For the most part, my rest day in Pamplona served its purpose: my energy was restored even if my feet weren’t fully recovered.
Day 4: Pamplona to Puente la Reina
A fairly early departure through the city finds me walking alongside commuters and students of the University of Navarra, all of us thinking ahead to what our day has in store. The large city walls from the Middle Ages yield interesting footpaths under the soft morning light.
The first few kilometers present a gradual but steady climb up, mas y mas.
Below is a photo of Ann from Ireland, in her distinctive pink coat and, surprisingly to me when I first spied her, no backpack! She will appear again in another photo tomorrow but it wasn’t until I met her a few days later that I learned her story. She is a maxillofacial surgeon (yes, I had to look it up) from Dublin who is attending a conference in Madrid next week. She wanted to walk from Roncesvalles to Logroño before her meeting, but the airline delayed the delivery of her luggage. Rather than change her plans, she is walking each day in the outfit that she wore on the plane and will gather her work attire later. She completed her whole walk without having to buy any new gear en route. Well done, Ann – that’s Camino strength!
Finally, atop the hills outside of Pamplona, we reach the iconic art feature at Alto del Perdón.
It is a good place to meet up with new Camino friends whom I’ve recently met. Here are Thibaut, Jonathan and Blondine from France.
And Patrice and Jerry from Michigan. We met on my second day and they will soon zoom ahead of me.
We frequently see historical sites and memorials reminding us that the land hasn’t always been as peaceful as it is for us today.
We also often come across seemingly endless fields like this one of dried sunflowers. I would love to return in the Spring to see these in their full color!
Each day brings beautiful hamlets, villages, and towns which lend a whole different vibe from the urban bustle of the cities. Some are practically empty of residents when we pass through, and not only during the afternoon siestas.
Daily Stats: 24.3km (15.1 miles) and 673m (2,208′) of elevation gain.
Check out Pamplona to Puente la Reina on Relive!
31100, Puente La Reina
+34 948 341 017
Day 5: Puente la Reina to Estella
I love starting out early: the temperatures are cooler and the light is softer…
Much of today’s walk is on paths through more fields and vineyards that link hilltop villages. We are approaching the region of La Rioja, home of Spain’s famous red wine.
Here’s Ann again…
… and someone else without a backpack, which is very rare. I never learned his story.
A stylish aqueduct above…
… and stylish tunnels below.
The locals are very generous!
It is always a treat to see our destination town in the distance. No matter how near or far, it gives us a boost of energy for the final stretch each day.
The town of Estella is particularly beautiful!
Daily Stats: 23.8km (14.8 miles) and 612m (2,008′) of elevation gain.
Check out Puente la Reina to Estella on Relive!
While following my mini-blog in WhatsApp each day, someone asked about the food. Here are some peppers and bread I had for dinner tonight and some fresh fruit and cheese in the morning. Yes, indeed: they are as tasty as they look!
Someone else asked for an overview of my whole route, so here it is: each orange dot is one night’s stay (or two nights on my rest days). Yellow is my ultimate destination on the coast, and Blue is where I am at the moment. It’s a long walk! Please don’t tell my aching feet that we’ve just barely begun…
Calle Chapitel 1
+34 948 551 090
Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos
Estella is even prettier in the soft light of morning, wrapped around its river and with a very full history.
Not far into today’s hike we reach the famous Irache Wine Fountain, serving free vino tinto (red wine) to weary peregrinos. The fountain is supposed to start serving at 9am, but when it still hadn’t started after a wait, I moved on. I love the vino tinto, but more after my walk each day, not at the start.
I took advantage of the photo op…
… while Jerry, Patrice, and Hector were more patient than me and finally got their reward.
Today’s terrain was filled mostly with wheat fields and vineyards and views of large sandstone/limestone rock faces in the distance. Fortunately for us, we’re walking parallel to the rock face and won’t have to go over it.
We usually go around hills like this one, which often seem to take a long time to arrive.
The village of Villamayor de Monjardín, on the side of the hill, was beautiful. Next time, I want to visit the castle up on top. It must offer an amazing view in all directions!
Even from below the hilltop, we had great views beyond.
Today was one of my earliest encounters with “the Outlaws,” two American couples from Colorado related through their formerly-married children. I enjoyed meeting up with them every few days as we seemed to be walking at a similar pace and their pre-booked accommodations were often the same as mine. I have stayed in touch with them and hope to see them again back in the US. You’ll see them again too (in future posts), except for their fourth member: “Mike on a Bike,” traveled his Camino in another way.
Everyone travels the camino in their own way. We often hear: “mi camino, tu camino…”
A highlight today was speaking with a small farmer and complimenting him on his peppers. He told me they weren’t yet ready, but proudly gave me a fantastic heirloom tomato, which I’m going to enjoy at breakfast tomorrow. Because he saw me walking with the Outlaws, he assumed we were together so he carefully picked more for them too. He insisted that I use my hat as a sack, and deliver his gift to them up at the next hilltop village.
