Multitudes of multiplying multiculturalism.

Life as a solo long-distance hiker can be isolating. Lengthy stretches of time walking in solitude can detach you from the outside world. However, after just 36 hours on the Camino, I could have not felt more connected. By the time I finished breakfast on Day 2, I had befriended at least one pilgrim from every continent (except for the notoriously travel-shy Antarcticans). The Camino de Santiago must be one of the most genuinely multicultural experiences on earth.

Camino de Santiago Diary – Day 2

The wintery scenes that filtered through Albergue de Roncesvalles’ stone-framed windows did little to inspire hiker enthusiasm. The stormy conditions we’d encountered on Day 1’s trek over the Pyrenees had returned to torment our journey. Thankfully, spirited pilgrim camaraderie warmed the early hours. I removed the thoroughly absorbent newspaper from my shoes, collected my new hiking stick I’d found on yesterday’s forest-filled descent and resumed my Camino into the misty rain.

The morning route weaved through the quintessential Basque-Navarran villages of Burguete (best known as Hemingway’s Pyreneesian hotspot), Espinal and Biskarreta. Each town had its own unique qualities, but all were characteristic of the region. Whitewashed stone cottages with rustic wooden window shutters and earthy terracotta rooftops featured heavily. Despite the murky conditions, the unpretentious hamlets remained elegant.

Burguete Church Camino Frances

Passing through the village of Burguete.

Throughout the morning, I hiked past and alongside pilgrims with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, passports and ages. All, however, greeted me with the same cheery welcome, ‘Buen Camino!’  The entire day was loaded with incredible friendliness from hikers, tourists and locals alike. The sense of community and goodwill was immeasurable; an utterly contrasting experience to my first long-distance trek along the contemplative Heysen Trail.

A common pilgrim phrase is ‘Buen Camino’, which literally translates as ‘good path’, but is generally received as ‘good luck and happy travelling’.
Pilgrim Greeting

Much of the day’s ramble was enriched by an enlightening conversation with a South African pastor called Jana. Our time was spent examining existential views, sharing spiritual beliefs and addressing the hilarious nuances in our accents.

By the time we stopped for lunch, my arms had performed as much work as my legs and mouth; constantly removing and reapplying wet weather gear. Flashes of intense rain whipped through the region and sent embattled pilgrims hurtling for shelter. However, once the weather cleared, the views enchanted.

Camino Roncesvalles Forest

Dense forests closed off the outside world.

Forests lined with oak and beech trees entangled with tendrilled vines, and smoothed rocks carpeted in ancient moss, escorted the day’s path. These enclosed habitats soon opened into panoramas of the billowing Pyrenees foothills. Undulating slopes cloaked in dense woodlands and patterned by the erratic stamps of migrating clouds momentarily overawed our absorbing chat.

View of the Pyrenees Camino

Before we knew it, Jana and I had walked the 21-kilometre stretch to riverside Zubiri—the day’s final stop for many pilgrims on Day 2. Despite our aching legs and impending exhaustion, we decided to follow the Río Arga a further 6 kilometres to the hamlet of Larrasoaña.

Larrasoaña Río Arga Camino

Cooling my heels in Río Arga, Larrasoaña.

The afternoon’s extended expedition was by far the right decision. The historical city of Pamplona was on the horizon on Day 3, and this additional jaunt gave us a headstart to the Navarre capital. I finished the day by refreshing my feet in the village’s icy river and devouring the most delicious meal of the trail so far at Albergue San Nicolas.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

27.4km

Accommodation

Albergue San Nicolas

Price

€12

Terrain

The route takes pilgrims through villages and settlements, then through forests, along rocky footpaths and up to views of the Pyrenees. A well-stocked mishmash of nature and civilisation en route to Larrasoaña.