Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Honey, We Shrunk the Group!

Dawn, with pride and relief, at the historic
pilgrim entrance to Pamplona.
Today's lesson in group leadership: before you set out in the morning make sure everyone knows your destination. OK, I thought I was clear when we stood in front of the Larrasoaña albergue and I said, "We're staying at the first albergue outside Pamplona," but I guess some people heard, "We're staying at the first albergue inside Pamplona." Helloooooooo! We're supposed to be walking, like, together

So here we are in Cizur Menor, a quiet 2.8 kms up and out of Pamplona -- Connie, Dana, Erin Elaine, Greta, Gwynne, John, Susan, Jeanne and I. And the stragglers are indulging themselves in the fleshpots of Pamplona -- Alison, Bart, Catherine, Dawn, Elissa, Jackie, and Lisa -- all at the Jesus y Maria Albergue 5 kms away, tucked into the busy streets at the heart of the city. I can walk a block over from my vantage point on the hill of Cizur Menor, look down on Pamplona, imagine I'm seeing the albergue where our "lost tribe" is staying, and like Jesus looking over Jerusalem, say "How many times would I have gathered you under my wings like a hen gathers her brood. . . but you would not."

Now, the careful reader will note some new names in our group. Sure enough, at the last minute some of our Seattle friends decided a 500-mile walk carrying a 20-lb backpack and sleeping on bunk beds with strangers from all over the world was too enticing an opportunity to miss. So we got word when we arrived at St. Jean that Connie, Erin Elaine, Gwynne, and Jeanne would join us in Pamplona. Although we were thrilled to have them with us, I think that's where the inadvertent group schism began.

French pilgrims we met in Larrasoana, admiring the
beauty of Pamplona's city streets.
It all started like this . . . . after the apparently ambiguous instructions at the Larrasoaña albergue, our group trudged on its second layer of blisters (yes, you can get blisters on top of blisters) through the tranquil greenery toward the first villages of the day -- Akkareta and Zuriain (notice these non-Spanish sounding names sound non-Spanish because they're in the local Basque language). We continued our acquaintance with the Rio Arga, which we'd met near Zubiri, and then deepened the relationship as we crossed it three additional times during the day. The high point of the day was Monte Miravalles, but that vista over Pamplona was also our introduction to the less-than-wonderful side of the Camino: the sidewalks of modern suburbs. About half of today's walk would be our approach to the City of Pamplona through its suburbs, accompanied by the sounds of busy city dwellers who are always in a rush to get somewhere. Even just three days into the Camino the fast pace of city life, the pace at which we live our Back-in-the-USA lives, grated on our nerves.

As we entered Pamplona proper, we passed under the historic gate that has welcomed hundreds of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries. The sightless eyes in the bas relief panel has witnessed many people like us who've wandered toward Santiago, hoping for a night's respite and a few days of joy at the journey's end.

Bart's attempt to do Pamplona the Heming-way.
Just after the gate is where the confusing part began. One group of travelers had gone ahead, presumably to downtown Pamplona to explore the cathedral, enjoy the bars and cafes, and perhaps see the museum. The group I was with headed to the train station to meet our Seattle latecomers. When Connie, Erin Elaine, Gwynne, and Jeanne joined us we headed to El Centro (downtown) and the other group was nowhere to be found! We kept an eye out for our colleagues as we spread out a picnic on the sidewalk -- which Pamplonans who passed by seemed to view with a mixture of amusement and annoyance. We poked our heads into the cathedral, expecting to see familiar Seattle faces. No such luck. Our friends were lost, so we thought.

From left: Susan, Sandy, Greta, Erin Elaine, and Jeanne
enjoy lunch on a Pamplona sidewalk across from
the cathedral. 
We passed through the square at the summit of downtown Pamplona where all the streets seem to converge and saw there the historic place where the running of the bulls commences each year. We'll wait for word from the other group as to whether or not Bart could contain himself at this confluence of Spain, Heminway, drunkenness and bulls. By the time we'd seen this site we assumed the other group had left us, so we dragged ourselves to Cizur Menor, just outside town. We arrived, had our credentiales stamped, headed into the cool courtyard, began our laundry, and soon realized our campadres were nowhere to be seen. After a quick cell phone call we discovered they were ensconced at the downtown Pamplona albergue. 

So, tomorrow we'll see if we can pull ourselves together and continue as a single group up the big hill, the Alto de Pardon, toward the farmlands and fields of La Rioja.

(In truth, with the increased size of our group and the abundance of miles caused by our exuberant exercise we've decided to subdivide our pilgrimage into two groups and add the exercise totals separately. We'll see which group, the "John Wesley" group or the "Charles Wesley" group makes it first to our pilgrimage goal. At present, Team John -- the lagging group that's spending tonight in downtown Pamplona -- is actually ahead at 89.4 miles to Team Charles' 84.2. Welcome aboard, Connie, Erin Elaine, Gwynne, and Jeanne!)

1 comment:

  1. Ah.....Here you all are. And there was I thinking you had all gone missing out in the bad lands the other side of Pamplona.

    Mind you, why you all bypassed the center of Pamplona and headed for Cizur Menor is strange. The Jesus et Maria Albergue in the center of Pamplona is but 2 minutes walk from the main square with all the attractions which might distract a Pilgrim from thinking about their feet.

    At least the Cizur Menor Pilgrims will be up the escarpment with the wind turbines before the sun and the vultures have risen to pick the bones of those who do not make it to the top.