(Larrasoana - Pamplona - Uterga) Like a one night stand, walking with someone on the Camino one day doesn’t oblige you to walk together again the following day. It was on that understanding that we hugged Albert and Toshio good-bye.
Retracing our steps over the bridge, we left Larrasoana, passing through cool green pine forests and farmland. An hour later, we arrived at the small hamlet of Zurian where, like an unlikely fountain in the desert, a derelict drinks vending machine stood by the roadside. Julian slotted in the required €1.20, pressed a button, and a can of ice-cold KAS Limon clunked down the chute. It worked! Julian retrieved the can through cobwebs.
This was the beginning of our Camino-long love affair with KAS Limon, a fizzy lemonade with real lemon juice, the right thirst quencher for peregrinos with parched throats and an intense dislike of saltish mineral water.
To get to the next village of Villava, there was a steep hill to climb. I needed to use the public toilet just before that, but hastily retreated after one quick glance at the amenity. A blonde peregrino with strong legs and obviously also a strong stomach, went in. Peter said that she pooped a lot. I didn’t seek an explanation for his familiarity with her bowel movements.
We were hungry and stopped at the first café after the uphill. There we found Albert already tucking into his bocadillo grande, and Toshio at his first (probably) beer. Together with the tres café con leche, I ordered tres tortillas and un bocadillo (thinking it would come with the usual jamon y queso). I got tres tortilla bocadillos instead. Obviously, my Spanish was very lacking. Much later, we were to meet a peregrino who had changed her order from two to three hamburgers, and got five hamburgers which made me feel a little bit better.
By some tacit agreement, it looked like the five of us were going to walk together to Cizur Menor, a town 4 km away from the next big township of Pamplona. Albert consulted his guidebook. Cizur Menor would be the last place with an albergue. If that was full, we would have to walk past Zariegui, up the Alto de Perdon, and then down to Uterga – another 14 km. Certain of accommodation at Cizur Menor since most peregrinos would be staying the night at Pamplona, we laughed.
Pamplona was founded by the Roman general Pompey around 74 BC. Although the Basques who had settled there earlier called the city Iruna, Pompey named it Pompeiopolis after himself.
On entering the town, we walked through the park and then uphill past very high walls built by King Fernando. There was an entrance at the far end and I was wondering why cars were emerging from within. We followed the yellow Camino arrows up to the entrance, went through the doorway and found ourselves in the medieval quarters of Pamplona. Julian thought it was “cool” to find a town within the walls. I thought it was pretty amazing myself:
The medieval quarter with typically A medieval drinking fountain still in use.
narrow cobbled streets.
Book stalls in the Square Shop window with interesting Waiting outside the shop for
puppets Albert and Arnold
One of the main attractions of the town was the Cathedral of Pamplona which appeared rather austere, but which was said to be a masterpiece of Gothic work inside. Visitors were allowed in free during mass times, but after mass, it became a museum for which an entrance fee was charged. We arrived after mass. Albert was adamant that one shouldn’t have to pay to go into a church.
We did the tourist thing a bit -- saw a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and then left for Cizur Menor. On the way, we met a tall German man called Arnold (whom I mistakenly kept calling Anton for a while), and because Albert spoke German as well, Arnold got swept in and walked with us through the modern suburb of Pamplona, through the park, past the university and then onto the highway.
We arrived at an albergue and saw an advertisement for a Pilgrim’s Menu for dinner. A woman from the albergue was beckoning us. Albert consulted his French guidebook. Arnold consulted his German guidebook. Both unanimously agreed that this was Mayo and not Cizur Menor. No one listened to the Malaysians, so soon we were walking out of town and across the highway onto a dirt track which led us nearer and nearer to the windmills we could see in the distance.
Toshio stopped. In faltering English, he asked where we were heading. Then in fluent Japanese, he started expostulating. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I suspected he was swearing.
We walked and walked towards nowhere in particular, it seemed, except towards huge expanses of wheat fields. By 3 pm, Albert accepted that we had overshot Cizur Menor. Toshio opened his exercise book and jabbed at his copious notes in rising hysteria but none of us could read hiragana. We had been walking since 7 am and were tired.
There was no accommodation to be had. We had no choice but to trudge to Uterga. The windmills were getting bigger. I remembered the joke Albert made this morning. We agreed we shouldn’t make such jokes again.
