Camino de Santiago - Brian's Update No 14

In which Brian experiences the camerarderie of the Camino in increasing measure

Days 70 to 71

2nd and 3rd June

Pamplona, Cizur Menor & Eunate

I have decided to go on through Pamplona. I think I am being unfair to the city but I was not impressed by what I had seen whenever I visited it with Nuala & George, we never got to the right places obviously, but walk through it I did on to Cizur Menor, and wasn't I delighted to again meet Pat Murphy. While I had taken an extra day in St Jean de Pied de Port, she had forged ahead.

The Refugio was an extremely good one, privately run by the Roncal Family. Pat and I enjoyed an evening meal together in a small pub just up the street. Evening meals for pilgrims are generally around the 7.50-euro mark, starter, main course and perhaps a sweet, not 'haute cuisine' but substantial, and filling. Setting you up for another day. Managed to get a couple of days washing done here but learned that a few clothes pegs and a length of cord would be very useful.

I realise that I have missed out a very interesting meeting I had the day previous with two charming Canadian Ladies, Linda and Marguerita. Linda was suffering from blisters, she has very delicate, exquisite feet, and I took great pleasure in administering first aid in the form of second skin. I could have carried out the job in half the time but I enjoyed holding that gorgeous foot!

Frank Nolan, I think you had second sight whenever you insisted I take some with me. Frank had taken enough down to me that would do all the blisters on the Camino in one day but I have taken two large sheets and a roll of tape. Apparently Irish dancers use it, those high jumps must take a heavy toll on the feet. Frank himself was a great dancer, world class, and Sinead and Andrew have followed in his footsteps. We saw both of them dance at a birthday party for Frank's 50th in the Aylesforte a short time ago. Andrew's dancing was a joy to behold, don't give it up boyo!

So, I have some second skin with me and just in case some of you smart asses out there, (that's the donkey kind), are saying 'Oh aye, O'Callaghan looking after the birds', I'll have you know that I have also administered healing to the males on this Camino. One no later than yesterday, in fact an Italian, Marcus, who was having great difficulty walking because of sore feet. I had a second pair of good insoles, the sports kind, in my sandals, which I didn't really need so I gave them to him. He says they have made a great improvement to his well being.

Any way my Canadian friends and I had lunch together, they were staying in Trinidad de Arre, and I was going a little further, about another 9k to Cizur Menor. They left their bags at the Refugio, which did not open until 3.00, and we went into the first pub we could find. Why can I never get away from these pubs, my children will think I'm out here drinking!

We had a lovely meal together, perhaps 2 bottles of wine, copious amounts of water, and I staggered, sorry walked, on towards Pamplona.

The following day was going to be very short for me we had arranged to meet at Eunate, only about 14k from my overnight stop.

The Ladies were going to take me out for the evening, could this be another 'Exceptional Night for you Monsieur Brian', a man can only dream and allow imagination to have its day.

Begod, I was stood up!

Girls, I jest, I don't know what happened but we may yet meet before our Camino is over, I hope we do, I enjoyed your company. God bless the pair of you.

Perhaps my decision to go to Eunate has been the most influential one of my whole Camino. I have met some wonderful people with whom I feel I share a great bond.

I was the first to arrive; I visited the Octagonal Church, which apparently figures in the Da Vinci Code, most impressive. While I was there I met a young cyclist, Koen Delrve, he has cycled through Europe, Asia, I'm not sure where else. He was returning from Compostela, a journey of some 17,000k, on his way home, he goes back to work in 2 months. He feels time running away from him now, he might return to the East before he finishes, he has fallen in love with the Orient.

The Refugio does not open until 3.00 but 8 am happy to sit in the afternoon sun and wait, However at around 2.30, Jean, a Frenchman, who is looking after the Refugio in the absence of Mari Luz & Jan, invites me in.

He offers me a cold herbal tea, which I gratefully accept, shows me the dorm, invites me to take two mats and put them one on top of the other in a place of my choice, this will be my place for the night.

He explains that there will only be eight in total, we will have a communal meal at 8.00, we will. if you so wish, then visit the church for a short service, readings and a pilgrim's prayer. Silence is to be observed, except at the meal, each is left to his own thoughts, after the evening prayers we all retire. We will be given breakfast in the morning. You leave whatever you like as a donation; there is no charge as such. There are separate toilets and showers for the ladies and the gents.

He leaves me, I take full advantage of the fact that I am there on my own, I have a leisurely shower, get out of the walking duds, and feeling suitably refreshed go out to sit and enjoy the afternoon sun.

Others are arriving, I meet Anita, a happy, infectious laughing German lady, young by my standards, then Barbara, and her friend Brigitte, I simply call her Brigit for convenience, easy for me to remember, Mark, a sturdy French man, I think speaks German, French, Spanish and a little English, of course I am embarrassed.

Barbara and Anita both have good English, Brigitte could get by, and then two others, (an Irishman!) Dave, adopted Irishman, he has lived in Belfast for around 20 years, works with youth, a sports therapist, great conversationalist, knowledgeable and very articulate, a great guy, and then of course the joker in the pack! Benjamin! 'I'm going to change the world ' Benjamin, a young Frenchman 28 years of age, full of life, vigour, fun, I just know this guy has a big heart. Those are my companions for the evening, and my friends for life. Later two cyclists arrive but so what we are now nine, plenty of room and they too are made welcome. Jean has explained that for the evening the house is our home. And a warm homely atmosphere pervades the place.

