The First day of our Journey North.
06.06.2008 - 30.06.2008 22 °C
Early the next morning, we left our hotel in Pamplona, walked down the street and in a bar near the town hall had a breakfast of toasted bread with olive oil and fresh sliced tomatoes sprinkled with oregano, semi cured cheese and two cups each of hot Spanish coffee. It was delicious. The rain had stopped and the air was fresh with a bite to it. We started walking out of the city, following the signs of Scallop shell, the emblem of Santiago de Compostela. After one km. or so, we came to the edge of the city and the road became a street and then a track going uphill. And it started to rain again. Luckily there was a restaurant nearby and we ran to it and had one more coffee until the downpour became a drizzle. But dark rain clouds still hovered over the horizon, threatening us with another shower if we did not immediately start our journey.
We started our trek uphill, it was humid and hot, the backpack although it was less than six kilos, weighed a ton. The rural track, strewn with stones, not pebbles but good sized rock stones, went up all the way. Holly smoke! I thought, we are not pilgrims, we are here for a morning walk, why this test of our faith laid bare on the rocks? My wife also was distressed and we thought of going back the way we had come, but our determination took hold of our wavering thoughts and we continued onward. To be honest, going back on that treacherous way down, would have been equally hard. We soon learned that on the Camino, there was no way of going back, one simply had to go on.
After going uphill for about 2500 meters, the track levelled out, and we came to a halt. A tree had fallen upon the ground, from one bank to the other of a rivulet swelled up by the recent rains. In order to continue our journey, we had to climb a mound of mud bank, walk over the tree trunk to reach the other side of the rivulet, which was presuming to be a stream. Every thing was wet and slimy and I tried to grasp the tree trunk with my hands, but slipped and fell into the muddy water. My wife helped me climb back and I tried to help her walk over the tree trunk, but the tree was so slippery and our boots full of the mud that we both once again slipped down in the muddy water. Without another word, my wife picked herself up and waded the few metres to reach the other side and climbed up, holding some branches of the tree. I followed. My chance of picking her up in my arms like Tarzan and bringing her safely to the opposite side faded.
We cleaned our boots as best as we could, with the leaves of the tree and with the grass growing on both sides of the track and continued uphill and suddenly we were up on top of the mountain and could see the signs of civilisation in the form of a village, silhouetted against the sky. The sky had cleared too and we saw a group of pilgrims on the other side of the mountain top, going down too. Some were walking, with long staffs in their hands, others were sitting astride horses and donkeys, followed by dogs, with flags of their faith on long poles, waving in the wind. All were silent, the men as well as the animals. Perhaps they too had sighted the village in the distance and were, like us, anxious to reach it, find accommodation, feed their mounts, wash clothes and then sit down and have a glass or two of the local wine and break bread with olives and olive oil, cheese and chorizo. And in silence lay down upon bunk beds and slumber or sleep of the weary traveller, with aching limbs and be up early in the morning to continue on their journey north. We all were on the Camino del Perdon.
We said hola! bueno dias (hello, goog morning) to our silent fellow travellers, but received no response, they all seemed to be absorbed in their own thoughts, so I murmured Vaya con Dios (go with God), and continued our way down and were soon on the edge of the village. We calculated that we had barely done 10-12 kilometres, whereas it was our intention to do at least twenty kms. every day. It was late afternoon when we reached the village which was called Uterga (province of Navarra) and the Albergue, a private place run by a family of welcoming hosts.
We took off our dirty boots, slid off our backpacks and sat down on the floor outside. To our surprise there already were many other travellers inside the place, mostly females (young and middle aged) some were unpacking their things on the bunk beds, others washing clothes or hanging them on the lines outside in the patio. There were 18 bunk beds and charge was 10 euros per person. We handed our Credenciales which were duly stamped, paid the money and settled down until there was a chance to do the same chores, shower and rest. The albergue also had a restaurant so later we went in and had some food. The day was turning into evening and in the dormitory all was quiet, so we also went in, changed our clothes and lay down on the bunk beds to sleep. It was our first day on the Camino de Santiago.