After some debate (already we have lost track of time), we have decided that it is… Saturday… I think… What I do know is that we are in Pamplona on this our third day. Crossing the Pyrenees promised to be a challenge, and so I sent my backpack ahead by bus. A most excellent idea. Cheating in a sense, but not as bad as those who cut the climb by taking the bus part way. For me, the best part of the first day was the landscape: mountains, mist and needle-fine, golfing-green grass grazed on by horses, cows, and sheep. All the livestock wore appropriately sized bells which led to a range of chimes. The music was lovely. As were the centuries-old, stone buildings in various states of repair and dis-repair. Dry-stacked – some of them. A talent lost today. The second day began with my vow to shoulder my backpack and get with the program. We began our day walking in a downpour. Which was actually OK. Better to be wet than hot. I can’t imagine walking El Camino in June, July, or August. The distances plus the climb plus the heat must be unbearable. By day two we are beginning to recognize faces and connect the faces (but not necessarily the names) with their stories. Sooner or later you begin to see the same people who walk the same pace as you. You pass them; they pass you… again and again.
The foothills caught me unaware: the total gain wasn’t all that much, but the undulations take it out of you. That said, the lower Pyrenees are beech forest. We walked under a heavy canopy of trees… walked in ankle-deep, old-gold, autumn leaves.
After hours of lightning that flashed continually from peak to peak, we were not surprised to begin our third day in rain. The Brits would say “pissing down rain.” We were either wet or moist most of the day. The slick mud was treacherous doing down hill. The younger hikers took a mountain goat approach. I, however, took more cautious route – fearful of bodily injury. One twisted ankle and our grand adventure would come to a screeching halt. The pilgrimage is truly a United Nations experience. We hear German, Dutch, Spanish, French, and others… to include Korean, but we all communicate on a basic level. I’m increasingly aware of the expressiveness of faces and eyes. With only a handful of words in common, we seem able to cross the great divide with good-will and body language. We hold so much in common: fatigue, sweat, sore feet, and on a more positive note… our desire to “live in the moment,” and reach Compostela. There’s a wonderful metal sculpture in Roncesvalles, Spain. What appears at first glance to be a rose is really a winding road. At the base, the road is flat, but as the road rises, it begins to spiral inward. A great metaphor for the spiraling reflection that embodies this journey.