Traveling together as a couple is a wonderful thing to do, but being on your own has its pleasures as well. When J’Nell and I were planning our Camino Adventure, we talked about possibly walking some days solo. With 500 miles to traverse over 40 plus days, we were sure it would happen at some point.
Leaving Pamplona we would get our first chance.
The forecast called for 87 and J’Nell, logically, wanted to get an early start. The night before, however, Hemingway’s ghost urged me to drink more vino tinto and I was very sleepy in the morning. She was packed and out the door before 8 am, and I didn’t check out of the hotel until about 9:45.
Exiting Pamplona I did not not see one Pilgrim (who are generally early risers) for several miles. Leaving the city you pass the University and follow a nice biker/walker/jogger trail out to hill that takes you into the country. By 11 am the day had gotten hot, and I quickened my pace knowing I had a lot of distance to cover to Puente la Reina, as well as getting over one large mountain.
As much as I’ve enjoyed meeting people along the way, its marvelous to have long stretches where you don’t see anyone. Late starts, while tougher because of the heat, will give you that. I concentrated on the gravel path taking me upward, the sun baked fields, and the mountain in the distance. Until I reached the town of Zariquigui I didn’t see more than 5 or 6 pilgrims all day.
I had only eaten a Cliff Bar and an orange up to that point, and there was a little cafe along the way where several people were enjoying lunch. But after filling up my water at the town fountain, I kept on moving. I was determined to reach Alto del Perdon, the Mount of Forgiveness. I had not only read about the beautiful view from the top, but also about the iconic sculpture there done in 1996 by Vincent Galbete.
I didn’t expect to be alone, but after seeing so few people all day it was surprising to encounter so many. I wasn’t aware at the time, but busses take tourists to the spot (it makes sense, its amazing). There were also a helluva lot of flies/gnats in swarms for whatever reason (nothing more than a nuisance), and when I finally got a chance to take in the sculpture with no people in front, I was hilariously attacked by them (see video below).
Crowds and bugs aside, it was a moving experience being at Alto del Perdon. If you’re interested in learning more about the sculpture, here’s a link to an article that goes into its history: https://caminotimestwo.com/2018/01/05/the-surprising-story-behind-the-sculpture-on-alto-del-perdon/amp/
Going down from the mountain pass was steep and rocky, and I could feel a blister forming on my left foot. There were a few groups ahead of me, and I chatted with a very nice retiree from Canada who was doing the Camino with her teenaged granddaughter. But I kept a fast pace and soon found myself alone again for a very long time.
One of my favorite moments of the day was in a town (or just outside it) called Muruzabal on a dirt path with fields sweeping out for miles to my right and left. A young man riding a white horse with a little doggie trailing behind passed me and we exchanged holas. It kept me going in the late afternoon heat.
I figured J’Nell was already in the Albergue in Puenta la Reina that we reserved, but we ended up meeting a couple of towns before that at a place called Obanos. She had just come out of the very lovely church there (San Juan Bautista), and it was so nice seeing her in the plaza. After such a long and challenging day, it felt so wonderful to be together at the end.
Late start out of Pamplona