The walking on this day was not as demanding in its steepness but was again demanding in duration, 11 hours. Our method is to walk 47 minutes (my friend Vic has a secret reason for the number 47 that cannot be revealed) and then rest for 10 minutes. This makes any distance seem manageable, even if it takes a long time and takes a toll on one’s body, as this 11-hour walk to Larrasoana, a town of 200 about 15 km north of Pamplona. His method also prevents blisters, the importance of which cannot be overemphasized. Along the way were very beautiful, picturesque towns like Burguete and Espinal.
This is Basque country, and everywhere are reminders in Basque place names next to Spanish names on street and town signs and on store fronts. Not only that, there are even jai lai frontons (indoor jai lai courts with stands for spectators) in very small towns. Jai lai is a Basque sport, at which they excel and for which the Basques have a real passion, which certainly one can understand when one sees frontons in even the most unlikely of small remote places, such as the towns between Roncesvalles and Larrasoana.
The trails on this part of the Camino went through forested hills, covered sometimes by beech trees and other times by pines, very different from the trails of the previous day. Pilgrims appeared along the trail, from such diverse places as Holland, Spain, France, Japan, Italy, England, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Brazil, and Korea. Exhausted but satisfied with another day of accomplishment walking through woods and meadows and alongside streams and rivers, we found a room at a small boarding house in Larsson (pop. 200), Casa Elita, where we had a fascinating conversation over dinner with two pilgrims from France and two from Brazil, in combinations of Italian, English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. One of the things that can make this walk a walk for peace is the opportunity to befriend people from many different countries and cultures and see that there is more about us that we share, that unites us, than there is that separates us. Along the trail, everyone has an obvious connection, and they express it with a smile, a hello (in any language), and the pilgrim’s greeting of “buen camino.“ Tomorrow we move on to Pamplona and maybe even a few miles beyond. We shall see.
The trails were very nice, very pleasant, welcoming, and forgiving, often alongside rivers. Few sounds are as comforting and soothing as the sounds of streams and rivers running over stones. A few times we had to walk near or across highways, which wasn’t ideal but just part of the game. We stopped in the town of Arre for a sandwich (and to buy baguettes for the road); Arre is the hometown of cycling legend Miguel Indurain, who won the Tour de France five straight years from 1991-1995. From there we walked five more kilometers to Pamplona and decided to stay there instead of going another 5 km further on to Cizur Menor, our original destination. We figured that it would be wise to give our feet and legs a better chance to recover, otherwise we would only be tearing them down with no chance of reversing that. Both of us naturally want to push ourselves in everything we do physically and think we are practically indestructible, but here was a chance to exercise wisdom and long-term perspective, for there are many days to go on this pilgrimage, and we will be better served to remember that. The way we felt in Pamplona told us we had made the right choice.
A short walk around the old section of the walled medieval city, a modest dinner, and a chance to sleep well occupied the rest of the evening.
We were too early to run with the bulls, the famous Pamplona July tradition, but our feet and legs wouldn’t have been capable of that anyway.