Day 10 – San Domingo to Belarado – 22.9km

10.00am A great night’s sleep. I’ve just eaten a gargantuan breakfast , feel refreshed and ready to hit the road again. Before leaving I’m going to visit the Cathedral opposite the hotel. This town is the place where ” The Miracle of The Cock ” occurred ( stop sniggering at the back ) .

The story goes that in the 14 th century, a German 18-year old named Hugonell, from Xanten, goes on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his parents. A Spanish girl at the hostel where they were staying falls in love with him; Hugonell denies her advances. Angry at this, the girl hides a silver cup in the German’s bag and informs the authorities that the young man has taken it. Hugonell is sentenced to death in the gallows, in accordance with the laws of Alfonso X of Castile.
Mourning the death of his son, the parents sadly decide to examine their son’s body, still hanging on the gallows, but suddenly they hear his voice. He tells them that Santo Domingo de la Calzada has kept him alive.

His parents quickly go to see the magistrate in order to announce that the miracle has taken place. The magistrate, who is at the time eating dinner remarks: “Your son is as alive as this cock and hen that I am about to eat”. And in that moment, the two birds jump from the plate and begin to sing and crow happily.
Since then the cathedral of Santo Domingo has contained a stone hen house inside of which there is kept a white cock and a hen.

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Day 9 – Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada – 31.4km

10.30am It made a pleasant change this morning to wake to the sound of Gregorian chanting and the smell of incense rather than the assault on my auditory and olfactory senses that I’ve endured over the last week or so. When we booked into the Albergue San Saturnio yesterday we were surprised to discover a German army of occupation ( apparently it’s recommended in the German guide books). They had invaded mid afternoon and were all busy cooking while we found our bunks. I was happy to see Ian from Dublin and a few others I recognised too. Ian was at pains to tell me that the small Albergue shop sold local Rioja for 3 euros and his sampling had revealed it to be excellent stuff. On my return from dinner in the village later in the evening I found Ian and a large party of Germans sitting at a patio table that was covered in empty wine bottles. They were in very high spirits indeed. I was particularly amused to see a German guy named Henrick in an advanced state of inebriation. He was the German snorer I had encountered back in Roncesvalles and hitherto had seemed a very serious chap , striding out purposefully with one of those Bavarian hats atop his head. The wine had made him very giggly indeed and brought out an amorous streak in him too. He appeared , in his drunken state , to be trying to chat up a fellow German lady and what made it funnier still to the other Germans was that this was all being conducted in English.

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Day 8 – Viana to Ventosa – 29km

7.10 am A restless night on the mats. Mine was situated between a middle aged Mexican lady and our chain smoking diminutive Catalan friend. All sorts on noises emanated from him , the least offensive of which was the coughing and wheezing. I would guess he is around 70 yrs , about 5ft tall , bald and bearded , very wrinked and has a bad squint. He looked like an elderly Hobbit curled up in a ball on his mat.

This was a small Refugio run by 2 volunteers ( Hospitaleros ) , one lady from Seattle and another from Spain. The Hospitaleros all do 2 weeks volunteering at a time and you have to have walked The Camino at least once to qualify to perform this role. This Refugio was my first to have a strong religious feel about it . We ate a communal meal last night before which we said Grace . There is no request for payment for your stay or for the dinner and breakfast. They do suggest a “Donativo” in a box when you depart ( see photo ). There was also a room set aside for snorers which is the first time I’ve come across this. A Swedish lad who has walked all the way from Orleans in France was the only occupant last night. He also intends to walk all the way back to Orleans ! There was a very nice older American lady ( now living in Freemantle ) here last
night who is the Mother of a famous Australian musician named John Butler. The German couple got very excited as they are big fans and had downloaded his albums to their IPod to listen to on The Camino.

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Day 7 – Los Arcos to Viana – 18.6km

7.15am A bad night. The involuntary sleep study I carried out on the rather portly South African chap in the next bunk revealed a severe case of Sleep Apnoea. During the course of this prolonged study I observed that at the end of every 10th apnoeic episode he would emit a little groan and there followed a startlingly loud expulsion of intestinal gas. I have never come across this in the text books. I must have a chat with my Respiratory colleagues at Chorley Hospital when I get home. I think there’s a research paper in this.

The bunk above him was occupied by an Irishman named Eugene , who appeared to be suffering with night terrors. I had a long consultation with him yesterday as he’s quitting The Camino after 8 days with severe foot pain. I diagnosed Plantar Fasciitis and offered to supply him with something from my mobile pharmacy but he politely declined , explaining that he preferred the bottle of whisky option.

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Day 6 – Estella to Los Arcos – 21.1km

10.00am. Great sleep. In the bunks last night I had an Irish Girl on top of me and a Polish lady next to me. They both gave me frosty looks this morning. Then the Polish Lady informed me that I was the winner of the latest round of the European Snoring Championships. Oh dear. First lesson of The Camino learned.

I had another ” Mr Bean ” moment yesterday. I turned around on the stairs of the Refugio in Estella and my rucksack caught on a framed print of St James , knocking it off the wall and smashing the glass to pieces. I think I should go home now.

