Day 12, Logrono to Najera

We hit the main Pintxos street again last night, slightly different places. The advantage of Pintxos is that they serve from 7pm where as almost all of the restaurants don’t serve dinner until 8pm or 9pm which is just too late. The street Calle de Laurel though is absolutely buzzing both with locals and Pilgrims. Last night was a lamb and fish night!!

Today was another long walk 29km, although not too much climbing which was good. We set off just after 8am. The walk out of Logrono took a good couple of km, the outskirts are very unattractive. We then moved into a huge public park, called Parque de la Grajera, probably a little like Richmond Park in the UK but a little more manicured. It was odd to be walking with both pilgrims and locals who were out exercising. We probably walked another 6km through the park before leaving this and heading on through vineyards.

In Navarrette we stopped for a coffee and to wait for Eric next to a 16th century church. The town is very small, just a few streets but it is fair to say that the Church is absolutely huge, with loads of gold leaf, it is quite out of place really.

On the next stretch we approached an older Dutch Pilgrim who had stopped just on the path and appeared to be taking a comfort break right there. We concluded we must be mistaken since there were loads of bushes on the other side. However as Andy approached the chap proudly proclaims that ‘he is taking an organic piss, and giving the women something to look at!’ Quite incredible really.

We passed the ruins of the hospice of San Juan de Acre which stands right in front of a winery.

Today, other than Navarrette, we really didn’t pass any towns or villages, it was just a day of vines on either side, some areas with stunning views and others were we were just along the side of the main road.

Looking over the vines

We made good time though and arrived about 2.20pm. Stopping for the now obligatory completion beer. The backdrop in Najera is quite stunning. The only downside is that first thing tomorrow we climb that! Still tomorrow comparatively it is a short day.

Once again, having had a rest day we need to start to get to know the new group on the route. I am sure tonight will be the start of that.

Very pleased to see that my room has a bath this afternoon, and I promptly fell asleep in it!! Sign of a long walk I think.

Day 11,sightseeing in Logrono

I met up with Andy and Eric for a wine and Pintxos evening. We caught up the group of athletes who we had met the evening before, in the first bar. Andy’s father in law used to coach Olympic athletes and Andy recognised Brendan Foster. I had to check who he was, whoops, although I was not the only one! This guy is 72, an Olympian and walking the Camino with a group of mates. He was not impressed with the Pintxos, having just walked 30km what good is this snack he needs proper food!!

Pintxos street

In the next bar Frank and Marie joined us, they are heading on tomorrow so we may not see them for a few days but it was good to catch up and share more pictures and stories. We also met up with another couple who we had met earlier. Katherine is from Canada and her husband Hans Pieter (HP) is from Austria. Every time we had passed them during the day yesterday they had been eating, they were very efficiently bring their own picnics and stop every couple of hours, very civilised. They were great fun too.

Last night though appeared to be a comparison of blisters, there are some shocking ones. I keep touching wood as my feet so far have no blisters and overall I feel pretty good, so I am keeping very quiet.

This morning I planned my own little tour and wandered around Logrono soaking up the atmosphere. Like all Spanish towns there are a selection of Churches. I visited the Inglesia de San Bartolomé, this is the oldest church in Logrono built in the 12th century, gothic style again. I then visited the Inglesia de Santiago el Real, this is a 16th century church with a Pilgrim path, I thought this was a stunning church. It is one of the oldest baroque style of church in Logrono and a group of 4 pilgrims performed a short prayer in song which was very atmospheric. I then walked around the streets, Logrono is very pretty although not on the same scale as Pamplona which was stunning. 

The mercato was very impressive, with loads of stalls selling all cuts of meat, a whole stall for salted codfish, and loads of fruit and veg stalls as well as a great fishmonger. Some of the tomatoes are melon size!

I then stopped in at the ConCatedral de Sante María de la Redonda. It has a baroque appearance and twin towers which are very attractive. I found it disappointing inside to be honest, it was very dark and not very welcoming but it was my third Church visit of the morning!

Met up with the young crowd in the square having a coffee while I wrote my postcards. They are also having a rest day, which surprised me somewhat, don’t know why. They all met up on the route and now party every night, properly party till the next morning, then keep walking!! A mix of Americans and English.

