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Camino Frances (Part 4) : Helen ...

Updated: Jul 13, 2019

I woke on the morning of my fourth day on the Camino feeling a whole lot better. I had slept well and my knee was feeling good.


Alex (the Albergue Owner/Manager) and his team provided a great breakfast after which I took my meds and put my knee into the brace. I had decided to walk to Pamplona some 20,9 kms (13 miles). Lola (who was also staying at this Albergue) could speak Spanish and she had booked a few of us into a Hostel in Pamploma. My backpack was ready to be collected and I had all I needed in my day pack. I set off for Pamplona knowing where I was going to be sleeping that evening and grateful that my backpack would be waiting for me.


It was a beautiful day. I retraced my steps back to the bridge at the edge of the town where just the day before I had dragged myself painful step by painful step into town. I had not appreciated the beauty of this place when arriving. Who could blame me? I was in so much pain, so inwardly focussed, so stressed out there was no appreciating my surroundings. This morning, I had new eyes, I was outwardly focussed and I could appreciate this amazing little place.


On my walk out of the town, I heard someone calling "South Africa!" and I turned. I think I have said this before, all pilgrims wear a flag or something that identifies them by their country. If you don't know someone's name, you call the country to get their attention. And so it was that I heard my country being called. The funny thing was that the voice was a South African one... a sound so familiar to me, a little piece of home.


Limping with a huge smile on her face, she approached. "Hi I am Helen" she said. "I see you have also injured yourself, can I walk a while with you?". Oh I can't begin to tell you how hearing a South African accent lifted my spirits! I could have kissed her just right there. A little bit of home when I was feeling at my lowest. A huge smile and a warm beautiful person. This was Helen from Ballito! "Of course, you are most welcome!" I responded.

She too had hurt herself on the downhill into Zubiri. Helen had developed Tendinitis in her left leg. She had stayed at the same Albergue the night before but as I had been in so much pain and had gone to bed early, I didn't socialise with the other pilgrims and as such had not met her or anyone else for that matter.


We connected immediately. Helen was advised to walk without her back pack too and as such had sent it on ahead to Pamplona. She too was pre-booked into an Albergue in Pamplona. And so we set off - two injured South Africans on our way to Pamplona!


It was not long before Helen and I were chatting, laughing and pretty much enjoying every step of our Camino. The route from Zubiri to Pamplona was beautiful. By mid morning we were drinking coffee in the little town of Puente de Zuriain. We met many other pilgrims along the route but spent pretty much the whole route getting to know each other while walking through glades, over hills, across farmlands and through small towns. Little did I know that this day would mark the start of a Camino friendship I would come to cherish over the days ahead.

We were witness to each other's journey that day - taking photos, stopping for coffee, noticing the beauty of the environment and just simply walking in silence. We came upon a little church in the middle (literally) of nowhere. It was called the Abbey of Eskirotz & Ilarratz. A South African who had met his British wife on a Camino some years before had decided to buy a small piece of Spain for themselves. They landed up getting this property and discovered that they had in fact not only bought a farm with a house, but this little Abbey too. They invite pilgrims to stay and volunteer in the restoration of this Abbey.


The day flew by and before long we were on the outskirts of Pamplona.

We bumped into A'nnibal from Mexico en route and I learned that he and Helen had walked together into Zubiri. The Camino seemed so small in just 4 days. A'nnibal took this photo of Helen and I just outside Pamplona. We laughed as this is when we learned that the best way to stand for photos, was 'legs apart' and slightly side on!


We parted ways in the city with an exchange of numbers and a promise to meet up for dinner later.


Helen, you came into my journey at just the right time, you lifted my spirits and walked at the same pace. You shared a little piece of yourself but most of all, you shared your laughter, humour and caring self.


Thank you!