left so we told her to reserve it for us. It took us about fifteen minutes to get here and when we were checking in the lady told us that from the time we called until we got here she was full.

After checking in, I told John that we need to book right away for the next two days and he agreed. I talked with the lady here and she was telling me that it is going to get worse on finding something if we don’t continue to reserve. Even though we are booked for two days, tomorrow when we get to the next place I’m going to book another day and keep at least two days out.

After we settled in and had cleaned up, we got our clothes washed for 6€. We took off for the restaurants and got a beer and a sandwich. We came into town at noon, and have pretty much stayed inside the entire afternoon. I’m hoping that tomorrow is a little better and not as hot as today. We will probably leave even earlier tomorrow morning to get ahead of the heat. I will let you know how tomorrow goes. As always… Buen Camino.

Day 06 - Pamplona to Puente la Reina

Date: May 10, 2015

Location: From: Pamplona To: Puente la Reina

Mileage: 23.8 km 

Weather: Beautiful but again hot… In a heat wave

Temperature: 80s F°

Lodging and Cost: Hostel Bidean 60€ for a double 

GPS Location: ’42.672328” N and ’ -1.813512” W

Highlights: Alto del Perdon Statues and the views from it. City of Puente la Reina and the bridge.

Summary of the Day:

Yesterday was a hot day so we decided that we better leave even earlier so we got up at 5:00 a.m. to beat the heat as it could be a long day. It was really cool as we walked through the streets of Pamplona before the sun came up. It is a sleepy town that early, as well as it should be, because they were going strong at 3:00 this morning. In spite of all the partying that was going on in the street, there was absolutely no trash or bottles laying around. I never cease to be amazed at how they live here. They work hard, they play hard and yet family seems to always come first.

We walked across town and out to the university up into the mountains. Our first climb was to climb Alto del Perdon, where the iron statues are. Took a long break there and drank a lot of water and ate an orange. After about an hour pushed down the other side and on to Uterga where we stopped to have café con leche. I stopped here two years ago when I passed through then. It is a great stop. It’s in a good location with nothing before and nothing after. You know what they say in business, it’s location, location, location.

After a good break it was the push to Puente la Reina and to the hostel. This hostel is a real bargain for 60€, as it not only includes the lodging but also a three-course dinner and breakfast. It also has good Wifi. It does appear that the crowds are starting to grow along the trail. Not too many Americans, but the Australians and the Asians are growing in number as well. The number of bicycle folks have also increased and from the sounds of their voices as they fly by seems to be French.

It was a good day although it was hot. Got to the hotel by noon and cleaned up and went out to see the town before dinner. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be cooler but that isn't being called for so we’ll probably leave early again. At least there has been no rain since we started, but I’m sure it will come. Will update again tomorrow. As always, Buen Camino.

Day 05 - Zubiri to Pamplona

Date: May 9, 2015

Location: From: Zubiri To: Pamplona

Mileage: 20.9 Km

Weather: Beautiful with blue skies

Temperature: 80s F°

Lodging: Hotel Eslava

GPS Location: ’42.818228” N and ’ -1.649928” W

Highlights: Views along the way and all the festivals in Pamplona

Summary of the Day:

John and I got up at 6:00 a.m. after a good nights sleep and a great meal the night before. We had been hearing of HOT weather to be coming for the next few days so we thought it would be better to leave as early as possible to beat some of the heat. Had a quick breakfast at the pension and was off by 6:30. It was a wonderful morning and the path was already filled with a lot of like-minded people. It was a good trail and the climbs were minimal at the start.

After a couple of hours we came to the village of Zurian and stopped in for a café con leche and orange juice. It wasn’t long after, the trail started to climb as it neared the main highway. It went through a tunnel under the highway and continued to climb toward Pamplona. Finally we arrived on the outskirts of the city and walked through a park toward the gate to the city.

Pamplona is such an impressive city. The old and the modern blend so well. We arrived about 12:30 p.m. and got checked into the hotel, which was the same one that I stayed in before starting the trail. By this time the temperature had risen into the 80s. It was such a relief to stop for the day. We took on a little sightseeing tour of the city and as the day went on the crowds grew. I guess being a Saturday everyone came to town to enjoy the beautiful day and party with their friends.

As the afternoon passed our thoughts turned to eating dinner. In Spain hardly anyone eats before 7:30 to 8:00 p.m. so about 7:00 we headed to a restaurant that the hotel recommended, but by now not only could you not get in the restaurant, you couldn’t get down the street to the restaurant. After a couple attempts to get to the restaurant we turned and pushed our way back toward the hotel. It was going to be a lost cause to try to get anything, but then we saw a La Tienda and it wasn’t too crowded. It was a welcome sight, as they had just what we needed, a bottle of water, a baguette and a pasta, lettuce and chicken salad, all for 4€. We had a winner. We went back to the room, ate and re- packed for another early departure.