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Day 5 – Puente La Reina to Estella – 21.9km

7.15am Not much sleep , another ” snorefest ” , despite the earplugs. I obviously didn’t down enough Rioja last night.

I was out for dinner last night with the Dublin girls ( Denise , Pauline , Anne , Catherine and Jacqui ) and Gail from Notts ( aka ” Joyce Grenfell ” , ” Steady as a Galleon etc ” ) . It’s their last day of walking tomorrow and I’m going to miss them all as they’ve been great fun. I was very amused to discover that one of them was mortified when she recognised a fellow Pilgrim as a Dublin Gastroenterologist who has carried out two colonoscopies on her. As one might expect , given his speciality ( and to her great relief ) he doesn’t seem to have recognised her.

The conversation got around to packing for The Camino and one item mentioned was the paraphernalia associated with the removal of female body hair. This is clearly not a priority item for many of the European females . Denise then asked for a male opinion on female hirsuteness. There followed an hilarious conversation which I can’t repeat here. At one point Catherine said I was like their new ” gay ” friend , which is a bit worrying.

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Day 4 – Pamplona to Puente La Reina – 24km

7.30am , I am so happy . I slept ! . I went out for dinner with the Dublin/Nottingham girls and had a few beers , put the earplugs in and was dead to the world. Today´s another day.

7.00pm I woke at 6.00am today pleasantly surprised to have slept well. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that ” Foghorn Leghorn” had kept half the dorm awake again. In the spirit of the Camino I gave a spare pair of earplugs to an Australian pilgrim who looked like she was more in need than I was.
I set off at 7.30am and walked through the city observing workman performing the big tidy up after yesterday’s events. It was big news on Spanish TV last night by all accounts. I was really disappointed to have missed out on seeing all the sights but wasn’t tempted to stick around today.

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Day 3 – Larrasoana to Pamplona – 17km

It had all started out so well. I felt well rested after a decent night’s sleep and aside from feeling dead below the waist I was otherwise in good fettle. I met up and walked some of the way to Pamplona with a lovely couple from Indiana , Neil and Marian , and we had a good time chatting for a few miles. Word came that there was a general strike in Spain today and none of the places you’d normally stop for a drink or eats was open. After 4 hours of walking I started to flag and was desperate for something to eat. Then , after a long downhill stretch , my left knee started to ache. Not good.

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Day 2 – Roncesvalles to Larrasoana – 27.4km

07.00am The alarm for us this morning was one of the Dutch ” Hospitaleros” ( the volunteers who run the Refugios ) walking through the dorm singing a hymn. I didn’t need waking as I had been kept awake most of the night by The European Snoring Championships ,which took place in adjoining bunks. Spain and Germany were in the final. Spain won but it was a close call. Hey ho.
Looks like we’ll be stopping for breakfast at Burguete , which is where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out when he wasn’t annoying the bulls in Pamplona. More later.

7.30pm Arrived in Larrasoana at 4.30pm today after an 8.00am start. Not surprisingly after a night of no sleep I missed the yellow arrows that point the route and wandered off in the wrong direction out of Burguete. Fortunately a lovely old lady spotted this dazed and delerious specimen and pointed me back on to the Camino. The daily routine for the “Peregrinos” is to stop off for breakfast , lunch, removal of boots , running repairs or foot massage at one of the little villages on the route. The faces at every pitstop are beginning to become familiar now. Many of the Pilgrims are walking only sections of The Camino for maybe a week or two. The Irish girls I walked with yesterday are doing 5 days and intend to come back and do the remaining sections in years to come.

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Day 1 – St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles -26km

Well my Camino got off to a great start today when I was thrown out of a shop in St Jean this morning ! . I kid you not. I wandered in to a shop and was trying out some walking poles when a French Pilgrim came up to me and said I shouldn’t buy poles as they were for tourists and proper Pilgrims buy a wooden stick. The proprietor then joined a discussion as to the appropriate sized stick for me and it became apparent that they didn’t agree on this. They began to argue and this escalated into a full scale row whilst I watched on in disbelief. She then chucked the two of us out of the shop !

Things improved thereafter when I found the route out of town and met up with a group of 5 girls from Dublin and a girl from Nottingham who were all walking together. It was a fantastic day for walking , nice temperature and breeze. We had a steady ascent through a pass over the Pyrenees and crossed the border into Spain. We walked together all day from 8.30am to 6.00pm and it was nearly all climbing until the last few kilometres of descent into Roncesvalles . The pictures below show the fantastic scenery. A highlight for me were a pair of Red Kites that were drifting on the thermals just 50yds from us when we were sitting down for lunch. The girls were great company all day and we shared a couple of beers and had dinner together tonight. There are loads of walkers from all over the world staying here in an extension to the Monastery in Roncesvalles , which serves as the Refugio. A young Japanese lass has just shown me some stretching exercises which nearly dislocated both my hips ! Feet are ok with no sign of blisters yet. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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