Stage 2 - Roncesvalles to Cizur Menor

26-27 August

Lunch break in ZubiriWe were up bright and early next morning and on the road before dawn. It was raining, though not very heavily. In fact as it turned out this would be the only day on the entire Camino when I would walk in the rain. Walking downhill in waterproofs is not too bad as one does not perspire too much. Even the best 'breathable' waterproofs get quite damp on the inside when climbing, especially in warm weather. Anyway the day was a pleasant stroll compared to the exertions of the Pyrenees, and the weather cleared up by midday, probably because by then we were out of the mountains. By the time we arrived in Zubiri it was quite sunny as you can see from this picture. In the foreground are the two Aussie couples and the Irish woman with whom I was walking - I am represented by my rucksack in the centre. Behind are a group of young Germans some of whom I would get to know later. At this point we are eating lunch - bread, ham, cheese and fruit bought from a nearby shop.

The vilage of Larasoana Although there was a hostel at Zubiri we decided to carry on for another 6km to the village of larasoaña. The hostel here was in many ways the antithesis of the modern but barn like conversion ar Roncesvalles. In Larasoaña the town hall had been converted for use by pilgrims, with several small rooms with bunk beds crammed in. The bathroom facilities were also interesting, since they were shared and the clothes hooks were outside the shower cubicles. Preserving modesty was a challenge! However it was a very friendly place and was presided over in a rather avuncular manner by the mayor himself.

By this point I had been walking with the same group for two days and we had become good friends. But their plans were different from mine, and before long we were going to have to go our separate ways. One of the challenges of the Camino, especially doing it alone as I was, is managing the balance between doing ones own pilgrimage and yet building up friendships on the way. I'm not sure I ever got it entirely right.

Bridge over Ulzama, Trinidad de Arre Anyway we started day three together. It was quite a warm day and we were traveling quite slowly and stopping fairly frequently. The hilly landscape was attractive and there were many interesting stopping points, but I was conscious of the fact that I had to move ahead at some point as my plans were to go further than the rest of the group. In the end we walked together as far as Trinidad de Arre, an attractive town which borders the city of Pamplona. The picture shows the bridge over the river Ulzama. We had some difficulty finding somewhere to eat and eventually ended up in a rather ordinary bar, and after a large snack and a beer we parted company and I headed off on my own on a rather soulless trek through the suburbs of Pamplona.

Pamplona Pamplona is quite a well known city, being host to the famous 'Bull Run' each July. However, at 3pm on a warm August afternoon it is al but deserted, as can bee seen in this picture, and even the cathedral is shut. My destination was further on, so after a glance at the medieval walls and the ruins of the fort in the centre of the city I headed out west, pausing to get my credencial stamped at the university. Pamplona is a city I must return to one day as I am conscious that I largely missed out on one of the 'jewels' of the Camino.

Romanesque church door, Cizur Menor My destination for that day was the village of Cizur Menor, about 5km west of the city. Here was one of the friendliest hostels of the camino. Run by the Knights of Malta, a fee of 4 Euros buys a bed, breakfast, and use of a pile of cooking ingredients. I met up with a couple of Italians here, both of whom were doctors, and we put together a very pleasant pasta dish entirely from the available ingredients.

That evening the hospitalero (hostel warden) put on an impromptu concert in the church, which was also run my the Knights of Malta, and had been very nicely restored. The romanesque door is shown in the picture. The concert consisted principally of Beatles songs and a few French numbers. Impressive since he was a German!

So it was a day of farewells and of new encounters, of city, village and countryside. A typical Camino day!