Day Thirty Four: Espinal to Pamplona: The Rain in Spain... - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2017

Day Thirty Four: Espinal to Pamplona: The Rain in Spain...

In the morning I was able to better appreciate just what a clean, beautiful, and quiet place Espinal is. The street held no cars - none parked, because there is no room for that, and none moving, perhaps because it was Sunday morning. All there was was some silent singles and pairs of Camino walkers, setting off for their next destinations, usually 20-25 km distant. Behind our B&B, as we went to get the bikes from the garage, there was nothing but fields dotted with horses.

Beyond the town we again remarked on what a green and pleasant landscape this is. Nothing at all like the dusty Texas- like Spain we had imagined. Of course the place is "cheating" a little bit because this is Spring and everywhere is green, but we are sure it would be nice here in any season. The fields remained dotted with horses, usually brown, and fairly stocky. Higher up we could see woolly white sheep.

We passed by two towns, nestled in the hills. They were attractive, but not in the grab you way of Bavarian mountain towns. We also could see no business serving the public, except for perhaps an occasional bar/tobacco place. Certainly no bakeries!

Behind our hostal in espinal
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Walkers leaving town on the quiet main street
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Striking off among the horses
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Dodie leaves town, by road
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We part ways with the walkers, who have a well signed route
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On the N-135
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Again, the walkers follow their own way
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Lycra warriors - it is clearly Sunday!
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As we were gliding over the rolling countryside there was one special thing we noticed. Now, we are pragmatic people and do not believe in a lot of myths and certainly not religions. But the white horses of the Camargue made a big impression. We could so easily believe that they are unicorns in disguise. and sometimes we would see a lone one, maybe watching us from a distant hillside. Easy to think of it as a guardian unicorn. So today, on a distant hillside, totally alone was a white horse. We would like to think, watching over us. Here he is:

Alone on a hill - watching us?
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The white horse
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Just at the town of Erro, the road began to rise steadily. It was nothing like the pass yesterday, but it did go up for a few kilometers. Finally we reached Erro pass. The elevation is 801 meters, while the next town, Zubiri, was at 526. The descent from Erro featured in miniature the seemingly unending, twisting, series of switchbacks, where you can look down, straight down, at the roadway below. That tells me that 300 meters or so, up or down, is quite significant (if it happens within maybe a 5 km stretch).

As we proceeded along the road, we could see the spots where the walkers' Camino crossed. For the walkers, the Way is extremely well marked. (However in Spain so far we have not seen a single really specific bicycle direction sign, though a bicycle symbol may appear rather randomly here or there). We were following the N135 for most of the day. This started out with no shoulder, but extremely quiet. Later, traffic increased but by the same token a shoulder appeared. As we started to vaguely approach Pamplona, the level of traffic began to bug Dodie, though the shoulder was still there. So we took a turn on the walkers' trail. This started as a paved small road, but quickly changed to a gravel path, and finally a push up with lots of rocks in the way.

Of course, while on the gravel portion of the walkers' way, we were walking. So we felt free to be irritated with four young and large riders on unloaded mountain bikes that came barging through. They actually did not totally barge through. Dodie refused to move aside for them. "Desolee", she said. I missed this, because I was lagging, talking to two French walkers from Valence. I thought that they were cheating a bit too - they had no problem with lack of space in Roncevalles, because they had been booked in by a tour company. And their stuff was being trucked up ahead to the next stop. They were out for five days only. Hmmm. Still it was fun talking to them. They spoke French, so at least I could understand them, and it was nice to think back to Valence.

The town of Erro
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Joni, or somebody - how would you translate this?
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Looking down from the Erro pass. That is Agorreta, near Zubiri down there.
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Approaching Zubiri
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Say what?
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Not so far to Santiago.
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Larrasoana
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On the walkers' path.
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"Amusing" portrayal of crashing bike
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This water source (and local laundry basin) has been used by pilgrims for centuries.
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Look carefully and see why Wolf's bike is toast.
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Wolf, large and well spoken cyclist from Germany. He has travelled 30,000 km on his now broken bike. It is an aluminum frame and gave up on the Roncevalle pass. Even with his broken bike, I had trouble staying ahead of Wolf. dodie says he is twice my size, half my age, and has half my load. So what's her point?
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We rejoined the main road, but had an eye out for a bike path that one guide book said would take us into Pamplona. When we thought we had found it, we hopped on, and got thoroughly lost. GPS does not always help you get back on track, because big roads, rivers, or hills may stand in your way.