We had to get to Zariegui first, but stopped by a memorial to Frans Belgie who had died there on his Camino. Under a stone was a farewell note written in Dutch:
At last I have arrived here.
It is because of you that I have started this trip.
With your wife An, and with Kris, Martine and Michel.
See you again on that other Camino, Frans Josef.
Cees Merksplas and Jos Beuse
(Thanks to Jan Stuivenberg for the translation.)
By 4.15 pm, we had arrived at Zariegui, a small isolated village with a church. It was very windy and cold as we hunkered down by the church waiting for Peter to make tea on the camping stove. Our ears perked at the sound of doors being opened, hoping it would be the village Padre who might be persuaded to allow us to sleep in the pews tonight. No such person appeared.
Under such desperate circumstances, Malaysia’s BOH Jasmine Green Tea had the unexpected effect of tongkat ali, and by 5 pm, we were striding up Alto del Perdon (Mountain of Forgiveness, appropriately enough as we had forgiven Albert for pig-headedly refusing to listen to us). It was a climb up to the top of the range where the windmills stood in a line. The windmill farm was there obviously because it was windy, and boy, was it WINDY. The rotating blades roared like Fokkers.
At the apex were wayang kulit cut-outs of a caravan of pilgrims seemingly pressed against the wind. We thought we were alone, but out of nowhere came three people who had arrived in a car. We recognized them as being the “peregrinos” whose backpacks were the size of handbags and who had overtaken us at Pamplona. And although we snobbishly sniffed at their wimpy-ness, we were glad they were available to take a group picture for us.
The trail downhill after this point might well have been scree slopes. The loose stones made for tricky footwork. BOH’s Jasmine Green Tea, however, seemed to have agreed with Toshio’s constitution for he literally sprinted down and was soon out of sight. The rocky section led to wheat fields and finally into the township of Uterga. It was 7 pm when we arrived. We had been on for the Camino for 12 long hours.
We were well-recompensed for our hard day. The albergue was clean and cosy. Julian shared the dorm with the others. As the dorm was then full, Peter and I had to take the double bedroom. It was a proper room with an attached bathroom and REAL towels. What luxury on the Camino! (We had to pay €45 for it though.)
Incidentally, we met Chris at the albergue and found out that he was the one who had left the note at the memorial. He was walking the Camino for this friend. We never saw Chris again after this as he was simply too fast to keep pace with.
Dinner was magnificent. The primero was a choice of mixed salad, potato salad, crema which is like a puree or very thick soup or cannonelli stuffed with spinach with cream on top.
Segundo was lamb knuckle, beef stew, or a schnitzel of ham, pork and cheese.
Postres was flan with dollops of cream, home-made cake or a slice of biscuit-like cake.
And of course, there was vino tinto. Salud!
Distance covered: 34.6 km ______________________________________________________________________
jancan on Jul 14, '07
I can just imagine Peter's unaffected demeanour when delivering his comment about blondie. Didn't know you are well acquainted with the effects of tongkat ali. Sooo funny....
These days, there's even 5-in-1 instant cafe, tongkat ali included.
tilleyhat on Jul 15, '07
Janet, in hokkien...the comment would be..."chih koh ang moh cha boh tick tick pang sai....lah sap a jamban pun a pang!"...imagine if translated into Teochew ewh. We may have a picture of her...not in action of course. See whether Ah Tze can put up for you.
jancan on Jul 15, '07
Hahahaa good one Peter! So good to 'hear' hometown dialect. I also noticed in your recent post that you cakap Cantonese now. Way to go! :-))))
wondersf on Jul 15, '07
Pardon my ignorance. Looks like you are on a 2nd phase.
junglewallah on Jul 16, '07
“Pardon my ignorance. Looks like you are on a 2nd phase”
Where have you been? (Literally and figuratively)
janstu on Jul 22, '07
What a hilarious story! And what a stamina, 35 km in one single day!
The (moving) memorial is for Frans Koks, from Belgium, a small country just south of the Netherlands...:-) And thanks for the reference "roared like Fokkers". Fokker was a Dutch aircraft manufacturer, unfortunately going into bankruptcy in 1996.
junglewallah on Jul 22, '07
“The (moving) memorial is for Frans Koks”
Thanks for the translation. I'm adding it to my blog because it's too beautiful not to.
janstu on Jul 22, '07
“Albert was adamant that one shouldn’t have to pay to go into a church.”
Although being an agnostic, or maybe because of being one (?), I completely agree with Albert