Jan, Mari Luz arrive together with their daughter an extremely good looking lassie perhaps 20, they have picked her up from the Airport she has returned from Holland, they are naturally spending the evening with their daughter, and will not be joining us. I sit out enjoying the evening sun, that lovely warm comfortable feeling, I have taken my MP3 player with me, and I am listening to a Colm Sands tape, and singing. I don't realise that I am singing so loud, I'm just singing along, but Mari Luz is out in the area in front of the Refugio with her daughter and they have been listening to me. I am totally oblivious but eventually she attracts my attention and calls me over. I hand her one of the earpieces and continue to sing. Colm is singing 'I am the child with the troubled eyes, you see me when the deed is done' I finish the song or rather Colm finishes the song, and she says how much she enjoyed it.

I tell her about the Sands Family, their great art and great heart, she enquires about my Camino, I explain about my desire to raise awareness of the Continent of Africa's plight and the connection with the shell that I wear. 'We know Badagary, we lived there' . So we talk on. She explains a little about the evening service which we will have after our meal, and says 'We usually start it with a song, will you sing?'

'Of course I will, but what?'

'Whatever' she says, 'perhaps a love song', and she says Barbara, will sing to close the service.

Barbara, Mark, Brigitte, David, Anita and I had met already on the Camino. We may not have known each others names until that night but we were travelling at about the same rate, and we constantly overtook each other stopping at different places during the day, and probably covering about the same distance each day. So it was arranged. I did not know what I was going to sing, but sing I would whenever the time came.

We assemble at 8.00 for the meal, there has been silence throughout the house, visitors are constantly coming to the Church, by bike, walkers, buses, I attended a part of a Mass, actually the very last bit, just at the blessing, but the house itself observes 'The Silence'.

The dinner itself is something quite different, we are all talking and exchanging our experiences on the Camino. 'Yes I saw you such and such a place" and so on' .

Jean had a little English and does his best to prepare us for our service which was yet to come. He has opened a bottle of wine and then a second before the meal is over. We start with a well-prepared mixed salad, plenty of bread, a dish, which could perhaps be described as a bean stew, follows this and then he opens a large container of yoghurt, which you liberally cover with sugar. There are plenty of willing hands for the washing up, I consider that age being honourable, I do not have to help and I allow myself the luxury of sitting back watching others working.

Perhaps at about 9.40, we approach the Chapel; we have each been given a candle, which we light at the door. I think of the light of Christ, light being his symbol, as we enter the darkened Church. Others among have been given readings to say in our respective languages, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and English. Come to think of it there were no Spanish that night, perhaps Jean said the Spanish Prayer. Jean said a few words and invited me to sing. Only seconds before I had decided what I would sing, A Song for Ireland - 'Here we were, in tall towers walking all the day, then talking all the day, then drinking all the day,'. (well some of us would have liked to have been drinking all the day!)

And then finally the last verse where we see our poor country still crying in the Dawn, but being uplifted like the Falcons, which twist and turn in your morning light. As I sing each chorus, I can hear the Atlantic Ocean crashing on our Western Shores. Octagonal Church, stonewalls, quite small, the quality of sound is brilliant. I know I sang it well. We then had the various readings, followed by a prayer for Pilgrims. Then Barbara sang, she has a beautiful voice and although I never understood one word, I was moved. Perhaps the Pilgrims Prayer came last, but altogether it was almost moving experience. The candles are blown out and we return to the house and to 'Silence'.

Breakfast will start at 7.00 in the morning; anyone wishing to go earlier can certainly go, the door will be open. I think I was first down to breakfast - a wonderful muesli, plenty of bread coffee, fruit, and preserves. Well set up to face the day.

Silence is still being observed, and there are proverbs etc to read. In addition, there is a box, from which you are invited to take a 'Thought for the day' with you. Boxes in English and French, you take this message with you, to be opened later, at a quiet time whenever you are on your own, this is your personal message, your own personal thought.

Mark has already gone, the cyclists are outside our group, not excluded, because we had great chat the night before, but they're different. I thank our hosts and leave. I haven't gone far along the road whenever I realise I have not put anything into the donations box, so I come tripping back to correct that and on my way back out I join up with Benjamin.

He's a great guy we walked all day together, finally I read my message, the gist of it is, 'Whenever in life, you have to choose between two roads, examine them and choose the road that has a heart, in choosing the one with the heart you will not be disappointed'

In my own life I know that where Alice and I had to choose a road, from perhaps several options, we choose the road with the heart or rather we choose with the heart and we were not disappointed. I had a wonderful day with Benjamin, full of joy and humour. 'I want to change the world' he would shout and then apologise because he didn't know the rest of it. He has found his pace now, and is moving a lot quicker than the rest of us. He broke up with his girlfriend about a month ago, but he loves her 'toujours', perhaps he is in a hurry to get back to her.

I told him my message, it is also his message, I hope and pray he makes the right decision and chooses with his heart. He has a big heart, perhaps easily bruised. I hope he comes visit me in Rostrevor; I am to go and drink wine with him in his Burgundy home. Will I ever be able to do all I still want to do in this life? I must choose with the heart.

Days 71 to 86   

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