Tag Archives: Trekking

Hotel Pilgrims

Logrono
Friday 7 November

Another sleepless night with sore feet and snorers. I had decided in the middle if the night that I would spend another day in Logrono, and check into a hotel for a hot bath, and a night off. A few other pilgrims were also considering staying another day. I offered to share my hotel (hopefully not with a snorer). My Dutch friend agreed, as he too was having problems with his feet, and was impressed by pictures of the hotel buffet breakfast.

I rested in the hotel room for a while, then went for a wander around this interesting town. I visited the small museum, which had a fascinating display of ancient Roman engineering, then later met my Dutch friend and the Swiss woman for lunch. We choose a small Resturant in the square, and weren’t expecting much, but the
food and service were great. The host was very funny, trying to explain all the dishes, often running into the kitchen to show us the ingredients. I had mushroom risotto, fish in a tomato sauce, and ‘fried milk’, an interesting local dish of a fried curd for dessert. It was very good, but my friends’ dessert was even better, an apple caramel pudding. The Swiss woman entertained us with stories from her life that could raise an eyebrow or two.

I returned to the hotel for a nap, and a long hot bath. Luxury. My Dutch friend and I had arranged to meet to enjoy the local Tapas bars the town is famous for. On the way we ran into our older Canadian friend who joined us, and led us to his favorite – a bar that served divine garlicky mushrooms. The street was full, at night the town seemed to come alive. People promenaded and partied in the alleyways, we barhopped for a while tying some of the local reds the area is famous for, and munched our way down the street. Our Canadian friend returned to his friends, and we walked briskly to the other end of town to a bar that had a classical guitar player. The bar was full, and the music was lovely. We enjoyed the local ambience, the wine, the tapas before returning, rather late and curfew free to our HOTEL!

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Five of Pentacles

Los Arcos to Logrono
Thursday 6 November

Our hostel had an optional breakfast, which most of us had selected. We had all been handed a tarot card, as the breakfast ‘token’. I decided we should all look up the meaning of the cards we had been delt. I had the Five of Pentacles. I was still feeing pretty down after yesterday, but my feet felt a lot better.

The card’s meaning was a pretty good indication of how I was feeling – a loss of faith. It made me feel worse. The black dog was back. My Camino angel suggested that all cards have good meanings too, and I should look that up. She was correct, it said I had the capacity to change, and nothing lasts. I felt slightly better. Soon afterwards I started my walk for the day. I walked alone, the weather was better than the day before. I walked over a ridge and in the distance, a vision of snow capped mountains rose up in front of me. Breathtaking. The black dog was slayed. I almost had a spring in my step.

I soon met up with a Swiss woman I had met a couple of days previously. She had really irritated me on first meeting. She had joined our group for dinner, and constantly complained. The thought had passed my mind that maybe I had met her to teach me some sort of lesson, as that seems to be some purpose of the Camino. We walked together, and talked. She told me of her life, her loneliness, her fears. She became human. I enjoyed her company.

As I walked towards Logrono, I caught up with my Camino angel and my Dutch friend. My angel and I walked together. I told her what had happened the previous day, and asked if she was real. She assured me she was. She told me that my experience had meaning for her too, and I was therefore her Camino angel.

We arrived in Logrono and checked in at the municipal Albergue. Our Irish and Italian friends were there too. As their curfew was rather early, we decide to go for drinks and dinner as soon as we arrived, rushing back just in time for closing time.

Camino Angel

Estella to Los Arcos
Wednesday 5 November

I did not sleep. My feet hurt. I opened the door, and the rain was beating down. I was hungry. I left the hostel for breakfast in a local cafe. Some of that good Spanish coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and tortilla. The day was looking better.

My Canadian friend, and another Canadian, were also in the same cafe, we walked together out of Estella. Our first stop was the famous wine fountain of the Camino. A wine fountain. Free wine! We obeyed the instructions, filed our cups and took a swig. Breakfast wine always helps.

Not far up the road was a church with a Benedictine monastery. This austere church also had alabaster windows rather than stained glass. It had an otherworldly sublimity. We were led through to the cloistered courtyard where we all spent some time in peaceful contemplation, before continuing on our Camino.