After my cultural morning, Eric, Andy and I met to choose a picnic of cheese, jambon, bread, roasted peppers and red wine. We took our picnic off to the river, fashioned 3 wine glasses from water bottles, now a thing, and had a lovely picnic tasting the best of Rioja red wines recommended by a local wine producer, what a great way to spend a free afternoon. We did also manage to spot the pilgrims fountain too which was great to see.

Andy popped back to the hotel for a nap and Eric and I wandered through town having a coffee which progressed to beer tasting in a brewery. The world was put to rights this afternoon.

Tomorrow is another long walking day 29km.

Day 10, Los Arcos to Logrono

This morning was due to be a long day 28km, passing from Navarre into Rioja. The route was due to be mainly footpaths through open arable farmland with very little shade or shelter. Temperature was due to climb to 31 degrees by 1pm.

Consequently today we had an earlier start, before the sun rose, we were walking by 7.30am, passing under the Portal de Castilla in our way out of Los Arcos. This has the inscription ‘you are what I once was, and will be what I am now’. Not sure what that will be but I have to say I am certainly feeling fitter than I was at the start, my back is fully recovered and I no longer creak after a break. Today was even a bounce down the hills day!

As is now usual, Andy and I stride off, about 4km down the path realised that Eric had phoned us both to say that his knee was killing him and he was going to walk really slowly or take a taxi and that we should head on. After a quick call in which Eric was adamant we should keep going we headed on. This was the start of our marathon sprint to Logroño. Long legged Andy, as he will now be known, was on a mission since he didn’t have to wait for Eric and he wanted to get to Logrono as fast as possible before it got too hot.

It is safe to say that my legs have been properly stretched today!

We did pop into the Inglesia de Santo Sepulcro, in the little town of Torres del Rio. This church was based on the octagonal church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and linked to the Knights Templar again. Very simple church but beautiful.

Walking on, the scenery was arable fields as predicted but the weather was hazy since it was so hot so early. Photos do not do the landscape justice. It was beautiful. Again so many fruit trees, nut trees, olives and vines.

We pushed on hard until Viana. We had both received pictures and videos from those who stayed there last night and saw the bulls running in the street, I was disappointed to miss this. But I do have some pictures and those who were there were locked into bars for the duration so perhaps not ideal as then taxis onwards were required.

Picture of the bull run

As we approached Viana I was flagging with the pace long legged Andy was setting and I was absolutely starving so we agreed to stop for a sugar break. The town was buzzing from the celebrations of running with bulls. All the locals were out in town drinking, it was only just 11.30am and they were all dressed in red and white with red scarves. It was brilliant to see.

We sat briefly to consume our sugar fix and whilst we were sitting a kids version of a bull run came by, twice, with huge fanfare. I missed capturing it the first time as I was so amazed and surprised. Loads of small kids all properly dressed came charging down the narrow street chased by wheel barrow bulls. It was absolutely brilliant. 

After a healthy local pastry and a coke, I was fully charged and ready to continue! As we left via the main square the bull event was still in full throw with the wheelbarrow bulls chasing the kids round the square. I then learnt that these are fitted with a very efficient water pistol and if the bull is behind you can provide a proper drenching. I was chased out the of the square and we were on our way!!

The next 5km flew by, I am not sure whether it was the sugar or the mental stimulation of Viana but we motored on into La Rioja region. As we entered the outskirts of Logrono though the route became very tedious and the last 5km really dragged, we were on concrete paths going over and under main road bridges, very dull.

However we entered Logrono at 1.30pm a mere 6 hours after leaving Los Arcos despite our breaks. I think that is a record, it certainly felt like one. 

We stopped in the main square for a quick Cerveza, and bumped into some friends from Scotland who were a day ahead but due to injury had not walked that day and were about to train to the next stop. It was good to catch up for a drink.

I now have a rest day in Logrono. Whilst I don’t feel totally like a need this I am streaming with a cold and I suspect a day being a tourist will be lovely tomorrow. Off to do laundry now.

Day 9, Estella to Los Arcos

OMG today was such a fun day.

We set off early having decided last night that we would take provisions for lunch since the guide book said there was really nothing available. We had the healthy lunch option of crisps, nuts and fruit, Eric had some tuna fish that he intended to empty into a shower cap to eat!!!

