Day 2: Espinal to Pamplona

The evening in Espinal turned out rather fun after I posted my initial update, as the conversation with Cyril soon extended to three Italian guys from near Milan. As we talked, a woman arrived with two kids. She was like horse in front of a two-wheel carrier. The kids an estimated 5-6y and 8-9y of age. They are walking the camino during school holidays and are from Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Vorsprung durch Technik! Afterwards we hit the only bar in town we could locate for a few beers and ended up in bed around 10.30pm. Not too crazy.

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The night wasn’t great as my bunk bed was little smelly and the 12 people in the room made all sort of noises. At 6am the nightmare was over and after quick bathroom stop and 6.30am breakfast I hit the road. Rain was the flavour of the day and hence I set out in full rain gear (a wise decision as would be proven later on).

After 2km walking I finally figured out what I had left in the hostel. My 2m pilgrims staff. That was something that kept happening at most stops (I guess one needs to get used to that). Back to the hostel and finally I was on my way the 37km or so to Pamplona. I don’t know why it is always on the days with the longest distances that I keep adding mileage … the same happened in Ireland on day 3 on my way to Ballyvaughan.

The walk itself led initially mainly through forests, was generally downhill and I walked entirely alone. The trek took me through many nice villages including Zubiri (the hometown of my former boss at Morgan Stanley, Pablo Beldarrain-Santos) with its medieval bridge and less nicer ones like Villava (kind of suburb of Pamplona). I made many stops and had three times breakfast that day and ate four or five portions of tortilla.

The rain was relentless … and still I loved every moment. However, two-thirds through the walk (about 30km) I could very much feel my feet that began to complain after so many steps. It slowed me down quite a bit and required more breaks (including 1.5h for lunch ;o). Once in Pamplona, 12 hours after I set out in the morning, it wasn’t easy at first to find a hostel. The public ones, including hostel Paderborn (run by German friends of the way of St. james/Camino), were all ‘completo’ and so I booked myself into a private one right in the middle of town. At €18/night including breakfast still very reasonable (the public once usually are €10).

After a lengthy check in (the guy at reception took three long phone calls while I was waiting for my room) I stepped into the cleanest hostel room so far. Great. Here I met Margit from Augsburg. A middle-aged lady that had arrived just today with her long-term travel companion. Unfortunately her rucksack had other plans and didn’t make the connecting flight to Pamplona. At least I could help her out with ear buds given I brought a family pack of them. The camino provides!

After a quick shower it was time to explore Pamplona. I had heard a few things only from Pablo who was from this city (he had to sweep the place in front of the town hall until he got a kiss in order to get married if I remember well). In short, the city is simply stunning!

Dating back to the days of general Pompeij (who ordered the city to be built), it has not lost a bit of its medieval flair and is extremely well-preserved. Known for good food (wow!), the running with the bulls (missed it, it’s in July) and its amazing churches (the cathedral with Spain’s largest bell) and the chapel of San Fermin (an long-time pilgrims favourite and home to a likening of the city patron of the same name). As I slowly walked back to the hostel (more wasn’t possible physically), my new German friends were waving from  a nearby bar and we all sat down to talk over beer and red wine (very measured!).

Really amazing these two! They started their camino journey back in 2002 from Augsburg and spent a good part of their annual leave since then to complete the task. This time their aim is to arrive in Santiago. Given they only have three weeks (that makes an average 35km a day vs. my 30km and the typical average of 25km) it will be important that the rucksack arrives tomorrow (it just did as I was writing the blog!) and nothing else goes wrong. Good luck to both of them!

In the morning my legs felt better (must have been the herbal medicine Margit gave me) and it also helped to sleep properly for nine hours or so (got up 8am rather than the usual 6am). Slow breakfast, a quick visit to the wonderful cathedral next door and all was ready to get going again. Today only 15-20km though or my legs will go on revolution again!

First notable difference to the first two days … the sun was out. 24 degrees. I might just regret to have started late when I will hike up the mountains after Pamplona. Quick stop at San Fermin chapel, where mass was ongoing, and then quickly out of the city towards Zizor major.

Plan today is to not overdo the walking and learn some spanish from my new audiobook. Lets see …

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