Today was my 3rd day hiking the camino. It has been wonderful, and nothing short of an adventure, so far! On Saturday, Paul and I had a long day of travelling, about 9 hours, to be exact. From Paris, we took two trains and a bus to get us to St. Jean. The passes were all in French and not many people at the train station spoke English, so I really wasn't certain until about 4 hrs into the first train ride, that we were even on the right train! Thankfully, we were, and we made our next connections easily. On our last connection, on the bus, there were several people with backpacks on their way to the Camino. I met Kyan from UK, Alex from Austrailia, and Aoife (pronounced Afa) from Ireland. I haven't seen Alex again, and Kyan stopped short of us the first day. Aoife is hiking with us still.
As the bus was nearing St. Jean, it began to rain. Paul mentioned that I had just recently commented that it had not rained that day. I told him, anyone who has ever watched young Frankenstein, knows not to say something like that. He goes on to say, "could be worse, could be hailing". Not 3 minutes later, our bus was under fire with bolts of large hail. There was nothing to do, but laugh hysterically!
You see, we had not made any accommodation plans for the night. We thought we would get there early, but the first two trains were sold out. We were going to get in at 10:30 pm, and all the albergues we had called were full. We were facing our first night in our tents. I was a bit worried about Aoife, though, because she was not carrying a tent.
Paul mentioned that maybe we could fit 3 people in our tent, if we needed to. This bought us to the realization that we had had a bit of a miscommunication. I thought we both had a 1 person tent, and as he understood it, he thought I had brought my 3 person backpacking tent to share. So here we are, three people and a 1 person tent, laughing hysterically in a hail storm in the middle of nowhere, Spain, in the dark!
As fate would have it, though there were no available albergues to stay in, there was vacancy at the hotel. The three of us shared a room, and got to know each other. I think there was a festival going on, and there was a lot of party noises most of the night, so none of us got much sleep. I was pretty excited to start hiking though.
Our first days' hike was long and probably the most difficult of the entire trail. We hiked over the Pyrenees mountains and crossed over from France to Spain. About 17 miles for the day, and mostly uphill. We finished at an original medieval hostel Itzandegia, in Roncesvalles. There are 110 beds in one room! The new hostel has 183 beds, and both were full!
I was surprised how good I felt the next morning. I wish I could say the same of today. Yesterday's hike was also 17 miles, but a less difficult trail. It ended at a hostel with a throng of middle aged Italian men who don't speak English, but talked my ear off all night. I guess they don't care that I don't understand anything they are saying.
I am surprised that I have only met two other Americans. Most pilgrims seem to be Italian, but I have met French, Lithuanian, Spanish, Irish, Austrailian, Amsterdam, German, Columbian, Canadian, England, and I am sure many more that I couldn't break the language barrier enough to find out where. My Spanish is getting me by just fine, as bad as it is, but I must admit, I haven't eaten anything that I thought I was ordering yet. Every meal has been a bit of a surprise!
Today, we hiked through Pamplona. We are staying just on the outskirts of town, which contains a lot of history. I would never want to be on those streets while the bulls are running, but it is interesting to see it in person.
We only had a 12 mike hike today, so we were really able to enjoy Pamplona. Our hostel tonight has 50 beds in 5 rooms, and it is not full. Sleep should come easy. I am on the top bunk tonight, so hopefully my legs work in the morning when it is time to climb down. The hostel owner stated that she puts the young people up top. I am assuming she believes I am under 25, and I won't argue.
So far, it has only cost $5-$6 for a bed in a hostel. I did buy some towel fabric at a fabric store today, because towels are not provided. My tent, however, is probably useless weight at this point. A bed and shower is nice after hiking!
Though not many speak English, there is a common greeting among us all. Buen Camino! It means, good journey. Everyone, pilgrims and locals, say it in passing. Buen Camino!