Getting Drunk with Ernest Hemingway

Zubiri to Pamplona
Sunday 2 November

As has become a habit, I woke early, but had had a mostly undisturbed night. The young Irish man I was sharing the room with slept talked a bit – but he didn’t snore. We had all planned to start walking at 8, I got up showered, and went down for the included breakfast. The French girls, and the dog were there, but none of our group had risen. The coffee was good, and we had toasted baguettes. The view over the river with the old stone bridge was lovely, and as it had rained overnight, it was rather cool.

My Irish friend soon joined us, and we thought it best to leave the others sleeping and have a later start. He and I did some yoga stretches in the large kitchen area, and as there was good Wifi, I Skyped my mum. As I was chatting, the Irish farmer popped up behind to say hello. My mother asked me what language was he speaking? I laughed, and replied ‘English’, with an Irish accent. I had become official translator of this group, as apparently English with an Australian accent is more widely understood than English with an Irish accent, even for other native English speakers. I work with many people whom English is not their first language, and am used to deciphering many accents. I do talk a lot, but sometimes I can actually listen. We were all soon up, and on the way again, agreeing that this had been a really lovely stop.

As it was Sunday, the younger Irish lad was a going to race on a ahead for Mass in the next village. I was walking a bit faster, and happily walked alone. I have a lovely image that remains in my head of the Irish lad wearing an Aussie Rules uniform, and carrying a rosary, disappearing into the misty morning.

At the next village he was at the turn off, waiting to let me know that the Mass had been earlier than he had been told, and he would go on ahead. I said I would see him in Pamplona. Walking alone the Camino started to fill my head, it is a Pilgrimage after all, and all sorts of thoughts manifest themselves. Earlier that morning the Irish farmer had mentioned Desiderata, a devotional poem written in the twenties, that was popularized, I remember, by posters on the backs of toilet doors in the seventies of my hippy friends houses. I was tying to remember any lines, as we had googled it, but all that came to me were ‘Be Kind’, and, ‘Listen’. I was certainly listening to the fools in my head. Be Kind. Listen. I try to be kind, but kindness is something that can always be improved on. I’ve become better at listening over the years too, even if I could outtalk my tongue. Be Kind. Listen. I need to apply these more to myself as well. Be Kind. Listen. This became my meditation at I walked the Camino today.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann

I passed one of the several small memorials of someone who had died on the Camino, and then began to try and list, in order everyone in my life who had died, and something about them, starting with my Granny. She died when I was four or five, and had had the loveliest soft arms, and a collection of children’s books that were falling apart and sticky taped together, that had most likely belonged to my father. The list grew in my head, but it was blessedly short for someone of my age, I am very thankful for that. I guess that won’t last as the years advance.

I was getting hungry, and signs advertising a cafe in the next town began to appear marking down the kilometers, but when I arrived, it was closed. The next town was not far, and as I entered there was a small cafe at the beginning, someone yelled my name, and it was the Spanish women I had shared a pod with at Roncesvalles. I joined them for a coffee. They had little English, but we had a nice time, then they were on their way. I decided to wait for the others in my group, so ordered another coffee and some homemade apple cake. After an hour they arrived, then it was time for lunch. Everything savory contained ham, but our Brazilian fried asked them to make me a pizza with no meat, which we happily shared.

We walked on and a young girl popped up in front of me, whom we had met the previous day with her family when we were stopped for lunch. Soon her father was running towards us waving a bottle of wine yelling stop, join us… so we did. They offered us drinks and insisted we take a packet of chocolate biscuits.

We continued together for a while, but the Irish Farmer and the Brazillian were a little slower today, so the 83 year old Canadian and I walked on together chatting all the way to Pamplona. We arrived in Pamplona, and as it was a large city, wondered where we would meet the younger Irish lad who had gone ahead. I suggested, rather than find somewhere to stay, that we wait for the others, then find the bar that had been mentioned that had a statue of Ernest Hemingway, as he would probably be waiting there for us, and may have found somewhere nice to stay. It had been raining, and everything was wet, but there was a relatively dry park bench to sit were we waited. And waited. The Canadian was getting a little frustrated and wanted to leave. I said I had waited over an hour for them previously that day, so could wait a little longer. Ten minutes later they arrived, and we entered the walled city of Pamplona together. Magic. Further into the city, street art, bars, a vibrant energy that reminded me of many student cities I had visited. I think it’s a place I will be back too. We walked towards the cathedral, and I recognized a young Austrian pilgrim in the street and asked her had she seen our friend. She directed us to the hostel he was staying in. The four of us were allocated beds in a very large dormitory, but we were the only ones. Soon my Dutch friend came to greet us, then asked if he could move beds. He was in the other dormitory, which he said was the same, but full.

Latter we all went to dine in the aforementioned bar, and met Mr Hemingway. We all posed for the cheesy photo opportunity. I haven’t read any Hemingway since I was a teenager, but had immediately fallen for the wrong kind of men. I must read more.

It was our Irish farmer friend’s last night. We were all very disappointed to see him go and to break up the group. I was going to miss my translation job, and his funny quips and quotes (even if I was the only one who understood them), and his kindness. Salt of the earth. As he was Irish and as he was leaving he plied us all with Irish whiskey. I don’t usually drink whiskey. Oh dear. Was I channeling Mr Hemingway? I think not, as perhaps he can hold his drink better than I. The others left for a while for a drink in another bar, and I was left dining alone with my Dutch friend. I recall (somewhat fuzzily) of talking of love and relationships. I said I always choose the wrong men (possibly Mr Hemingway’s fault), he said he was the wrong man women choose. We had something in common. The others returned, dined, and we returned to the hostel as they were locking the doors.


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