The difficulties I encountered on the first day of my Camino increased on days two and three. Walking away from Roncesvalles at 9:00 yesterday, the very mild soreness in my left calf only slightly detracted from the beautiful spring morning in Spain. Unfortunately, “mild” became moderate and then severe before I reached Zuribi late in the afternoon. It took me almost eight hours to cover the same distance I walked in just under five last summer. The final three miles could be considered more of a limp than a walk.
Still I did enjoy the company of several other pilgrims. I walked a good way with Tom, a judge from Portland, Oregon and mother and daughter, Margaley and Avin from Venezuela. Mother is a pediatrician and daughter is an engineer. Both speak some English, so Tom and I enjoyed practicing our Spanish as the ladies responded in English. Since they were traveling at about my pace, it felt good to have some company. In fact, I think my leg hurt less while sharing stories with my new friends.
I also met two ladies from Asheville, Alicia and Tinker, and several Germans whose names I didn’t get. Despite the very warm day and my maladies, it was a good day nevertheless. Had it not been for my discomfort, I would have been hiking faster and probably never would have met any of these good people.
When I finally reached Zubiri, I got the last room at Pension Amets. The proprietor even gave me two ice packs for my ailments. After a brief rest, I walked about a block for supper and then returned to my room to rest some more and ice again. It was not the way I had hoped to begin my Camino, but the fellowship with other pilgrims and the beauty of the Way have still brought a smile to my lips often.
Today I awoke with high expectations after feeling a slight improvement in my legs. First I joined Annette and her son, Keith, from Ireland, Micho from Germany, and Gabbriel from Switzerland for breakfast at the pension. Annette has four grown sons, and all have done the Camino. Wanting to do a week herself, Annette convinced Keith to join her. She has also persuaded him to stay in hotels and pensions rather than hostels, although Keith says he would prefer the albergues.
My walking day started off well enough as I crossed the medieval bridge over the Arga river. The trail parallels the river for much of the walk today to the outskirts of Pamplona. I walked briefly with a young Korean who said his American name is Bill. Speaking excellent English, Bill said he had been to the US several times and that his father, a professor, had received his undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut. Bill is traveling with a group of about fifteen.
I also met pilgrims from Norway, Australia, Brazil, California, and Ohio.
The highlight of the day was a stop at Zabaldika and the Iglesia de San Esteban, (St. Stephens church). I, along with other pilgrims, was also given an explanation of the altarpiece by one of the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. We then visited the bell tower. Zabaldika is on one of the alternate routes of the Camino Frances which I didn’t travel last year.
After leaving the church the remainder of my day was a struggle. I was barely walking at 1.5 miles an hour when I reached the suburbs of Pamplona. I rested often, but still the pain from both my legs was agonizing. Upon reaching the city center, I quickly located my hotel and checked in for two nights.
Later I walked to Plaza de Castillo and had supper with Spencer, a Pilgrim from England. Then it was back to my room for more rest. I plan to really take it easy tomorrow and hope that I will be walking without a limp soon. Yes, I’m a bit disheartened; however, I am in Spain, slowly walking forward Santiago.