For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints

Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a donkey in the Cevenne

This is only sometimes true!
This is only sometimes true!

Roncesvalles to Pamplona

Distance travelled: 40-45 km

Heading out to Pamplona today, the city famous for its annual bull-running event.  First day on the bikes and the first day too having to find a hostel ‘on the hoof’. Pilgrims we had spoken to were phoning ahead, making sure that there was a bed available when they arrived at their destination, but I didn’t want to do this; we had booked all we were going to before leaving the UK and I wanted to turn up as a weary pilgrim, pleading for a bed if necessary. We did, after all, have the dreaded tent!

We didn't realise just how dark this upcoming tree lined trail would be at 6.30 in the morning!
We didn’t realise just how dark this upcoming tree lined trail would be at 6.30 in the morning!

We encountered our first problem today – no front lights on the bike. The hour time difference had an enormous effect on the light at 6 am – it was still night!

We were ‘woken’ at 6 am by the lights going on in the hostel and monastic music lulling us gently into the morning. I say woken; but it was more like 3 am when I had actually become aware of the people sharing our small 4 bedded section. That meant I had had a whole 6 hours sleep, whoop! Whoop! Having booked the hostel before we left home, we were the first to be allocated a bed which was the nearest to the bathrooms! There were women going in and out all night long, and the door banged every time!

The first 20 minutes through the tree lined avenue was slow; unused to having a heavily laden bike and in any case, unused to this bike with its V-brakes and front-only suspension (I can’t remember the last time I used V-brakes!), we took the track cautiously, picking our way through the pilgrims that had beaten us to the trail. The approaching gentle call of ‘hola!’ and a ‘Buen Camino’ was received muted responses as the gloom rose around us; did I sense a little friction between the walking and cycling communities?

The trails were fine for bikes but I was glad of my experience as an off-roader as there were some challenges – single track, rooties, drop offs as well as large sections of loose shingle in varying depths on some of the steeper descents. A moment not concentrating and well….I am sure it is a familiar tale to cyclists!

Looking back at Zubiri
Looking back at Zubiri

We sped through villages and along the trails ending up in Larrasona for a lunch stop. The only place we found open there was a supermarket. They did serve coffee at the tables as well as offering the opportunity to buy provisions but the shop itself took some finding. It is over the bridge and turn left, and keep going til you get there. But I would advise an earlier stop at Zubiri as there are more cafes.

The Camino is not all about pretty medieval villages and rolling hills. And the trail takes you past many industrial zones, the outskirts of Zubiri our first taste of this and again as you head into Pamplona.

Pamplona's City Hall
Pamplona’s City Hall

The route into Pamplona for walkers follows a steeper route, accessed by steps and although we started the push up, it was clear that it was impassable with bikes. We retraced our steps and opted instead for the route that winds alongside the river, flatter but still picturesque and provided many opportunities to sit and recharge by the water. Note to self however: probably best not to leave cycle helmets on the rocks by the river! I accidentally kicked my partner’s (wasp on leg, so desperate situation!) but thanks to his quick reaction, nobody had to brave the rapids!

Pamplona's City streets
Pamplona’s City streets

This is one advantage of cycling the route; heading into Pamplona and its industrial outskirts takes about an hour + on foot but on bicycles, it is barely noticeable and you are soon at the Porte de Frances, the city gate.

A capsule bed, cosy and the best night’s sleep yet!

My guidebook advised that there are only two albergues in the city but it is a little dated now; the place is teeming with beds and we stopped at the first one we came to on Calle del Carmen offering capsule beds, hot showers, free Wifi and….a hairdryer! 15€ with breakfast and a place for the bikes.

Not bull-running but a little bit of entertainment for the evening!
Not bull-running but a little bit of entertainment for the evening!
What the Citadelle in Pamplona once looked like
What the Citadelle in Pamplona once looked like