The sandpaper feeling in my feet had turned to broken glass. It was time to stop for a coffee, one of the group suggested a cup of tea would be nice. A cup of tea. I’m generally a coffee drinker, but sometimes a nice cup of tea can just hit the spot. We were walking through Azgueta, when we saw a woman putting out a sign in front of her Alburgue. She said she wasn’t actually open, but invited us in for tea in her kitchen. She was in the process of renovating, as only had a license to operate in Summer. She said she had previously been unemployed, but had taken up on offer from the Spanish government for this license, so she could support herself and her daughter. She made a great cup of tea, and gave us a tour of the rooms then insisted we didn’t pay, but we all left something ‘for her daughter’.

The rain had turned some of the small valleys into rivers and it was hard to negotiate without getting our feet wet. Suddenly ‘Jesus’ appeared and helped our older Canadian friend cross the waters. Later he was standing up the road with handfuls if fresh figs for us, then disappeared again.

Then the hard slog began… My feet were in pain, I started to have doubts if I would make it to Santiago. This was something I had never considered. I’m relatively fit, I walk long distances often, why was this so hard? I plodded on. The black dog started to bite at my heels. The rain continued. I pleaded, send me an angel. An image of the young Austrian pilgrim appeared in my head. She has an angelic kind, open face, and a soft and quiet quality. I hadn’t really spoken to her, but she always was the first person I’d see when I arrived at a hostel. Did she actually exist, or was she a figment of my imagination? I looked down at the ground, and there was a patch of cement in which someone had written ‘Buen Camino’. I felt inspired that I could continue.

The pain in my feet worsened, my doubts grew, the black dog had taken hold. There was no village in sight. The road seemed endless. My faith in myself was dwindling. It was a bad day. Again I pleaded for an angel, and again she visualized in my imagination, I turned around and a saw a rainbow in the sky, just when I needed it. I felt it was possible to make to the next village.

Arriving at the first Albergue we saw, Alburgue Austria, I entered to see my Camino Angel in person. The fire was roaring, the atmosphere was cosy, and some of my friends were here, some had continued onto the next village for the night. I showered and dried out my blisters by the fire, until we all went out for dinner, my angel, my friends and I.

Love, Death and God

Puente La Reina to Estella
Tuesday 4 November

What a wonderful nights sleep! I was human again. I wasn’t going to rush today, and after a leisurely breakfast, was on the road at about 10.30. Our Spanish friend had left earlier, and the young Irish man and I stopped to visit the churches in town before he sped off ahead. One of the churches, instead of the usual stained glass, had sheets of alabaster covering the windows. It was beautiful – the translucent parchment like stone, let in enough light to illuminate the whole church.

Today I would be walking alone. My feet were painful, but today my head was not. Time to think, time to not think. The great themes filled my head and at times melancholia, other times joy. Love. Death. God. Mostly joy.

Later in the afternoon I was getting hungry, but every town I passed seemed shut up for winter. I saw a cafe that looked open, and as I approached, met up with the group of four Spaniards. The cafe was closed, and they too were looking for something to eat. We continued together to the next town, then the next before we found an open bar.

After lunch it was only a couple of hours to Estella. Walking alone again for a bit, I saw a white cat in the bushes. She came over and wrapped herself around my legs. She had one blue eye, and one green eye. I asked her I’d she was going to join me on my Camino, she obliged and walked with me for a few hundred metered, before I had to cross a busy road.

I rejoined the Spaniards, until I reached Estella. We said goodby, and I went to see if I could meet up with any of my Camino friends. The signboard had four hostels to choose from. I picked one, and when I arrived was happy to be reunited with the older Canadian, the Dutch man, our Italian friend, and several others I had met. Some were leaving for dinner, so I quickly changed to join them.

Blisters and Mierda

Pamplona to Puente La Reina
Monday 3 November

I didn’t feel well when I woke. Not at all. We had to be out of the hostel by eight. My clothes had not dried overnight, and were dripping wet, that would add at least an extra kilogram to my bag. I miserably dragged myself to the cafe across the road, for coffee and breakfast. I couldn’t get moving. Our Dutch friend had left earlier, and our Irish farmer friend was going to the bus stop to take him for a flight to return to his sheep. He will be back to continue his Camino next spring. Our Canadian friend wanted to get on the road and start walking, and the other guys were going to hang around Pamplona for the day. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was sad that my Camino family was disbanding. I wanted to throw up.

