Camino de Santiago: Day 3 (Christina)

From Zubiri to Cizur Menor (25.2 km)

It is day 6 and I finally have Internet access again and time to write, but the internet is expensive (one euro for twenty minutes) and I have so much to share.  The keyboard is strange too so please forgive all my typos as I am typing fast.

On day 3, advil and tylenol are my friends on the Camino.  I didn´t have a very good sleep again and I awake feeling physically tired.  My leg muscles are a little sore but not too bad.  I decide to wear my hiking sandals today to give my feet a chance to breathe.  It has been so hot!  It was a good decision as I have no problems with my feet today. The blisters from yesterday filled up again with water so I resort to a trick I read about on a Camino forum, to pass a needle through with some thread and leave the thread in to allow the blister to drain.  I hope it works.

I head out around 6:45 am, a few minutes ahead of Pauline, my Irish friend.  We both decide to walk alone today.  I need to channel my low energy into walking and not so much talking.  I also feel the need to think about some of the things I have been talking about these past two days.  I spend the entire day walking alone except for the occasional greeting and a few minutes of friendly banter here and there.

Since nothing was open when I leave so early in the morning, I resort to my provisions in my bag: a banana, some stale bread, and a few pieces of salami.  It is enough to get me started.  I reach the first open restaurant at 10:30 am.  By now I am quite hungry even though I have also eaten an apple and some nuts along the way.  My breakfast costs five euros which buys me a large coffee, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and yogurt.  It is enough.

My breakfast stop.  Yes, that is Pauline in the background.
Although we walked alone, we both ended up here
for coffee at around the same time.

The scenery this morning is changing.  We are still in the foothills of the Pyrennees but today I have passed factories and noisy highways.  The vistas are still breathtaking even with the human intrusions.  Today there are two accidents along the camino, within a few minutes of each other.  First, a guy wipes out on his mountain bike going down a steep hill and really does a number on his knee.  It is full of gravel and very bloody.  Several pilgrims stop, including my friend Pauline, to help him get cleaned up and bandaged.  Less than five minutes later, I see an older gentleman sitting on the side of the Camino with a bloody forehead.  Just before, there was a large, low hanging tree that we had to bend under to pass.  He was reading his book and walked right into it.  His wife and another Pilgrim had the situation under control and he was clearly embarassed and did not want a fuss to be made over him.

The scenery isn’t all beautiful today;
the sight of this large factory rudely intruded on the
picturesque landscape I’ve been enjoying.

This morning I am thinking about what I want to do next with my life.  I have an idea of something I want to do, and it is not a new idea either.  It would take me many years of study, perhaps 7 – 10, to realize this dream.  Today I grapple with the philosophical question: at 50 (almost), am I too old to start something new, to pursue new dreams and aspirations?  Aside from the practical logistics like funding the whole venture, is it sensible to embark on a new path at this point in my life?  Should I even care if it is sensible and just do it because it is my passion?  Pauline mentioned an accelerated program in England that could help me reach my dream within just three years and this has my mind spinning with possibilities.  I come to no resolution, but notice how excited I am just imagining what my life could be like.

This is the first memorial I see to remember
a pilgrim who died here on the Camino.
It is sobering to see this and I wonder
about the circumstances that lead to this.

There is a wonderful sense of comaraderie on the Camino.  Everybody says hello to each other as they walk by.  In the evenings, it is quite a lot of fun in the Albergues.  Last night, 4 of the 8 people in my room were Irish and I went to sleep listening to the Irish lilt of their banter as they were clearly not ready for bed at 10:00 pm.  I thought I would find communal living in dormitories to be annoying but I am quite enjoying myself.  But I must admit that getting woken up at 3:00 am by loud snoring is quite irritating especially when I have such a hard time getting back to sleep (damn my insomnia).  For now, I enjoy the novelty of it all.

An example of a water fountain from which to fill my water bottles.
Water is plentiful on the Camino so far. 

Today I walked through my first large city, Pamplona.  It was strange to walk from one end to the other.  The Camino was beautifully marked with a silver disc carrying the Camino symbol (a shell) embedded in the sidewalk every fifteen feet or so – impossible to get lost.  I am treated with respect wherever I go. I am a Pilgrim afterall. People wish me ´Buen Camino´.  I am touched.  Pamplona has a beautiful historic centre which attracts plenty of tourists. It was just buzzing with commotion when I arrived.  Other than peaking into the Cathedral, I simply pass through the town, determined to reach the next little town about 5 km away.  I find being in the bustling city to be rather disruptive to my Camino pace.  I do, however, take advantage of the amenities and stock up on bandages and a notebook to write a journal when I don´t have internet connection.  I eat my lunch on a park bench on the way out of town – I eat a little every hour or so.  It is too hot to eat a big meal at lunch.  I look forward to the Pilgrim menu tonight for supper when I know I will be starving.

The Camino marker on the sidewalk lead me through Pamplona.

A glimpse of the cathedral in Pamplona.

Another beautiful building in Pamplona; maybe I’ll come 
back another time to explore this historic town. 

