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There was no day three post, and that story will be told forthwith. First, however, a small celebrative note about breaking the 700… 699 kilometers left (as the crow flies, it’s about 900 more to the end of the world on foot).

Most guidebooks copy from Brierley, who is his own case of bad advice, but established the myth of the first leg being the “worst on the camino.” This is wrong, I believe. I consider, however, the second day to be in the top five bad ones. Leaving from Roncesvalles after a night of little sleep, owing mostly to the partying and later carnal knowledge seeking of other pilgrims in the bar below and the rooms next to mine, I started with AK across the hilly (and mostly downhill) path towards Zubiri.

The camino does a lot of ups and downs here, and this profile, combined with the afterglow of yesterday’s strenuous hike and youthful exuberance in just going it too fast, makes this leg one that’s best taken slowly and with an eye on blisters and strains. I did neither, but was spared blisters, could not avoid slipping on wet rocks, however, and spraining my right ankle.

We arrived in Zubiri at four, three hours after M and J, who’d been trucking again. But, frankly, I prefer the tranquility of the mountains over the smelly bustle of an albergue in an otherwise dead town, so why spend my afternoons there and not in the forest?

This is where it gets funny. After an amazing pilgrims dinner, served by the equally amazing hosts of our albergue, I made for a brief spell in the garden. Wearing only swim trunks and a t-shirt, carrying a pen and my diary, I sat outside and enjoyed my first sight of the milky way, under which I’ll be walking to Compostela.

Suddenly, the door behind me closed. A French pilgrim in her 60 mumbled something about it letting all the good air out, locked the door, and shuffled off. 10 pm, the house is quiet (except for snoring, of course) and I am locked into the garden.

It started raining at 2 and the AstroTurf yard was wet anyways, so I stood most of the night on my sprained ankle, counting church bells. When the French arrived early downstairs to raid the breakfast corner (taking all the meats and even my, marked “Vegetarian,” stuff) one of them let me in. No apologies from Mme. Pelerin, but lots of high fiving and laughing with her for having locked me out. I fucking hate the French more and more, least considerate groups of pilgrims on the Way, by far.

That evening I also met P, a theologician who came all the way from Holland by bike, and loves German “Saddlepenis” remedial creme, and two girls from Italy, a nurse and a midwife with whom I had a great chat during dinner.

Day four started late, I had to hobble back on my ankle to get my stick, which I’d left behind. After a short incline, I took a brief rest and AK caught up to me. We hiked for a spell before I once again pulled ahead, meeting up for lunch at a pilgrims cafe, and to see an old Abby which is being restored by pilgrims, much to the dislike of the locals. I’ll write more about this Abbey, which is amazing in many ways, later.

In the outskirts of Pamplona my ankle gave in. Asphalt and industrial sights mixed with frustration and no sleep finally took their toll, and so I cabbed the last mile to my bed, which I immediately sank into.

I went for dinner in the amazing company of AK and A, a multifaceted woman from Canada, fixed some feet and blisters, and handed out a massage, then went to sleep.

Sixhundredninetynine to go. Ultreïa!

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