This has been another fine day on the Camino. Again good weather, good trail, and great companionship. These are things that make hiking a joy. Will continue tomorrow, so until then…Buen Camino!

Day 04 - Roncevalles to Zubiri

Date:  May 8,2015

Location: From: Roncevalles To: Zubiri

Mileage: 21.9 Km

Weather: beautiful blue skies, warm

Temperature: 70s F°

Lodging and Cost: Pension Rio Arga Ibaia, 40€ double, split my cost 20€ GPS

Location: 42.929934° N, -1.503509° W

Highlights: beautiful forest walk along a wooded path

Summary of the Day:

Back at Orisson I had the good fortune to meet a Londoner that was sharing the same room as I. We had several conversations and the next day we both took off early. As the day passed, we crossed paths and continued our conversations. At the albergue in Roncevalles we once again were in the same area. We both mentioned that we were leaving at first light and from there our band was formed. I was planning on stopping at burguete for some breakfast, but we passed the first restaurant to opt for the next one down the street, only to find there wasn’t one down the street. Not to worry... we’d walk another 3.6 Km to the village of Espinal, but when we got there everything was closed. Since everything was closed nearly the whole way to Zubiri, we walked along together and talked all the way in. 

Most of the way was pretty much wooded paths. We had a number of uphill climbs, but none like climbing the Pyrenees; it was still some up hills. I mentioned that I was going to book a night at the pension in Zubiri that I had stayed in two years before and asked if he wanted go there, which he did. We went to the Amets Pension only to be told they were full. When I told them that I stayed there two years ago and that it was wonderful, they said that they would find a nice place for us. After one call they said that the owner was on his way to get us. He walked us to his Pension and showed us a beautiful double room with shower just across the hall. There was a balcony overlooking the river and it was clean and quiet. They washed and dried all of our clothes, folded and even return them to the room, all for 5€. This was a real deal.

We went to the Albergue in town to register for the dinner meal. This was 13€ for a three-course meal. You had a choice of fish or meat, so having fish the night before I opted for the “meat” (I wasn’t sure what kind of meat but it wasn’t fish). It turned out to be pork, which was really good. It’s so much fun to sit and eat with fellow pilgrims walking the same path and discuss your daily travels and what you’ve seen and your hardships. We had a table full: one Canadian, two Austrians, and one Frenchman. The meal was terrific: tossed salad and split pea soup for the first course and then the main course pork steak, and lemon mousse for desert. After dinner we all sat around until they pushed out for the next seating. We needed to get ready for tomorrow anyway.

All in all, today has been a great day. There is nothing better than a good walk, good food, and most importantly good company and conversation. Looking forward to tomorrow. Will post more tomorrow, so until then…Buen Camino!

Day 03 - Orisson Auberge to Roncesvalles

Date: May 7, 2015

Location: From: Orisson Auberge To: Roncesvalles

Mileage: 16.3 km

Weather: Beautiful blue skies with strong winds

Temperature: 60’sF°

Lodging and Cost: Auberge Colegiata

Highlights: Beautiful views from the climb up the Rita de Napoleon across the Pyrenees mountains

Summary of the Day:

Got up at 6:00 a.m. and started to pack for the tough climb up and over the mountains today heading to Roncesvalles for the night. Last night at the auberge at Orisson was great. I met so many people. There were only a handful of Americans there besides myself. It seems like they came from all over the world. There were folks from Australia, Japan, England, Ireland and Germany not to mention a lot of small countries that I cannot remember. Believe it or not, there were only two from France, which really surprised me. It was a late night with everybody sitting around talking. I finally got into bed at 9:00 p.m.

After a first night at Orisson, it seems like you know all these people the next day and you become really good acquaintances. So all day today I've been meeting up with them and having conversations with them. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 7:30 and then everyone was off. I finally left at 8:00 but was making good time. When I got nearer the top, the winds picked up and it was all I could do to stand up. A couple of times it blew me off the path and it was a struggle to continue. Fortunately it was very warm bordering on being hot with full sun. Two years ago when coming across the mountains we had a fair amount snow, but this year there was only two small patches way up off the trail. When I reached the top I looked around to see if any of the other mountain tops had much snow but they didn’t have very much either, so I guess Spain had a milder and a shorter winter.

I pushed on over the top and down to Roncesvalles never stopping and finally got to the auberge at noon. I thought about going on, but decided to stop here. I knew that it was clean and modern and there didn’t seem to be too many behind me.

It’s hard to believe, but most of the people out here are in their 50's and up. I figured there wouldn’t be any late night people.