Today was another day of hills and climbing, although a short day at 21.5km. It was relatively overcast but muggy. Halfway up the first hill and I was so hot my glasses were fogged up!

Today’s wisdom from the guide book is ‘to attain wisdom, remove things every day’. Interesting, today I acquired things such as wine and a really lovely forged camino shell with a cross.

About an hour into the walk we passed the famous wine fountain in the Camino. Sponsored by a vineyard there is a fountain which produces wine right next to the water fountain. It is at the entrance to the Monasterio de Irache. They provide 100 litres of free wine each day to pilgrims. Today was rose wine. We all part filled a water bottle for a little later since it was 9am, after of course a small taste and on we went.

Today was lovely rolling hills as we are progressing into olive groves and vineyards. Advise from other pilgrims is that pilgrims can pick grapes from the vineyards, we had a go today. The taste is delicious but the pip to flesh ratio was a little off, so they required a lot of spitting.

We took the scenic route today which is supposed to be the quieter route. It required a slightly higher climb with very little rest but was more picturesque. The route was lovely, up hill through a wooded path which was just great.

I am swatting a fly!

For a route which was supposed to be fairly remote it seems popular although as we discussed we only saw the younger group on this route but the views were amazing.

Today seemed very social, we kept passing the same groups all along the route which was huge fun, and the source of many in jokes.

For a route with supposedly no stops we seemed to find more stops than normal. We stopped for coffee in the Villamajor de Monjardín. 

We then found a mobile cafe for an ice cream at Cruce alt. Camino. This was a great shaded spot where everyone seemed to stop for a quick 20 minute break to share news of the day so far and take the piss out of each other.

Our final stop was a grassy area, no refreshments but a stunning view where there seemed to be an implicit agreement for all pilgrims that this was a stop.

Since last night we have passed and met and chatted to loads of other people but particularly a Canadian couple Frank and Marie. We passed them multiple times today.

Just passed our final stop they caught up with us and we all carried on into Liz Arcos together, passing a donkey on route.

Eric with the donkey

We ended up in the main square for a couple of drinks together. This is definitely the norm for all pilgrims when they first arrive before everyone goes their own way for a shower before dinner.

Frank and Marie have got the measure of Eric and Andy, quote of the afternoon after discussing the game of conkers was: ‘ is this true…’, I don’t think they had believed a word either Andy or Eric had said all afternoon. They have obviously reached the conclusion that all the English are absolutely mental!!

Tomorrow is a long one again, but I am looking forward to it.

Day 8, Puente la Reina to Estella

Headed out to dinner to meet Eric and Andy. I arrived first to a packed outside bar and managed to negotiate splitting a table with a group of German bikers. The place was otherwise packed with Spanish. Andy and Eric arrived and we ordered a beer and checked in the food plans. It was 7pm and the kitchen did not open before 8pm. Given that the only other restaurant did not open until 9pm and all of us were too hungry for a pintxos dinner since we had not eaten lunch we unanimously agreed to wait until 8pm. 

We did however get the menu and decide so that the second the kitchen was open, our order was in. I opted for a salad to start again, followed by salted cod, bacalao which was brilliant and a sorbet to follow. My salad to start was a main course in itself with an entire goats cheese on the top. I did eat the lot though.

At about 9pm the place was absolutely packed, all with Spanish and 3 generations of family and friends. They were clearly just coming out for dinner as we were just finishing up. At 9.30pm we finished up and feeling totally stuffed I headed back down the road to my hotel. I was quite grateful of the 15 minute walk to let dinner go down a little.

I had a rough night last night with an upset stomach. I cannot work out whether it is the bathroom water which I have been drinking, the fruit picked off trees which I have been eating or late night over indulgence, but either way my stomach was most unimpressed. Note to self, try to find somewhere else to fill my water bottles and stop scavenging on the way.

Ready to set off today with the full expectation of walking alone. I got to the door to discover it  pouring with rain which I had not expected from the forecast last night, so I had to resort my luggage to get the waterproof covers and jacket out before I could head off.

I finally repacked and headed out at about 8.10am. I had been walking for about 10 minutes when up ahead I recognised the unmistakable figures of Eric and Andy who looked like the had just left their hotel.

We therefore had another day on the trail together. As we left Puente la Reina we passed the bridge the town is named for which is quite stunning. 

