• SuziQ

Camino Frances (Part 5) : Cheating or not?

Updated: Jul 13, 2019

What a city Pamplona is. Walking the streets, experiencing Spanish culture and their cuisine was fantastic. What I learned very quickly is that Spain pretty much shuts down from 2pm to 5pm each day - Siesta time! So many of my photos of towns along the Camino look deserted as I arrived mostly during Siesta time. The amazing thing I noticed about the Spanish is how wonderfully they include the elderly in their family outings. Walking holding hands young, middle aged and old all alike. I managed to buy myself a proper hiking day pack. The small fold up light weight K-Way one was good for city outings but not long walks and I had by now made the call to permanently walk with a day pack only and send my back pack ahead.

I awoke to rain on the morning of Day 5 - something I would come to get used to on this journey. Lola had managed to reserve bunks for Helen and I in the Municipal Albergue in Obanos - so glad she was able to communicate in Spanish. She had decided to walk on ahead. Lola was such a wonderful woman, walking the Camino on her own. I would cross paths with her many times in the days ahead.

Evidence of me at Alto del Perdón

Helen and I decided that we were not ready for the wet weather nor the steep downhill on the latter part of this stage, so decided to taxi to Óbanos. Besides, we were a little hung over from the night before. Gosh did we laugh, feeling so guilty leaving the city as we drove past many a pilgrim who were walking in the rain. Our plan was to be dropped off on the outskirts of the city, but as the rain seemed to get worse, we decided to taxi the whole section. Of course we didn't want to miss out on one of the iconic parts of the Camino, the Alto del Perdón, so we got the taxi to take us there for a photo (evidence of our having been there).

We arrived early (of course) in Óbanos and landed up spending 3 hours sitting in a cafe drinking Vino Tinto (red wine) and watching the pilgrims walk by. Most Albergues open their doors at around 1pm and by this time we were really merry. Terry & Kerry (father & daughter from New Zealand and Australia respectively) and whom I had met in Orisson, arrived. Their relationship clearly taking a lot of strain. It is quite amazing how you become so clear mentally and spiritually. You develop a level of mindfulness and awareness that is so heightened as you walk the Camino.

13th Century Roman Bridge

We left Óbanos early the next morning and headed out to Villatuerta and Casa Mágica Albergue. We saw Kerry and Terry, walked a while with them. We were in the Province of Navarra (or commonly known as Basque) which is renown for its wine making. Day 6 rained on and off, and I got to try out my Cath Kidson Poncho my niece gave me. Talk about Flower Power, well at least I wouldn't easily get lost with this on.

By now we were averaging 20 kms (12,5 miles) per day. Walking with Helen was like medicine for the spirit. I learned to laugh, I learned to slow down and I learned to listen. Such a beautiful person with such pain in her life - a gentle spirit with a caring heart. I wondered how long she would walk with me, laugh with me, and cheat with me. People who came across us thought we were sisters and to be honest, it was like having a sister with me.

The weather cleared up and on day 7 we walked some 25 kms (15 miles) to Los Arcos. There was much to see along the way including the Fuente de Vino where pilgrims can sample the local wine including amazing tunnels. There were many opportunities for the locals to sell their wares as well as provide crucial refreshment stops for the pilgrims. There is something amazing about sitting in the middle of the Rioja province drinking a cafe con leche (coffee with milk).

Helen and I gotten into a rhythm of starting and ending each day together and staying in the same accommodation. Sharing costs of laundry, sometimes meals and then hotels when we decided to spoil ourselves along the way. I would do the booking using a website (www.onlypilgrims.com) recommended to me back in Zubiri. Often when we had separated, it was wonderful to arrive at our destination and there I would find Helen sitting on the side of the road - waiting for me!

Our next stop was Logroño some 27 kms (17.3 miles) from Los Arcos and to be sure a long day for us. By now I had become quite expert and viewing the elavation profile of the way ahead and reading the maps. We decided to Bus into Logroño from just outside the city. This time we didn't feel like we were cheating, this was our Camino and we had discovered that the journey was what we made of it. We were so aligned, it was not surprising that we were still walking together.

We were now just on one third of the way to Santiago : 613 kms (381 miles) to go. As we got onto the bus, so too did two other couples from Australia and who were doing a section of the Camino together.

There is no such thing as 'cheating' on the Camino...I quickly came to understand that. There is no rule that says you must do things in a particular way, everyone has their own journey! Mine and Helen's mantra soon became: why suffer when you don't have to? We were enjoying the camino in the best South African way we knew...

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