Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

One Step at a Time - julia_t begins the Camino de Santiago

One Step at a Time - julia_t begins the Camino de Santiago

Oct 7th, 2015, 12:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,498
Donkey is a new Victorian word introduced to avoid having to use the word Ass. At the same time the famous Puddletown was re-named and hence saved the tradeunion founding martyrs from the shame of coming from a town with an "odd" name, still they left the town on the "Piddle" river.

you say tomato....

Santiago Snail is my favorite book, partially because he walks from Canterbury...
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 7th, 2015, 12:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,209
An inspiring journey, what an achievement.
Adelaidean is online now  
Oct 7th, 2015, 09:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,657
>>Tim Moore's account of his Camino, published as "Travels with My Donkey" in the U.S. I believe the British title was funnier. <<

It might also be a nod to Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Oct 7th, 2015, 09:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,657
>>The journey makes you a pilgrim.<<

That reminds me of a Spanish saying I read somewhere along the lines of "There is no path - the path is made by walking".
PatrickLondon is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 07:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
Thank you all for your kind comments.

If this has inspired or encouraged anyone to consider walking just a part of the Camino de Santiago, then I feel happy to have been able to do so.

I shall look out for the books mentioned, the donkey one has also been mentioned on one of the Camino forums as someone there is on the Le Puy route with two donkeys (called Lolita and Salome) at the moment.
julia_t is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 07:26 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 12,069
Thank you, Julia. One quick question...
If I was going to walk the last 100 miles or so of the Camino Frances (say, from Ponferrada onward), approximately how much of the way is paved roadway? Roughly, as a percent?
mr_go is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 07:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
A few thoughts about Pamplona... I was not expecting such a big city! Having read Hemingway and Michener I thought it would be quite a small town. Well, the Old Town was small, but it was surrounded by what seemed to be a huge new town! Wide streets and plazas with lots of international chain stores and hotels. It’s the largest city on the Camino. Population is around 200,000 so I suppose it’s not that big really, but when it is 10km to walk across, well that seems big to me.

So we left around 7.30am. Hostal Arriazu did not offer breakfast so we decided to grab some along the way. Eloi’s guide book said there was a cafe at Cizur Menor, on the outer edge of Pamplona. We walked through the park, past the university, and left the city. We did not find any visible cafe though! By this time we were all gasping for coffee, but Eloi found a bar in a small supermarket somewhere round the back of the village, so we ordered tostadas and cafe con leche to fortify us for the climb ahead.

High above Pamplona is a long ridge lined with windmills. This is Alto del Perdon, the hill of forgiveness. The Camino passes over this hill, and at the top are the wonderful iron pilgrim sculptures. This is “where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars” – such gloriously evocative words and I really wanted to get to this place which I felt would be special. Right from when I first decided to walk the Camino this was the place I wanted to get to.

I found these first few km very painful and difficult, and until the ibuprofen kicked in after the coffee I was almost in tears at times. The pain was mostly in my hips and back, around the place (L5) where I had the bulging disc earlier this year, together with a foraminal stenosis. I’d had injections to ‘cure’ it, but I still get a lot of twinges and discomfort. I was worried I was going to cause more damage if I continued. In addition I was not using the sports tape on my ankles as I’d developed a heat rash on my legs! But my feet were fine!

It was 5km to Cizur Menor and another 5km up to the top. After Cizur Menor the track ascended steadily, with several steep climbs. Many people stopped to rest along the way, but I kept my head down and plodded on up.

A couple of km before the top is the pretty village of Zariquiegui. There are a couple of small albergues here, a bar and a small shop/cafe. We had agreed to buy a picnic and eat it at the top. The girl at the counter made me a bocadillo with jamon, tomato and olive oil and wrapped it up. With a can of drink, a small tin of olives and a coffee I paid just €6. Also in the village is a fountain, so water bottles were refilled.

The final 2km were quite steep and on very uneven terrain. I was feeling pretty strong at this point and managed it quite easily, promising myself more ibuprofen when I reached the top! The pilgrim sculptures were amazing, as I had expected and I felt so good being there, and the views back down to Pamplona and across to the Pyrenees were incredible. And I had walked from about as far as I could see! Lots of photos were taken, and I left a special shell for my friend’s son Tom who is very sick at home in England.

