Saturday, April 6,
Day 1 Walking
Today’s the day!! A group of five pilgrims from our Wayfinding Academy team set out early to walk from Pamplona along the Camino Francés. They will have two others join them in a couple of days. My familia had a longer morning before getting our walk on as we had to take a bus from Pamplona to Irún to start the Camino Norté, and the earliest was at 8:00 a.m. We enjoyed sending the others off and quickly synced as a brand new band of brothers and sisters.
We drove through several bucolic hamlets and felt our excitement mount as a we beheld gorgeous rolling hills, sheep, cows, horses and goats!
We were originally going to walk 26.5 km (16 1/2 miles) to San Sebastián, said to be the most grueling day on the Norté with considerable long, mountainous ups and downs. Ultimately as a group we decided that with our late start and a collective desire to enjoy San Sebastián a bit when we get there, we opted for a shorter stretch on our Day 1 of Walking to the villages of Pasajes De San Juan/Pasaia Donibane, our albergue being in the latter. “Originally two towns, they were founded between 1180 and 1203 and united in the 19th century. A prominent port town for centuries , Pasajes hosted the Spanish naval fleet, The Escuadra Cantabrica, for 400 years and built part of the Spanish Armada . Victor Hugo lives in House #59, near the plaza. The 15-century Parish Church of San Juan Bautista features a Baroque retablo and the image of Santa Faustin’s Martir, a gift from Pope Leon XII.” ( from The Northern Caminos guidebook).
The day’s mileage of 11.2 miles was arduous! We thought it was going to be raining yet it was sunny and so delightful! AND THE VIEWS WERE ASTOUNDING!! We enjoyed incredible vistas of both land and sea. Since there were no towns along our way, we bought lunch goodies from a tienda in Irún and stopped to eat at the Santuario De Guadalupe, a small 16th-century church with sweeping views of the Bidasoa valley. Soon busloads of trendy looking folks were dropped off and a wedding ensued!
After that we climbed up and by 5 (formerly 6) of Mount Jaizkibel’s towers, built during the 19-century Carlist Wars. And at one juncture we had some Extremely Large Wild horses in our path – divine!
I’m not lying, it was a Very Challenging day, especially the last two hours of sharp inclines and the last hour plus of rocky decline. We survived and overall the day was simply spectacular! Our albergue, Hospital De Perigrinos Santa Ana, was in an old stone building which was charming until we had to walk 155 steep steps down to the plaza (and of course, back up)! Our group has totally jelled and we laughed and laughed throughout dinner and bed time preparations! I am feeling so happy and blessed. Oh, and did I mention how cute this seaside village is?!? Life is good!