España I – Buen Camino

I was greeted by a sweet lady smoking a cigaret outside. Her name’s Annemieke and she was 1 of the Dutch volunteers running the traditional monastery albergue in Roncesvalles. We talked a little about my trip and like any good Dutch person, she roped me into getting the premium package. A shower, check-in for my tent next to the river, the dinner and even the fucking guided tour. Most of it was expected however and they didn’t charge exorbitant amounts of money for it, in fact the guided tour was free so why the hell not. The pilgrim meal was not intended but I can splurge a little after eating only mushrooms with basque cheese and an avocado on top of the mountain.

She got called back inside and I started putting up my tent, brought my laundry to the laundromat where I met the 2ndvolunteer called Han, he asked me if I wanted to have the 20 minutes or the 40 minutes program, I asked if theres a difference besides time and he said no and he just insisted on the 40 minutes. I took a fantastic shower and I noticed I was really sunburned. I was barely in time for the guided tour and it was good seeing the old priest again that I knew from 2 years ago. That guy has been running the place since forever.

The guided tour took us through the church and there were quite a few other pilgrims there. The church even had floor heating, pretty badass I must say. The tour was cool and we went into some tomb with great acoustic and the priest forced everybody to sing, awkward but still nice. It was also pretty cool getting some background history on Roncesvalles (that basically is a church/monastery/albergue, 2 hotels and 2 restaurants). Still an important place though during the Reconquista and for pilgrims for aeons. 

Afterwards there was dinner in the restaurant and it was run as a factory, the waitress had about as much charm as one of the floor heated tiles in the church. I sat alone at first but was joined by another pilgrim, an American that was also quite sunburned. Conor from Kansas and I had a good chat and the food wasn’t bad either, I suck out a literal doggy bag for Lucy that I brought in between courses. Conor had a sunburn because he also went over the mountain instead of taking the 400m elevation supermarket route and we joked that none of the other, 20 some pilgrims in the dining hall had it. This legend actually did it in one go as he left St Jean this morning. An Italian girl called Julie, that we already met on the tour, said that the pilgrim mass was about to start. This is where you attend the service and the priest gives you a blessing in your own language at the end of it. Last time I was here there were about 500 people in the church but now there were only 20 pilgrims.

I offered to go for a drink afterwards and Julie her enthusiasm got the rest of the group along, we were joined by a French guy called Louie, Conor from Kansas, Julie was from Austria (but Italy originally) and a funny guy from Argentine called Juan. We shared a couple of drinks and time flew by, curfew was 2200h for them and I went to my tent. It was nice to share some nice stories with nice pilgrims. The Spain part is always (supposed to be) the social part of the camino for me and I reveled in the opportunity.

I had a good night sleep although it was a little cold and foggy, but thats not too weird sleeping next to the river and also not something I wasn’t used to.

The next day I woke up and it was still foggy and windy. I spent way too much time on my phone last night and I was a little late compared to the other pilgrims, but thats the genius part of bringing a tent on the camino. Its not that the albergue didn’t look nice, on the contrary. I didn’t mind sleeping in my tent at all though. You’re sleeping in a large room with up to 10 other people, farting/snoring/breathing and then theres the bugs. The albergue in Roncesvalles being particularly notorious about the bed bugs.. To give some exposé – these little fuckers come out at night to drink your blood, theres 3 stages in their life cycle and man, they pro create through traumatic insemination. Thats what they do to their own kind, imagine some soggy-pilgrim-fleshbag when the lights go out.. Yea tent is fine.

A garbage bag with my shoes and clean clothes was already next to my tent, wonderful. Took some bullshit from the vending machines and I went to the church when the sun was starting to peep through. I sat a moment in the chapel in front of the San Thiago statue, burned a couple of candles and when the bells rang for midday I went on my way. Ran into a nice pilgrim and I think she was from Germany, but no clue.. Also ran into the volunteers having lunch and I barely recognized them not wearing their uniform. They asked me where I was going today and I told them I had no idea, I shook their hands regardless of Covid and at this point it was still fun and jokes.. Buen Camino!

The route was foggy at first but it burned off pretty fast. This part of the route was well known to me since 2 years ago this was the route to the supermarket, I reminisced about meeting some awesome Polish people here. Passed a crazy mural of a witch in the next town for which this part of the country is known for. The store was closed and I barely missed the tobacco store. I kept on walking and I felt good, probably due to the 3 course meal last night and skipping the alcohol.

I found a little shop in a couple of towns over where I just bought a bread and some cheese. Bag of nuts and sure, that should hold me over a little. The last part through a forest made me realize my orientation was completely off. I slipped and fell a couple of times on jagged rocks when it was getting dark. When I arrived in Zubiri there were a couple of vending machines like the ones in Roncesvalles, they also sold rolling papers! NOM! Too bad I didn’t have any coins though.

