Today was humbling, but wonderful, all at the same time.
I was up and would have been out on the Camino by 7, but the girls I was sharing a room with were getting a good nights sleep so I laid there writing part 2 of my entry about the Pamplona to Puenta la Reina segment. Once we were up and moving, Ayna suggested that we stop for pastry and cappuccino on our way out of town.
The bakery was really sweet and the food and drink delicious.
With the bakery on the camino’s exit Ayna and I were like the goodbye committee. We saw so many people we knew.
I was especially excited to see Lianate from Brazil who I hadn’t seen since Roncevalles. I had lent her my super lightweight daypack (it is a good to always have a daypack in the event you need to ship your main bag ahead for any reason) in Orisson because her knees were really bad and she was shipping her bag ahead and didn’t have a daypack. She was feeling much better when I saw her today but because I had already replaced the pack when I was in Pamplona, I suggested she keep the one I let her borrow and she was grateful.
I just adore Ayna. For those of you from the Valley, I think you will know what I mean when I tell you I am quite sure she is Serena Fox’s soul sister. She even looks like her.
With a late start, I felt like it was in a deficit before I even started. But I soon forgot that when I saw the beautiful 6 arch bridge that was built in the 11th century.
This bridge was built in the Middle Ages when over a million people a year passed this way on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The bridge gave pilgrims a free and safe way to cross the River Arga. Prior to the bridge pilgrims had to rely on barges that were operated by people of dubious character who would often require large sums of money to cross or would rob pilgrims once they were on the barge.
Ayna said good-bye and moved on when it became obvious I would be taking a lot of pictures which would slow down our walking.
If you have been to Italy you know all about hill towns that were built at the top of mountains for protection and to be able to see for miles and miles 360 degrees. The ancient villages in Spain are similar.
That is Cirauqui up at the top of that hill and of course that is where we are going! Up up up!
After Cirauqui we got a little taste of Roman Roads.
This road system was built over 2000 years ago and served as a way to move troops and supplies and foster communications throughout the Roman Empire.
For quite a while today the pilgrim path went through farm fields, olive groves and vineyards. Often there was a foot path right next to a gravel road. I was walking mostly on the gravel road because it was easier, but then I thought I should walk for a while on the foot path to see if I could feel the energy of pilgrims who have walked on those same stones for over 1000 years. I was rewarded with a message.
Sometimes the arrows can get creative.
Here is some fairly new technology that I found fascinating. The sign says it is a canal. I will need to do research about this when I get home.
And another Roman Bridge.
Then a memorial to another fallen pilgrim. This time a Danish man who took his last steps on earth on the way to Lorca in 2011.
The 5.7k walk from Cirauqui to Lorca seemed to last forever and of course there was a climb into town. The first thing I noticed when I got to the top was the smell of freshly baked bread!
But alas, this was a wholesale bakery with no sales to the public. So I continued walking eager for a bar and just as I was running out of town, there were two of them!
I went into one and saw a couple of guys I had met in Cirauqui and they said they were done for the day and staying there. With my original destination of Estella still 8k away and seeing those guys enjoying a beer and Paella, I asked about a private room and lucked out! I got a private room with a shared bath and by 2:30 I was showered, my clothes were cleaned and drying and I was ordering my first Paella of the trip.
I was in heaven.
And now the magic started to happen.
First, I met Theo. He is a 76 year old Swiss man who started the Camino just 3 days ago in Saint Jean Pied de Port. This is his 7th Camino; all but one have been on the Camino Frances. He ordered a slice of Tortilla and a beer. He had walked so far from Cizur Mayor today and was going to Estella (that town 8k away that I couldn’t make it to!). Theo averages 40k a day! That is 25 miles!
He had fallen in Pamplona because he passed out from not eating breakfast. His hand was wrapped up and he had a few stitches that needed protection.
After he moved on, I talked with Urban, a danish man who showed me a beautiful 85 foot wooden restored sailboat that he was supposed to have been on. His friends invited him on a 15 month sailing journey from Denmark, down the European coast, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the up the US coast and the Canadian coast and then to Greenland, Iceland and eventually back to Denmark.
A month ago they were somewhere near the English coast and their sails were up and a strong wind pulled the boat over and Urban said within seconds the boat was sunk. He and the other 12 passengers all survived thanks to a rescue by the coast guard. Two weeks ago they had the boat raised and brought to dry dock where they retrieved their things. The clothes he was wearing today had been in that boat when it sunk. Urban, who is 54, was quite emotional telling the story as you could imagine! So he still had 13 months of leave left and friends urged him to walk the Camino.
I had heard about a guy who crossed the Pyrenees barefooted. It was Urban! He sometimes will use shoes but he is much more comfortable walking on grass and the Roman roads with their rounded worn stones in bare feet.
Then I met Hugh, a 27 year old Frenchman. Hugh had intended to walk from west to east across the Pyrenees (Appalachian trail style) over 10 days but then met three pilgrims on the train from Bayonne to Saint Jean Pied de Port who said “Hey! Why don’t you walk the Camino with us.” So he got rid of his tent and camp stove and became a pilgrim.
While yesterday it felt right to push myself to my original destination, today it didn’t. My knees had started to hurt, just a little and I didn’t want them to become a problem. My toes are still sore, but feeling much better with the sandals. Stopping today felt right.
As I learned about the Camino I discovered that many pilgrims try to get to their destination by mid afternoon. Arriving in Puenta la Reina yesterday at 5 didn’t give me adequate time to rest and recover. And with the late start this morning it was going to be another late arrival if I kept to the original plan for the day.
I was sad because many of my pilgrim family made it to Estella with no problems. I don’t know if or when I will see them again. But, I am not disappointed in myself. I did the right thing and was rewarded by meeting a whole new group of people.
I am considering a very short day tomorrow I may just go to Estella, a short 8k from here and have another partial rest day. Or, if I am feeling strong, I will continue on farther. It’s my Camino.