Two pilgrims entered Pamplona, and eight left just as it was getting light. A group is not a homogenous mass; it is a unit far greater than the sum of its parts, some fast, some slow, some in it for the time spent walking and some for the joy of getting there and relaxing with the glow of achievement. We all do it our own way, and since our beds were already booked, off our excited little pilgrim group went.
Leaving a city is always a grey trudge, but before long we found ourselves in the rolling landscape of Navarra, on our way to the first spectacular landmark: The Alto de Perdon.
I joined in the slower part of our little moving party, and as we walked and talked and took little breaks we got to know each other bit by bit. At one of our stops I even saw a young girl who I’d been told had a problem adjusting her pack, an Eja, so being a self-appointed Osprey adjustment specialist I offered to help. My good walking friend B has the same model, so in two ticks and a tug on the mysterious loose load lifter strap, her pack was as comfortable as it was always meant to be.
Then on we went towards the hill itself. You know the one:
The view from up there is really magnificent on a day like that day, and though people were constantly coming and going, there were windows of opportunity to photograph the iron silhouettes with no pilgrims in the frame. There seems to be a permanent van there selling drinks and snacks now, and many, many numbers for taxis to get back down. Tempting!
The path down on the other side is infamous for being steep, rocky and treacherous, and it hadn’t got any less so since I was there last. It’s all a matter of taking your time, watching your step, using your poles and stopping when you need to or if you want to take a photo. This is not a place for multitasking! The views are stunning though and you can see how the landscape flattens out ahead of you.
It was getting hot, and the last few kilometres from Obanos to Puente la Reina were a slog. Just as we came out by the Jakue, where we were staying, a young girl seemed to sway on her feet and Colleen had to administer electrolyte tabs – not for the first time – to help rehydrate and replenish a wilting pilgrim. Take no chances in the hot Spanish sun – bring electrolytes, even if you enjoy an Aquarius or two a day like I do. You might not need them, but someone else might. And drink more water!
Some of the group had already arrived, showered and changed, and we had been assigned two four-bunk cubicles, one for the girls and one for the boys. Our new pilgrims quickly found their way around the routine and before you know it we met up for a well deserved beer in the shade outside.
The Jakue is a restaurant and hotel with an albergue below, catering for all tourists and travellers. It’s at the beginning of the town itself, so you get to walk through it all the next morning and sightsee as you go, unless you’re walking in the dark. The real beauty of Puente la Reina is notoriously hard to capture, since the streets are so narrow, but here are a few snippets.
We stayed at the hotel that night, and enjoyed a lovely buffet meal with wine while we talked about the day’s walk and the next day’s walk and life in general. No one was yet put off the group, the camino or the idea of a good, long walk. A good night was had and my clothes even dried!