Today was a quiet stage walking through gently rolling farmland. The guide said that there was only roughly 300m of climb and 300m of decent, so to all intents I anticipated a pretty flat day. I am learning that setting expectations can cause the day to feel very different. Today it felt like there was way more climbing than 300m!! 

The weather was mixed between showers in the morning, real blue skies and overcast, it was however really muggy and hot which made the climbs feel even harder. We passed alongside fields of sunflowers today and also started to see the start of vineyards.

In Cirauqui we stopped in the Church for a Pilgrim stamp and I emptied and refilled my water with non bathroom water. It certainly tasted better.

We then reached the village of Villatuerta around 13.00 and decided to stop for lunch today. I was travelling with a sandwich I had made at breakfast since I had not been very hungry then, we managed a beer each and the guys ordered chicken burgers. I have to say that my sandwich looked just as good as their burger.

As we left the village we passed a group of young girls who were asking for donations in return for freshly picked tomatoes, very enterprising.

Today felt like a pretty relaxed day as we arrived into Estella around 3pm and found our hotel. After an arrival beer we headed off for our well earned showers, no bath today. Amazing backdrop just beside the hotel.

It was another good day, we passed lots of faces that we are recognising and that we say Hi to knowing that we have seen them before but I think both the guys and I are still messaging people who have moved on, either a day ahead or to finish the last 117km. Odd how that works.

Today though we passed through the first 100km market. I have now completed 114km, I can’t believe it.

Day 7, Pamplona to Puente la Reina

Today I was back on the road again, we set off just before 8am, bit later than we had planned but being a Saturday breakfast did not start until 7.30am. 

Today was a 24km walk, and I joined Eric and Andy having met them at breakfast. We agreed to add an additional 3km detour to visit a chapel which had been mentioned last night.

We set off, the first 5km is through the outskirts of Pamplona, which is not terribly attractive. On leaving Pamplona we then head to the open fields outside Pamplona with the wind turbines on the horizon.

We passed through villages to the Church of San Andres at Zariquiegui, anyone recognise this from The Way? It was a pretty church and a good break before the climb started up to Alto de Perdon at 790m.

The climb was totally worth it for one of the iconic images of The Way. The wrought iron representation of Pilgrims with the inscription of: where the way of the wind crosses the way of the stars. This is an amazing viewpoint, up on the hill with the wind turbines and the statue.

We then headed down a very steep and stoney path, requiring proper concentration. I do not want to end up on my backside again, especially since I am just starting to feel better! We had agreed that we would not really stop today but would push in through, however we were adding the detour to the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria de Eunate as a break.

The church is literally in the middle of nowhere. It has been linked with the Knights Templar and has an octagonal form. We arrived along with a coach load of Germans to find a Spanish wedding in full flow, complete with music and two camera drones. Since we could not get into the Church we rested on some benches nearby and pulled out our nut rations! Eric then produced out two small bottles of red wine, he had mentioned these earlier but I had assumed he was joking, he clearly wasn’t. Then being an engineer he fashioned two wine glasses from an empty water bottle and we rested enjoying a couple of glasses of red wine, before the wedding party moved outside for photos and we could pop inside.

Church visit over we carried on passing a number of really full allotments, pepper fields and fruit trees, we sampled some amazing time yellow plums that we brilliantly sweet, hopefully theses were supposed to be edible!!

Around 3pm we arrived at Puente La Reina. We are staying in different places tonight but my place was first so the guys dropped me off stopping for a beer before heading on to their spot. 

They have reviewed all the local options for dinner so I will head up the road around 7pm to join them. Now to the shower, it has been a very hot day at 30 degrees and to my delight I have a bath in my room.

Day 6, sightseeing in Pamplona

Last night I headed out to meet Andy and Wendy at a Pintxos bar in a side street off the main square it was heaving with locals.

Andy and Wendy has bought Ed from Alaska with them, he was incredibly interesting and had walked the camino last year too but is back again. He was giving us lots of tips for the next day of walking. Back home he is a hunter and sous chef. It is really hard to imagine his life as reality. However, he has 4 kids and they all travel and work globally, certainly not isolated, absolutely fascinating. 

