Days 2, 3, 4: Getting My Camino Legs

Espinal > Bizkaretta > Urdanitz > Villava
September 8 – 10, 2017

We set off from Espinal in good spirits even if one night of semi ok sleep didn’t really heal my knee. We have a snack early on and run into Ben, a guy we met the day before who came in our cab from Roncesvalles to Espinal. He had been separated from his new friends, 2 guys and a girl, because they walked faster than him and got beds. He asked us if we had seen “The Way” that Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez movie that is surely the reason for the sharp increase of Americans on the Camino and we admitted we had but not that we had already started calling him Joost. He likened his little group to the foursome in the film saying the girl must be Sarah (Deborah Unger) and the 2 guys he was with were European so that must make him Martin Sheen. It’s only upon reflection that I’m unsure if he was kidding or just not very self aware. Clearly the best character in the movie, certainly more likeable than dbag Martin Sheen, if he ever reads this I hope he takes it as the compliment that I intend. But he walked on and I haven’t seen him since.

We strolled on through pretty forest and farmland and get to a town called Bizkaretta. We are not terribly hungry but we stop and have some snacks and meet a woman from Denmark and her American friend when they ask to sit at our table. So we share a lively lunch together.

Trudging down the trail. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

It’s such a nice day and rain is forecast for the next so I push back when V suggests we stay there to rest my knee. But I have to admit that even short distances today are difficult and I would not have done the amount we did on day 1 if I had a choice. So we choose one of the “casa rurales” (because there are not albergues in this town) which is similar to a Bed & Breakfast, what they have in lieu of hotels in rural areas, and settle in. It’s a bit of a luxury since we have our own room and even a balcony but at €25 each it’s not too bad a splurge. We share the bathroom but there are 2 for only 4 rooms and have a nice dinner. It has been the only one so far (and that is quite a few as I am writing this several days later) wherein wine cost extra so we didn’t get any more because it’s good to have just 1 night off from the vino every once in awhile (though I doubt any Spaniard feels this way). I take a selfie with some sheep, my first Instagram pic of the Camino then we settle into our single beds (there are no doubles here) and get ready for an early morning.

When we wake up we are first and have decided to skip breakfast to try and beat the rain. I’m a little sad to skip coffee especially when we step out the door and it begins to drizzle anyway, but it’s light and I the next town is supposed to have some and it’s less than 2km away.

Rain lewks. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

Unfortunately I am wrong as that was the town, Linzoain, with the bar with wildly irregular hours so it’s not open. There is, however, a party still going on when we pass through here at 8am and I am very confused but pretty sure it is the continuation of the previous night’s festivities. I consider going in to ask about coffee but it doesn’t really look like a public place and I expect anyone there to be too drunk to try to communicate in my bad Spanish or their potential bad English.

So unhappy that the cart at the top of Alto de Erro is closed. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

I also expect there to be another opportunity at the stand on the top of the hill, Alto de Erro, today but I am once again disappointed as we have left too early and it isn’t open yet. We bust out some apples from Paris and some other snacks and I am no longer hangry just anxious to find caffeine.

Finally we get to Zubiri and there is a bar open serving deliciously greasy eggs and meat. At first we are also the only pilgrims there. I’m on my period and need to find more ibuprofen. Between that and my knee I have been going through it like candy. But then we run into an impossibly tall but also impossibly nice fellow pilgrim who gives us a bunch of 600mg pills so no stop is necessary. We run into him again at the next town which is incredibly tiny, just the one very new albergue which is supposed to be very nice and a couple other buildings. We also meet 2 tiny and adorable black kittens with the best resting bitch face I’ve seen on an animal since Scout (miss her). We are tempted to stay but Brad (the pilgrim we met, more on him later) has been going since Roncevalles and we really hadn’t been going that long as all so we trudged on.

We came upon the 12th century abbey just as the proprietor was closing up. But he could see we were interested and stayed open a little late (much later than his normal noon closing) and told us all about it. I was particularly keen to hear about it because it was such an early church there was a lot of pagan symbolism built into the early Christianity. Neill and his wife and often volunteers, were actively excavating the place and had found many interesting things including a square 14th century coin that he couldn’t identify from any books.

Pagan symbols under Catholic altar. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

One pilgrim brought a 5kg wooden statue of Jesus to donate carrying it on his pilgrimage all the way from Paris.

Neill was also from South Africa so he and V chatted about that as well. I would eventually like the abbey on Facebook and friend Neill as well. I’ve met a lot of pretty interesting people but he is the only one I had friended so far (update am following Brad on Instagram). That little kid who wanted to be an archeologist for so long has had their interest piqued. Maybe I will go back and work there for a time!

He also had some modern information and told us about a newer nearby albergue (and had other advice for farther down the road). We were on our way to Larrasoaña but after Neill’s recommendation and then seeing the sign for Aca y Allá with a very inviting little pool we decided to stop there a bit early. It was off the trail just a tad and there was only 1 other pilgrim there when we arrived.

Eric spoke only Spanish but he and I could communicate generally and he showed us the button to call the owners. A young girl, maybe 14, showed us around and we struggled through each of us not being the best at the other’s language. We met both her mother and father later who I liked very much. Pury had excellent English though we only saw her briefly. Jesus didn’t but his cooking spoke for itself.

10 minutes of sunshine and pool time before the rain started again. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

The weather was off and on but there was just time enough to dunk in the pool for a few minutes and take a few cute pics.

Dinner at Aca. Eric is on the far left.

The crowd that eventually developed was also pretty fun and we had a laughter filled dinner together. Especially funny was a kid from Korea who had a comedic rapport with and older lady from Canada where they both teased each other…more as the bottles of wine were being drunk. Eric smoked and kept borrowing my lighter and I sat on the nice patio in the chilly air with him laughing at the brightly colored glow lights they had up. It was like a family night club.

In the morning there’s even more rain and thus makes us slow to leave, a theme that will become familiar. There’s nothing else I can remember but this incessant rain until we get to a cafe in the middle of nowhere where everyone is huddled like wet rats.

The small indoors is packed and we barely manage to get only slightly damp chairs mostly under a canvas umbrella on the tiered porch. But it’s still heavenly in comparison. When we finally leave the sun comes out again and we thank the heavens.

We decide to stop short of Pamplona in favor of a hostel in the suburbs that is supposed to be nice and have a pool. It’s nice enough but the pool had closed the day before. They had a jacuzzi but it was extra money and we were pretty tired so we just had a snack at the nearby restaurant instead.

We met a guy from Germany named Sven who we quite liked and made and instagram video with him while having dinner with him and a cyclist from Argentina named Valentine.

It was pretty uneventful here but put is in a good position to get a spot in Pamplona the next day because we wanted a tourist day there.

Bridge on the way into Villava. Photo by Vanessa Friedman.

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