My Braziilan friend and the Irish lad were going to go the the Cathedral for Mass. I decided to join them. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Catholic Mass. I am not Catholic, but was raised High Anglican, and the service is almost the same (Catholics will argue that the meaning of the sacrament is very different, but I digress). The liturgy was sung, and it was a comforting and familiar ritual, even if the language was one I didn’t understand. We pilgrims were noticed, and mentioned, and blessed by the priest and small congregation of about half a dozen old ladies. I always love the bit in church when you get to shake hands and wish peace upon the fellow parishioners. Peace, perhaps something I’m search for on my Camino.

After mass the guys were going to the post office to offload some unnecessary things. They tried to convince me to do the same. Unnecessary things. The coffee is better in Spain than in France, perhaps I don’t need my coffee maker anymore. Perhaps there are a few more unnecessary things in my overweight bag. I pulled out some bits and bobs and soon filled a box with two and a half kilos to send to the post restante in Santiago de Compostela.

We walked around town a bit more, taking in the sights, then decided to be on the way, rather late today as it was almost 2pm. We weren’t quite sure of the direction, so our Spanish speaking Brazilian friend asked a couple of old men, who ended up having a heated argument yelling and gesticulating in the street over which way we should go. It almost led to blows. It was funny, and very Spanish.

On the way out of town, we met a Spanish man, just beginning his Camino. He had very little English, and with my non existent Spanish we didn’t chat much. As we were leaving Pamplona, a van slowed down, and beeped. I thought it was just someone wishing the pilgrims well on their way, but the driver wound down the window, waving – it was our friend with the wine from the previous day. Apparently the Camino is know for this kind of magic and synchronicity. The Irish lad sped ahead, and our Brazilian friend was considering staying in Pamplona longer. He said he was tired of having to be in and out of hotels at given times. He said that that was not his idea of the road to freedom. The road to freedom. He stopped for a drink and said for us to continue, he may catch up. So it was just the Spanish man and I. I said I normally talk a lot, but as was feeling rather under the wether, was happy to be walking in silence, but with company.

I thought I had something in my shoe, as after a while it was feeling like sandpaper was rubbing the soles of my feet. Be kind. Listen. So I listened to my feet, and decided to be kind to them, and sit down and see what the problem was. Blisters! Blisters on the soles of my feet. I don’t get blisters. I then realised that I’d sat in what I later learnt the Spanish call Mierda. Mierda! Bugger! Bloody Heck! It was all over my pack, and all over my boots. Mierda! The Spanish man helped me clean it up, and told me that in Spain it’s considered good luck. Probably considered good luck as nothing worse could happen to you that day! We laughed, and continued.

I was feeing sad and contemplative, the result partly of been hungover, and loss of my chatty companions. It was overcast and very windy, but the scenery was magnificent as we claimed a long hill dotted with windmills. The howling wind soon turned to rain, and we zipped up our jackets and marched towards Puente La Reina.

It was dark and still raining heavily by the time we arrived, and we continued on through the town, looking for a hostel. We reached the other end of town, then asked directions – we had passed several, so returned to find a very nice one at the beginning of town. We were given to key to our room, to find that the only other guest was our young Irish friend. It was a lovely room with three bunks, our own private attached bathroom, and a TV – the boys could watch football, and I could have a peaceful nights sleep!

Dinner was served in half an hour, and I ordered salad, duck and creme caramel, as usual wine, bread and water were included. Great value for 13€. Our Spanish friend left for bed, and the young Irish lad and I continued our conversation. He told me a very sad story of a friend who had recently committed suicide, and that he was going to stay with her parents in New York after his Camino. He is a lovely gentle and considerate soul, I am very much enjoying his company as we walk, as I am with everyone I meet here. There is something about the Camino, I see why it has repeat customers.

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.

Desiderata

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.

Oysters are Hermaphrodites

Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Saturday 1 November

Snoring. That’s the problem with hostels… Perhaps I’ll get a better sleep tonight. Perhaps. Yes, even I though I was in a pod of only four the hostel was still rather open, and all the snoring from every pod could still be heard. I need better earplugs.

