Day 4 – Bizkarreta to Zubiri

  • Distance today: 6.1 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017: 28.7 mi

We are both still recovering from jet lag and the associated adverse impacts on sleeping until we acclimate to the local time zone (6 hours ahead of home). Parallel to that were the physical demands of crossing the Pyrenees Mountains for our initial 2 days on the Camino and the subsequent muscle soreness and overall fatigue.

The sun was shinning down from a clear blue sky as we left Bizkarreta this morning at 8:00 a.m. We played hopscotch with Elena for the first hour or so. Linda loaned her poles for a short while, as Elena doesn’t have her own but is thinking about buying some along the way. She had disc surgery over a year ago and is still recovering. Elena returned Linda’s poles and we separated shortly thereafter, as our walking paces are different.

Today we are conducting a test with the baggage transport service that follows the Camino. Linda suggested we try it with just one pack. She put water, a poncho and other minor essentials into a 2 oz Altus day pack to carry and Jim offloaded as many heavier non-critical items from his pack that would fit into the transported pack. Our hotel proprietor called last night to arrange this morning’s pick-up at AmatxiElsa. We placed 7€ in a small envelope with our name and today’s destination hotel in Zubiri and attached it to the backpack and left in the AmatxiElsa lobby, when we left this morning. We’ve heard about this service in the past but hadn’t used it. We wanted to see how it worked and how reliable is was so we might use it along the way, if needed.

The Camino physically tested us again today, but didn’t overwhelm us. The first couple of miles or so was a fairly flat with some paved, but mostly unpaved surface. But, exiting the village of Linzoain in the open sun, the Camino climbed almost vertical, it seemed, on a concrete & gravel walk (an obvious gift from the locals to improve what would naturally be an impassable wash) straight up the hillside (no switchbacks here, just straight up)! We could see the apparent end of this killer of a path, so we just tucked our heads, leaned forward and undaunted, took it a step at a time. The “apparent top” unfortunately was only a short pause and the path took off again a similar distance and just as steep, before leveling as we and fellow Peregrinos breathed a sigh of relief.

The path became tamer, not only leveling considerably but also winding through a cool, shaded forest and level (yes, level!) dirt surfaces. Thru the trees we saw evidence of some commercial logging areas, confirmed by the signage on several trees, but no logging activities were visible this morning. After a few insignificant ups and downs, we reached what appeared to be a makeshift truck stop with a temporary van offering refreshment as we crossed the highway. We opted not to stop.

A few yards beyond the highway edge the Camino turned back into the forest and after a half mile or so, began to re-test us with a moderate down slope dominated by solid rock with loose pebbles and knifelike fixed jagged strips of stone that were difficult to navigate at a normal pace without peril. Every other step or two presented an opportunity for a torqued knee, twisted ankle or Camino delaying or ending fall.

For the most part the final mile of the Camino into Zubiri was characterized by the above terrain and as we reached the base of the trail just entering Zubiri it was like the sigh of relief one feels at the end of an extreme rollercoaster ride.

Interestingly enough, Linda’s experience with the final mile was much better today than in 2013, when totally exhausted and with multi-blistered feet, she wondered if she would ever make it across the Rio Arga into Zubiri over the medieval Puente de la Rabia arched bridge. But today, she effortlessly walked into Zubiri, blister free and feeling the strongest of any finish so far for Camino 2017.

Linda crossing medieval bridge into Zubiri

We arrived in Zubiri at 11:30 a.m and the “pencion Usoa” door was locked and when no one responded to the doorbell, we walked about 50 steps to a bar and relaxed and had lunch. It was nice to just get off our feet, chill and enjoy our tortillas and drinks at the bar’s outdoor shaded table in the cool breeze.

We checked again at Pencion Usoa at 1:00 p.m. as the proprietor (who lived across the street) was opening the door. As we stepped inside, Linda’s backpack was miraculously sitting in the corner, wondering where we had been.

We were given a brief tour of our room and washing machine/clothesline area. He also told us about the pilgrim’s breakfast at 6:30 in the morning, the location of the Pilgrim Dinner tonight and gave us the wifi password. Our room is a comfortable “habitacion doble con baño”, (private double room with ensuite bathroom)

The proprietor handed us the keys, excused himself and we immediately resumed our routine: wash us-wash clothes-hangout clothes and relaxed the rest of the afternoon doing the usual. Jim also took a brief walk out to the medieval bridge to stretch his beginning-to-stiffen-muscles and take some photos.

Puente de la Rabia medieval bridge

Puente de la Rabia (Rabies Bridge), was named because of a tradition that if animals are led three times across the bridge, they will be protected from rabies. The tradition comes from a legend that the builders of the bridge in the 15th century dug into the rock to place the central pillar and found an embalmed body. The body turned out to be Santa Quiteria, patron saint against rabies. When she was being transported to Pamplona to be buried, her body miraculously refused to budge from this spot, so her processional assumed it was a sign that she wished to be buried along the pilgrim road.

Tonight we had pizza at the same bar where we had lunch. Both the pepperoni and margarita were tasty and were complemented perfectly with a glass of Navarre wine 🍷 .

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