Sunday, 19 June 2016

Day 1 Pamplona to Uterga

Sunday 19 June:

Today we walked 17,91 kms from Pamplona to Uterga.  Our accommodation tonight is at Hostal Camino del PerdonWeb:  We have a triple room with private bathroom.

We had a very sleepless night last night, Spain apparently won a Euro2016 soccer match, which resulted in a great deal of drunken revelry, police sirens and lots of hooting.  That in addition to nervous excitement about our walk.... all in all very little sleep happened in our room.

We left the hotel just before 08:00, feeling very nervous and excited, and walked through deserted streets to the first Camino marker.  

Off we go!

The Camino route is very well marked.  The markings take various forms - predominantly yellow arrows and scallop shells - these can be found in many places e.g. on poles, on the side of buildings and rocks and embedded in the ground.  

Initially we walked alone, but soon we spotted other pilgrims and by the time we left Pamplona there were a number of pilgrims ahead of us and behind us.  As the day wore on there were several small groups of pilgrims that we pretty much kept pace with the whole way.

Not long after leaving Pamplona we had views of the wind turbines we were heading towards.  They seemed very far away!  After a short climb we passed the little town of Cizur Menor and then climbed pretty steadily to the village of Zariquiegui where the cafe at the albergue was doing a brisk trade.  After a breakfast of delicious, but expensive, bacon and eggs with cafe con leche we started the steep ascent to the top of the Alto del Perdon, the Peak of Forgiveness.  All along the way there have been beautiful wild flowers and a jasmine-like scent (wild jasmine perhaps?)

We took the ubiquitous photos at the peregrino sculpture and then began the steep, scary climb down towards Uterga, over rocks, boulders, gravel and pebbles.  I took it very slowly and carefully and leaned heavily on my hiking poles.  It was really challenging!  

Flowers along the way

After the steep descent was behind us, we sat on a bench, had a drink of water and I aired my sore foot - my toes were feeling decidedly squished after all that downhill walking! 

The rest of the walk into Uterga was very pleasant.  I loved having an ice-cold drink from the water fountain as we entered town, this was going to become a daily ritual! We would also usually go back to the water fountain and fill up our bottles before setting off each day.  There seems to be a lot of debate about whether it's okay to drink the water from the water fountains - we did and we never had any tummy troubles, but I suppose it's one of those things where you have to decide what's right for you.

After checking into our delightful albergue a cold beer was most welcome.  

Loved this very "pilgrim specific" vending machine!

The albergue is absolutely fabulous, with the sweetest owner who went out of her way to ensure that our stay was pleasant.  We had a huge meal for dinner for 10 Euros.  I had a starter of vegetable stew, Paula and Grant had a spaghetti dish; for mains the girls had roast chicken and Grant had cod, with chips and veggies; we all chose apple tart for dessert.  A delicious bottle of red wine and water were included.  

Talking of wine, all the wine we have drunk so far has been delicious. The Spanish "everyday drinking wine" is in my opinion superior to the South African "everyday drinking wine". Paula had her first tinto de verrano today and loved it, I had a taste and I don't think it will be my last either... yummy!

Now it's off to bed for a well-earned rest.  Our first day is behind us and we conquered a big mountain, yay!

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