Again we had to be out by eight. I rose showered and at 7.30, my new Camino family and I headed out for breakfast at a local bar. All that was on offer was coffee and toast. The Spanish do coffee better than the French. Thank God. I had been hoping for eggs for breakfast, but that was not to be. We had planned to be on the road by eight, but didn’t end up leaving until 8.30. The others all said that they would provide lunch for today and that a cheese, bread and wine picnic, was a delightful idea, so we stopped at a local shop for supplies.

Surprisingly I was I the mood for fast walking. The Italian from the previous day, a pharmacist had now joined us, along with the younger Irishman, a 28 year old primary school teacher. They were faster than the rest of the group, so I walked ahead with them. We stopped at a spring to refill our water bottles, and I left my walking poles to rest on a nearby building. We continued on, and about one kilometer on, I realised that I’d forgotten my poles. I returned to get them, and caught up with the others, then went ahead to meet my friends. The younger Irishman, had walked back and was waiting for me. He said it was lucky I had returned for my sticks, as because we were talking too much, we had missed the turnoff. We were really not paying attention, as the road here was covered in yellow arrows, the Camino markers. Our Italian friend had raced ahead, and we all soon spread out and were walking at our own pace.

I again caught up with the younger Irish guy and we walked together enjoying the conversation and the company. We then decide we were hungry so began to look for a suitable place to wait for the others, as they had the lunch supplies. We soon arrived at a small river, and found a shady spot. About half an hour later the others joined us for our picnic. We were having a very enjoyable leisurely time, and two hours passed easily, so we thought we had better get on the road.

Fifteen minuets later we saw a bar, and it was suggested we stop for a drink. It was a long weekend in Spain, and many families and friends were out enjoying the sunshine, so we decided to join them. Our young Irish friend picked up a guitar from the bar and entertained the crowd with a few songs. A group with twin babies bought the twins over to say hello and have a chat. We waved to a Spanish group from Barcelona we had met earlier. Soon we thought it was best we continue on our way. We walked along together or a while, and again spread out to walk at our own pace. I was walking by myself for some time, but soon caught up with the Spanish group from Barcelona. One of the group had very good English so we chatted for a while, he had been a tour guide in Sydney for Spanish speaking groups. After a while he said I was waking too fast for him, and for me to go ahead.

I again caught up with the young Irish man who was now sitting with two French woman and a large St. Bernard like dog. I stopped for a while, then we continued on together into Zubiri. The first hostel we came to was full. The next one looked very nice. Beds were 15€ per night including breakfast and only four beds to a room. We said there would be five of us, as our friends were joining later. They had room, so we checked in. When met up with the French women and their dog – they had occupied a private twin room. I said the guys could share the room for four and I would stay in the other four bed dorm and chance it with whoever arrived. Not long later the Spanish group from Barcelona also arrived. They wanted to share a room for four all together. The hostel manager then offered the young Irish man and I a private twin for the same price if we would move, we happily accepted, hoping we would both have a snore free night. The rest of our group arrived and after showers we headed out to dinner with the French woman sans dog.

We ended up at a nearby bar and met up with our Italian and Dutch friends. I was chatting with the French women, one who was an oyster farmer… I exclaimed that they were my favorite food, and she was explaining to me all about the oyster industry in France, and the fact that oysters are hermaphrodites – you learn something new every day! The wine and conversation flowed. We ordered the pilgrims menu – I had a salad, and tomatoes stuffed with cod, and really delicious chocolate icecream. I returned to the hostel, hopefully for a snore free night.

The Walking Witch

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles
Friday 31 October

Snoring. That’s the problem with hostels… Perhaps I’ll get a better sleep tonight. Perhaps.

I was up early, as we had to be out of the hostel by 8am. It was going to be a long day. Eight hours walking, I was told and mostly uphill. 27.4km. I had met a charming Dutch man the previous evening when I returned to the hotel, and we had had a very interesting conversation – he was waiting for me to finish packing, to walk together, but I was too long trying to stuff my too many things into my pack, so he said he would see me on the road. There were only two of us left in the hostel, a young Brazilian guy, who was in a similar situation to me, he too tying to stuff too many things into his pack. I asked if he minded if we walked together.

