On our second day of our camino, we woke when the lights came on at Roncesvalles at 6 am. We had no cash and no clear way to get breakfast, but we had a plan. We needed to walk to a nearby town, Burgeute, and get cash. Then, we would have a huge breakfast. We were both starving. We also discussed our route and decided we would do a shorter walk, stopping in Zubiri instead of Larrasoana, which was 6 km further. We were both feeling the impact of the previous day’s journey on our feet and knees.
Outside Roncesvalles, we crossed the N-135 and jump on the path immediately. The trail was deeply wooded, and despite the rain we didn’t get very wet. The first thing we saw was a sign for Santiago de Compostela with a distance of 790 kilometers, a reminder of the extreme length of the pilgrimage. As someone just walking part of the camino, I felt a pang of guilt at not being able to do it all at once. I also felt relief since I know the huge effort it takes to complete such a pilgrimage.
Walking further down the trail we saw the Cruz de Roldan, or Roland’s Cross, which commemorates the spot where Roland is said to have fallen in the Battle of Roncesvalles Pass. The battle took place when King Charlemagne attempted to cross back into France after fighting the Moor forces in Saragossa. Legend is that he promised the Basques that he would not attack Pamplona, but his forces destroyed the city walls. In response, the Basques attacked Charlemagne’s rear guard, which was under the command of Roland. Roland was killed in the ensuing battle. This is all told in the famous poem, “The Song of Roland”, which commemorates the event.
After the cross, we continued past warehouses and crossed the N-135 where there was a grocery store. We decided not to stop at the grocery store, but to continue on to Burguete and get breakfast there. We arrived in Burguete along the N-135 and located the cash machine. The cash machine was broken!
We asked at a couple of restaurants, and they all refused credit or debit cards. Finally, we spotted a hotel, and I was able to get cash from the hotel using my credit card. We then backtracked the N-135 and found a restaurant where we ate our first tortilla de patatas of the trip. I found these to be one of the better fare of all the Spanish food we had along the way. It was a pie like mixture of egg and potatoes, kind of like a quiche, but creamier without so much egg.
While we were eating, the television in the restaurant was broadcasting the running of the bulls. They have much more detailed coverage than we had ever seen in the states, and we were shocked to see a bull running over people, digging his horn into some poor fellow’s back. We planned to be in Pamplona for the final day of the running of the bulls and had already purchased balcony spots to watch this first hand, so we were excited to see the coverage.
After breakfast, we followed the camino back the way we had come, and I saw the Hotel Burguete. This is where Hemingway stayed when he visited Burguete. It is also the setting for a part of the book “The Sun Also Rises”. I read the book prior to coming over, and then read it again on the plane, train and bus getting here, so I was really excited to see this bit of history while the story was fresh in my mind.
After the Hotel Burguete, the trail leads out of town and we crossed pastures and the Rio Urrobi. I imagined this is likely where Hemingway fished for the region’s huge trout. Then, we walked in a dense beech wood and crossed the Rio Urrobi again before catching site of the church at Espinal in the distance. This church was different from most of the other mainly stone churches we would see in other parts of Spain.
Church at Espinal
At Espinal we again joined the N-135 and walked through town without stopping. Along the way we met an Australian lady who had a Boston Red Sox cap on, which really confused us. At the end of town we took a left and climbed a long hill to some woods and a point called Alto de Mezquiriz, where there’s a statue of the Virgin and Child. I actually never saw the statue because I was so beaten down by the hill. We had to stop multiple times here for me to breath. In this environment, I really felt my heart conditions. My heart was not doing a good job of keeping up, and I was gasping for breath. Dylan waited patiently without complaint. I couldn’t ask for a better walking companion and was very thankful for him.
After the Alto de Mezquiriz, we again skirted a beech wood and had a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside.
Dylan, after Espinal at the hill after Alto de Mezquiriz.
We walked along a muddy path that went back downhill. We saw a lot of ancient looking trees with moss on them and stopped alongside the N-135 at some picnic benches.
Massive trees here were covered in moss. Close to the N-135 after Espinal.
After the break, we crossed the N-135 and headed towards Viskarret. We were again in the beech woods and the surface changed to a man-made surface with paving stones. It was really tough to walk on, especially on the down hill portions where it just beat up our feet. Three kilometers of this and we were on the outskirts of Viskarret. We cross the Rio Erro and started seeing signs for a place called Bar Juan that promised food. We were both starving, and we bypassed the first few bars in search of Bar Juan. We walked through the entire town without seeing Bar Juan. Then, we backtracked and looked for Bar Juan near the church. Bar Juan was supposed to be on the square, but we couldn’t find what we considered to be a square. We passed a bar with no sign on it, and I asked in Spanish if it was Bar Juan. The guy said he didn’t know the name, but it was good food. We walked back up to the church and snapped some shots of it, and then I found a fellow pilgrim lady who was walking with her young child with a stroller. She told me we were on the town square, so I assumed the bar was Bar Juan. This became a common theme in Spain. We would see signs for stuff, and it would lead you to almost where you needed to be, and then there would be no more signs. We laughed about it quite often whenever we started seeing signs.
I don’t know if we ate at Bar Juan or not, but they offered the typical Spanish fare, which is bocadillos at lunch time. A bocadillo is not an exciting food. It’s basically just french style bread with some kind of meat (ham or bacon), usually with no condiments or lettuce and tomato. Here, the owner told us he had omelettes, so we decided to try it. It was actually what we would call a scrambled egg sandwich. I liked it, but I don’t thing Dylan enjoyed all the eggs. He’s not an egg kind of kid. We were finding that the food was just not much of an adventure, at least in these small pueblos.
After Viskarret, we walked to Linzoain. At Linzoain we stopped at a park and watched a guy play ball with his dog, and the Spanish pilgrim with her child in stroller caught up to us. I was amazed she was walking the baby over such a great distance. After Linzoain, we walked a hill out of town and then plunged back into deep woods again. Zubiri was about 4.5 kilometers away.
We walked without stopping until we reached the Puente de la Rabia (Rabies Bridge). This is a famous medieval bridge. The rumor, according to my Brierley guidebook, is that they thought you could walk a rabid dog three times around the central arch and cure a dog of rabies. The river Arga flows under this bridge. It is a big fast flowing mountain river with chilly water.
We walked across the bridge into Zubiri, which means “village of the bridge” in Euskera, the language of the Basque people. We checked into Albergue Zaldiko just past the bridge. Then we went over to Basseri Resaurant and ate from the pilgrim’s menu. The waiter at this place was perhaps one of the nicest and most helpful of the entire camino and tried to answer our questions about tapas and raciones, which are like appetizers. Afterwards, we went back to the river to soak our feet. At the river, I watched the swallows fly under the bridge and dive for insects on the water.
Afterwards we settled in at the albergue and went to bed early. The next day would be a tough walk all the way through Pamplona to our hotel where we would stay for the running of the bulls.
Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.