DAY 1- CAMINO LA RIOJA 2022

Camino La Rioja… Pamplona to Puente La Reina

🥾 Distance: 16 miles

☔️ Weather: started off a bit drizzly but the sun soon came out.

⛑ Health: Everyone is doing really well. Tired, but still laughing and no blisters!

The one with the beautiful birds, the donkeys and the Irish!

SUMMARY

What a fab day. We started out following the Camino signs which navigated us through Pamplona. We crossed over the Alto de Perdon (iron statues or “donkeys”). We are walking with a group of 32 Irish people and most are staying at our hotel tonight.. they are a fun bunch and things could get messy!

THE LONG WINDED VERSION:-

☕️ 7.30 am – I’ve been up for a few hours and I’m ready for some nourishment! I’ve already consumed two coffees in my room (got to love my little stove). Luckily there was a Decathlon store only a 2 min walk from our hotel so I picked up a gas canister yesterday. I was vlogging outside the hotel when I felt a presence behind me. I turned around to see Hilly and Sue smiling behind me! “We thought you were going for breakfast?” said Hilly with a big cheeky grin on her face! “Come on then, let’s get breakfast” I declared. We turned the corner and found a delightful little cafe called “The Coffing Bar”. Superb coffee, croissants, toast & jam. We found a few more of our group in the same place. A good start to the day!

☔️ 8.30 am – Walkers briefing in the hotel, followed by funny horse impressions by Jackie (you had to be there). Everyone left their luggage in reception and a prayer that it will miraculously find its way to our next hotel later that day. Waterproofs on ✔️. Umbrella up ✔️. Let’s do this!

🥾 8.45 am – It wasn’t long before the speedy ones in the group had broken away. The walk out of Pamplona is interesting as there is a sea of pilgrims all heading in the same direction. It’s not even 10 mins into the hike and I’ve already spoken to Aimee from the US who is loving the trip so far. On the outskirts of Pamplona, there is a huge University complex. After a small “squiggle” we find our way to the main reception and we grab a very unique and pretty stamp on our Camino passport.

🐦 10.24 am – We start the climb up towards Zariquiegui. I’m quite fast up hills so I break away from the group wishing Hilly, Sue Gabriele, Jan & Elizabeth a “Buen Camino”. I’m walking with Michelle who is from Dublin and we chat as we climb. Wow! As we walk through a small area covered in trees we both stop to listen to the gorgeous bird that is singing its heart out. I have no idea what type of bird it is (see video). If you know please comment below. Michelle stops for a break and I truck on.

☕️ 11.57 am – I finally reach Zariquiegui and I’m looking forward to a coffee in the cafe. I’m disappointed as the cafe has changed and they now have no seats, just a standing area. There is no toilet but a portaloo outside (which I later learned was rather gross!). I move on and decide I’ll make my own coffee when I reach the iron statues.

🐴 12.30 pm – After a bit of a climb, and nearly 9 miles into the hike I’m ready for a coffee. I reach the iron statues and take some video then remove my heavy rucksack. Everyone has been “checking in” on the app so I could rest well knowing that people were walking together and everyone was ok. I take out my little chair (it’s been raining so I’m glad for a dry chair!) and fire up my stove for a hot coffee. I demolish lots of M&M’s and air my feet while taking in the scene that lay in front of me. Wow! The views are amazing and at this time of year, there are fields of bright yellow rape that scatter the surrounding hills. I can see Puerta La Reina in the distance which is our final destination.

🚽 1.50 pm – The descent from Alto de Perdon (iron statues) is steep and gravelly. I’ve fallen over on this section many years ago which makes me very wary. You just need to take it easy and concentrate on every step. Eventually, the path flattens out and now I’m cruising. I’m chatting to all sorts of people and the time passes quickly. When I reach the small tiny village of Uterga it was very busy. I didn’t stop for a coffee but I did use the facilities.

🍺 2.00 pm – I receive a “check-in” message and Andrea, Angie, Louise, Sue, Jackie and Mother Hen have all made it to the hotel. Our bags were there and they were already on the wine 🍷. I plug in my AirPods and click play. I downloaded some episodes of “Friends” so I listened to that as I walked.

🌸 14.24 – these rape fields are stunning and I keep stopping to take photos. The path is covered in all sorts of different coloured wildflowers and I keep seeing a sprinkling of bright red poppies. I also walk through a whole section of trees that are covered in balls of mistletoe.

🌺 14.30 – I turn a corner to see a huge vast field of white flowers. It goes on forever and is beautiful. It’s some sort of crop? I take a video and upload it to Facebook to “ask the audience”, then I message my mum who is a bit of a flower/plant expert. “Do you know what this is mum?”. A quick reply “yes Julia, it’s peas”! Well, there you go! I never knew that peas had s beautiful white flower!

🇫🇮 After the “peas” I m now walking with Marty and Ator from Finland. We chat and I learn about the wonderful places and walking opportunities in their country. They stop at the next village for a break and I wave “Buen Camino!”

🙌 3.30 pm – I reached my final destination with a lovely welcome. Andrea, Jackie, Sue, Angie, & Louise all smiled and gave me a round of applause. Angie bought me a non-alcoholic beer and I sat down with gratitude. It wasn’t that long after when everyone else turned the corner of celebration at having reached their destination. Everyone looked tired but the chatter was high. And the Irish ☘️ group of 32 were hilarious. Apparently, Sue & Jackie has raced two of them down a hill! Jackie was already giving out four massages to some of the Irish group and diagnosed gout in one lady's foot (see video). I take in the scene and I know that these people are all experiencing a true Camino. Friendships are being built and laughter is a good tonic for the soul. Mother Hen (aka Andrea) had purchased 12 tickets for our pilgrim meal tonight. She’s a goodun. I’m absolutely knackered. For me, I never rest until the last person had checked in at the hotel. It all caught up with me and I was in bed by 8 pm! Today has been a perfect day. Tomorrow should be an easier day.

We got this!