We soon set off along the cobbled streets of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I was a little sad to leave, as it was such a delightful town, but excited to be starting the walking part of my Camino… even if my bag was way too heavy. We weren’t on the road long when we met a group of three Irishmen and an 83 year old Canadian who was beginning his tenth Camino. He could have passed for a man in his sixties. We soon joined up, and along the way met a few others. Soon our walking speeds spread us out a little, and the youngest Irish guy was far in front, while one lagged behind, so there were four of us walking together. An Irish farmer in his 50’s, the 83 year old retired school inspector from Canada, the 34 year old Brazilian graphic designer, and me. We talked, and walked, and talked some more. The landscape was beautiful, the morning was crisp – green pastures, cows, sheep, mountains. The company was interesting and the conversation was stimulating as we moved from subject to subject. We were all happily taking it rather slowly, as the path was a little steep, and the incline was constant, and we were enjoying both the walk and the company. Eventually we caught up with the younger Irish guy who had met an Italian and another man whom we all refereed to as ‘Jesus’, as he had a strange mystical arura about him. He had walked from Lourdes, and slept in churches – he handed a postcard of the Virgin to the Brazilian, and then they all sped on ahead.

As it was quite season and I had been told there was nothing open along the way, I had bought supplies for lunch, but the others hadn’t been informed, but not to worry, I had plenty for all. Our map indicated a Virgin Mary statue on the side of the hill – she had a magnificent view, a perfect place for a picnic. I had bread and three cheeses, a bottle of red which I had decanted into a plastic container, and a bunch of radishes. We enjoyed our leisurely lunch, then began walking again. We were a little concerned that the slower Irish man hadn’t passed us.

It took us several hours to reach the summit before we started descending, and was getting rather late, but we were not concerned, as we were all enjoying ourselves. We met a Swedish couple who passed us, and who had news of the slower Irish man. He had found the walk too difficult, and was having trouble breathing, and had asked them for help. They had called someone in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and arranged for him to return. If he was feeling better he said he may get a bus to Pamplona, and try again from there.

By this time we were all feeling very tired, we still hadn’t crossed the border into Spain. The light was turning to twilight. We trudged on, and eventually we saw the border… A strange wooden framed doorway, with ropes hanging down, not unlike the streamer fly protector in old fashioned fish and chip shops in Australia… all connected to an electric fence. Odd and not that impressive, as my idea of a border should be. There was no changing of the guards, no pomp and ceremony, no stamps in my passport. I did however take the obligatory photo of one foot in each country. We continued downhill, as the light descended into darkness and the path became steeper and steeper. I sped ahead, as I like to walk downhill fast, but soon felt my toes becoming hotter and hotter. Time to stop for some preventative blister measurements. I got out my moleskin, and my new friends soon joined me, and we all descended on Roncesvalles together. I was dressed in my all black merino ninja outfit, and had added a black brimmed hat for my walk. I commented that it was 31 October…. all hallowed’s eve. Our Canadian friend commented that I was dressed quite appropriately, and looked like a witch… So I entered the villages yelling “‘trick or treat?’. It was rather late… 7pm, but we had had an enjoyable day and walk. We went to the local restaurant with a pilgrims menu and asked what time it was served. 7pm was the reply… But we all needed a shower and to put our packs down, and decided to return at 8.30 for the slightly more expensive, regular menu.

We found our way to the municipal hostel in Roncesvalles, a beautiful old stone building. On the way I met the Dutch man, who said he had been worried about us, but I said we were fine and had an enjoyable day. Inside the old stone hostel had been renovated into a modern hostel with sleeping pods divided into four, two up, two down bunk beds. We were all allocated one pod, and I was given a top bunk. I returned to the check in counter and asked for a bottom bunk in the next pod… They begrudgingly complied, and I was sharing with three Spanish women, and hopefully I had a better chance of a snore free night.

We unpacked, showered, and myself and two others went to the laundry to do some washing. I had wanted to go to the Pilgrims mass at 8pm, but by the time we got there, they had already closed the doors… I was not going to be blessed yet again (although I knew I already was). We headed back to the Resturant, and they offered us the pilgrims menu, even though it was officially finished. I chose a salad, and trout. Both were excellent, accompanied by Spanish wine and bread. We were then given fruit salad for dessert. All for 9€. Excellent value. I like Spain. The hostel closed it’s doors at 10 pm, and the Resturant staff asked us were we staying there, as it was now ten minutes to… Two of us rushed back, and they were just closing the doors… We said to please keep them open, as our friends were following…and we had an old man with us! They obliged, but reluctantly. We then wished each other goodnight and retired to our bunks.