As it turns out, I didn’t see the Outlaws again until later this evening after walking around town looking for them while still carrying their gifts. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy the rich flavors in the morning! We also met shepherds along the way.
There were a few chances to hear live music on the Camino. I met this woman on a sparse stretch today and said told me that she is Romani (gypsy) and has seen thousands of pilgrims pass by over many years. Her lively music certainly lightened our step…
… of which there were many!
Daily Stats: 22.3km (13.9 miles) and 562m (1,844′) of elevation gain.
Check out Estella to Los Arcos on Relive!
Plaza del Coso, 1
31210, Los Arcos
+34 948 640 000
Day 7: Los Arcos to Viana
Today’s hike was about average for the past week, although it brings me very close to my next planned stop in Logroño. Just 6 miles away, that city also will be a rest stop. I definitely don’t mind either the short day tomorrow nor the rest day. My body has begun to respond to the daily grind… and not in a good way. In particular, two things… (is this TMI?):
- First, my skin has started to reject the constantly bright sunshine, despite a floppy hat, long trousers, long-sleeved shirts and SPF50 sunscreen on all bare skin – my Northern European genes always struggle in Mediterranean and tropical climes!
- Second, oh my goodness: the blisters! Now, I know that they are a way of life when you’re walking long distances and along different types of terrain. But I really thought my training would have prepared me better to handle the new locations on my feet that friction has found. I have stripped off all the old dressings tonight, to let my feet breathe, and may end up hiking in my Chacos sandals tomorrow while carrying the boots. We’ll see…
The view from my hotel room in Los Arcos. You don’t need a watch or clock in small Spanish towns, because the church bells always ring to notify us of the time…
More towns and villages, more fields to pass, more hills to climb…
Most of the artwork I see is local. But now and then, all along the Camino, we find find small pieces of art that other pilgrims before us have made and left behind.
The view is often familiar, but changes constantly.
This young couple, Vera and Matias, are university students from Barcelona but were taking a break to become my friendly Camino trail mates for several days. They helped me practice mi español. Sadly, they will end their Camino tomorrow and return to their last year at school.
They share with me this selfie on their bus ride back to Barcelona. Spain’s future is in good hands with Spaniards such as these two!
It looks like a shooting star is celebrating this charming town of Viana… Certainly all the peregrinos are!
Daily Stats: 19.2km (11.9 miles) and 450m (1,476′) of elevation gain.
First half of today’s hike…
Check out Los Arcos to Viana on Relive!
Palacio de Pujadas
Calla Navarro Villoslada, 30
+34 948 646 464
Day 8: Viana to Logroño
Today’s short distance and cool temperatures under overcast skies, along with my Chacos sandals on my feet instead of boots, all contributed to a vastly improved day compared with yesterday. The small but painful blisters still need time to heel, and I’m hoping tomorrow’s rest day will fit the bill.
Another ruin outside my hotel window…
The view back up to Viana.
We have officially entered Spain’s grape-growing region: La Rioja.
Walking through the last fields before hitting the “light-industrial area.”
Such areas usually mean the route runs alongside or even on the road itself, with many noisy cars and trucks passing me by.
Speaking of “passing me by,” many peregrinos on the Camino Francés follow an itinerary that takes about 33 days to walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. That compares to my plan of going a shorter average distance each day, and walking for 39 days (plus 6 rest days).
I am happy with this plan, and believe it is best for me. However, I truly feel today, for the first time (despite knowing to expect it), that my early Camino friends have moved on ahead of me. Without having exchanged many contact details, I’m left missing these new friends, and realize sadly that I may never see them again. I want this post to help me remember them – my lost camigos – because they were truly a special part of my first week out here. Buen Camino to you all: Tomas from Stockholm, Brian from New Zealand, Catherine, Margaret & Maggie from Virginia, Atlanta & Fort Worth USA, Michael from Beverly Hills California, Karina from Lappland, Julian and his mom from Holland, Joan from Fairfax California, Stephanie from Singapore, Jacinda from New Zealand, Paula from Holland, Lainie from Virginia, Jane from England, Leticia from Aptos California, Jonny & Alison from England, and Linda & Chet from Tucson Arizona… along with so many others I enjoyed getting to know.
Besides resting my feet, another reason I am happy to stay an extra night in Logroño is to enjoy the city’s annual Fiesta which happens to be taking place during my visit. I knew it was going to be a great experience when I came upon a gathering of friends and families enjoying wine, food and music. By the way, I saw this band later while they were parading through the narrow streets and holding friendly “battle of the bands” competitions with those of other neighborhoods and local clubs. It was a lot of fun!
