May 15, 2011 Pamplona to Puente la Reina

At Pamplona last night I’d made a plan with the others to walk to Puente la Reina and meet at 19:00 at the famous bridge for which the town is named. I worried about Luke being able to make this walk, as his knee was swollen and painful.

Once again I found myself unprepared for a Sunday, the day of the week in which shops open late or not at all. So I left the hotel at about 08:00 with no food or water. Toward the outskirts of town I found a news kiosk opening and bought 4×0.25 liters of water plus 2 sugar donuts. I wolfed down the donuts (guiltily of course) and walked to outskirts of town where I found a baker with some much-loved chocolate croissants (whew), and then I headed for the climb up to Alto de Perdon.

A large group of Spanish schoolchildren of about 10 years of age were walking along, unintentionally accompanying a stream of pilgrims up the hill. I tried to engage some in conversation but they had been well taught not to talk to strangers. I met a tall Dutchman (Marty?), a nice Italian who loves American music and a New Age Portuguese man who I remember as having been drying his red shirt back at the Roncesvalles albergue’s bathroom. I made the top of Alto de Perdon with the Italian fellow. On the way up I also met a nice Danish pair — two women +/- 50 years old — who needed help with their camera and gave me 1/2 sandwich since I had no food.

Walking out of Pamplona

I continued on to Uterga and Obanos but first made a diversion to Eunate and enjoyed new friends Kim and Janie of Arkansas and James and Laurel of New Hampshire. We laid in sunshine on the grass together and talked about home. Eunate was locked shut but the hospitalero of the adjacent albergue opened it for a few minutes every hour or so. I walked on to Obano by myself until meeting three Koreans approaching Puente la Reina. I arrived at PLR and heard a shout from across street, and there was Rocky getting out of car. She had hitched a ride over Alto de Perdon and also from Obanos to PLR. We walked together past the albergue, went to bridge to find the other albergue across river and saw Luke already waiting for us — sleeping on a bench at the famous bridge. He had taken a bus to PLR and Gal and Lila had walked. Luke’s knee was still hurting, so we strategized about how to get him to a doc. I decided to get a hotel for us and found one in the middle of Calle Mayor. I asked at the desk about a local doc and they called and directed us to nearby clinic. The Doc examined Luke via touch and sight and pronounced that he needed a shot of toradol and a prescription for naproxin. Had dinner at hotel with Canadian couple — she a retired teacher and he retired from a hiking tour company. I’m the one walking pilgrim from our little pilgrim family right now and am hoping that Rocky will get stronger and Luke will heal.

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 Logroño. 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.