Larrasoana is a decidedly wierd place. It is a faux medieval village being built around the remains of a real medieval village. Large houses in a centuries old Spanish style are popping up everywhere, but no-one seems to live in them. They are holiday homes or sleeping places for people who live and work in nearby Pamplona. Walk down the picture perfect main street and there is one thing missing: people. No kids, no noise, no washing on lines, no smells in the air. The comfortable little Albergue was wierd too: signs up everywhere telling us what was forbidden. Very welcoming.
It was good to get out at 7 and begin a very easy day´s walk. For an hour and a half the path wound through famland and forests until we struck the first village which had been swallowed up by Pamplona and was now a suburb. From then on, the whole day was spent walking through this lovely city. Spain looks propsperous. There are cranes everywhere, and expensive looking restoration is taking place on many ancient buildings. The streets are clean, graffiti free and well maintained. Cars and buses are modern and the facilities all quite high tech: nifty little signs to tell you how many seconds until the lights turn green for example. There is the ancient city of Pamplona with a great thick city wall and narrow streets where idiots get chased by bulls on one festival a year and chuck truckloads of tomatoes at each other on another. Surrounding it is a modern, spacious, airy university city of 200,000. It would have been a pleasant urban stroll except for the blisters.
My heel and Clemency's underfoot were demanding attention by 11:00. We changed into sandals which helped, but there was still 5 km to walk to the next planned stopping point of Cizur Menor. We could have stayed in the very good Albergue in Pamplona but chose to stick with the programme, and it's a blessing that we did. The first Albergue in the village (or now, of course, suburb) of Cizur Menor is the one run by the Order of St. John of Malta. These are people who have the Ambulances in New Zealand the people in the berets who patch up kids at rugby games. So, the clean, homely little Albergue was run, this week, by a lovely woman called Gabriella. She gave us a bed, stamped our credentials and then started tut tutting about our blisters. She fixed them up, dressed them and gave us ointment and dressings for the days ahead. She spoke not a word of English, but in the way that happens in these places, told us that she has walked the Camino 4 times herself, including once with her ten year old and twelve year old sons in tow. She had prepared fresh coffee, cookies and a large bowl of pasta for arriving pilgrims. The fridge was full of food, which was free to use on the basis of koha: take what you need and then leave some money in a bowl in order to buy things for tomorrow´s pilgrims.
There were 27 of us staying: a housefull. 13 of us sat down to dinner together while the rest went out to local restaurants. With the food in the fridge, the superb culinary skills of one young man and contributions from people's packs a full meal was soon produced. There were Germans, a Norwegian, a Swiss, French, an Israeli an American, Hungarians and two Kiwis. We didn´t have a single language in common, but people translated for each other around the table, and a most wonderful conversation developed over the next couple of hours. I can´t for the life of me remember much of what it was about - travel, blisters, packs, boots, wine, music, religion, tai chi, movement, life, the universe, everything - but it was one of those evenings I will remember for the rest of my life.