Day 4 (to Uterga): … I’m walking on sunshine …

… and I tend to feel pain … yeah …though it doesn’t distract from the …

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… fabulous Camino experience (much … and in retrospect not at all).

I left Villava around 7:30. The Brazilians were still asleep and I managed to sneak out without waking them … I also successfully tested my earplugs last night.

Dawn is slowly rising as I stroll through the city … people are getting ready for work and sanitation workers are busy. I reach the next town that I assume is Pamplona ... alas … its not.  This is also the first time I got lost for real … but it won’t be the last, not by a long shot. The Camino shell sign so far had the top pointing the Camino direction … here its just a mark on the pavement and doesn’t point the direction. So I went left …wrong way naturally. With a little help of GPS and a helpful passerby I managed to figure out where I am and where I need to go. So I walked on about 700m in the right direction when someone taps my shoulder … the passerby I asked previously … he wanted to check that I didn’t get lost again … and it was out of his way. This won’t be the last act of kindness from a complete stranger on the Camino.
Soon enough I hit on the yellow arrows again, as I pass by some school, appropriately named Amor de Dios.

I move on and quickly leave the city behind me … have I passed Pamplona already …. alas … I didn’t. That was just the suburbs. There is about half an hour more to a sign “Welcome to Pamplona”.  Yellow arrows are replaced by metal shells in the pavement.
There is a story about the shells. Medieval pilgrims who were assigned the Camino as a penance, had to bring a shell from the Atlantic shore to prove they went to Santiago.

The bridge Puente de Magdalena marks the entry to Pamplona. Quite substantial city walls with defense in depth … it looks like a boy scout troop could hold them against combined armies of Caesar and Genghis Khan. An uphill path … again … ( but a short one, thank God ) and I enter Pamplona. For a medieval town its a bit larger then I expected. There are people around as the city is waking up. Camino provided again … an open sports store where I got the belt from my trousers …  I needed it as early as day 2. The guy who runs the store compliments me on carrying a smallish backpack (44l and about 8.5 kg) … it could be lighter for sure.

Speaking of weight. the typical mistakes made by lot of peregrinos include: carrying a heavy backpack, new and/or poor-fitting shoes/boots, less frequent breaks and no “socks off ” breaks, too fast a walking pace (especially at the beginning)… All this results in in blisters and major feet problems. So far I managed to avoid blisters (and continued to manage it all the way to Santiago) but the rest of your body … unused to so much walking … is aching in protest. After a while you learn to roll with it.

I resupply at the supermarket nearby and got my Voltaren gel at the pharmacy. At the small square I meet Mick the Irishman and I join him repacking my recent shopping. Mick met so many people in a short time that he is writing down all their names on his forearm to make sure he remembers them all. (I wish I thought of it). The thing that he likes most about the Camino so far is how communicative most of the peregrinos are.

After I made the sandwiches for today I move on … with a slightly heavier pack until lunchtime. I leave Pamplona through university district. The first younger priest I’ve see in Spain wishes me a Buen Camino, near the small bridge and a nice senhora points out the yellow arrow I missed.

The Way leaves Pamplona and continues uphill towards Cizur Menor while the sun is shining quite forcefully.  Relatively few locals initiate the greeting but most greet back if you throw “hola” or “buenos dias” at them.

I’ve just figured out I got sunburned from my left side (as you are walking the sun is on your left). Usually I don’t use sun cream … as I consider it to be something for pale-skinned northerners. But than again, at home, I stick to the shade during midday … not something I do here. After that I got the sunscreen at nearby pharmacy as I continue onward.

The sun is doing its thing
… not a shade in sight.

Little behind me, Megi from Germany. She started from Pamplona today, has poor stamina and ran out of water quickly so I shared half of my remaining supply. Next up … an Austrian from Tyrol … not as fast as Road Runner guy but close. He says the next town is an hour away “… wh ….wha .. .what … not sooner?” alas .. it is not. I should have topped up my water bottle at the pharmacy or at restaurant at Cizur Menor and/or started earlier and stopped for a siesta to avoid the strongest sun.
Ah … the wisdom of hindsight.