I had invited Yannick to join me and she bought Someone she had met from São Paulo, Brazil with her, so we had a really fun evening of pinxtos and beer and wine catching up on experiences. Overall, I felt like my decision to walk on to Akerreta had been the right one. Andrew and Wendy has also walked in but to Larasonna and the hotel there, the only one, was not serving food as it was the chefs day off so they made sandwiches from the supermarket for the evening. Andy and Eric has stayed in Zubiri and said that it was very rough too, although Yannick seemed to have found a good spot and had really enjoyed her jacuzzi.

Andy and Wendy walk on today and unless their plans change I can’t see me catching up with them until Santiago, but we have agreed to meet the evening of 19th of October in Santiago and they are going to send me tips of where to eat in the towns before which is great.

Yannick and I met up this morning and did a tourist route round Pamplona visiting the main square Plaza del Castillo, the monument celebrating the running with the bulls, Inglesia de San Nicolás which is in the original Romanesque structure, the only church in Pamplona to retain this, inside is almost a gothic style (although not as gothic as I expected). We also visited the City Hall and walked round the Ciudadela which was an original fortress from the 16th Century. We stopped for lunch in the Parque de la Taconera for a cafe and Pintxos. 

It was a lazy day of walking round and soaking up the atmosphere. After lunch we opted for a swim and enjoyed the sun before heading back into town to the cathedral for prayers and a tour of the cathedral.

I have to say this was special, there were organised prayers for pilgrim in a private chapel which is not open to the public but is just across from the cathedral, really amazing messages. We then had a tour of the cathedral, we were there an hour and a half, even after the cathedral closed and we toured round the cloisters and the museum as well as the cathedral which was great. We had planned to do mass afterwards but by the time we were done our stomachs were calling so we skipped mass.

Yannick and I were joined by Eric and Andy for the cathedral visit and the four of us then went out for dinner and a few drinks. I am so not going to lose weight even with all the walking!! Another amazing meal with good company, such lot of fun.

Now back at the hotel ready for bed and to walk on in the morning. I had to say goodbye to Yannick who takes a 9 hour train to Sarria tomorrow and then walks the last 117km to Santiago. I am sure that we will keep in touch. Eric, Andy and I carry on tomorrow.

Day 5, Akerreta to Pamplona

Yesterday evening was brilliantly relaxed. The only thing in Akerreta is the hotel which is also where the Way was filmed. The hotel was family run and small but absolutely amazing. 

Renee, Gary and Terri invited me to join them for dinner which was lovely. They are walking into Pamplona tomorrow but then taking the train to Sarria to walk the last 117km. Dinner once again it was a 3 course meal with wine for €19. I started with a salad, which appears to be the only way to get any form of vegetable, but it was amazing, this was followed by the most delicious melt in the mouth beef in red wine stew with potatoes and I then had homemade mango ice cream. Best dinner yet!

Renee and I

Dinner though was not served until 8pm, which meant that at 9.45pm when we all headed up to bed we were definitely still digesting. I think the combination of a late dinner and the news that Renee shared over dinner that her friend was bitten by a snake on the trail, she had resisted telling me just when we saw the snake which was kind, however I did have snake nightmares until about 3am this morning when I finally passed out!!

With a short day of walking today, 16km, and breakfast not starting until 8.30am I did not set off until 9.30am this morning which was wonderful. Breakfast was also the best yet and everyone was having breakfast pretty much together which was very social. I was chatting to another couple from Australia who are walking to Pamplona, then collecting bikes to ride to Sarria before walking the final 117km. Everyone really does do their own walk, there are so many variables.

Today I set off alone, reflecting on the fact that yesterday when I wanted company, I found the two most amazing women to walk with and today when I fancied a bit of space, it was given.

However, after my snake nightmares, I did find the first few hours today a little stressful. Until now I have had no issues peeing behind a bush, this morning however, my brain and bladder were playing tricks convinced that I would be attacked by a snake if I tried. I was beginning to get desperate when really in the middle of nowhere a toilet block appeared!! I was so relieved. Strange, when I was planning this trip at no point did anyone mention snakes….perhaps a good thing else I may have had second thoughts. 

Anyhow, onwards, I am now bashing my sticks hard on the path so that I can be heard coming a long way off.