The Camino passes through pretty city parks as I leave Pamplona.

I find the Camino to be physically challenging today, not because the terrain is particularly difficult, rather my old body is tired and quite frankly resents another day of walking.  My right hip started to hurt early in the day and by mid-morning I started popping pain killers to cope.  I think it is just inflamed, not injured, so I am not too worried about it.

I reach the Albergue in Cizur Menor around 3:30, tired and sore.  This Albergue is associated in some way with the Order of Malta and is run by a volunteer, Pablo.  I am greeted warmly and told to take my pack off, sit down.  Pablo offers me, and every other Pilgrim who arrives, a cold glass of orange juice and a cherry.  I am touched to the core by his kindness and almost burst into tears.

I find myself in a dorm with many beds, about 25, but spread out over several rooms.  I choose a bed next to a girl who I learn is from Denmark, Layla.  She asks me if my husband is on the Camino. Apparently she walked with Chris for alittle while the day before.  I haven´t seen Chris since Roncesvalles and I am glad to hear he is doing well. Remember the mother – daughter pair we met when waiting for our train to St. Jean Pied de Port?  Well I ran into them at the church in Pamplona and they had just seen Chris settled into an albergue closeby.  So I know he is staying in Pamplona tonight.   I am just a few kilometres away.

My bed for the night.  I was lucky tonight, no one took the top bunk.

I am so happy I pushed on to Cizur Menor as it is quite peaceful here with lovely views of Pamplona and the countryside and best of all I learn that Pablo offers breakfast to Pilgrims in the morning, for free.  It´s been another wonderful day on the Camino and in my journal I think I am ending my entry for the day, but it is not over yet.  By the way, I wrote this journal entry from the comfort of a lounge chair in the church across the courtyard from the Albergue, also the Order of Malta.  Imagine, someone has put a row of comfy chairs behind the stiff pews – it was wonderful.

And so let me continue my story of my evening on Day 3.  I hope I haven´t bored you so far with too many details but I want you to share in my happiness from the day.  I meet another girl, Agnes from Hungary, who says she does not have very much money and would like to cook dinner tonight in the Albergue, which has a very good kitchen. Would I like to join her, and Layla too?  We agree to check out the grocery store to see if we can conjure something up.  At the store, we meet Daniel a young student from England and Rihoko from Japan who listen to us talk about our dinner possibilities.  They both ask if they can join our dinner.  So now we have a dinner party of five.  We make our purchases and it costs only 3.60 each, including two bottles of wine.  Very good for the budget which I seem to be blowing each day.  Bandaids are very expensive here!

We prepare dinner together: pasta with tomato sauce with pork sausage, a large garden salad full of fresh vegetables, bread and wine.  There is so much food that we eat until we cannot possible take another bite and there are still leftovers.  Daniel packs a lunch for tomorrow and Layla and I pack some salad.  We all share the left over bread.  What a grand (the Irish are rubbing off on me!) way to end my third day on the Camino.  In case you haven´t noticed, I am having the time of my life.

We all pitch in to prepare our feast.

We’re ready to eat (and w’ere all starving)
but we pause to capture the moment.

The view from the kitchen window: Pamplona in the distance.

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6 Responses
  1. chris says:

    Good to hear you´re alive and well sweetie-pie… was getting worried about you!

    It took half of my internet time to read your post… I´ll make this quick!


  2. Angus says:

    Reading through the posts I can’t believe this is only day 3! It sounds like you’ve already been on the road for weeks with everything you’re seeing and doing. Way to go Christina. And it doesn’t suprise me how easily you and Chris are making friends along the way, it’s just the kind of people you are, friendly and down to earth.


    • christina says:

      Hi Angus
      Thanks for coming along on this Camino with us. It´s an amazing experience that I think everybody should do.

  3. sonja says:

    Glad you are back….your detailed account is just what i want to read as it really gives me a feel for the journey. the little seed has been planted that i definitely want to dothis and i want to run it. Doesn’t sem as thoug many have run kt. One woman did it in 9 days and even thoug she had some support (mostly because of theweather in february) she beat the record. Amazing to do the whole pilgrimege in 9 days.i do think though to do it this fast doesn’t really give you a feel of what it is all about. Cheers

    • christina says:

      I agree Son, you will miss out if you do the Camino quickly. I saw someone today running it, and there are quite a few cyclists. But even if you do run it, you will enjoy the camaraderie at the Albergues at night. If you are doing a lot of km each day, you won´t have the enjoyment of running into the same people over and over again. Just some thoughts. I think any way you do it, it will move you in one way or another.ç

    • christina says:

      HI Son,
      I´m glad you are enjoying the details of which I know I am giving plenty. I just all seems to spill out of me. I know I can trust in you to tell me if I´m talking too much 🙂 I saw someone running the Camino the other day but they are few and far between. Lots of cyclists though. It´s funny, as each day progresses, I find myself so caught in the moment of the Camino, that reaching the destination seems like an after thought. For me, it is the journey, each day to be savoured for what it brings. In fact, I wish I had more days to spend on this Camino!
      take care