Monday, June 10, 2013

Days 16-20, El Camino de Santiago

Day 16-17. Roncesvalles to Larrasoana.
One of the most crowded stretches of the Camino so far; I would estimate about 200 people started with us in Roncesvalles. I think the number of pilgrims on the trail created a scarcity mindset, because this section felt rather competitive. Some pilgrims rise at 5 in the morning so that they can be the first to arrive and claim a bed at the next Albergue (Spanish hostels don't take reservations). We left at 6:30 or 7 and arrived at our destination around 2 or 3 pm with three of the five Italians we met that day. The Albergue only had a few bunks left (and it was the only place in town), but the Italians decided to wait for their friends to catch up before checking in, even though they had just met one another. In the end, they all got beds, but 30 minutes later we saw some other sad pilgrims get turned away. 
Below is a picture of a table at the Albergue in Roncesvalles where pilgrims leave behind whatever they carried over the Pyrenees the day before and decided they didn't need. Cast-offs ranged from an electric razor to fancy shoes to a book on how to succeed in business. Rachel and I gladly picked up a National Geographic and a little shampoo, both of which felt like a luxury. Maybe we missed the point of lightening our packs, but the metaphor of carrying only what is essential in life did not escape us. 

Day 18. Pamplona. We stayed at a huge Albergue with hundreds of bunks in this city, famous for the running of the bulls. One of my favorite days so far! Rachel and I went to lunch with Lisa and Allison (below), teachers from Phoenix who work with special ed kids and were inspired to walk after watching "The Way," a movie about the Camino. 
And here is Rachel running from some bull statues... We both were a little "bull-headed" later that day and got in our first fight of the trip, but after some alone time and apologies, we realized half of our troubles had stemmed from hunger. Five tapas later, things were back to normal. 

Day 19. Puente la Reina. Today I walked for a few hours with a warm, talkative man named Alfonso who does the Camino de Santiago every decade, and is walking this time for his 70th birthday! He lives in Valencia but is Basco. Since we are walking through Navarra, Basque country, it was interesting to hear a little about the history and politics of the region from him. Alfonso's brief history of Spain went like this, "Guerra, guerra, guerra, y despues, Franco." War, war, war, and then, Franco. He understandably did not seem to want to talk about the nearly 40 year dictatorship, which he experienced until he was 33 years old, except to say it was a terrible time. 

Day 20. Estella. 
I would be remiss not to mention the many signs, flags and graffiti in this part of Spain that assert Basque independence. They show that the creation of national boundaries and the unification of autonomous kingdoms still feels like recent history. I think the economic downturn only heightens some of the Basque discontent at the national government, especially for this ethnic minority that was self-ruled for centuries. Wish I could stay to learn more of the fascinating history here, but we will soon be leaving the region of Navarra for the great wine-producing lands of La Rioja! Saludos!


Cristina Rose Smith said...

i love it! and I love that i've been around there too!!! so excited to see these goings on!!!

Katerina said...

Thanks, C.R.! I forgot you traveled through here! We will have to compare notes!