Day Four Second Day Walking

The breakfast was a bit of a disappointment after the evening meal. The bowls that were set on the tables, it turned out were in fact coffee cups. So we just had bread, coffee and orange juice. Viv did bring out the marmite though. Still we managed to set out early again.
We stopped several times to admire the scenery, what we saw before the weather set in was stunning. At every turning someone had stopped just to look.
We very soon discovered that our decision to stay over and break the journey was a good one. We were straight into climbing and it was getting steeper. Then the rain came. We stopped and put on our waterproofs and rucksack covers. Then the sleet came rapidly, followed by hail.
I understand that one lady turned back due to the conditions. We, however are made of sterner stuff, well Viv is just plain stubborn. At least she was finding the bag easier to manage today.
We trudged on, and as we got more miserable we turned a corner and there was what looked like a campervan and awning. We had caught another group and we all thought the same thing “strange place to camp”. Then we saw the sign, coffee, tea, cheese, eggs, bread. Talk about entrepreneurial spirit, this guy knew just where to stop. He was not expensive either and when Viv knocked over her coffee he just gave her another cup.
So we were now refreshed and ready to face the next big climb. Only 5k before we would reach our peek height of 1440 meters.
The weather continued to harass us, but we slogged on. We were passed on the road by a cycling pilgrim. His speed was short lived however as the camino turned off the road here. We watched him struggle with the hill and the mud, gradually going slower. I commented that when you are going slower than the walkers then it is time to get off. At that point he fell off, then we passed him again. It was some time before he recovered and re-passed us, by which time we were travelling down hill.
The weather continued to close in on us as we progressed along the plateau that marks the top of the route. There were several signs that showed a refuge close by and as we rounded the corner we saw a small hut built there especially for pilgrims to shelter in.
We stopped and rested, ate some fruit and jelly snakes. We were joined by the contingent from New Zeeland who, unlike us had a veritable feast. They were slicing open croissant and filling them with cheese, some had chocolate croissant. It was too much for me and we set off again, now rocket fuelled with sugar.
We noticed a few memorials along the way for pilgrims who had died in the attempt. It seems that most of them had attempted it in the early months. When you see how the weather can change at this time of year, it makes you wonder why anyone would attempt it in winter. The advice is always to take the lower route in bad weather anyway.
The downhill section was my undoing. Viv had to keep waiting for me and I ended up using both sticks. My knee had finally decided it had had enough and was making me slow down. Most of the people we had passed on the uphill were now overtaking us, but this is not a race, so we continued slowly.
The Monastery of Roncevalles loomed out at us suddenly. There was a chance to wash away some mud in the stream we had to cross, then we were off to explore.
Around the corner we walked into the Hotel and were faced with a giant picture of Martin Sheen. We sat in front of a log fire and had beer and coffee. (I leave you to guess who had what).
I used the internet there and posted our location. Then it was off to find our bed for the night, I was tempted to book a double room but tomorrow we will be in Pamplona so we can recoup there.
It was great, to at last have the chance to speak Spanish. We have had so many “si I mean we” moments’ it was becoming embarrassing. Now at last I could speak the lingo and felt much more comfortable.
Now we could order cerveza and tortilla and have some idea of what we would get.
We booked in at the monastery. What can I say? it was beautiful; there was a library, kitchen, dining room, boot room and a laundry room, all of them pristine. When we were allowed upstairs there were three floors of dormitories, four hundred beds in total. Each floor had a separate ladies and gents toilet area, with three shower cubicle in each. The dormitory area looked more like a library, the beds were in cubicles with just two pairs of bunks in each and at the end of each bed was a personal locker in which you could safely lock up your rucksack and all your valuables.
After we had settled in and showered we returned to The Posada Hotel where we joined some of the people we had met during the last two days.
Then they put me right about Pamplona, I must have read the map wrong, it was not 15 kilometers but much more. I asked the barman how far, and he said 49 kilometers. That meant we would not be there tomorrow night.
We had the pilgrim menu there that night,it included some pasta dish followed by fish and chips, Spanish style. That is a few chips and fried fish, but not in batter. The wine was free flowing again and again it seemed I was the only one partaking. When we were finally thrown out I took a large glass with me but the Irish girls from the next table took two bottles out with them.
Unfortunately the monastery had a ten o’clock curfew so we had to leave them, still I had enough alcohol to see me through the night.

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