A quick look around town didn’t reveal any of the people of the day before. I did run into another guy from France called Jean-Baptiste who assured me that he wasn’t gay in the first sentences he uttered.. Omg I forgot about the crazy pilgrims, awesome. I sat and shared a cigaret with him and when I greeted a couple of German pilgrims that I met the day before, he imitated a German accent and also waved at them, then looking at me saying he had no idea what he was talking about. Its fine my dude, good stuff. He was staying in the town and I told him I wanted to push on a little towards Pamplona (only 50km from Roncesvalles, 30km from Zubiri), he asked me in the dark? I said yea sure. What else am I going to do with this night vision..

He took a liking to me and he gave me 4 €! NOT FOR ME BUT FOR LUCY. I heard this before lol. Thanks so much mon amis! He went back to the albergue because it was about curfew time and I went to the vending machine and bought some snacks that Lucy also liked and a pack of rolling papers for myself. Now I didn’t have to smoke this disgusting bio rolling papers that I fooled myself into buying. I live for this crazy random shit happening on the camino. You go from standing empty handed in front of a vending machine, to striking up a conversation with a stranger, to having enough money to buy everything you wanted and then some from the vending machine. Camino is a little life and if you do good and carry yourself with confidence, the camino will give you what you need/want.

I continued on and I had to be pretty cautious. The road wasn’t well lit but did have a lot of potholes and bushes. I arrived in a little town called Larasoaña, little grass field next to a river. Perfect. Some guy walking his dog didn’t take offense at all. More countries on lockdown and I recommended some people from back home to get some water just in case. Had a good night sleep.

The next day I woke up and decided to go search for either a stamp or a supermarket. I walked up to an albergue and I could smell the weed 5m away. This cute, stoned girl opened the door and she was really friendly and yea of course I could get a fecha (stamp). She was high as fuck lol. I shook her hand even though the COVID genie was really out of the bottle at this point but she was either too high or rebellious to refuse.

I was planning on going towards Pamplona today and the route was pretty easy and nice. Nothing like Im used to in France, multiple mountains to climb over at any given time, trails that are barely walked on. This is the complete opposite, flat and arrows everywhere. I walked into Pamplona recognizing most of it, there were a lot of people in the streets although some people were wearing masks and some other people did go to the side when I passed. I bought my first pack of cheap tobacco at the same store as before and FUCK 5 €?!. WHY THE FUCK DID I NOT GO HERE SOONER? In Spain I can buy 3 packs of my favorite brand of tobacco against 1 pack in France. Dear lord France, yellow vest this please! Some guy struck up a conversation with me asking me how it was going, I told him that I had a tent and he said ahh just surviving..I guess so, amigo

The sun was slowly setting and I remembered I was exactly in the same spot at the same time of the twilight last time around and I walked over the bridge towards a German albergue that hosted me in their cellar 5 years ago. Little did I know however that they were extremely German about this whole Corona pandemic. The lady talked to me through a window and wasn’t really the pleasant type, why the fuck become a hospitalierra if you’re going to be a dick. She told me the albergue is closed and that its government issued and that there was nothing she could do for me..Its fine. I walked around town a bit to look for a sleeping spot while I hid my bag behind the albergue but I didn’t really find a spot to sleep. So I returned to the albergue, since it was next to a park and I put my tent up on a sort of peninsula close by.
I was planning on taking a little break and work on my diary and some blogs while in the city, I like Pamplona and this place is in my heart forever since I met the ex-love of my life here back in the day and the city was very good to me back then.

This time around however,

I woke up and there weren’t many people in the streets. Also nothing was open, some bars were still open but I ran into the predicament where Lucy couldn’t be inside, but outside they had no electricity. Also didn’t really see any other pilgrims around and yea, shit is fucked.. Still nice to sit in the square a bit and watch people greet each other with a feet bump (God thats weird). Had some food and finally found a place where I could put my blanket outside of the glass patio so Lucy could chill and I could type and find some internet inside. Some obnoxious English people came in severely underestimating the whole thing and later on some Asian students, the owner of the place posed with them for a selfie supporting freedom for Hong Kong. Uhh sure, I wonder how those will hold up in Corona season.. I went back to the albergue and I asked the German lady, who did take a photo of me as I was walking towards her as she was sitting outside, if she could spare some electricity but sadly there was nothing she could do.. I should have charged you for the photo then ya dick!

I went back to my tent and the city felt a lot colder and it didn’t have the same buzz as I remembered, people were more frightened and I was definitely not having the luck I had before. I was planning on heading out the next day. 

HAHA Wake up call!

Police coming to my tent making sure I got on the road at an early hour. Just kidding, CERRADO! Im like what? Hes like yea the camino is closed.. Im like ooowwkkk, but its a path? Maybe the albergues are closed but Im not sleeping in those bedbug infested gaschambers anyway. We saw eye to no-hablas-inglais and he decided to leave. I packed up my tent and walked out of the city, most people smiling at me, some people trying to get out of my way. No cars, no people, no traffic lights and no rules.

I whipped out my solarpanel and hung it off my bag.

Special camino is gonna be special..