Up early and its still pitch dark and raining. The beams from our head torches pick out rain darkened tree trunks, dripping leaves and once the startled eyes of some animal (though it could have been a pilgrim taking a 'natural break'-I hope not). There are other pilgrims-we can hear them 'huffing and puffing' along in the dark but even as dawn comes up no one is recognisable in their heavy rain gear.
Suffering from 'acute signage anxiety' I sweep my head from left to right as if I was a member of a crack security team- I think 'ridiculous' is the word I'm looking for here. However pulling out Mr B (Brierleys Guide) calms us down and we find this displacement activity works like a treat every time- something tells me this will become one of our little Camino rituals. The path is obvious and clearly marked-I just need to trust that.
Walking into Burguete there are more of 'us' than we'd thought, in fact there's quite a crowd at the little cafe. This feels like our first proper pilgrim breakfast and we splurge out on juice, cafe con leche and tostada. Nodding and smiling at each other we begin to register a loose 'walking pack'. I suppose this will change, as paces vary and some people will be dropping off along the way, but I reckon we'll see these most of these faces up to Pamplona at least.
Buy the fixings for lunch in Espinal where the tiny shop is full of little kids getting sweets on their way to school each of them wishing us 'Buen Camino' as we leave.That little chorus of good will works and the weather is gorgeous now.
Ponies in their wooly coats grazing beyond Espinal
We cross 'that bridge' the one you see in the guides etc, and Frances insists on 'the shot' My Camino nearly comes to a premature end as the algae on the concrete is very slippery on the 'dismount'. Pilgrim Beware!
That Bridge over the rio Erro
Though the weather has cleared up some of the tracks are hardcore muddy-thank god I've got the gaiters. Sluurping and sliding along can be fun, in fact and I discover my 'inner muck-hound'. Some dainty, tough Korean girls walk past us and their white trainers are spotless- how do they do that is it because they are so light?
Beyond Linzoain we begin to flag a little and by the time we get to Alto de Erro Frances has "heavy legs" and is beginning to struggle- but we need to get down to Zubiri and, though its sunny, I can see heavy clouds are coming in from the north. The last thing I want is for us to be heading down the rocky path to Zubiri in rain. I walk a little ahead of her in the hope that maybe seeing me just 'plodding along' will help?
Eventually we have to take a mini siesta in a sunny little clearing the woods and get those boots off for a bit. Its lovely and warm in the sunshine and, though I cherish the experience, I do get anxious as once the Brazilian pilgrims walk past there seems to be no one else coming down the trail. However that break really revives us-that's an important learning - and we even 'overtake' some pilgrims on the way down!
The 'Zubiri Descent' was something that had caused me some anxiety but, though steep, its not as bad as I had expected.
Coming down into Zubiri
Puente de la Rabia is a welcome sight but we don't pause to admire the view and head straight to Pension Bento Barri. It's a tiny flat with 3 bedrooms rented out to pilgrims shared kitchen and bathroom, and Signora Bento Barri sleeps in the living room. It's spartan, clean and cheap-in other words perfect. Frances falls into a 'sleep trance' within minutes.
Booked in for the pilgrim meal in the bar below the apartment and meet up with the French Canadian couple who we'd last seen slogging up to the Cruciero in the snow (red ponchos). Have a nice evening with them and the Brazilian group entertained everyone they are so jolly. Maria identifies one of them as 'The Snorer' this chap produces snores of legendary proportions shaking the dorm so while he sleeps no-one else can.
Frances is still very tired and doubts that she can walk tomorrow-I declare that tomorrow is therefore a 'fiesta day' and, that if she wants, we can take the bus. I'm fine with that we've a long way ahead and she's been fantastic so far in some fairly narly conditions....so lets see what tomorrow brings.