May 17, 2011 Cirauqui to Estella

People began rustling around the albergue at 06:00 and a Korean girl turned on the light (not good pilgrim etiquette) at 06:15. I managed to stay in bed until 06:30 then up and out at 07:00 (early for me). I enjoyed a slow walk to Estella. Met Sheila from San Francisco and sat for a bit with Roberto of Italy, Felipe of France (had met him with Roberto at the top of Col Orisson) and Ariel of Netherlands at a park as I came into Estella. The dog’s name is Ma-at and is 8 months old, with one month of his life spent on the walk with Philippe from Le Puy in France to Estella. So that dog had something like 1000 km already on his odometer.

I bought a phone in town and then went to find the Internet at the local library so I could send an email to Rock and Luke with my new phone number. I decided to stay at swanky hotel here to unwind and knew that Rocky, who I though I’d see here, would appreciate that. Waiting for her at Plaza Mayor 12:45.

Just now starting to get into the camino spirit. Could be the cervesa I’m enjoying, but am recognizing there’s really no need to rush and that every day holds its charms. I’ve decided to let go of my anxiety about where Luke is and how Rocky is. They’re both adults and going at their own pace. I’m appreciating Estella now. Charming town with narrow Calle Mayor and older people who look grim, but hard to protest with beautiful weather. The Plaza Mayor is dominated by a large Romanesque revival church with two towers and the place, which I’d walked by but not through in 2008, has its charms.

Had dinner after finding Luke, who had taken bus to Estella and was waiting for Gal and Lila at the municipal albergue. Earlier I’d had nice visit with Luke, Robert and Philippe at park. Night at nice hotel. Rocky, I just learned, had gone on to Los Arcos for blister care and rest, so she’s now ahead. I slept quiet night by myself at Chapitel Hotel just below the grand citadel/church above city. Would happily recommend this boutique hotel to pilgrims stopping in Estella. A charming, older building with an ultra-modern interior.

May 16, 2011 Puenta la Reina to Cirauqui

Church door near Cirauqui

Slept until 08:30, then downstairs to have breakfast and meet with Luke and make plans. Went to Farmacia with him, bought his drugs and some white tape for my toes, which had developed blisters. Decided Luke would stay at PLR with Gal and Lila, rest a day, make plans, and then connect via Internet/cell to stay in touch. Recognizing his slower pace and his growing interest in the two young ladies I realized I potentially will not see him until journey’s end at Santiago.

Decided on a short walk today in order to slow down, relax a bit, and enjoy one of my favorite little towns. So I walked only 7.5 km to Cirauqui and am on porch overlooking church as I write this, visiting with Kim and Janie from Arkansas. Very nice day with clear blue sky. Cool breeze. I washed laundry then wandered the town. Found bowl of fish soup at bar feeding about 20 workmen. Good soup with lots of bread to dip. Back to albergue for laundry and conversation, then Mass at the church at 19:00. Energetic and enthusiastic older priest who seemed much loved by the elderly ladies.

Dinner at 19:30. At first I was nervous that there were few English speakers at table. Kim, Janey and me, plus 3 Basques, one Korean, one Hungarian. The Basques were very interested in talking, so I had my first experience as an interpreter. The Basques were curious why I had done so many caminos. Told them I was a priest and a friend of Santo Santiago. The middle one said, “Es claro!” After a great dinner and enthusiastic conversation headed to bed in the same bunk I’d enjoyed 3 years earlier — looking out toward the south, seeing nothing but green hills with vineyards in the distance. Cirauqui was great international experience. Met Americans, Dutch, German, Korean, Spanish, British, Hungarian, French.

May 24, 2008 Cizur Menor to Cirauqui

My blisters were quite obnoxious yesterday and it was clear to me now that my best solution would be to purchase hiking boots at the next available town. Stepping onto my feet was an act of will, with each step coming with excruciating pain.

I set out in the morning on my own, but as I made my way uphill to the Alto del Perdon, the heights above Pamplona, I came across Stefan and Trevor, my new South African friends. Trevor was suffering some tendonitis, though he’s obviously a very athletic fellow, and he was slowed down by the constant pain in his leg. We walked together up the steep hill, with Stefan providing some great ideas to make the most of my camino. Since this was his second time on this pilgrimage he suggested upcoming sites that I should be certain not to miss.

At the top of Alto del Perdon we looked out across the vast valley that lay before us, seemingly able to see as far as the next large town of LogroƱo. Fog rolled in from the north and at times the valley was completely hidden in the mist. At the top of the hill, as on many Spanish hills, were large wind generators. These, too, were often obscured in the clouds. The fog covered the trail and hid us from each other and the vast views.

After walking through the towns of Uterga and Obanos we were at the valley floor, walking among small farms through the towns at the outskirts of Navarre, getting ready to welcome the next province of La Rioja. As we came to the town of Punte la Reina, with its historic medieval bridge, we stepped aside as a Corpus Christi procession came by. Women wearing red and men dressed in formal clothes escorted a statue of the Virgin Mary down the street, accompanied by a marching band. What a great introduction to Spanish religious and cultural life!

Among the vineyard a couple of hours after Puente la Reina a beautiful hilltop city came into view — Cirauqui, my goal for the night. The path into town had turned to sticky, red mud and I nearly lost my shoes several times as I slogged my way through the mud. Heading up to the top of the city I came upon the private albergue, just across the plaza from the hilltop church. After laundry and conversation with other pilgrims, followed by de-mucking my shoes in the fountain by the church, I shared a delightful dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Before bed that night in a room with 5-6 other pilgrims in double bunks, I admired the view to the south over the green hills of La Rioja.