The Road to Santiago.
October 3 , 2002
Puente del Magdalena


The day started early. I was awakened at 5:30 by the first pilgrim to leave, a Frenchman who had gone to bed early. Another hour and the others got up. Everyone had a tiny flashlight. And the sound of zippers filled the room. I was the last one up.

Breakfast was simple. The only eating establishment around was a small bar. They didn't have any eggs or meat. The man pointed to the packages of Magdelanas. Instead I pointed to the torta de Santiago. I choose this not because of any connection to my trip, but because I knew it was delicious. This coffee cake torte is made from ground almonds and eggs. The taste is heavenly: thus, I assume, the religious connotation. The only problem is how to count the carbohydrates for my insulin dosage. Torta de Santiago is not listed in my carbo counter, so I had to approximate.

Met two German women at breakfast and they asked me why my pack was so heavy. When I told them about my laptop and the digital camera, they were interested. One woman asked for my card, saying that she had a brother with diabetes who might be interested. She said, "I'll tell him to follow you on the web —that where you are I will be also."  I said to myself, I doubt it. She could walk faster than I!

It was a cool morning, quite pleasant. There was fog concealing everything except the mountaintops.  Walked by many cows and the occasional groups of horses.

Up again.
Up again
I kept going up and up. I asked myself, "If the route goes down the valley, why does it seem like I'm always going up?" I think that it was because I noticed the upgrade so much more that the downgrade. In many places the camino was a goat path, literally. At one point I was about 90 feet above the river on a path that was only 18 inches wide.  In many places there was no railing, only a slope straight down. I was glad for my stick to keep my balance.

Along the edge.
Along the edge
Reached Villava (pronounced Bee yah bah) at 1:00. Found a bank just in time (they close from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m.) and was able to draw out some euros so I could have some lunch. As I walked around the town, I noticed temporary wooden walls and barriers along the thoroughfare. Although I thought I knew the reason, I asked two women anyway. ¿Por favor, porque las muras?" (Please, why the walls)

"Los toros."
was the reply. They went on to explain that there was going to be a big fiesta this weekend with bullfights and also an international bicycle race.

At 2:00 p.m. I went to get lunch. Found a nice little bar where they gave me a table in the corner where I could lean my mochila (backpack) against the wall. Went to the servicios (w.c.s) to clean up. While I was sitting there in the restroom, I kept hearing an annoying buzz. Suddenly the buzzing stopped. And the lights went out! I was in total darkness and in a panic. Here I was all alone in a strange bathroom, in a strange restaurant, in a strange city. What would I do? Then I saw a dim red light on the wall. I reached out and felt a switch, pushed it and learned an important lesson. Lights in Spain are on timers; if you dally, they will go out.

After lunch, started to walk again — wanted to reach the albergue in Pamplona before dark. The walk was nice and easy through the outskirts of Pamplona. The way was nice and flat and I felt good. But I knew what was to come. Pamplona, like most major cities in Spain, is a medieval fortress high on a hill commanding the view of the river.

I passed over the Puente de Magdalena which is the pilgrims approach to Pamplona. Just beyond the bridge, I was overtaken by a French pilgrim who asked me where the big door to the city was. I pointed in the direction and said alli (there) he thanked me and went on. I stopped to look at the towering walls surrounding the city and thought how reassuring it must have been for pilgrims who had survived the mountain walk to reach another safe haven. As I climbed higher, I saw the portal gate to the city. And sitting there was my recent acquaintance. I told him that if I sat down I would never be able to get up again. He said that he was waiting for a companion.
Ancient portal to City of Pamplona.
Ancient portal to City of Pamplona

I slowly made my way through the old part of the city, following the yellow arrows. Just then, I saw the two German women that I had met at breakfast. They were with a third German woman and together they were sightseeing. They showed me the way to the Pamplona albergue.

The entrance was in the back of a huge church. Behind an iron gate was a tiny door. I rang the bell and heard "¿Quien es?" (Who is it?) I answered "Soy peregrino." I am a pilgrim. A buzzer released the lock.

There was a narrow series of wooden steps. Up the stairs, around the corner, and up some more stairs. And around another corner and up some more stairs — seven times. I was going up in a bell tower. I had to stop at each landing, my legs were killing me. Finally, I reached the door to the albergue. More steps up into the hall — which was so narrow that I had to take off my pack.

I staggered into the anteroom and sat down at the small table where I filled out the registration form. I gave the woman my credencial and as she was stamping it in came the guy who was at the gate and a woman. I heard the proprietress say that there was only one bed left. Thank goodness I hadn't waited. Somebody was looking out for me. It had taken me more than three days to cover the 45 miles from Roncesvalles to Pamplona which had been little more than one hour by bus.

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