Then we didn’t eat our picnic at the top because there were a lot of people up there, also a bus and a taxi and a snack van. We took the rocky and treacherous path down, taking great care. The rocks here were round – pebbles and boulders, so you really had to watch where you put your feet as they rolled under your boot. It was hard on the knees too. Rounding a bend in the trail we came across a bench under a shady tree, and already there were Eloi and Louise, Tom and Marija. So we sat and ate our picnic, I shared my olives round – bocadillos can be very dry so it’s good to have a little extra moisture!

The next few km to Uterga were fairly easy, and although several others had stopped in a bar there I decided to keep going. 4km further was the village of Muruzabal where I filled my water bottle from the fountain. It was pretty hot by now and I soaked my small microfiber towel and wrapped it round my neck to try to keep cool. From here on was a struggle, the hardest part of my walk so far. Even though it was relatively flat, if not slightly downhill, I found it much harder than crossing the Pyrenees had been because by now I was weary after several long days. And I hadn’t expected to even get beyond Pamplona by tomorrow! I had been pushing myself the past two days, and now I found I really had to dig deep into myself to keep going. The pain in my back was not being helped by the ibuprofen of 2 hours before, so I took another dose. I also had developed a bit of a cold and my nose constantly running and a sore throat wasn’t helping my mood much. I felt very grumpy and miserable and deliberately dropped back so I wouldn't moan or snap at Kathi.

Obanos was the next village. It was 2.30pm, siesta time, the track joined the road which was white and baking hot in the sun, and climbed up into the village. On the side of the road sat a young boy behind a table on which he had a jug of homemade lemonade and some plastic cups, together with a sign reading ‘donativo’. Lemonade for a donation – so welcome at that point I gave him a handful of euros in return for this delicious nectar! The climb was made easier after the refreshment, and from then on it was only around 3km into Puente la Reina where Kathi had booked us a twin room with private shower at Albergue Jakue.

On arrival we collapsed into chairs on the terrace and each ordered a large beer which we downed before checking in to our perfectly adequate €40 room. Great excitement for both of us to find a hairdryer in the bathroom! After showering and freshening up we headed into town because we had a ‘wedding’ to attend.

Albergue Jakue is beneath the Hotel Jakue, and it’s the first building on the road into Puente la Reina. However this means a walk of around 1km actually into the centre of the town and the eponymous bridge. But I was feeling better now and didn’t find this extra distance too arduous. Kathi and I stopped along the way in a grocery to buy a box of cute heart-shaped biscuits and cookies.

Today was exactly 25 years since Eloi and Louise had met. They had never married (though they intend to once they return to Canada), but having recently bought some rings at an art fair they’d decided they wanted to exchange vows on the bridge at Puente la Reina on the anniversary of their meeting. So romantic!

So we met by the bridge, and several of our Camino ‘family’ came along. And in the very centre of the bridge Eloi and Louise pledged their love and commitment to each other in their own words - first in French, then English. It was a very moving moment and a privilege and joy to have been there. Then we drank champagne (well, it was actually cava but that doesn't sound quite the same!) on the bridge and ate the little heart-shaped biscuits before heading into town to find a restaurant for dinner.

We ordered from the menu del dia rather than the pilgrim menu. There were several choices all in Spanish, some of which no-one had any idea what they were, so I translated for everyone using the google translate app on my phone. And now I cannot remember what I ate, but I know I enjoyed it. It was a fun meal with lots of toasts and jokes.

I had decided that as I had to be in Pamplona the following evening, I would not walk any further the next day but would take a morning bus back to Pamplona. (According to the app on my phone I walked 29km that day!)

It broke my heart a little to say farewell to my Camino friends, and as I write they are still walking towards Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre. Kathi had reached Sahagun yesterday, and Eloi and Louise were in Leon. The weather the past week while they’ve been walking across the Meseta has been appalling with very strong winds and much rain. Buen Camino my friends, if you read this..

My Camino was over, but I had achieved more than I ever thought I could or would. I've learned things about myself, emotional, spiritual, physical, even after such a short time, which I hope will help me in my day-to-day life and in the future both at home and on the Camino.