After a few hours today the final stage is actually through the outskirts of Pamplona. I arrived really early at 1.15pm and whilst I had been worried about having a rest day so early on, I am now really looking forward to a day and a half sightseeing.

Wendy and Andy have just texted me with details of which bar they will be in at 7pm and I know that Andy and Eric will be in the same hotel as me, and are staying two nights too and Yannick will also be here later and is staying two nights, we plan to look round Pamplona together tomorrow before she heads to Sarria on Saturday. 

I am looking forward to catching up later but right now I have heard of a swimming pool which I am off to locate and then I plan to find a laundry as my mud covered clothes need a little extra wash!

Amazing, had an outdoor pool to myself, complete with Spanish lifeguard, slightly embarrassing, but just lovely, enjoying a swim in the middle of the day on the Camino! Can’t believe it.

Till later…..

Day 4, Roncesvalles to Akerreta

So last night was a lovely sociable dinner. There was a fixed price menu for €19 for 3 courses and wine, bread and water was included in the price.

I was offered a bottle of wine or a glass of wine and since it felt like there was no way I was going to drink a bottle I politely accepted a glass, a couple of hours later I was being told off for having been so stingy as other would have willingly helped me out! Note to self going forward take the bottle and share!!

At dinner I sat next to 2 recently retired Shell executives, Andy and Eric. Both have left their wives and families to do this. Andy is walking the whole way, Eric is with him for the first two weeks, Andy then has another friend joining for a week before he finishes in his own. They were both great fun over dinner.

Eric then was heading off to mass which I had intended to do but on the basis that I wanted to keep my back moving and have an early night, I skipped it.

In the bar however, I bumped into Andy and Wendy who I had met at Stansted airport. They were settling into another bottle of wine so I grabbed another glass to join them. My back was starting to feel better, amazing! We were joined by a couple from Australia who having walked the first day from St Jean Pied de Port had just had bikes delivered and we’re going to complete the rest of the route to Santiago on bike. Then they are heading over to the UK where their daughter is starting University. They are on a 9 week trip and once again I learnt that Matt’s job gives him 5 months paid leave after 10 years and Linda’s gives 3 months paid leave. Both take long breaks every couple of years though and they say that this is totally normal. I am not sure about 10 years for the same company but I am loving the whole regular paid sabbatical idea!

It was a fun night, and after a couple of glasses of red wine my back was feeling way better then expected so I headed off to bed.

Today, Wednesday, was a long day, my schedule was 30km and I had learnt that most other people were stopping at Zubiri, after 24km but for some, now unknown reason, I had decided to go onto Akerreta!

At breakfast it was clear that my back is not right, but I can walk, and actually that is the most comfortable thing, so I decided to head off around 8.15am.

I met Andy as I was leaving but he was waiting for Eric and since they were stopping in Zubiri I decided to keep going. Just as I had spotted the path For the day, I saw another lady looking for it so I shouted to let her know where it was. Yannick was walking on her own too so we set off together. It was the start of a very fun day.

We walked the whole way together sharing life histories and experiences. We found that we both walk fairly fast and were pretty evenly matched and we powered through the 24km to Zubiri in 6 hours. The time flew by to be honest.

The scenery for the day was absolutely stunning, some climbing but overall more downhills. We spent a good couple of hours walking through some stunning pine woods which just gave off the most amazing sound underfoot as we crunched through the pine needles. It also provided a good welcome break from the sun in the afternoon which was stunning after yesterday but it was nice to have the shade too.

We arrived in Zubiri and I joined Yannack for a beer before I headed off. I have to say Zubiri was looking mighty attractive right then, even more so after a cold beer, then, even worse, Yannack came back to tell me that the place she was staying has a zacuzzi that you can book for a 45 minute slot. I was very very tempted to just stop right there are share her room, but we had only just met so I decided that might be very odd! We did make plans to meet in Pamplona though since we both have a rest day there. 

I then tried to stand, having sat for 20 mins my back had completely seized up and I hobbled off to find a bathroom before I moved on. It took me some time to wobble back to the path, Yannack kindly suggested that a cab might be sensible but I felt once I got moving I would be OK, and it was, once I made it up the next hill I was OK again.

