Some of you might have read the book of nearly that name, which was an excellent follow up to “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”, relating the story of a young South African girl who just happens to be a mathematical genius and who somehow gets involved in a nuclear incident involving Sweden, Israel and China.
I rather enjoyed the book, finding it to be a genuine flight of fancy and depicting events that were unlikely to actually ever come close to actually occurring.
That was until I met “Edwin” this morning on the way out of Pamplona.
“Edwin” is an Australian theoretical physicist and a professor at Melbourne University who, in response to the standard “where are you from/what do you do?” question then told me about how he’d recently been working for Putin, how he’d stolen Trident submarine technology to improve “gradiometers” and how he’d been determinedly resisting the rising tide of Chinese influence in Africa in recent times, all related in a 15 minute stream of narrative while toting a 17kg pack which contained important materials for his next board meeting.
It takes all sorts, I suppose.
Once I’d recovered from the mental impact of all that unexpected information, while also wondering if I had somehow breached the Official Secrets Act just by listening to “Edwin”, I was increasingly aware of just how beautiful the day was becoming.
The route out of Pamplona ascends slowly up onto a mountain ridge peppered with wind turbines, with rolling farmland for miles around.
The climb became quite steep, until it peaked at about 800m above sea level, revealing an open air Sunday church and a set of gorgeous bronze figures of medieval Pilgrims.
It suddenly made me think of just how different our experience of the Camino is, compared to those earlier travellers.
They didn’t have GPS, Google maps, WiFi, or the benefit of the astonishingly clear route markings along the way.
As well as that, they would have had greater difficulty in finding somewhere to safe to sleep and they’d be running the risk of roadside marauders and roguish landlords.
Then I thought of whether they all had good shoes – and I felt rather squeamish for a moment in thinking about those that didn’t.
Today has been a slightly tougher stage, with a full day of sunshine to contend with, but I’ve completed the full 24km to arrive safely in Puente la Reina (The Queen’s Bridge), yet another in a series of lovely towns and villages that line this route.
In doing so, I’ve walked more than a hundred kilometres in four days and seen how a country can change over that distance.
Thankfully, that’s what remains uppermost in my mind, rather than the self-declared fantabulousness of “Edwin”.
Jesus y Maria, Pamplona:
An enormous rack of bunk beds in a converted church in the centre of Pamplona, ludicrously cheap, but a little subject to exterior noise from Saturday night revellers.
Still no bedbugs and the mosquito bite stuff is doing it’s work for me.
Beyond the little cut on the left pinkie this morning after the successful belt surgery, there is absolutely nothing to report.
Left Knee continues to tolerate the steep descents that triggered a protest two days ago, so maybe it’s just decided to get with the programme.
STILL no blisters.
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (0)
Applications of Factor 50: 7 (15)
Filling of Water Bottles: 4 (8)
Acceptance of pathside lemonade stall opportunities: 2
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: Almost statistically insignificant – about 50.
No one is yet saying “See you along the way” but I’ll keep pushing it.
Poncho deployments: 0 (2)
There’s a swimming pool here, which isn’t quite the authentic pilgrim experience, but I might just dip my toes in shortly.