20 February 2015

Obanos to Estella

Compared to the dreary day before, this one was glorious! Warm and sunny.

We also had quite a few social encounters.

First, my knee ached badly, so we stopped so I could wrap it with an ace bandage. Some Spanish guys saw me, and one of them who also had his knee wrapped offered me some anti-inflammatory pills. Now, I don't usually take pills from strangers, but I was desperate, and they were still in their original packaging. A little while later, I felt great!

We stopped in Lorca at a great albergue/bar where we got fruit, chips, coca-cola and used the FREE internet.  

Later in the afternoon, while we were debating making a pit stop or charging on to our destination, we came across a young American guy sat on the side of a road under an overpass. We greeted each other and decided to rest awhile with him. He told us about his journey so far, which had already been three times as long as ours and involved getting a sprained ankle and shooting off an emergency flare before a fellow pilgrim assisted him. His pack was filled to the brim, he was mostly doing this at the urging of his parents, and generally seemed pretty sad and unhappy with the Camino. We walked together a little while, and when he asked us to stop with him at the next town, we decided to part ways. Our itinerary was pretty strict since we weren't the fastest walkers ourselves and we had flights to catch at the end of the month. Later on, we both confided our guilt at leaving him behind.... maybe we could have convinced him to walk just a few more miles to the next town ... but oh well.
So there are Camino Lessons #5 and #6: Ultimately, everyone has to walk their own journey, and.... it could always be worse!

The hostel in Estella was a really cool place run by the regional association of people with developmental disabilities. It was comfortable with clean facilities, a laundry service (for a small price) and a bunk room.

Dinner was gluten-free pasta with more TVP-tomato sauce and nutritional yeast. We had a hard time tracking down vegetables in the smaller villages because, as one shopkeeper told us, it was the start of the off-season (October) and most places really only stocked produce for the pilgrims. The townspeople grew their own stuff! Also, village life is very relaxed and businesses tend to close for a few hours at lunch and then again in the early evening.

15 February 2015

Pampolona to Obanos

After a breakfast at our hostel of toast, juice, coffee, and marmalade, we set out for our next destination: Óbanos!

There is a pretty natural foods store on the way out of Pamplona, called Ekodenda Ekia. We didn't stop there, but it seemed pretty large from the outside.

This was a cold, gray but beautiful day. We made our way through some winding hills and beautiful villages. Even with the clouds you could see for miles!

Lunch was leftover lentils and our extras: crackers, veggie paté, and nuts.

By mid-afternoon we were both starving and sluggish so we stopped into a bar for a pick-me-up of Coca Cola and potato chips. Junk food, of course, but considering how much walking we were doing, we were desperate for calories. Plus, the sugar, salt and caffeine gave us a much-needed energy boost. This became our regular afternoon snack for the rest of the walk!

The first albergue we found in Óbanos (Albergue USDA) was on the church square, but it only had a microwave and dining area.

We stopped into a little shop also on the square and picked up fruit and some canned goods.
veggie soup, gnocchi, and TVP-tomato sauce
We had to get creative with dinner since there wasn't a cooking area. The menu was microwave vegetable soup, microwave gnocchi, and TVP-and-tomato sauce. 
A meager but filling meal.

It had been a long day so we tucked in early for the night.

12 February 2015

Zubiri to Pamplona

We left Zubiri in the morning, walked about 1 hour to the next pueblo, Larrasoaña. Somehow we ended up in a tiny shop called Casa Elita, run by a sweet woman who showed us photos of her son with Emilio Estevez (apparently they spent some good times with the locals while filming The Way!). We got fruit and coffee, and also noticed a selection of gluten-free products. This is the place to go if you are craving some wheat-free pasta! She even asked if we were Celiac/allergic, and explained that she likes to reserve those products for the people who really need it. Nice!
celebrity sightings at casa etia
el horno de irotz
the inviting terrace at el horno de irotz
salad from el horno de irotz
pamplona outskirts ... lusting after all that lettuce
salad starter
paella starter
main dishes: veggie burgers and mushrooms & rice pilaf
dessert: chocolate flan! 
dahl yumminess

After a quick breakfast of fruit, coffee, and PB2 on bananas, we kept on our way.

Right around the time we started to get desperate for a lunch option, we stumbled across a restaurant in someone's back patio! Called El Horno de Irotz (in, you guessed it, Irotz).

The veggie option was an amazing salad with local tomatoes that tasted heavenly. The server said they were from an especially fertile plot of land nearby... Can't beat that!
One of the best perks of walking the Camino is getting to experience the different geographies and cultures of Spain. Here, on the way to Pamplona (or Iruña as it's known in the local Basque language), we saw signs of the distinct Basque pride of Navarra.

Finally, we made it to Pamplona!
Since Pamplona is the first city on the Camino, we decided it would be a good spot for a rest day. Our rest days included the indulgence in a private room (NO SNORING!) and usually a bath tub. Hotel Europa near the main plaza in Pamplona was great. We picked up a salad from a nearby supermarket, and even rented a scary movie on iTunes!

The second night we stayed in Hostel Hemingway. It was clean and cozy. The owner and staff were super friendly and helped us track down some veggie restaurants. 

We had lunch at Restaurante Sarasate. They offered a Pilgrim Menu (menu peregrino), a three-course meal at a discounted price of only 9 euros! The food was delicious and they were very accommodating to our dietary needs. 

