Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Roncesvalles To Zubiri

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Roncesvalles To Zubiri

I woke up in Roncesvalles at 5:20 AM when some idiot pilgrim thought it would be helpful to wake up his pals ... and everyone else within 20 yards.  I tried to sleep some more but didn't manage more that another forty minutes as they started to play hymns and turning on the lights at 6:00 AM (a not so subtle hint to get going).  I stumbled around getting ready and, passing the pilgrims who had made the noise at 5:20 AM (They were still in the albergue), left at 6:30 AM.  I stopped to take some pictures of Roncesvalles lit by lamp light and the light of the sunrise.

The Camino leaving Roncesvalles was a very nice tree lined path. Along the way I met a Spaniard.  He knew English and, along with my re-emerging Spanish, I spent the time talking about our respective Caminos.

We reached the nearest town, Burguete, and not sure where the Camino led we followed another pilgrim who was ahead of us.  We should have known better, especially this early in our respective Caminos, because it turned out that all three of us were off the Camino.  It was a minor error that was easily corrected.  We all stopped at an open bakery and had breakfast together which, for me, consisted of orange juice and nothing more.  Breakfast would be one of those meals that I would skip most days.  A typical breakfast was coffee and bread/pastries.  Not being a coffee drinker, or a pastry eater, I usually just walked on.

We all left Burguete at different times.  I found it was easier to walk alone at your own pace and not try to walk with other people.  I heard all sorts of stories along the Camino of friendships having been destroyed by people with different walking paces trying to keep up with/slowing down for the other.  I would spend most of my Camino walking alone except for a couple exceptional times.

While most of this leg was down hill, it was not much easier than the day before.  Actually it was tougher than I expected.  Even small hills felt harder than the Pyrenees had the day before.  I had to stop many times going up the smallest of hills - walk ten steps, rest 30 seconds, repeat.  The saving grace was the awesome weather.  It was truly gorgeous.  (I will run out of superlatives soon so forgive my repetitiveness.)

I caught up with the Spaniard and we walked within sight of each other for a distance.  We would pass each other as the other rested.  We eventually rested together where the Camino crossed a major road.

After resting a few minutes I decided I needed to get going or I wouldn't get anywhere.  Restarting was ... difficult.  My feet, which had been dangling as I sat, felt like raw meat when I started to walk.  Not the best sensation when you're two to three miles (3 to 5 km) away from your next stop.  As I kept walking my feet numbed up and felt better. The Camino soon turned into a rough, rock filled, rain washed dirt path rather hard to navigate ... then it turned steeply down.  My knees screamed for mercy as I picked my way down the rather hazardous path (trekking poles would have been useful here, but I repeat myself).  When I turned a corner and saw the sign welcoming me to Zubiri I let out a sigh of relief.  I admired the bridge, a bridge that is said to contain the relics of Saint Quitaria, a bridge also said to cure rabies in cattle, as I entered town and found the municipal Albergue.

I was the first at the Albergue.  I claimed a corner bottom bunk before I headed for the showers in another building.  The showers were ... communal.  Fortunately I was the only guy there so I was able to shower alone (I'm a modest guy) - there are privileges with getting somewhere first.

After cleaning up I went back to my bunk.   Not wanting to repeat my rather lonely stay at Roncesvalles I introduced myself to two Pilgrims that had arrived while I was showering, MO and GV.  MO was originally from Scotland but was now living in Vancouver.  GV was a Quebecois (a French-Canadian) who I'd seen in the bakery that morning.  It felt great to find someone who spoke English.  My Spanish was coming back but it was slow and my speaking was definitely lagging my understanding as it would the entire Camino.

I went in search of food and, after buying some - another ham sandwich ... always ham - I walked back to the bridge.  There was a flat area along the river that would be christened Zubiri Beach by the pilgrims.  Here I joined MO and we spent time chatting and resting our feet.  She'd hurt her knees on the way down the hill so I walked with her to a pharmacy (farmacia) where she bought some ibuprofen (pilgrim's candy).  We arranged to meet for dinner later that night.

At the restaurant MO introduced me to two Italians, DO and EN, she'd met on the way to Saint Jean Pied de Port.  We were joined by two French ladies.  Over our adequate meal (I think I had chicken) we talked about the Camino and each other.  One of the French women had done the Camino before (repeat Camino walkers were very common) so we grilled her.
  • Q: Does it get easier?     A: No, but your body recovers faster.
  • Q: Are you all energized when you get done?     A: No, I slept for a week when I got home.
  • Q: When do you hit the 'Wall'?     A: Day 3 ... or 5 ... or 7.  Everyone's different.
That's how it went over dinner.  We were encouraged and discouraged at the same time as we enjoyed great conversation in somewhat broken English.

Later that night I ran into the two Irish girls, SB and MN, (where I finally asked their names) and we chatted a bit.  SB, who had height issues on her way to Roncesvalles was cured of her acrophobia by the time she got to Zubiri.

I went to bed around 9:00 PM, which would be the standard pilgrim bedtime for me, and did my best to ignore the snoring in the room as I tried to sleep.  I managed to get a fairly good night's rest.

That is how my second day went ... better than the first and still an adventure.

Total Distance: 13.95 Miles (22.45 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 32 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,324 ft (708.36 m)
Total Elevation Down: 3,655 ft (1114.04 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. This is SOO cool! You had such a great adventure, I'm so glad you're sharing this :) Everytime you say "The Spaniard" I think of "the Princess Bride" and Mandy Patinkin