It did feel fairly lonely heading out again on my own though, and I was pleased to spot a group of 3 Canadians ahead of me. Two were struggling and walking very slowly and having just got moving I did not dare to slow down so I wished them well and passed, Renee though asked if she could join me as she was walking faster then her husband and friend but had no one to walk with. After checking a couple of times that her husband would not object, Renee and I headed off. 

It was certainly a brisk walk as I just needed to get to Akerreta by that stage. My pace was increased by the sight of a snake on the path. I have to say I leapt out of my skin, whilst shrieking, and then speeding up even faster. Poor Renee was still insisted that she was very grateful to have a fast pace… good thing as I was not stopping. I really hope that this is a one off, no more snakes please! A short hour and a quarter later we rolled into Akerreta. It was a relief to arrive, it felt like a long 30km today.

I was so pleased to find that my shoebox bedroom had a large bathroom with a bath, I could not get into the bath fast enough, it was absolutely amazing. I think all the rooms had baths and each person came down looking so refreshed and pleased.

I am now chilling in the sun on the patio with a beer, just wonderful. Such a brilliant day today.

Day 3, St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

I was off this morning at 7.45am, as forecast it was raining heavily! Still it felt exciting to start the journey. Upwards it was for the next five and a half hours, before a swift hour down into Roncevalles. For the first half of the walk there were loads of other people and it was a case of follow the rain coat in front. I also kept passing and being passed by the same people as everyone full of enthusiasm kept stopping to take pictures and put in/take off layers and rainwear. I even passed a English couple that I met at Stansted airport.

As the route turned steeper everyone settled into their own pace. As I watched cyclists pushing their bikes up the hills I really didn’t envy them although this did change later when they all started to pass me. It also made me think that the road is a lot steeper than it looks or the cyclists had not done enough training, probably both!

At about 8.50am the sun came out and it looked like it would be an amazing day, could the forecast would be wrong? No a mere 30 minutes later the rain started again and didn’t stop.

As the rain continued and the mist started to lower and the sounds became amazing, all sheep, goats, cows and horses have bells round their necks so you just hear the sound of bells and animals as you walk, even when sometimes you can’t see them.

The higher I got the colder it got and the more the rain turned to sleet and even hail! I learned that putting off stopping to get out a jumper because you don’t want to remove your waterproof is pretty pointless and by the time my fingers were numb and I finally succumbed it was almost 12pm. Two things happened, once I opened my pack I smelt my sandwich, I had been ignoring the fact that my stomach had been rumbling since 9.30am, and I realised it only takes about a minute to get the rain coat off and the jumper on and raincoat back on again. Within 10 minutes I had inhaled my sandwich and was warm again. Lesson to myself, don’t wait until 12pm if your stomach decides lunch should be at 9.30am, and don’t wait until your hands are numb to get a jumper, it makes for a very cold and grumpy walker! Conversely once warm and full even the sleet does not feel so bad. Onwards and upwards.

I have no idea where the top of the Pyrenees was as I could not see anything with the cloud, fog and sleet, photos at this point stopped, actually from about 10.30am when the weather turned properly, I couldn’t operate the camera with my fingers and there was nothing but fog to see. I also lost all the other people!

However with about 4km to go to Roncesvalles, the decent started, it was steep! I had my poles extended to be able to reach the floor and I felt like a 4 legged not 2 legged animal, it was not pretty! There was a Korean lady in front of me who had an amazing technique for the steep decent, she walked it backwards! Most off-putting when approaching her and she is going the same way as me but facing me, still her technique seemed to work for her. My technique was clearly not as reliable as with 3km to go I slipped and landed hard on my ass. Clearly sufficiently padded as I was able to get up and carry on, although now completely covered in mud rather than just slightly covered.

However, by 2.15pm I had arrived at Roncevalles, the sun had come out and after a hot shower, with my clothes to get rid of the worst of the mud, I few like a new person. Admittedly, one who might have a very sore back tomorrow curtesy of my expected landing on the hill. My legs and feet however feel perfect…you can’t have everything!

Roncesvalles is tiny, with a resident population of 30. There are two hotels and the albergue which are all part of the monastery buildings. My room is the one with the trousers hanging out of the window! There is also the Royal Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, as well as the chapel of the Holy Spirit and a tiny gothic chapel of St James. However, really nothing else.

……and it is torrential again….I think I might relax this afternoon but just try to keep my back moving.