Tuesday, April 9: Puente la Reina to Estella (25.8 km; 16 miles)

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy… John Denver

Yes, a lot to be happy about today! Was it the weather, the beauty, the fact that we pilgrims are getting into the groove and figuring out how to appreciate all there is to savor to each day? Whatever it was, I sensed a slowing of the pace today. Less urgency for “getting there” and more relaxing at stops along the way. (Or was the pace due to aching knees and throbbing feet? No, why would that be?)

Gifts of the day

  • The aforementioned sunshine that accompanied us; afternoon rains were possible, but we had to be content with some threatening clouds. Jackets and long underwear were removed as the day progressed and my sun hat was put to use for the first time
  • The town of Puente la Reina. A medieval gem! I hadn’t seen enough of it yesterday to satisfy me, so I started my morning with a couple of kilometers up and down Calle Mayor and a few narrow surrounding streets. I passed gaggles of school kids on their way to the local colegio, stopped in the XIIth century “Church of the Crucifix” to say a few prayers, got a good view/photo of the arched bridge (the puente de la reina from which the town derives its name), and headed out of town with a smile on my face as I felt that sun on my shoulders.
  • Views that continue to be stunning. It’s lovely to see villages off in the distance, often on hillsides, the churches’ bell towers beckoning from afar
  • Spain in miniature as olive groves butt up against vineyards. The latter show no signs of spring yet, but the former have leafed out
  • Trails with fewer rocky portions to navigate than on previous days
  • The best “rest stop” ever! Ever! Ever! Ever! A young man from Pamplona by the name of Iván bought property along the trail in 2017 to try his hand at agriculture, olive trees in particular. “And this is what I ended up with,” he grinned as he nodded towards the area he has designed for pilgrims to rest and socialize and “experience Camino.” He calls his place Olive Gard-zen. I’m hoping you’ll Google it or look for his Facebook page. Not only does he set out a lot of food for pilgrims (I enjoyed fresh strawberries and pineapple, but there was also hot coffee, oranges, bananas, cookies, all available for “donation” or for the taking if a donation isn’t possible); he also has various seating areas up among the olives, including books for passing pilgrims to take (yes, I know, like we want more weight in our packs and actually have free space), a table where walkers can play chess with painted rocks as pawns, whimsical ribbons and other decorations hanging from the olive trees…. Delightful. I enjoyed an extended conversation with him. I asked him if he had met someone from Minnesota in the half hour or so before I showed up. He looked pensive. “Oh, if she has been through here,” I told him (in Spanish), “you would know it. She would have been very expressive and grateful.” And then there came Ginny who, unbeknownst to me, was behind me at that point. I left Iván in good company as I headed down the trail.
  • Having long stretches of time alone on the trail, but meeting up with familiar faces from time to time and meeting some new pilgrims. Among the latter: a young man from Russia who had completed 45 km on each of the preceding days and who was so earnest as he conversed in English (and I was so humbled that he knew where many of our states were, while I couldn’t place the various places in Russia that he mentioned to me…); a sweet young man from Manhattan who is trying to figure out the next stage of his life; Carlos from Alabama, who shared the motives behind his pilgrim journey; a pair from Germany and the Netherlands dressed in attire from the 15th century (and at least one of them wondering why they came up with that idea; they’re going to be pretty hot come May, I’d reckon; they admitted to their fondness for reenactments and thus they already had the clothing); and many more. This is only day 5, and of course we aren’t all going at the exact same pace, but given the spacing of the towns, many of the same people are in the same towns as they make their way along. A community is forming.

Challenges of the day

  • Removing long underwear and storing it away after the sun warmed things up
  • Caring for feet
  • Remembering names
  • Remembering where we’ve put things
  • Remembering where we’ve put things
  • Remembering where we’ve put things
  • Being tired (as in “sleepy”)
  • Being tired (as in “physically”)
  • Making the mistake of looking at a map to see our progress across Spain (should have waited at least two weeks, probably three, before doing that!)
  • Finding time to connect with the “folks at home”
  • Getting up into the top bunk in tonight’s hostel
  • Getting down from that bunk (the rungs of the ladder are not round; the ladder is not steady; I am not young)

1st world problems, for sure! I’m going to do my best to solve one of them in a matter of minutes. Yes, the “tired-as-in-sleepy” one. Night all! (Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your comments. All are read and appreciated. It’s not likely I’ll find time to respond personally.

I’ll post a photo or two below if my connection is good enough. Check Instagram or Facebook for additional ones.

There were three chairs like this one in a little plaza in front of a very old church. Take a close look in front of the chair. Yes, pedals!

15th century pilgrims

A happy poppy