18- 20 April Time to catch up on the Blog as I sit here in a cafe in the ancient Camino town of Estella with it’s three churches, all representing the separate and distinct interests of it’s mixed inhabitant. I’m consuming the ‘Menu del Dia” of Pallela, Pollo con salsa y crevasa grande. It’s all so delicious. (Camino Puente and Estella)
Post Rest Day #1
The hike out of Pamplona was welcomed, it was good to be out again in this incredibly beautiful countryside. The terrain is subtly changing from a mountain influenced climate to a Mediterranean one. The hills are rolling, covered with grains and wine vines. The temperatures have risen, but offset by the terrific winds at the higher points. Even the homes and churches are changing from the French/German influenced styles with stone grays colors to the more lighter sandstone variety.
This side of Nervarra is different from it’s more eastern regions. Even the weather has changed. In the mountains and foothills we were constantly shrouded in the mists of clouds, here, here, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and it’s a deep royal blue (azure). Whereas in the west, we were shaded by tall evergreens (even a few redwoods) and the spindly, gnarly trees on the hillsides, here they are much shorter and few in between. Olive trees and palms are starting to pop up among the trails. The walking is easier, much easier with gentle slope of crushed rock trails. A much needed relief from the past three days.
Yesterday’s hike saw me to the ancient town of Puente de Reina (needless to say is that every town along the camino is ‘ancient’) most notably known for it’s famous six span stone bridge. Legend has it that a popular local queen commissioned it to put the local extortionist ferrymen and bandits out of the ‘pilgrim take advantage’ program. Before arriving in the town I took an excursion route to see the Eunate Church which is cited as possibly an old Templar church because of it’ octagonal shape. It was worth the extra two miles, but my feet probably didn’t appreciate it by hauling me for 16.6 miles for the day.
Today’s hike was much easier at 13 miles with more subtle rolling hills and groomed paths (very little road walking). I left the hotel at 0630 and made good time, even though I did do the unthinkable by taking a 20 minute break for coffee and a tortilla. The tortillas here are not like we’re accustomed to in the US. They’re like these monstrous quiches filled with meats, and cheeses and potatoes. Very filling.
What makes this endeavor so interesting is not only the sights and sounds and foods, but the characters you meet along the way. Every Caminoite has their own story. Last night I ate with a Dutch gentlemen whose wife died of cancer last year and he additionally had a traumatic injury to his knee last September. He showed me an X-ray that he keeps for airport security and I was amazed at how much metals he;’s carrying in there, and still walking. He claims it s a miracle or a testament to modern medicine – he’s not sure which.
This morning I passed an elderly American woman who was struggling up a hill. When I stopped to inquire if she was OK and she said, yes, but I’m just ‘old, fat and tired’. I liked her self assessment, she was an honest women. I suggested that by the end of the Camino she’d feel like neither and left her to her version of the Camino.
Then there was the young man from Northern Italy who was walking with his dog Bombos, or something like that. It was pretty cool.
Later, I also came across a Lithuanian man who was on his second trip. I noted he had to stop every few hundred meters to catch his breath, so he encouraged me along. I found out later he suffers from emphysema and finds these trips invigorating for his health. Everybody has their story
The crowds of the first few days seem too have thinned out as there’s fewer perigrinos on the path (or I’ve successfully passed them all?) and the competition for room space doesn’t seem to be so energetic. I suspect we saw a glut of walkers who come out over the Easter week and now are back at work. It’s nice. There are two common phrases on the Camino, one is Buen Camino which everybody says to everybody else. The other is “shut up and walk already” which is never said, but often thought…..well, at least by me. Five days into the hike I’m more inclined to say Buen Camino than the other as the groups are much smaller and the chatting is down to a bare minimum. Solitude on the path seems to be a common desire. I like that.
Navigating on the Camino
It’s easy, just follow the floating back pack in front of you, it’s always there. If you think you’ve passed them all and are in the lead, your wrong, keep looking. But, if you can’t see far enough ahead to find it, look for the omnipresent Camino sign with a blue background and yellow, outlined scallop shell.
They are everywhere, and often accompanied with a yellow arrow to help clarify the direction. If the shell isn’t there, look for the the yellow arrow. You’ll find them painted all over the ground and walls, every where. They’re incredibly helpful, they’ll paint three or four to an intersection just to make sure the peligrinos don’t get lost. Finally, if that fails, guess. You’ll probably be right and if not, ask somebody. The final worst case option is to pull out the telephone and fire up the GPS. Works every time! Finding your way on the Camino Frances is no problem.
Interesting Links (Camino Puente and Estella)
- Photos along the Camino and throughout the Iberian Peninsula
- Return to the beginning of this Journal Blog
- Enjoy our Journal Blog about our travels throughout Italy
Camino Puente and Estella
Camino Puente and Estella