Of the 40 people sleeping in Zubiri’s municipal albergue, I’m pretty sure 39 of them were snoring, which is truly a sound to behold: rumbling basses and twittering sopranos, droning long tones and dancing staccatos. I had to laugh.
I wasn’t laughing when in the dark of the early morning, those who had snored so comfortably through the night arose, turned on their torches, and began the ritual of emptying their rucksack filled with plastic bags. By 4:30, I looked around to discover I was one of the few still around and so decided to go ahead and get up before the sun.
The Camino is very well marked all along the route, except, sometimes through the villages, when you have some choices to make. In the dark of the early dawn, I found myself wandering Zubiri, wondering which way was the Way. I went back to the place I entered the village and looked for the distinctive yellow arrow, or blue sea shell, to no avail. An old Spanish man joined me and we decided, through gesticulations, to walk back through the center of town and look for clues. (Remember this is Spain, so nothing opens until 9 at the very earliest, especially in the provinces).
We ran into a Canadian school teacher who had walked an hour in the opposite direction to no avail. The Way must be the way from which we had just turned.
And so, we returned to the village entrance as the sun started to make its appearance and lo and behold there was the yellow arrow. High up on a stone wall, under the shadow of an ancient tree.
The three of us walked most the morning together, making frequent stops in pursuit of cafe con leche to no avail, nothing was open yet especially on Sunday, and satisfying ourselves with the cheese, nuts, chocolate, and bread stored in our sacks. Truth be told, I was quite pleased to make all these stops. My pack was quite heavy, and my legs were protesting days of abuse. Whether I was going to be able to make it to Pamplona – only 20k away – became a legitimate question.
My pace slowed and my friendliness waned. I had left the Canadian and Spaniard behind (they were making slower progress than even me). As I limped through Arre, just on the outskirts of Pamplona, I could not be bothered to chat with the Slovenian obsessed with America or stop for a coffee the writer for Spanish Idol (i.e. American Idol in Spain). If I stopped, I wouldn’t start again.
I had read the municipal albergue in Pamplona was very nice, large, recently refurbished, and in the center of town at the top of the hill. There was no way I’d be able to make it. Just across the river, was a sign for the Albergue Paderborn. It would have to do.
Through the riverside park I stumbled – giving in at one point to the desire to fall down and lay in the grass – until I reached the stone house on the river’s edge from which strains of German emanated. Paderborn is Pamplona’s German sister city. I had found myself in Little Germany. As I was offered a welcome glass of orange juice in the paneled office, I was comforted to know order and cleanliness would reign this night.