Camino Day 6: Pamplona to Uterga 17km

Goodbye to the Pamplona albergue at 8am.

I left after having breakfast there but after feeling annoyed with some non-pilgrims who also stayed there.

Out of the 5 occupied bunk beds in my room, only a Spaniard and I were pilgrims. The other three were travellers and party people. They were arriving back late the previous night and were noisy. Of course, all three were still in bed as I left. No lights on to help with my packing.

Then another guest from another room came into the breakfast area. In her PJ. She asked me and another pilgrim to be quieter in our chatting. At 7.30am. Not kosher pilgrim behaviour.

Most of the first hour of walking out of Pamplona was on hard surface. Suburbs. The University of Navarre district. Nice enough but tough on feet and knees.

Hasta la vista Pamplona. You are a much pleasant town.

The little town of Zariquiegui, yep that’s its name, was perfect for a break some 2 1/2 hours into today’s walk. A cafe offered morning coffee and croissant for 2€, a steal. Plenty of other pilgrims had the same idea.

The weather started to warm up and it became quite a hot and dry day.

These windmills along a ridge have been visible almost from the beginning of today. And the pilgrim trail leading up to them.

Of course, at the top of the ridge there is a well known destination on the pilgrim trail. You can see a tiny little bit of it below.

Yes, Alto del Perdon has a familiar wrought iron representation of medieval pilgrims. And an old bloke in green appears there among them too…

Here he is again…

At 790 meters altitude on a clear day like today, the views are great. Unfortunately though, Alto del Perdon has become a bit of a tourist hotspot. Hey, it did feature in the movie “The Way”. Still, it was today’s highlight.

It brings a tear to the eye when you see signs like this (furthest right sign). Even if it is misspelt. Or spelt the Spanish way.

Alto de Perdon was a windy spot and the wind turbines spun with their whining sound. Indeed, they were this close.

On the other side of Alto de Perdon the trail winds down towards Uterga. It looked like countless Australian fire trails. Except for the excessive vortexing of rocks that went on.

By the way, vortexing is this odd pseudo spiritual custom of arranging rocks in a pile on top of each other. Or at least it is what our family calls it. We have seen it in the south western desert states of the U.S. and we saw it in Scotland.

I stopped for the night in Uterga. Camino del Perdon was the name of the albergue and it turned out to also be a popular stop for lunch or for a drink. And not just for peregrinos either.

But wait. What is that to the right of the albergue?

Could it be the first horse riding pilgrim on the Camino? There was a saddle on the horse but I could not see anybody around it. Maybe the horse rider enjoyed a refreshing drink.

You may know that there are 3 allowed pilgrimage ways of transport; by foot, by bike or by horse. This first horse riding pilgrim (?) will now be part of my Camino story. True or not.

Well, the day finished off boozy.

In the late afternoon, before dinner, I had a couple of beers with Bob and Terry. They were a lovely American couple who only found each other in May this year. And now they are walking the Camino together in September. Only 4 months later. Brave.

Bob is a pick-up truck / ex-army / survivor kind of guy from Fort Lauderdale, FLA. Terry is a lass from small town Maine (I never figured out from where).

The three of us followed up on the afternoon beer by having “menú del peregrino” dinner. This was accompanied by plenty of local Riojo. Dinner was lovely with plenty of veggies which you soon miss on the Camino.

Here are the two lovebirds, Terry and Bob:

Bob, Terry and I were later joined at the table by a Maryland resident of Guatemalan origin called Marina. The first “a” of her name was the pronounced vowel. Sorry, I have no pic of Marina.

A little after 9pm I thought the better of it and excused myself and returned to base. Bob, boy, can Bob drink!!!

I am not sure whether it comes across in the picture above but Bob did not subscribe to sun screen today. Nor hat. Bob was also wearing sun glasses. The white skin including from the frames was prominent on his face. Or rather, the rest of his face was RED. Perhaps a bit from the drinking too. Fun guy.

Fun and boozy night. Loud and brash and crappy jokes. Worked for me.

86km walked, 699km left to walk after Day 6

Final thoughts:

Head protection from sun

As an Australian you are so aware of carrying a hat (and use sun screen) if you are out for a longer period during the day.

On the Camino, I would guess that less than half having anything on their heads. Of course, Americans favour caps but they provide only partial protection.

I saw several bald or semi bald people today on the trail. I saw one guy smearing sun screen onto his bald head but that was after likely being in the sun for hours. I’m puzzled…

Mad albergue race in the morning

This also puzzles me. It seems like the Camino is a sports event to some “pilgrims”. Getting up early in the morning to get as far as possible on the day. Repeat tomorrow. And then again.

Whatever happened to “drop out” from “regular” life for just a little while? Take your time, reflect, smell the flowers, discover etc.

Granted, I understand that not everybody has the “luxury” of time. Although that’s another thing I can never accept, the expression “I don’t have time”. It is just code for “I prioritize other things higher”.

Everybody has exactly the same amount of time until we no longer have any of it. There was a great quote in the movie “The Way” on this: “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one”.

The 5 things I do before walking in the morning 

This works for me. In no particular order.

  1. Stretching – important for oldies like me
  2. Apply sun screen or face cream. Depending on weather and what’s on for the day
  3. Apply foot cream – always
  4. Hang a second pair of socks off the backpack. That way you have two pairs to switch between at each break (for me it is 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Now you always wear “dry” socks, at least for a while. A bonus is that you cool off your feet while you are changing your socks
  5. Drink 1/2 liter of water. Or as much as you can muster. You don’t want to start walking thirsty. And use your water supply too soon.

Speaking Spanish

You get into it. And it’s quite fun. And the Spaniards definitely appreciate if you are making an effort.

The words I used most would be greetings. As you greet people not just on the Camino but elsewhere too.

  • Buen Camino
  • Buenos Días
  • Hola

Other “populars” words and phrases are:

  • por favor – please
  • (muchas) gracias – thank you (very much)
  • no entiende – i don’t understand
  • lo siento – I’m sorry
  • pardone – excuse me

No, I haven’t yet used “una cerveza, por favor“. Reason is that beer is what you buy in the supermercado and vino tinto is what you order when going out. Or I do.

Finally…

What is a true pilgrim?

The discussion itself has almost become a clique. But since this is my personal blog, I will put forward my views. Without shame.

I believe that a true pilgrim carries all his or hers own gear at all times.

A true pilgrim never makes use of transport (except for in an emergency situation). The pilgrim walks, cycles or rides a horse from wherever the pilgrim started the pilgrimage all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Or any other pilgrim destination.

Sure, no generalisation without exceptions. If you are medically or physically unable to carry your own things. And by that I do not include obesity or unfit or damn lazy. Or old age for that matter. There are plenty of examples of so called old pilgrims on the Camino.

It may sound hard but it is a pilgrimage. Not a walk in the park, a hike, a tourist endeavour or even a sports event.

The pilgrimage should be “hard” in my view. There has to be some effort involved to receive the Compostela certificate. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If somebody wants to go on a long distance hike, there are countless trails around the world for that. Supported or unsupported.

My 5 cents worth…

In addition…

I am quite healthy and fit enough for my age. I don’t think I look too run down yet. And my marbles are still generally intact.

Sure, I have a few medicals but so does almost everybody. Anything else would be unrealistic.

Life is pretty darn good. Buen Camino.

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