Saturday, September 1, 2012

From Pamplona to Zarigueguie

Nervous about how we would go on the first day that required a steep uphill stretch, we were determined to start going very early but few cafes were open for breakfast at that early hour. We eventually found that there was indeed one that opened at 6am for "peregrinos" (pilgrims) like us, outside a Pamplona albergue. We were there right on time to be their first customer! The special pilgrims breakfast of 2.50 Eur for coffee and toasts was a fantastic deal anywhere, we were rather sad for the poor guy that nobody else was there.

We were off before 7am, as dawn was breaking, following the Camino path signposted by the shell symbol in stainless steel plaques embedded on the footpath.  All was quiet. "Where were all the pilgrims?" we wondered. Soon they appeared in small groups, young ones quickly overtaking us.

We left the Pamplona old town and went through the modern part and then into suburbia, passing the university. Soon we were at the upmarket looking suburb/town of Cizur Menor.  Here the path became unsealed and and the climb began towards the ridge ahead, prominently marked with a row of wind turbines that stretched right across the top.

It being our first day of walking and the path being a steep one, we set ourselves a modest target of 11km to Zariquiegui half way up the ridge.  and before we knew it we were there!  Zariquiegui was a small neat hamlet with a dozen buildings and one small shop where where we bought a simple sandwich lunch and coffee was served by a vending machine.

The alberque had just 16 beds, eight double-bunks in each of the two rooms. The place was neat and tidy, with facilities for dining, lounge and even a small outside area to relax. It was a good introduction to the alberques for us.  As we were the first there, we had a choice and chose a double bunk nearest the window.

There was little to do apart from having a shower, a snooze and a quick look-around, but the view itself was worth the climb, looking back toward Pamplona and the surrounding hills and valleys.

While a number of pilgrims were around when we arrived, they did not stay but continued on. Later in the day walkers started turning up at the albergue and soon the place was full, some having to be turned away. I felt sorry for the four Italians each carrying a large backpack of 15kg (they told me), who had to continue the climb and had another six km to the next available accommodation. Most staying at Zariquiegui had started the day beyond Pamplona; a young American man walked 35km and a Dane happily told us that he had intended to stay at Cizur Menor but was too busy talking and overshot it, ending up having to do another 5km up on the slope.

Dinner was simple but adequate, a soup, salad and fish dish, and hamburger meat for those who did not like fish. It was good to meet up with the other travellers over dinner; we had a good chat with an American woman and her French husband, as well as some English pilgrims.  Then it was bed time; of course everyone was keen to rest for an early start.
Alberque at Zariquequie

Church at Zariquiegue

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