Each October, I have the pleasure of taking a group of new hikers over the Pyrenees to experience a taste of the Camino de Santiago. This year, we were a party of 12 and I must say, the group bonded so well and we enjoyed every step along the way, even though it wasn't plain sailing! I vlogged the journey, from the initial travelling day to arriving in Pamplona. I hope you enjoy this mini blog series.
The one with the chicken legend, a bloody knee, a surreal church experience and a lush hotel!
WEATHER: Absolutely lovely! The sun was shining all day.
DISTANCE: Total: 14 miles
HEALTH: Today I can feel shin splints starting to emerge (unlike me, but the terrain has been hard ground today). Two people had a fall, but nothing too serious.
ZUBIRI TO PAMPLONA
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:
Today has been rather sad as it’s our last walking day. We took our time and made the most of every opportunity that was presented to us.
🍳 7.30 am – After a breakfast of chocolate croissants and cafe con Leche we took our last group photo, high fived each other “let’s do this!” Pamplona here we come! We set off over the fabulous stone bridge, turned right and up the hill. Behind me, I can hear Kelly say “of course it’s f**king uphill!”” Lol 😂
☕️ It’s not long before we meet the first of many little food trucks. We stop for a coffee and a stamp in our Camino passports. The graffiti on the wall is adamant that we are not in Spain, but the Basque Country!
☔️ Is that rain? Oh no! Umbrellas are deployed l. Within 5 minutes we are packing them away again and never the wet stuff never showed its face again!
🪨 Wow! Look at that quarry. We walk by a fabulous quarry site which is very different to the mountains and woods of days gone by. It’s a nice change of scenery.
🎥 We reach a small village which I recognise. I declare to everyone “this is the house where they filmed The Way”. Everyone stops to take photos of this lovely little Spanish house. It’s not until we reach the next little hamlet where I recognise another house. Do I tell them that I’d got it wrong and this is the house filmed in The Way? Yep, honesty is the best policy. Everyone now has a photo of a random house in their camera roll! Oops.
🐔 I also say “let’s visit the church up there to the left”. There is a very famous chicken legend. I couldn’t remember the whole chicken legend – it was something to do with a son dying and a chicken springing to life on a plate. I’m a terrible tourist guide and end up telling my group “try googling chicken Camino story” and you can read all about it!
🌳 11.45 am – We weave our way alongside the river with its picturesque waterfalls and fallen trees which we have to hop over. It’s beautiful as the wooded trail splattered with fallen acorns and mushrooms. We arrive at a cafe on the river which has chickens wandering freely around. We see a herd of sheep running by the bridge which was quite entertaining. Tortilla and more coffee is consumed. I say goodbye to J&C, K&K and Joolz as I stay behind to make sure that the rest of my crew are ok. Emma, Denise, Snay and new Camino family member Belle are not that far behind. Now I know they are ok I leave them to their lunch and continue along the Camino on my own.
🥾 I’ve walked on my own for parts of the trail every single day. I need this alone time to be with my thoughts and to just enjoy the scenery through my own eyes and not the eyes of a walk leader.
👋 12.35 pm – I’m singing away to Lucy Spraggon when I turn a corner on a little muddy trail to see a man I recognised. “Ola. Is your name Juan?” I asked. “Si” he replied with a confused look on his face. The last time I saw Juan was in 2016 when he was flirting with my friend Julie and ultimately he declared his undying love for her and asked for her hand in marriage. I remember that day well! We chat and he tells me that he has been supplying fresh fruit and cold drinks here for 9 years! We take a selfie, place a few euros in his tin and continue walking. Once around the corner, I send a text with the photo to my bestie “you will never guess who I’ve just seen!”.
⛪️ At the briefing this morning I told ever about the alternative route on today’s hike. When you reach the picnic area you can take the high road up to the church and ring the bell, or continue along the river. Everyone with the exception of Theresa and Leisa took the high road. It’s a steep climb up to the church but you are rewarded by a true Camino experience. Music is playing from inside the church, and two nuns are handing out pilgrim blessings. It’s here I catch up with John, Caroline, Kevin, Kelly & Joolz. A few leave their messages on a green post-it note and attach it to Jesus on the cross. The atmosphere is so peaceful and you can’t help but sit down on one of the church pews and take a moment. We are told that there is no ringing of the bell opportunity today (I’ve forgotten the reason why). I’m soon distracted by the sight of blood! Caroline had taken a fall not long after the cafe stop about an hour ago. We sit outside the church and from my massive first aid kit I patch up her knee.
🍷 We pass over another fantastic stone bridge that leads into the small town of Vilava. We spot Rob who is with new friends drinking Jack Daniels and coke. He has such a big grin on his face that you can’t help but smile. The group of youngsters have been here for a while!
🍺 Our “older” group find the next bar and sit in the sunshine drinking lemon beer and rich red wine. This is what life is about. We all collect another stamp in our Camino passport then haul our packs onto our backs for the last stretch into Pamplona.
🍾 The perimeter walls of Pamplona tower above us and we take photos at the famous drawbridge. Kev, Kelly and I race up the steps and declare in “Rocky” style “we did it!!”.
🏨 Now where is our hotel? Google maps tell me it’s a 1-min walk through the streets of Pamplona. We arrive at the Hotel Tres and wow!! This is pure luxury. Our twin room is huge and so is the bathroom. I sink into a hot bath and let the water massage my body. My shins are quite painful and I feel exhausted but in a satisfying way.
⛪️ We finish the evening by visiting the Cathedral and enjoying our last supper. By 9.30 pm I’m beat and need to sleep. I say goodbye to everyone at the restaurant and make my way back to the hotel. I'm asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and I didn’t hear Emma arrive later that night.
⏰ It’s now 8.15 am as I’m typing this blog on my phone. On reflection, this trip has been amazing. The Camino has once again provided new friendships that will last forever and answer to some questions that I’ve been pondering over for the last few months. This is such a magical journey and will always have a special place in my heart.
Until next time…. Thank you for reading the blog.