Stage 38: From Zubiri to Pamplona

The axis today is Arga River


When you walk on the Camino francés, you will quickly see, rather you will hear that Americans are legion here. Why? This is actually because a movie that has been very successful in United States, The Way, a film by Emilio Estevez, which features a comfortable American doctor, who urgently travels to France where his son Daniel has just disappeared. He is asked in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to ascertain the death of his son during the course to Roncesvalles. Of course, the relationship between father and son had to be complicated to create a story. What did the scriptwriter do? He sent the father to do the Santiago track. Simple, no? Of course, the doctor has a difficult character and it takes a lot of time to open up to others, to Jack the Irishman, to Sarah the Canadian, or to Joost the Dutchman. They will discover each other gradually, with a lot of clashes and misunderstandings. They will arrive at Santiago and then at the seaside where the hero will throw the ashes of his son to the sea, under the gaze of his companions.

The film, produced in 2010, was a resounding success in America and Spain, and later in France. Some critics have seen a pious idea, as many pilgrims who still go on the path as an occasion for redemption. Others have seen a psychiatric analysis of father-son relationships, citing the superficial relationships among the participants in the trip. But critics, for the most part, have defined the film as a commercial, a stereotypical view of what has become “The Way” today. It is for them theatre, ritornellos added to the legend of the way. This point of view is not wrong, alas. The French Camino has certainly lost much of its religious component. Let’s not forget that the film was made by Americans, and when you lived there, you know that much of the relationship between people is very superficial. You can spend an evening with an American and meet him again the next day. He will not remember seeing you. So, you will find Americans on the track and you will see that it does not change. As in the movie, the Americans here only open to English speakers. And so little, that’s enough for their happiness.

The stage of the day is a beautiful walk in the narrow Arga valley. The path twirls on both sides of the valley on small hills, to reach Pamplona (Pamplona). When you’ll arrive here, in the fortress, remember that many war events have happened here. Of course, you can go straight into your “alberghe” and ignore everything about this story. But it’s always interesting to have a little idea of the places you cross. So, here are some brief elements to enlighten the subject. Pompey, the Roman general would have established here a city towards 75 BC giving it the name of Pompaelo, which would have given Pamplona (Pamplona). Beyond the roman period, they would have erected important ramparts here, about 67 towers. Then there were many invasions, first the Franks, then the Arabs. But the greatest damage was caused by Charlemagne at the end of the VIIIth century, who razed the ramparts. In retaliation, the Basques trapped Charlemagne’s army, including the legendary Roland, at Roncesvalles. At the end of the IXth century, the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre. The city developed then especially in the Middle Ages, thanks to the Santiago track. At that time, the city consisted of three distinct boroughs. The most important was the Navarreria, around the cathedral, with the king, the court and the clergy. The other two boroughs were those of San Saturnio and San Nicolas, populated by artisans and merchants from the northern Pyrenees. Each town had its own fortifications. We will tell you a little more about the history of Navarre later, in the next stage. Let’s just say that Philip II, fearing the French, built this huge fortress around the city. Many walls still exist.

Slope variations (+270 meters /-346 meters) are very low in the day’s stage. There is not much to report as difficulties. However, let’s mention some passages a little more sustained. First, at the beginning of the stage we note the passage after the gravel pit towards Ilaratz and the descent on the slabs to Arga River before Zuriain. Then, on a very short stretch, the path climbs sharply in the bush after Zabaldika. The following is no problem.

In this stage, there is a lot of road, because you cross the city. But, most of the trip is on the pathways.In Spain, apart from villages and towns, paved roads, for the most part, have grassy strips or dirt on the sides. Thus, the Camino francés is above all a true pathway, compared to other tracks of Compostela in Europe, where the courses are only halfway on dirt roads:


Paved road: 7.0 km

Pathways: 13.3 km

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.

There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes “in real” the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.

In the text, lodging on the course is mentioned, without great details. You’ll find details about housing at the end of the course. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:

Click here to start the stage on the first section. Avant

If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.

Click here for details of lodgings. Avant