We did a lot of circling around looking for the way, and just as at Beziers, I got to visit one particular spot three times. This was under a bridge carrying the roadway we wanted to be up on. I liked the spot because of this graffiti:

Finally we spotted some walkers' Camino signage and began to follow that. It took us through the suburbs of Pamplona and on to the bridge that leads to the gate in the city walls. This is the way pilgrims have entered the city for ages. The bridge is called the Magdalena Bridge, which was built in the 12th century. It is one of four medieval bridges that cross the river Arga near here.

Once inside the city, the Camino signage was amazing. There were Camino logos and arrows painted on the roads and sidewalks, signs on buildings, and brass disks in the concrete. Signs directed pilgrims to albergues all over the place.

We had booked a room in a pension at the far end of town, apprpriately called 'Pension Room Pamplona". Our plan was to look at the sights of town, notably the cathedral, the St Saturnin church, the Plaza Castillo, and so forth, and then proceeed on to our pension. But two things happened. One was a flat out blasting downpour rain. It certainly put a damper on just loafing around. Next, almost everything in the town was closed, even the cathedral. On the steps, someone told us it would open at 7:30. "We'll be asleep by then" we snapped. Not true, actually, because it is already 8:30 and I am still here typing.

When we left the old city it was like a switch flipped and we went from medieval Spain to Vancouver. Wide streets, modern, nondescript buildings, even Burger King- and rain! Dodie and the GPS brought us abreast of an appropriately nondescript, locked, barricaded door that seemed to be our pension. We looked at it and were thinking we would have to dig out the phone number. But a lady came out and showed us an iphone with a list of names on it. And yes, it included us!

The lady had us squeeze our bikes into a tiny, closed, bar. Then she showed us across the street to an ultramodern apartment complex and showed me how to use three different keys to get to a plain but reasonable room - one of six sharing two completely modern bathrooms.

The best thing, the room was warm, since we were soaked. We took off everything and hung the bits all over the place to dry. Then we turned to the question of being starving. The lady - sign language only - had indicated that food could be found somewhere around the block. I put back on some wet clothes and went for a look. Yes, there was an open restaurant. I returned and told Dodie the good news. But she wantd to know what was on offer, before similarly putting on wet things and heading out. I had failed to understand anything on the menu board, and could only report that I thought I had seen some snails in a tray. Needless to say this report did not get top grades.

Finally hunger drove us out, and we found that the waiter knew maybe up to 25 words of English. Put that together with our five words of Spanish, and we were cooking! We got salad, and chicken with fries, plus some kind of dessert. The 10.50 euro formula included a drink, but not the Coke I asked for. The choice was wine or cider. We said cider. What came was a whole bottle of local mystery cider. A mystery only because we could not read the label. The waiter poured it with an elaborate flourish.

Later, we actually had a good chat with the waiter - about his new baby, our grandkids, our bike trip, even the town of Duncan near where we live. Much of this done with the magic of the internet and Google Maps. It did take us a long time to convince the sweet fellow that "Canada" is not in the United States. We parted with hugs all around. Great meal!

We found ourselves at this spot under an overpass three times. Agreeable graffitti
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In the Pamplona suburbs - you could stamp your own creanciale
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The medieval Magdalena bridge - at last!
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Entering a gate to the city
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Medalions like this were embedded in the pavement right through the city
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Pamplona
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The Pamplona cathedral
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Pamplona, city hall
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The Camino takes you through the major sights of Pamplona - but not today (holiday) and not in the rain.
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Last look at old Pamplona
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Cider with a flourish
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Does anyone recognize what this is - where it is from?
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Salad - a big prize on the road.
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Chicken and fries - not a culinary masterpiece but great if you are chilled.
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Today's ride: 47 km (29 miles)
Total: 1,500 km (932 miles)

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