Sunday, August 3, 2014

Camino One - Pamplona


 19 July 2014

I'm home.  And at long last internet functional.  Where to pick up ... my last email blog was so long ago but perhaps I should begin at the beginning with my arrival in Pamplona and my first sleep in a mixed dorm of hundreds - no, I didn't sleep almost at all.  Not even with best French beeswax earplugs ... the energy fields around me (I'm from Glastonbury, we know about these things!) from tired pilgrims were too fractured but I was aware of my first blessing - in a dorm of 114 double bunks I had a lower one, number 14, and the only bunk with no one above me!  

I left early the next morning.  It was barely light and I found the little brass cockleshells embedded in the paving to follow, follow all the way to Santiago in fact.  When the town met the country the cockleshells became signposts.  I call them cockleshells - they are really scallop shells, the emblem of St James, Santiago.

Out of Cizur Menor a true pilgrim overtook me.  I didn't yet consider myself a true pilgrim, my total walks had been an accumulation of miles to and from Wells and Glastonbury.  This gentleman from Girona had a 6 foot staff, had made it himself, with a cross at the top, sported a jaunty bushy grey beard sprinkled with wildflowers from yesterday's walk, cornflowers, poppies, yellow daisies.  It was charming. 

He spoke, could such appearance imply anything other, nine Romance languages fluently - and to our mutual regret English was not one of them!  Imagine an Englishman wandering the country lanes of Godalming with flowers in his beard.  Yes, it could happen in Glastonbury but you could bet your pilgrim boots the man would also have carmine toenails and be reeling on a few unsavoury substances!  This charming gentleman from Girona was the real deal.  He commented on my wearing a skirt, thoroughly approved of it for a peregrina!  I glowed with the compliment and thus I became a pilgrim, a peregrina.

He walked on, I was slow, but on I walked toward the far mountains ahead.  I walked that day as far as Zariquiegui, 11 kms.  The next albergue was up and over Alto del Perdón 2540 feet high and down into Uterga.  I didn’t think I could do that distance, that high, on my first day.

I passed vast haystacks the size of apartment blocks and learned my first lesson - never look up when climbing, it is too daunting.  Instead I looked down and amazed myself at seeing the sliver of white chalk path below me serpentine all the way to distant Pamplona - I had walked all that way!  And actually, it was easy, tiring, but easy.

 The next morning at sunrise I continued my climb.  And oh! look at the colours, the beauty!  It was the beginning of six weeks of dreamscape, such beauty.  And then, puffing and panting and exhilarated I rounded the last upward spiralling bend to see these extraordinary metal silhouettes, larger than life-size, spanning the crest of the mountain.  Most thrilling of all was the leading figure - it was a woman, a woman in a skirt!  I knew then I would make it all the way to Santiago.  She became a symbol for me.  The wind there was fierce, and the figures had been created to show its ever presence and a fitting place for all the giant white windmills, but no Don Quixote to tilt at them. 

I could barely leave such a scene but a further 450 miles beckoned!  Down a steep and rocky path I went to make the first of my many detours - 5 or 10 miles to Eunate and the Romanesque church and...

To be continued ...

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