INTO THE STREETS OF PAMPLONA
30th May 2014
“Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and a way off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches. In the back of the plateau were the mountains, and every way you looked there were other mountains, and ahead the road stretched out white across the plain going toward Pamplona.” The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
We have now fully entered the Camino mind-set. This path is as much a way of walking as a way of thinking. We left Roncesvalles in the rain, it doesn’t phase us. It now feels as though we have been walking this road forever. The light drizzle keeps us cool and we can proceed at a decent pace through the many small villages spread across the Pyrenees. From up in these mountains, the valley looks like a nativity scene.
At lunch time the light drizzle still accompanies us. Yet on this day it was as though nothing could bring us down, not the rain and not the heavy backpacks. We proceed past the river Erro through delightful, densely mixed woodland and continue through the pass that leads us along a ridge and the epic Pasos de Roland. Following on past the small industrial town of Zubiri we soon arrive in Larrasoana our destination for the day. It is clear that this quiet and sleepy town has retained its close links with the pilgrims as there really is not much else going on here.
As the true twenty-first century traveller that I am, my first thought was to find a bar with Internet. My search led me to the town’s only supermarket where I was in for a treat. I bought a packet of crisps and sat outside to use the WiFi. Within a few minutes I was joined by two fellow pilgrims, an Argentinian and a Dutch woman who had been walking for two months all the way from Belgium. She had set off from Antwerp where, coincidentally, my mother lived as a young girl. Five minutes later the three of us, joined by Angel, the shop keeper, were laughing away, drinking wine and eating local charcuterie and cheese. I slept well that night.
We woke up to be met again by the same slow drizzle of the day before. Hoping this wouldn’t endure all day we started out, heading for Pamplona. The trail stretched down the mountain pass and along the river Arga. We could feel Pamplona getting closer and closer and then, as the sun slowly started peeking through the clouds, there it was sitting in the distance. Before reaching the city we walked through the streets of Arre, a colourful town decorated with typical Spanish multi-coloured buildings. We hurried on, exited to be so close to our destination.
We approached Pamplona and with the sun shining high, the final stretch of the walk along the river to the city became all the more delightful and the last 300m like a short walk back in time. After crossing a bridge, the path winds around the main city walls, old and imposing.
It led into the historic city over a drawbridge and through the splendid Portal de Zumalacarregi. All around us we could see the ecstatic faces of pilgrims: tired, relieved and happy at having reached the first main destination of the pilgrimage, Pamplona, the city of the San Fermin festival, famous for the running of the bulls and its traditional local dish, Pinxos accompanied by wine.
We had arrived on the perfect day. There are two universities in the city and, apparently, tonight is the night the whole city, students and residents, would converge on the many bars that characterize the main street to drink wine and eat Pinxos into the early hours. Well, guess where we are heading now?!