This was a 20-km day, starting at Pamplona and ending at Puente le Reina. The weather was cool most of the time, hazy with intermittent sun as we hiked mostly through undulating hills of farmland devoted to growing neon-yellow rapeseed, grain, white asparagus, and even wine grapes.
There was some uphill climbing that only seemed like nothing taxing because we had been through the tortures of the Pyrenees. The downhill was long and gradual as the colorful, fertile valleys spread out around and beneath us.
Every few kilometers were charming villages and towns that included some beautiful old farmhouses, street homes, and churches.
Obanos had the most impressive church, and its cool, quiet interior gave us a great chance for contemplation and rest before the final 5 km of today’s walk.
Along the trail today there were many Australians, but the highlight was making conversation with a very kind, dignified gentleman from the Italian part of Switzerland, a man named Gianni who is a civil engineer by profession. We also met a man from Belgium walking with a man from Luxembourg, the first pilgrims we’ve met from either of those countries; in fact, to the best of my recollection that is the first person from Luxembourg I’ve met in my life. There were also many pilgrims from England, who were very kind and friendly people. Many spots along the trail were familiar to Vic because he walked the Camino last year at this time but injured his leg in Sarria and had to abandon the walk and return to Canada. One reason he is here again this year is to finish what he couldn’t last year. He has some great stories about the spots we’re seeing now that he walked past last year.
On this day, my experiences with water along the trail and with a fine ham and tomato sandwich at lunch reminded me of a Zen story relating to miracles. A Zen master was asked by one of his students to tell him about miracles he had witnessed as a master. He answered that having some cold water to drink when he was thirsty was a real miracle, that having something to eat when he was hungry was a real miracle, that having a shady spot to sit in when he was tired was a real miracle. The Zen student was expecting an answer about something spectacular and unusual, but the master understood what the real miracles were in the everyday. Often we forget this. On this day I was also thinking about gravity. Everything I was going through, both the difficult and the easy, could be traced to gravity, and everything that goes on that involves movement can be traced back to it as well. The difficulty or ease of walking uphill or downhill comes from gravity, the heaviness of my pack, the water running downhill in the streams and rivers, the need for the birds to flap their wings in order to stay aloft, the stones in the buildings that don’t just float away, the need for the human heart to pump blood so that it flows somewhere other than just down to the feet, and on and on. Few things will make you more conscious of gravity’s presence in everything that goes on than walking up and down hills and mountains with weight on your shoulders and back, than watching your feet land on the ground step after step after step.