This post was written around Sept 11 but due my fumble fingers on the iPhone has been accidentally moved to this later position in the blog series. It tells of the very first portion of our walk (from St Jean Pied de Port >Zubiri>Pamplona). To read it in order, it goes between "1 a.m in Madrid" and "A few more photos".
When last we had wifi, Dad and I were leaving Madrid by train to Pamplona and from there by bus to St Jean Pied de Port in France. We arrived fairly late in the day and the town was full to bursting with eager to begin pilgrims. we were turned away from one hostel with a recommendation to try #15. so off we went, down the hill. At #15 Rue de Castille, we knocked, then opened the door onto a hallway that, for all intents and purposes looked like a private home. We walked down the hall to the back of the house and, seeing no one, turned to head back out. As we passed by it, a door to a kitchen opened and a lady (in her 70's?) asked if we were looking for a place to stay. She had one room left. We wanted to be sure there were two beds and in the course of that conversation (in a mix of French, Spanish, and English) she realized that we were father and daughter. We got a reaction that we've now come to expect-surprise and delight mixed with a measure of relief. (How very European to not assume anything until told.).
The next -inevitable - question was "How many years has your father?". And when I told her, 82, she threw up her hands and said, "Ay! Que guapo!" Which means, roughly, "he looks great!" But her admiration did not stop there. She continued to exclaim over Dad's beauty as she led us up 3 flights of ancient stairs to our (very nice) room. There she stayed with one hand on Dad's arm the whole time, chattering about how much she loves the US and how gorgeous he is. There was kissing too (on the cheek). I was starting to worry that things might be getting out of hand, but she eventually left with our payment for the room in hand.
Her name, it turns out, is Maria Camino. And the house she lives in and runs as a hostel for pilgrims was bought for her by her husband of 70 years with the money he earned in the 7 years he worked as a shepherd in Nevada. She showed us a photo of him standing in the foreground with his border collie and the flock behind him.
we walked out the door of #15 at about 8 a. m. on Sunday, and started up into the mountains. The day was warm and grew warmer. The hike was steep and grew steeper, until even the Germans were commenting on the difficulty.
At one point, we passed a young woman carrying her 11 month old daughter in a sling and accompanied by the baby's teenage uncle. Later, they caught up with us and we all stopped to meet, greet, and take photos of what are likely the youngest and oldest pilgrims on the walk at present.
We continued uphill until we reached Orrisson. We had walked five miles and it had taken nearly 5 hours. We stopped at the albergue (al-BEAR-gay) in Orrisson and asked if they had room for us to stay. All the beds were taken, but they had one tent left. It was the one with no mattresses, just two foam mats and two blankets. We took it gladly.
At dinner that night, everyone took turns introducing themselves, saying where they were from, and any other detail of importance. As you might expect, everyone wanted to know - and then was amazed to learn - Dad's age.
The next morning as we gathered over coffee and were preparing to set off again, heading further up, people kept commenting on what an inspiration it is to have dad on the Camino- to see him not only vital and engaged, but also vigorous and fit.
We were on the way to Roncesvalles. Up was steep, but never as steep as the day before. We passed sheep herds grazing unfenced, beautiful vistas, and many landmarks such as the shrine to Mary and the baby Jesus. We felt great to reach the top of the pass and meet a 37 yr old Brazilian who, upon learning Dad's age, grinned hugely and proclaimed himself ashamed of feeling tired in the presence of Harold. Then he asked if I would take a picture with his camera of him and Dad. The Norwegian lady wanted her photo with him too. Celebrity Dad.
That was the peak. It was the descent that nearly killed us all. It began with a downhill stretch covered in loose rock. and so steep that people were walking down it sideways, like crabs. We became connoisseurs of rocky-steeps and began classifying various stretches as if they were rapids. The first stretch was Class 5 rapids. After that we were grateful to encounter Class 3 or under!
At about 4:30 pm we arrived in Roncesvalles and were given our bunk numbers for the night. Happily, we were each given lower bunks, so the midnight toilet visits did not involve climbing ladders (or unzipping tents, for that matter). A hot shower, a hot meal (at La Posada - in case you've seen The Way) and we stumbled off to bed.
lights on at 6 am and hiking by 7:30. We made good time and felt great, even though it was another day of steep descents. The morning descents were smooth trails, but at lunch we learned that the afternoon would be a steep climb followed by an extended and treacherous Class 5 rocky descent. I have been feeling a little under the weather so while we were stopped for lunch in a little cafe, Dad suggested we call a taxi to drive us the last 10km to Zubiri. . . Deal.
And so, we find ourselves in Hostelria Zubiri (a hotel) with an en suite bathroom - both tub and shower. We've washed our clothes, hung them to dry on the terrace, and had our pilgrim meal. Dad is already asleep and I'm only awake because wifi allows pictures to upload for the blog.
Tomorrow, we plan to catch another taxi and spend the day resting in Pamplona so that I can get back to full strength and start keeping up with Dad again!
Zubiri tonight, Pamplona tomorrow (again - having been through on our way to the start).
All is well. We are loving it all. My feet H. U. R. T. = ) The photos are all out of order. The phone app won't let me post them in order. Sorry.