Did you ever notice that many successful entrepreneurs love to hike?

Day 6 – Puente La Reina, Iron Men, Stage 4 Cancer and Dog Poo Soup

I woke up around 5.30am by the man in the next cubicle who was laughing and talking in his sleep. What a nice way to start the day!

Mr Yun – special items were a Korean 500 coin and a beautiful embroidered pillowcase

I promised to wake Lou up at 6 am and we would make an early start.  I had written my journal whilst snuggled up in bed and listening to the gentle girly snores from the bunk opposite.  It got to 6 am and I gave Lou a gentle tap.  When that didn't wake her I decided to get ahead of the game and get squirreling.  This process is now second nature.  After I got washed and dressed (slightly damp clothes), I started packing Nellie in the communal kitchen.   Mr. Yun was in the kitchen eating a yogurt.  Mr. Yun is a now familiar character on the Camino who spoke very little English and was smoking his way across Spain.  He is also an early bird as I often see him up and about at 5 am.  He walks very slowly but is a very attractive guy from Korea.

I decide to let Lou sleep in, and I read my book for a while whilst enjoying my Nescafe sachets of vanilla latte.  It's so much better than nuked coffee in the microwave!  At 7 am I go back to the dorm and try waking Lou up again.  This time the gentle tap of the arm progressed into a pat on the back of the hand and then eventually a bit of a harder prod whilst saying her name in a crescendo! Lou, LOU LOU…..  Lou sat up in bed a little startled, but a big smile on her face.  I said I would wait for her downstairs.  We had a breakfast of toast, butter, jam and a few yogurts then we headed off in search of little yellow arrows by 7.30am.

So today we have a big hike which includes one my favorite spots. The iron men statues are calling!

DISTANCE – 14.5 miles, 34k steps.

Walking out of Pamplona is boring!

Jaume from Catalonia, an air traffic controller, joined us today. He was soon to become a member of our Camino Family.

The walk out of Pamplona is a long and laborious one.  It seems to go on forever.  We are lucky as we were joined by Jaume (we called him Jamie) from Catalonia.  He had been walking with a guy called Pete since St Jean but it was Pete's last day in Pamplona so he was walking on his own today.  He kept a good pace and although we didn't realise immediately, but Jaume was about to become part of our Camino family.  He and Lou got on extremely well and I was happy to leave them discussing all sorts of topics from Politics to the ins and outs of Air Traffic Control with Spanish Airlines.

We arrived in Zariquiegui and stopped for an unusually long coffee break.  A great cafe, but I was disappointed to see that the church and the gift shop were closed for the season.  In the cafe, we caught up with Sanju & Kamal, Michel (who had the three alsatians – see photo below) as well as Taha (my Lebanon friend who saved me from the zombies on that 2nd day).  Eventually, we found our mojo and grabbed our packs and headed up the hill towards the Iron Men statues.

The Iron Men Statues – Alto del Perdon

For me, there is something very special about the Alto del Perdon.  It is not just the amazing views, but there is something about knowing that 1000's if not millions of Pilgrims have stood in the very same spot and looked over the mountains. I got quite emotional as it dawned on me that I had actually walked over the ridge of those very mountains in the distance.

Stunning views on the way up to the Iron Men statues

The metal sculptures were placed there in 1994 by the electricity board as a way of pacifying the locals.  Apparently, the local people were outraged about the ugly windmills that the electric board had built, so the sculptures were a gift.  The Spanish people love the Pilgrims and this is apparent in every village and church you visit along the Camino.  I understand, from other pilgrims, that you do not get the same warmth from the French, German, Norway or Portugal Caminos (but I may be wrong).

The walk in and walk out of the Alto de Pardon is a bit challenging, but the views are worth it! If you stepped behind the sculptures and look to the right you will see the ruins of a medieval pilgrims hospital.  I completed missed this on my last visit, so I'm glad I knew about it this time around.

I fell over!

These are the stones that tripped me up on the descent from the iron men.

Lou and Jaume went on ahead as I spent a good 30 mins at the Iron Men Statues.  I had some lunch and then started on my descent.  I had forgotten how steep it was going down and the stones were really slippy.  Before I knew it, I had fallen arse over tit and grazed my arm and knee.  I also jarred my toes (my big toe-nail is now back).  I was thankful for my walking poles otherwise I am sure that I would have repeated the embarrassing fall.  When I walked this path last year we had met an Amercian guy called Scott.  I don't remember much about him, except that he moaned constantly about the stones.  In a strong Amercian accent you could hear him saying “More F**ing stones” – this was going around in my head and making me chuckle as I descended down the path towardsUterga, where Lou was waiting patiently for me under a shaded tree.

Pizza, Dog Poo Soup and a Cute Cocker!

We stopped (for way too long!), at a fabulous Cafe/Albergue in Uterga.  The row of sun loungers was certainly inviting as was the menu.  Lou, Taha, Sanju & Kamal all had the lentil soup.  Apparently it was absolutely gorgeous, however, it looked like a bowl of dog poo to me.  It was really thick and much more like a broth than a soup.  I scrunched my nose up and ordered Pizza.

How cute is this dog?

I chucked as the landlady/waitress was wearing a t-shirt that said “Puerta La Reina – 7km that way (with a yellow arrow)”.  At least we were well over halfway.  The sun was not out in full force and it took ages to get motivated again.  A cute, cocker spaniel appeared from under the table and put his head on my lap.  Those cute eyes looking up at me saying “please give me some Pizza”.

Did you know that mistletoe grows in trees?

