I take it all back!
Remember how I said that I hated downhill more than anything? I still hate downhill, but the prize for the most hated stretch is now walking suburbia. But let’s start from the morning.
I got up at a reasonable hour, a few minutes before six, and already had to fight a horde of French pilgrims off the food in the common area. Having successfully asserted my dominance, I grabbed the remaining toast and a slice of bread, butter, and Nutella (everything is better with Nutella), poured some coffee, and had my first real breakfast in days. The sun was shining, birds sang in the backyard, and I was dry. Dry clothes are a blessing few people understand.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2006, someone told me that the curse of the Trail was that you were never not damp, hungry, and tired. Today would be a dry, fed, and awake day, I knew it.
Inga and another woman from her room, a Romanian virologist from Cluj-Napoca, met me outside, we briefly chatted with Peter, a Dutchman who had biked from Holland, and hit the road.
First, we had to cross along a magnetite strip mining operation right outside town. Dust hung thick, and the path was gravel, combined with more gravel, layered with gravel. Not the funnest of roads to walk, but no mud. No mud is always a bonus.
Behind the mines, the path wound itself in a slightly downward slope towards a curious sight: a man, cursing and sweating, hammering on a few boards. We approached and met Ian, the South African proprietor of La Abadia, an old (800 AD) abbey he intended to convert into a hostel. Money was short, the authorities hated his guts, and the place looked positively decrepid, but between Ian’s and the abbey’s spirit, this seemed like something he could achieve.
Ian told us the story of his Camino while giving us the penny tour of the place. He’d booked the wrong flight, one to Palermo, and, desperately trying to find out how to get to Spain, ran into a woman from Pamplona who took him under her wings. On his second day, he found the abbey and, after a week “rest” in Pamplona, falling in love with said woman, doing his Camino only thinking of her and the abbey, he returned to purchase the lot and marry the woman.
We continued on, a little happier than we’d arrived, promising to be back and help out next time.
After a break at La Parada De Zuriain, an albergue and cafe with chicken and cats running freely around excited pilgrims feeding them, we finally hit the dread that is subrbian Pamplona. Two ways lead into town: one across a hill, the other one along a river. We chose the river way, entering town through one of its concrete canyon bedroom communities. Across train tracks and along shopping malls, the only exciting thing to happen was someone throwing an egg at me. We didn’t find the culprit, likely a child, hiding behind one of the many apartment windows, and so we carried on, her giggling like a little girl and me dripping egg white.
Inga had arranged to spend the evening with Lilly and I wanted to see the town, so we split at the entrance to Old Town and I continued on to my albergue, an unremarkable place with simple bunks, no dinner or breakfast, and a grumpy hospitalera paying only enough attention to ask me for ten bucks and to take off my boots before entering the sleeping quarters.
I spent the evening exploring town, running into Rainer, the German surveyor, and eating at a small bodega a little away from the hustle. Eight-thirty was all I could muster, so I headed back to the albergue and fell into a dreamless sleep.