I started writing this at the end of day eight of our journey, and the awesome experiences continue. Already I am astounded at what I have been able to achieve on a physical level – mostly through sheer will and determination.
Each day there is a new challenge to overcome, be it mental, physical or a combination of both. Leaving the lovely little village of Viskarret my most terrifying day thus far awaited me. For whatever reason, I have been petrified of going down steep slopes, and invariably end up falling down anything higher than 0.25m – add loose stones to the mix and it is guaranteed I will slide down on my butt.
Moving along the track from Viskarret, heading towards Zubiri, I was faced with seven kilometres of down hill tracks covered with loose stones – some stretches on a 70 degree gradient spanning several hundred metres. More than once I was crippled with fear – my feet planted to the ground while my mind imagined me falling and rolling down down down. What was the alternative though? Climb back up from where I had come from – not an ideal option either. Breathing deeply, I would talk myself out of the fear and venture down – inching my way, jamming my hiking sticks in as best I could to support me.
The path was really busy with an influx of Pilgrims starting out from St Jean Pied de Port on Sunday – here for a week to get as far as they can – many Europeans come and do a weeks worth of walking when they can, with the intention of picking up where they left off on their return. I spent a fair bit of time on the side of the track letting people past….. or crying with frustration at the stupidity of my fear and the slowness of my pace. At this rate I would take two years to get to Santiago de Compostela. My travelling companion had gone ahead with my blessing.
Finally, I made it into the next town of Zubiri, without falling – mentally shattered and physically exhausted. However, I was pleased I had done it, and at some level trusted I had conquered my fears of falling down hill.
As I look at the photo I took of the path now it seems so pathetic that I was so frightened!
By the time I arrived in Zubiri, and recovered sufficiently to be vaguely compos mentis, all the accommodation was gone. Some of that time was spent with an Aussie guy who had heard about us and our feat on the mountain – our reputation preceded us, we were being referred to as “Those Ballsy Australian Women”.
We found a room in the next village a few kilometres down the road at the Hotel Aketerra. The host & hostess spoke very good English, and took great pride in telling us that their hotel was featured in the movie, The Way. The building was 300 years old and the history was palpable. We met a lovely young man from Chile who offered to re-enact the naked man at the clothes line scene for us the next morning, bless him. We politely declined…after having a good laugh with him and his companions.
We posed for photos on the wall that features in the movie, and caught up with a Canadian couple we had met in Viskarret.
The journey from Aketerra that day took us into Pamploma – the easiest day’s walking we have had thus far. We followed the banks of a river for most of the way, and met up with folk we had met along the way. As we descended the path, we heard music – a fellow Pilgrim, a young Spanish guy from Madrid, was playing his guitar and singing by the water’s edge.
Lunch was in a roadside cafe, an oasis that offered great food and even better coffee – “old friends”, and our Spanish serenader. Momentarily we were able to forget the rigours of the road, kick back and enjoy the moment.
The afternoons really heat up, and the path was up and down with limited shade. We happened on another oasis in the form of an enterprising local with an esky full of cold drinks. We pulled up a rock under the shade of a tree, and I necked a pineapple juice in about three mouthfuls – it was a nectar of the gods.
Coming into Arre crossing an ancient stone bridge we passed an old church that is now an Albergue (Pilgrim Hostel) and met up with a young American woman we had met on thr first day – it was her birthday, so we took the time to visit with her and her Grandma for a while.
Arre is in the outskirts of Pamploma, and the culture and sense of community was palpable. We soaked it up as we enjoyed being able to walk along the pavement without having to watch every step. Some interesting street art caught our eye – with a map honouring the women of the world in each language.
Accommodation was scarce in Pamploma due to the influx of Pilgrims and we enjoyed the luxury of two nights at the Hotel Europa on the edge if the main square in the old town centre.
It was my intention to write a daily account of my journey, however I am finding that more often than not I am too tired to string more than two words together, and typing on an iPhone with one finger adds to the magnitude of the task.
I will endeavour to catch up over the next couple of days, maybe posting every two or three days.
Thanks for reading….
Faith, Trust and a Little Stardust..