My first step on the Camino was to head to Roncesvalles, the last stopover point in Spain before the French border. Roncesvalles is hidden up in the Pyrenees, so to get there from Madrid, I would first be taking the coach to Pamplona and then another coach to Roncesvalles where I planned to spend the night in their historical albergue, rise early, and cross the Pyrenees and stop down in St Jean-Pied-de-Port.
8-hour coach trip to the starting point at Roncesvalles
So early in the morning I kissed Madrid and Ally goodbye (Juan and Nalia were still sleeping) and made my way from Las Rosaz de Madrid to Pamplona. I found the counter for the local buses and requested a billeta to Roncesvalles in my best Spanish. The woman behind the counter shook her head and said “Mañana.” *noise of needle scratching across record*
So I hauled my backpack off to look for a hostel and ended up at Jesus y Maria. I am not a big fan of religion and was a little nauseated by this whole Jesus and Maria thing but in fact it’s a fascinating hostel, converted inside a church (named… Iglesia de Jesús y María) without touching any of the outer structure.
I dropped my gear off and headed out to explore Pamplona. The week-long famous bull-chasing celebrations of San Fermin had just finished the day before and on a Sunday afternoon, the whole town had a feeling of stunned silence after the storm.
Spot the bull!
Nearly every shop window was dressed in honor of the festival and its white-and-red clad runners
I decided to walk to the Yamaguchi park, as its Japanese name sounded promising. It was very small but beautiful and peaceful, and its fountains were very refreshing in the heat of the afternoon.
I made my way back to the hostel and settled in for the only bad night of my entire Pilgrim experience — I had a very jittery 9-year-old in the bunk-bed above me and he seemed to suffer from “sleep-spasms” throughout the entire night — shaking the bed and waking me up every time I started to drop off. Some time after 4am I took my pillow and my sleeping bag and went to sleep on the floor.
I have to confess that sleep deprivation and hunger meant that I was not entirely thrilled with Pamplona, especially as I had to make a 5km round trip in order to find a supermarket open before I caught the bus to Roncesvalles. But things only improved after that… well a little after that!