As Lou and I headed off down the road, the sun was beating down.  I had no suncream with me.  I know!  How stupid.  I can bring a mini printer on the Camino but forget my suncream.  I can hear my friend Alison saying in my head “all the gear and no idea” – she was right!  As the sun got hotter and hotter, Lou decided that it was time to get her trekking umbrella out.  What a brilliant bit of kit and why had I not thought about getting one before?  The umbrella is not just good for rain, but it has a silver top that reflects the heat… genius!  I want one and immediately add it to my Christmas list!

We are walking along the open fields and Lou (a keen gardener) is pointing out the various flowers, herbs and other gardeney (is that a word?), type things on the trail.  Most of it went over my head, but I was intrigued when she pointed out the mistletoe in the trees.  I'm not sure if mistletoe is a weed (must google that one), but sort of grows into a birds nest type of form in random trees.  I was totally fascinated.  Well, I was until I could hear a man singing or praying in the distance.  I was a bit of an “oh squirrel” type of moment – see the video below.

I Lost Lou

I walk quicker up hills than Lou does, so after a while, I had broken away and spent the last 2-3 miles on my own.  Some of you may think that this is rude.  Perhaps I should have waited for her, but the Camino does not work like that.  It is important to build relationships with friends, but it is also important to spend time on your own.  During those long stretches of “me time” I sorted quite a lot out in my head.  Things that I didn't even realise were an issue.  I knew that we would meet up at Puerta La Reina so life was good.

As I was on my own I had to provide my own entertainment.  The Camino provides – as you can see from the video below.

A bang on the head

We stayed in the Albergue called Hotel Jacque.  The albergue part was closed for the season, but the hotel was open (at Albergue rates!).  So we had nice clean sheets, no bunk beds, and soft woolen blankets.  It was probably one of the comfiest beds I had during the whole walk.  In our room were 5 beds (all one level).  Mr. Yun (cigarette non-speaking English / very attractive Korean guy), Taha (Lebanon guy), Lou (yey!), and Sun (She has stage 4 breast cancer and her story is amazing – see the bottom of this blog under the luxury items section).

The room was spacious, however, it did have a sloping roof which was dangerous.  We had a bathroom that serviced all five of us and the door did not lock, so you had to sing very loudly to stop any embarrassing moments.  The shower was over the bath and the loo was right next to the window which had no frosting or curtains.  Peering out of the window whilst having a wee was a weird experience.  Even though we were three floors up, I could still count the chickens in the garden next door!

Lou and the now famous trekking umbrella – I want one!

After returning from a long shower, Sun came up to me to tell me that Lou had had an accident.  She had tried to retrieve something from her pack and when she stood up she bashed her head on the concrete roof.  Apparently, it floored her.  Sun went to get some ice whilst I gave Lou a huge hug as tears trickled down her face.  I think it was the shock more than anything else.  She was certainly going to have a bit of a bump on her head in the morning.  Funnily enough, I also bashed my head on exactly the same spot whilst Face-timing Rachel to show her the room (although I didn't clunk it very hard, it was hard enough to say a swear word!).

The Pilgrim Meal was blurgh

I was disappointed with tonights evening meal.  The meal was rather pants. Pasta to start, then chicken wings and another one of those flan things.  The whole meal was rushed and the waitress didn't smile.  We ate with Taha, Lou, two Korean girls and the Canadians (Paul & Laura).  After the fabulous time, I had last year in this very place, it was a bit of an anti-climax.  We didn't even eat in the main restaurant, we had a table in the main bar.  I suppose it really does make a difference to the time of year that you walk the Camino.

Summary

WEATHER – it started out at 8 degrees and ended up at 24 degrees. I forgot how hot it can get, especially walking with a big pack on your back. Give me the hot sun over cold rain any day!

MY MOOD AND FEELINGS – I’m missing my family. I broke my necklace a few months ago, but I carry Rachel’s trinkets in my journal to keep them safe. In Pamplona, I bought a new chain and her trinkets now hang near my heart. I feel closer to her now.

HEALTH – I have sore toes (from going downhill a lot today), and my hips are also a bit painful. Ibuprofen helps! You should see others peoples feet! It’s not nice!

(Awful WiFi here)

Today’s Luxury items / People

Each day I am taking photos of the people on the Camino and asking them “what is their luxury item that they have in their backpack”.

  • Michel from France with his three Alsatian dogs. A true pilgrim.

    Jaume – from Catalonia – an Ebook that he never read and also a small pocket knife.  Jaume is an Air Traffic Controller and walking as far as Logrono as he was only able to take 10 days off work.

  • Marc from Newbury, Berkshire – a knee brace and an ebook.  Marc was a teachers assistant in the UK and he was walking with his father and his Camino family from last years Camino experience.
  • Michel from France (with three dogs) – his rosary and his St Christopher.  He was a professional photographer and a martial arts master.  He was running an exhibition in Santiago later in the year of photos of the churches on the Camino.  Michel was part camping and part hostelling.  He had three alsatian dogs with him (Grandmother, mother, and young daughter).  A real character on this Camino trip.
  • Mr. Yun from Korea. His special item was his 500 Korean coin and a beautifully embroidered pillowcase (Which I forgot to take a photo of).
  • Sun from Taiwan – a truly courageous character with a heart and a smile that will stay with me for a long time.

    Sun from Taiwan – she had an amazing story.  This was her fourth Camino and she felt that they really do provide miracles.  Not only had she met her soul mate, and now her husband on one of her Camino trips, but she also got through cancer on another trip.  This was her final Camino as she now has stage four breast cancer.  She was obviously in pain as I heard her moaning in her sleep (I slept next to her), but by day she had a constant smile on her face.  She knew that she would get through this Camino, but she was now refusing chemotherapy and accepted that this would be her last venture.  In the mornings she would cook hard boiled eggs for the stray dogs that she met along the Camino.  A truly inspirational person.  When I asked her about her “luxury item” she simply mentioned her water bottle that had accompanied her on every trip.

Tomorrow Estella and the wine fountain!