I ramble to myself as I walk on … Where is finally that town with a fountain… not even a glimpse…and why hasn’t someone thought of putting a bench near the road ... are the thoughts that come to mind. Half an hour later I spot two benches near the road … now I feel like saying “I just want a million dollars”  (Friends reference) . At the bench I take a break and let my feet get some air. Soon Megi comes along and follows my example.

I move on.
Have I mentioned how much I adore going uphill.

After a while … (and it seemed like quite a long while) there is a village ahead … yessss. Near the church there is a fountain and in the courtyard another one … there is no end to my happiness.

My Korean buddies from day 1 are here, and have joined an even lager Korean group. At lunch break I consult with my guide to plan my parking place for today Its still too early (14:30) so I decide to move on.

The top of the hill ridge is filled with windmills.

… I may have mentioned how much I adore going uphill.
More uphill…
… the some more again.

Behind me, I spot someone gaining on me … an easy feat…. I adore going uphill so much so that I cherish every cm along the way.

Anyway the peregrina that catches up is a Hungarian girl Beata (or “the blessed one”) She is doing the Camino with her boyfriend … “and where is he” …”waiting ahead” … “I can’t help noticing that your backpack is kind of small” …”that because he’s got most of our stuff”… smart girl indeed. Familiar with Churchill’s maxim as applied here, as well. The only tip I can teach her is related to soaking the feet in cold water. As soon as she heard it, she started looking for the first river or a stream.

As we’re chatting there is something ahead that look like a peak … and so it is. Behind the corner another nice surprise … metal sculptures of pilgrims at Alto de Perdon … and I though the path will follow the ridge for a while. From here on its downhill …yeeaah. It is a bit tricky and steep but still vastly preferred to the alternative. Beata and I are discussing the current affairs and public policy in both of our countries with an emphasis on education (she wants to be a teacher and I’ve been one for a while).

We enter the village of  Uterga around 16:40 …  naturally not a soul in sight ( a reoccurring motif). Beata has a boyfriend waiting on her in a village 3 km away and I can hardly wait to find out if the next albergue ( a small one, 16 beds) has a free bed. In the distance we spot someone who is peregrina for sure, because of the blue compression bandages on her knees. Another Canadian, Suzanne. “Is there free space at the albergue” … I ask. “Yes, its great that I won’t be there alone”…. “Great” … says I (because there is free space of course). Suzanne leads us to the albergue where we bid goodbye to Beata.

Albergue is a family-run business and at the entrance an entire family claps for a cute little girl that just discovered how to clap her hands. Everybody else claps with her yelling “bravo”.
They have a restaurant as well, that offers dinner.
After I dragged myself to a bed … typical drill … showering, laundry … and a break in the courtyard for well deserved rest.

Suzanne is a hair-dresser from Winnipeg (shares a town with Maren), she arrived here yesterday and took a rest day here, because her knees were causing her problems. Another familiar face shows up, Luz Stella, with her husband Jake, together with a group of Germans that includes an older gent who’s got to be at least 80 (I later discovered he is 79) who got here before the Americans, even though they started together.

As we are all waiting for diner suddenly there is a sound of some strange vehicle … a kid’s monster truck soon enters the courtyard. Two boys are competing for the control of the wheel and didn’t like it when one of the adults forced them to drive that little girl from before.

During dinner Stella and the waitress are discussing something in Spanish in high tone of voice… if you didn’t understand what they were saying, it appeared as if a cat-fight might start, when suddenly they started laughing together. The family who runs this place is also from Columbia originally … small world.

After dinner, spiced with deep philosophical discussions and accompanied with some good red wine, its time for a bed

And that was day no. … 4 ??
…what?…impossible! … it feels like I’m walking for 4 months already.