When I got here I paid the 12 € for my bed, but couldn’t come in until 2:00 so me and John, my new friend from London, decided to go and get a beer at the Casa Sabina Hosteria and restaurant. As I walked up the fire department rolled up and started pulling hoses. As it turned out, something in the kitchen caught fire. Needless to say they are closed, so the only restaurant that is open is the posada down the street. John and I went down and bought out dinner tickets so we’re pre-paid and can walk right in.

It’s been a great day and I’m going to get a good night's sleep and start again in the morning about 6:30 a.m. I’m hoping for another day of good weather. So until tomorrow, I will say, Buen Camino!

Day 02 - Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port

Date: May 6, 2015

Location: From: Pamplona To: Orisson Auberge

Mileage: 8 Km

Weather: clear blue skies but very hot until I got to Orisson

Temperature: upper 70’s then in upper 50’s°

Lodging and Cost: Orisson Auberge 35 €

GPS Location: No WiFi here

Highlights: St Jean Pied de Port and the grand views on the climb up to Orisson.

Summary of the Day:

Got up this morning and got ready to go, but first I had to try to arrange my shuttle. I had a standard Spanish Pilgrim’s breakfast, which is bread/toast, sliced cheese and ham, café con leche, and orange juice. My shuttle picked me up at 8:00 a.m. and we were on our way. It’s about 90 Km to St. Jean Pied de Port for 100 €. It was an interesting ride though, and again no English but great conversation. He was able to correct me where I was saying something wrong.

After about two hours I got to St. Jean and up to the Pilgrim's office. I stamped my credential and was off. The temperature was really hot but finally cooled off after I gained elevation. It was a clear day and you could see all the mountains in the distance as well as St. Jean below.

The trail is really crowded; I passed or was passed by about 30 people. I’ve met no one from the states yet, but at the Pilgrim's office I looked through the register and saw a number of Americans. It took me about two hours of climbing to get here, but finally I arrived at the Orisson Auberge, where the line was backed out the door with people trying to get a bed. Some had reservations but others did not, and for the ones that didn't, they were turned away. There was some kind of mixup in their books as they showed that I had called and cancelled my reservation, but fortunately I had brought my printed receipt. They found their mistake and all was good. Settled in and showered while waiting for dinner.

This has been a good start to my journey and I look forward to tomorrow and the climb up and over the top. According to the weather reports, it is supposed to be a pretty day and some pilgrims in Pamplona who had crossed the top a few days ago report that there is very little snow.

A side note about a gear review: For those hikers that might be looking for a new camp sandal, there is a new sandal on the market by the name of Xero Shoe (pronounced Zero shoe). They weigh 12 oz. and take up very little volume in your pack. For us gram weenies, compared to the Crocs (which I really like) at 16 oz. and have a much larger volume profile if you put them in your pack. This will save you 4 oz. They were designed to be a barefoot running shoe, but I think they could possibly be a good camp shoe. I am going wear these each day when I get into towns where I am staying and see how they hold up and how comfortable they are for the long run. So far I’ve been wearing them for two days. I will report on how they do. If you want to see them online, check out this company's website: www.xeroshoe.com.

As for now it’s dinner time, so until tomorrow… Buen Camino!

Day 01 - Atlanta to Pamplona

Date: May 5, 2015

Location: From: Atlanta, Ga. To: Pamplona, Spain

Mileage: 0 by foot Weather: beautiful

Temperature: 72°F

Lodging and Cost: Hotel Eslava 38 + 5 for breakfast €

GPS Location: 42.818222°N and 1.649872°W

Highlights: City of Madrid and City of Pamplona

Summary of the Day:

Arrived at Atlanta airport at 3:00 p.m. and got through security with no problems. My flight didn’t take off until 7:00 p.m. and then was delayed for another 30 minutes, but pilot made up the time and we arrived on time in Madrid. I got the cab and was able to catch an earlier train to Pamplona.

It looks like all my Spanish studying is paying off as all the cab drivers that I’ve gotten could speak absolutely no English, but it’s really given me a chance to practice. When I was leaving to come here, I planned to practice, but was a little nervous. I can tell you that's out the window because that’s all I’ve been doing. I know I’ve said some things wrong by the blank looks on their faces but they have told me no problem. When I got to the hotel where they were supposed to speak English, it turned out that the only person who spoke English was off for a few days. I still got my shuttle to St. Jean Pied de Port. All in all I’ve already had a number of good conversations with people and I’m trying not to speak in English.

I spent the entire day walking around the city looking at all the sites and shops. It was a great day of rest before heading out tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting on the trail tomorrow. Will post progress updates daily as I have WiFi.

As they say on the Camino…"Buen Camino!"

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