I dedicated this part of my Camino journey to Tom, the son of my best friend, who is very sick right now. I took several small scallop shells with me. One I carried at all times tied to my waistpack (I shall give this one to Tom himself), and a few of the others I left with prayers, positive thoughts, wishes, at various places along the way which felt 'special'. But the most meaningful was at Alto del Perdon. I realised afterwards that was another reason why I pushed myself to start walking the Camino now and not wait, why I pushed myself to get past Pamplona and get up to the place 'where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars'. I feel it was a place I was meant to go.

I am so glad I took this time to begin my Camino, and now I am looking forward to 27th April next year when I am returning to Puente la Reina and walk for another 5 or 6 days, celebrating my 59th birthday somewhere along The Way.
julia_t is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 07:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
mr_go ... I'm sorry but I can't help you with your question - I've still got more than 500km to walk until I reach Ponferrada!

However lincasanova and cruiseluv should both be able to advise you, as should lreynold if she sees this.

A really good forum/resource is at

julia_t is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 09:28 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
I came across this (public) photo album by a Swedish woman who has walked several Caminos. I've been following her on instagram for some time.

She takes stunning photos, and the first 118 of this album cover the distance and route I walked. The ones taken over the Pyrenees are much better than mine!

julia_t is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 10:56 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 9,311
Julia_t: Your description is exactly what the Camino is about. Moments, physical exertion, meeting goals, brief but deep friendships and an energy that can only be obtained in such adventures.
kleeblatt is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
julia_t.. you are so strong! As I read your last paragraphs where others had stopped for a coffee..and you "PLODDED FORWARD" I immediately saw the difference between you and me! I don't think I passed up ONE coffee stop on my entire camino!!

Loved your story. You have told it so well. Hopefully others will be inspired to come do a bit or a lot of the Camino before their knees say "NO". I'm sure you have touched many!
lincasanova is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 11:57 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,849
Thank you for this moving and inspiring account. I cannot convey how much following your journey here and on Facebook has affected me. Must be that time of life for me.

Thank you again.
LCBoniti is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
Truly inspiring. Well done
sheila is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
The next few km to Uterga were fairly easy, and although several others had stopped in a bar there I decided to keep going.>>

not only did you pass up a coffee stop or two, but a bar as well! that's real self-control.

Thanks for posting those photos - they really are beautiful.
annhig is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 12:46 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,215
Hi Julia, Thanks for finishing the write up of your Camino. I'm sure you'll be counting the days until next April! I've found that a stop for a glass of vino along the Camino sometimes gives me a burst of energy and soothes any pains I might be feeling
cruiseluv is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 01:26 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
Ha - I passed that bar because I felt if I stopped at that point I would never get going again - and I still had 8km to go! When you get into a sort of rhythm, you don't want to break it.

The people who had stopped were only going on as far as the albergue in Obanos, 3km short of where I was headed.

By the time I reached Obanos I could certainly have done with some wine, but the lemonade made a great alternative!
julia_t is offline  
Oct 8th, 2015, 01:39 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
lol, julia, I know how you feel. OTOH, a well-timed drink can give you a lift to keep you going a bit longer.

it always seemed to work for me when I was skiing.
annhig is offline  
Oct 9th, 2015, 12:11 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,498
downhill for people with back issues can be worse than uphill, my sister has just that issue, great report
bilboburgler is offline  
Oct 30th, 2015, 11:05 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,226
Glad you were able to do as much as you did. That walk from Pamplona is a tough one! More the downhill than the uphill.

I just returned last Friday and so was excited to read that you met some of the same people as I did, Denise and Felicity (I met them quite often along the way) and Carla from Alaska, who I walked with for a while one day. The last time I saw Denise and Felicity though was early morning in Fromista. From then on, I had to take a few buses due to some minor medical issues, but was able to walk from Sarria into Santiago in 9 days, arriving on 21 Oct.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Oct 31st, 2015, 02:53 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
a colleague I was working with this week just got back from walking from St Jean de Luz to Santiago - it took her and her friend just over 5 weeks. They did not book ahead at all and just stopped when they couldn't walk any further.

She was full of how great it was, but was expecting to feel the ill-effects this week; she did in fact complain about back ache on Wednesday which turned out to be a kidney infection!

I always thought that exercise was bad for you.
annhig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:11 AM.