June 30, 2017
I set out on the 3rd day on my own. Though I have met some interesting people, I remember that my purpose in this trip was to make this trip about me, to do the trip my way. And so I walk.
I laugh to myself as I walk because the guidebook calls this another “easy”, “flat” day — and though the elevation map for the day looks flat — I often joke that Spain doesn’t know “flat” like “Illinois flat.” I cross a bridge and think I’ve found Pamplona, but am dismayed to find there’s still a lot left. I come across some fellow “peregrinos” (pilgrims) and learn that there are two ways to enter Pamplona: a shorter way through the city, and a longer way through the park, along the river. The other pilgrims choose the river route for the scenery, and I relax a bit before setting off through the city.
I must’ve taken a wrong turn because I suddenly find I am lost, and I too end up in the park — but alone. I can’t see my guiding yellow arrows anywhere, I realize that the river leads to Pamplona, so I follow the river, but I am a little uneasy. (I realize from talking to other pilgrims later that I must have missed a sign.) After some time, as I get closer to a town, I finally begin to notice something new: some small, circular metal paving carved with the Camino shell! I must be on track. I am still not completely sure, but then I spot a familiar face: it’s the Frenchman from yesterday! We still aren’t able to speak much, but at least I am no longer alone.
We continue walking together quietly until we reach a busy intersection. I am amazed at the bravery of the young man. He speaks no Spanish and no English but boldly approaches strangers with a confident: “Parlez vous frances?” He eventually finds some takers who motion him onward, and we continue on through the city, until we reach Pamplona.
Soon after we enter Pamplona, my friend settles on a hostel where his other French friends are staying. But I am set on finding the municipal Jesus y Maria, perhaps because it is one of the infamous hostels from the movie “The Way.” However, I find that once I am on my own again, I am quickly lost again! Thankfully, I feel completely safe, but the experience is still disconcerting. I ask around for Jesus y Maria, and find that people don’t know where it is or I am not able to follow their directions correctly.
Finally, somehow, probably between the signs and my guidebook, I find myself at the doors of the famous hostel. I am relieved to find there is space, and actually still plenty of it: rows and rows of bunk beds! After checking in, I find my way to my bunk. As more pilgrims begin to trickle in, I soon spot another friendly face: my French girlfriend! She introduces me to some French Portuguese sisters she has met, one of whom has a terrible blister already, and I readily share some of my athletic tape (a true Camino lifesaver). I begin to unwind for the evening, making sure I get in a shower and wash my clothes, but I am introduced for the first time to the challenges of sharing showers and laundry machines with 100 or so other pilgrims. I don’t think I ended up washing my clothes that day. . .
Back at our bunks we are introduced to a young Englishman who has walked 2 days in one! He and my French friend discuss Europe — Brexit in particular — and also the refugee crisis, and poke some fun at America (which I am a little unhappy with). They have quite different views at times, though my friend admits that she partly disagrees with him because she enjoys seeing our new acquaintance riled up. The conversation becomes particularly heated at one point, and the two part ways. Since the Englishman is contemplating taking the Camino in twice the time, we are not sure we will see him again.
For dinner, my French friend and I opt to attempt our own dinner. We set off back into the streets of Pamplona and find a small grocery spot where we buy some pasta and pasta sauce. When we return and head up to the kitchen, we run into the same issue of sharing space and kitchen utensils, but everyone is generous about it. We meet some young South Koreans and even a single middle-aged man from China. He only speaks Chinese! And his food is super spicy hot (which he generously offers to share with us). Though I end up seeing quite a few South Koreans along the route, I never see the Chinese gentleman again, nor another Chinese person for that matter, and I always wondered if he made it to the end of the Camino.
The French girl and I stay up in the kitchen/dining room for a while, sampling the Korean food and trying to pass off our pasta on others (there was WAY too much for two people in that box). We talk with various peregrinos, and I stay even longer to chat for a while with two Spanish women who are sleeping in the bunks near me. I am thrilled to practice my Spanish and also excited to find that we are kindred spirits, interested in metaphysics and personal development.
As I settle in for the night in my bunk, I hear some very disruptive loud noise that sounds like construction. I am shocked that the municipal is making renovations so close to bedtime! However, I chuckle to myself when I realize that it is not renovations at all that I am hearing — it is loud snoring, reverberating from the very high ceilings in Jesus y Maria! Thankfully I am tired enough from the day and quickly fall asleep.
Much love and many blessings. ❤