The five Germans in our dormitory of 10 announced they would be getting up at 5.30am so that they could make an early start. Ho Hum!
I was really pleased with my decision to press on to Zariquiegui as albergue San Andres had given me the best veggie meal of the whole trip which, up to that point, had involved a great deal of lettuce and bread! I decided to do the same again, ie avoid the place the guidebooks gave as a natural stop – this time Puente La Reina, and go a little further for a less crowded experience.
I had breakfast with a Canadian who was accompanying his friend who, during his last Camino, broke his leg but continued to the end anyway! There are some seriously tough people around here. At our table there was also a Swedish lad who claimed that the reason we had had no rain so far was because his mother always said that sunshine happened wherever he went. Just in case his Mum really knows something, I thought I’d follow him.
As we were finishing the two Brazilians from yesterday came down the hill. “You look a bit different to yesterday!” They said to me. They did too, however, I have to admit I now have a nose Rudolf would kill for! Must remember sun gel today.
I clambered up Alto de Perdon to the great pilgrim sculpture among the wind turbines at about 8am. Pete messaged me to say that both he and the bees had arrived safely in Palma which I was relieved about as I hadn’t felt 10,000 bees in the back of a small car with a guy who’s being vaccinated for anafalactic shock to bee venom, was the best plan in the world. Anyway, it all went smoothly and both Pete, the Basque bees and the Marmite jar have returned home.
The walk after the climb to Alto de Perdon was beautiful. Endless birdsong among fields of maize and corn with a few manicured Marie Celeste villages in between. At the first place with an open cafe I caught up with France and one of the German ladies who were talking of taking a diversion of 4 kilometers to the Camino Aragon to see the hermitage of Santa Maria de Eunate. Pilgrims are meant to remove their shoes and socks there and walk round the courtyard. It is said to be one of the most magical places on the Camino and was constructed in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. Once I had read up on it too, the three of us decided to head for it. “You go on first,” France said to me, “you walk far faster than us.”
I soon discovered it was closed on Mondays but I reckoned I would still be able to walk round the courtyard. Wrong. Also, I was expecting a hidden gem that only the odd pilgrim found, not three coaches in a carpark! All in all it was disappointing and I didn’t need the extra walk as my left ankle was already complaining. As I didn’t meet France or her friend on the way back, I assumed they’d also found out it was closed and had decided not to come.
Many kilometers further down the track I suddenly heard someone shouting my name. It was France and her friend sitting beneath a tree looking very dishevelled. “We got lost,” she said mournfully. “Really, really lost! I ended up throwing my pack down a hill and then rolling down after it. Eventually we saw some men working on water pipes and they helped us find our way back to the Camino. We’re exhausted!” They were both covered in mud and dust.
France was staying at Puente La Reina tonight, a town that has grown up beside a bridge that the wife of Sancho the Strong built to stop pilgrims being drowned when they tried to cross the river. I had already booked into an albergue at Maneru to keep away from the busy throng. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked at the route there which was directly uphill, seriously steeply uphill, in the midday sun for an extra 5km. The albergue El Cantero is lovely and not crowded, but I have big blisters on my left foot and my ankles are not happy. It was my intention to go to Ayegui tomorrow instead of stopping at Estella. This would mean I would spend the night beside the Wine Fountain, which seemed like a great idea to me, instead of reaching it at about 9 in the morning if I started from Estella. It looks a very long way at the moment. I’ll have to see how I feel in the morning.