Before supper we stopped at a local indoor market, Mercado II Ensanche Tafalla ( around the corner from the hostel), and picked up a few veggies. Then we cooked a tasty dahl (lentil curry) in the hostel.

Next door to Hostel Hemingway is a little herbolario, or natural foods store. We picked up a few essentials on our way out of town, including this corn-based baguette!

10 February 2015

Roncesvalles to Zubiri

The albergue in Roncesvalles didn't stop its incredible hospitality after building the facilities... In the morning we were awoken by monks swinging bells and singing Gregorian chants as they walked through the dorms.  It was the most surreal (and peaceful) way to wake up ever. Such a great way to start the day!

We had another vending-machine breakfast of veggie medley, lentils and rice, and more espresso. This is Camino Lesson #4: If you're vegan, you may want to forgo your traditional ideas about breakfast foods... Sometimes it's best just to take in whatever calories you can get. The last thing you want is to skimp on nutrients and be sluggish later!

pueblo pleasantries
The walk to Zubiri was quite nice. We bumped into our Aussie friends from the first night again, and had coffee and chatted with them outside of a cafe.

Lunch was gazpacho (from the vending machine at Roncesvalles), corn cakes and pate. It's worth noting that for non-gluten-free-vegans, there are plenty of places to stop and pick up a warm, fresh baguette for mere cents... Look for "Panaderías" ... The traditional bakeries that still thrive in Spain. The bread will be fresher and cheaper there than at a supermarket. Some areas also have "Alimentación" shops: corner stores with all sorts of stuff, usually including a small bread oven.

simply wonderful.
We hoped to walk a little further than Zubiri, but later in the day decided to take it easy and rest there for the night. Looking back, we would have much preferred to stop a little farther in Larrasoana.

There are a number of pensiones (small hotels with private bedrooms) in Zubiri, but there is only the municipal albergue. It was cheap, but we were really disappointed in the accommodations. Two large rooms filled with crowded bunks (it was a busy night), open showers in the locker rooms, and minimal "kitchen" facilities (a 2-pot stove top that we had to share with all of the other pilgrims trying to make supper). It basically felt like summer camp.

After picking up some supplies at the little market near the town square (they had fresh produce and a good selection of non-perishable items), we waited our turn for the stove in the kitchen. Then we had our first dinner disaster!!!

First, I mistakenly bought "harina de maiz" thinking it was corn meal, when in reality it was corn flour. (As it turns out, they have the same name in Spanish, "harina".... Oops!) Polenta became rice "risotto" by adding bouillon and  2 disastrous ingredients: 1) powdered soy milk (reconsitute before adding to recipes!) and 2) way too much nooch (oops! accidentally dropped a bunch in!). We added frozen spinach for greens.

furiously trying to mix in all that nooch! 
Our second dish was TVP with tomato sauce and onion, which we sauteed with a small bottle of olive oil that A took from her airline salad.... Turns out it was lemon-infused!!

could definitely have been worse.
We sat down to our weird (although surprisingly quite tasty) meal, and then something great started to happen: other pilgrims sat down with their meals, bread was shared, wine was passed around, and we started have a great time! It's amazing how easily good company and nice conversation can change the mood of an evening. We got to meet some wonderful people that night, and forgot all about our cooking snafus.

07 February 2015

Orisson, France, to Roncesvalles, Spain

We were so glad to have stopped early on our first day of hiking and rested well, because we had a long, windy day of walking through the Pyrenees (and into Spain!) ahead of us!
buenos dias, orisson!
A quick breakfast of fruit, PB2, rice cakes and jam, and we were on our way.
It was gorgeous. The views went on for miles. Aside from the occasional shepherd driving his van to a pasture, we were surrounded by the quiet jingling of sheep bells, the soft crunch of pilgrims' boots on the path, and the whistling wind.
beautiful monument in the mountains

About halfway through our mountain journey we tucked behind a large rock formation to have respite from the wind while we ate lunch. Leftover rice & lentils, Gatorade, rice & corn cakes filled our bellies.

we made it to spain!
walking into another country, no big deal

By the time we arrived in Roncesvalles it was almost dusk. The albergue there is wonderful... It is owned by a religious group who recently constructed the building to accommodate Camino pilgrims. The bunk-beds are cubby-style, with individual reading lights, power outlets and lockers. There was even a separate "airing room" for hiking boots!

Needless to say, the kitchen and cafeteria spaces are clean and well-stocked. There were a number of vending machines selling pre-packaged meals (sandwiches and such), including a few great vegan options. We had rice salad, lentil soup, and veggie medley (Spanish-style cooked vegetables preserved in olive oil with paprika and other spices). Y U M. For dessert we treated ourselves to decaf espresso and a massive Navarran dark chocolate bar, also from the vending machines! Do yourself a favor and try it... The chocolate is a regional specialty and was very rich!

vending machine veggies... surprisingly delicious
un "descafeinado" and some amazing local chocolate

Even with this delicious meal and amazing albergue, we were too exhausted to explore Roncesvalles and plopped down in our beds. The ache of the last two days hit us hard, and there was a brief discussion of what would happen if one of us woke up, physically incapable of moving, and we had to cancel the rest of the trip!

the beginning of our stamp collection