They kindly invited me to join them for a bite and some wine, and I soon found myself laughing with them all until this man below nearly brought me to tears with his generosity. He took the commemorative bandanna from around his neck and tied it around my neck so that I could also be “de Logroño” during this special time of celebration.
I wore it with pride throughout the afternoon and evening and will happily carry it throughout the rest of my journey as a heartfelt souvenir!
It made my walk over the famous bridge and into the heart of the city particularly special!
Check out Viana to Logroño on Relive!
Margues de Murrieta, 1
+34 941 224 150
Rest Day: Logroño
I love Logroño: the city and its people. Most towns and cities mark our route with the famous scallop shells and yellow arrows. Logroño guides us with their own “yellow brick road!”
This famous mural combines images of los sellos (“the stamps”) that we collect in our credenciales (“pilgrim’s passports”) with some people’s love of tattoos.
That man who imagines, who invents and discovers, who constantly aspires to absolute absurdity. That man who wanted to achieve a divine state one day is the same one who now shares the feast of the gods, draining between music and lyrics the eternal spirit of a glass of wine.José Fermin Hernández Lázaro (Trans: Google Translate)
To learn more about the city and to help my Spanish, I signed up for a walking tour… in Spanish! I could follow some of her presentation (but frankly, not that much).
By the time my tour was done, the last night of the festival was in full swing, and continued through the early morning hours!
Daily Stats: 11.5km (7.1 miles) and 165m (541′) of elevation gain.
My rest day in Logroño was very restful. After the late night, I enjoyed sleeping in and staying out of the rain outside. I did get out for a bit to get a Spanish haircut and beard trim, which I found to be a great way to meet some locals and to practice my Spanish!
Now I feel very ready to walk again tomorrow!
I also spent some time today responding to a couple of other questions asked in my mini-blog:
What are you eating on the Camino?
I am staying each night at a B&B so I will always have fresh jugo de naranja (orange juice), café con leche (coffee with milk), and pan (bread) for breakfast. Most places also offer yoghurt, granola and cheese, and some will even cook eggs & bacon. I’m trying hard, and mostly succeeding, to also eat a lot of fresh fruit in the morning hours, and holding off on the “big meal” of the day until dinner time. There are many places along the way, in all the towns and villages, to get snacks and even full meals, but most pilgrims I’ve spoken with say they don’t get hungry until after each day’s trek. For dinner, we are often served local and regional specialities, and usually have a fixed “Pilgrim’s Meal” that includes a choice of starter, a choice of main course, a choice of dessert, and local wine (or water) for a very reasonable price. The economies of most establishments along the Camino are built around the hundreds of pilgrims who pass through or stay each day, so I think it’s fair to say we are experiencing Camino cuisine more than common Spanish (or even typical Spanish tourist) food.
Why are you walking the Camino?
This question is discussed many times each day amongst pilgrims on the trail. Some follow the lead of medieval pilgrims and claim a religious or spiritual calling. “¡Vaya con Dios!” (That’s not me.) They are the ones most upset that so many chapels and churches along the way are still closed because of Covid.
There are a few others – but just a very few – who might be categorized as “lost or broken or seeking something…” Many of us have been questioned about our mental health, or told “we’re worried about you…Should we be worried about you?” (Again, that’s not me.)
Others came for “the challenge,” and I think many of them are now re-calibrating just what “challenge” means. “I walk a lot every day at home so I didn’t expect this would be so hard…” (Still, not me.)
For my own response, I am reminded of a common saying in Namibia about western tourists who visit their country:
“They come for the Big 5 (large mammals of Africa);
They stay for the landscape;
And they return for the people.”
Like those tourists to Namibia, I, too, have seen my motivation for this trip change in just a few short days, and in a way that surprised me (but only because I didn’t give it enough thought). My original intention was to take advantage of all the training that Joanie and I had done to prepare for our trekking holiday in the UK in the Summer of 2022. I didn’t know if I would ever be in as good hiking shape as I was then, so I added another couple of trekking challenges. As a result, my answer to the question, until recently, was easy: “For the exercise!”
But that is no longer my answer.
Today, when asked, I will immediately answer: ”For the chance to meet and chat with many people from around the world!”
Just like at Burning Man, it is as if we who are walking the Camino have all agreed to a social contract that we each have the right – and maybe even the obligation – to start and hold conversations with strangers: sometimes quite personal, sometimes quite difficult. This doesn’t mean the Camino is filled with chatter-boxes. If you’re not in the mood, it is easy to avoid or ignore such advances, and some do so more than others. But there seems to be a willingness to listen, to share, to ponder, and to accept – a willingness that we often suspend or deny ourselves when at home. We know that this is a construct – we are a self-selected group of humans. Just like at Burning Man, we know clearly where the boundary is back to “the default world.” Yet, more often than not, we engage. And the rewards are often a blast!