Day 4: Cizur Menor to Puente la Reina
Be fully present here. – Matthew Fox
We left town around 7:45 am and headed to the mountain. The sunrise is absolutely stunning as we walk up country roads passing farms that have completed their fall harvest. The aging sunflowers appear to bow in reverence to the pilgrims as they walk by. I stop and take a few pictures, including my shadow with my pack.
Along the path, we see many crosses and places of respect for those that passed or for the saints. At times, Marilee from Colorado, Russ our Lucky Leprechaun (by the way his nickname for me is “Twinkle Toes” because my toes still hurt), and I would chat or walk together in silence. Each morning I usually play the soundtrack from “The Way” for the inspiration and to set my intentions for the day. Today we must climb to the top of the Alto del Perdón (Hill of Forgiveness), an elevation change of 340m (1,115 feet). The incline increases quickly after we pass a few more towns and small villages. Roses were in bloom and I make sure to stop and “smell the roses.”
Spain is very forward-thinking in implementing alternative energy sources. This mountain is lined with a series of wind turbines. I take off my headphones to listen to their mesmerizing hum while focusing on each step of the steep incline.
Lesson (Camino Safety): I am taking my time when walking up the steep hills and mountains, and remind myself it’s not a race. I take one step at a time, enjoy the scenery, sip my water, and remember to BREATH!
As I walk, I try to remember to occasionally look back and drink in the amazing scenery, until I make the last push to the summit of Alto del Perdón. At the top, the locals have placed the iconic metal statues of Pilgrims, so we take our photos proving our great accomplishment. I also took a picture of a collection of city signs… and notice how far New York City is from here! 🙂
Now the descent…which is more torturous than the ascent for me. It’s basically a river wash, lined with large boulders all the way down. It takes a lot of concentration and balance, and again I thank God for my trekking poles for stability.
We stop for a few breaks and share our snacks, enjoying the relaxation without the packs on our back. In one village we encounter a wonderful outdoor café just off the path that serves as a perfect lunch spot. I purchase a nice cold Spanish beer and devour my snacks of ham and crackers from the market the night before.
We cross beautiful farmland and vineyards on our way to Puenta la Reina, and in each village, watch the locals prepare for their national holiday celebrations, which we hope to partake in town tonight.
Picking a place to stay tonight was a bit more difficult. We didn’t really know what to expect from each alburgue and decide on the local alburgue on the main road, Padres Repardores, which is actually an old monastery. All of us pilgrims have showered, washed our clothes, and are now scoping out the evening festivities. I have run into my California friends again, Jamie & Tom, and Joergen from the Netherland, who stayed at the B&B with me a few nights back. We greet each other with big smiles and continue on with our evenings.
Puenta la Reina is a quaint town with everything you need. After our daily showering and clothes washing, Marilee and I find a market for lunch snacks and water for tomorrow. We then case out the town and locate a hardware store so I could buy sink stoppers.
Lesson (Camino Supplies): I brought a sink stopper but realized I needed to bring several different sizes. Rubber stoppers enable me to fill up a sink with soapy water to hand wash my clothes. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all in Spain, so I need several options. At the end of town, we stumble upon the Rio Arga (Arga River) again and discover a beautiful park beneath a six arched Romanesque bridge. It is a wonderful place to chill and soak up the Camino life.
We decided to walk back to the entrance of town to a hotel, Jakue Hotel, to eat dinner. Low and behold we discover some of the ladies we met during our first dinner in Roncesvalles! Some have stayed in previous towns for rest, but three carried on. Angela from the UK, Ann from Ireland, and a new friend, Ki from Sweden, invite us to drink Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and join them for dinner in the hotel. It was a special evening as women of different generations share stories of their lives, beliefs, sorrows, and dreams. The connection with these ladies and other Camino pilgrims is something I have not experienced before. We all have such a deep appreciation of each other, and now call each other “Camino Sisters!” It’s Anne’s birthday tomorrow, so we plan to meet in the main plaza in our next destination town, Estella, and celebrate.
Everyone takes care of each other on the Camino. Ki from Sweden had a horrible backache from throwing her hip out several weeks ago. The walking aggravated her injury. I offer her some of my Salon Paz pads (menthol pads) which help her tremendously.
TIP (Camino Medical Supplies): In my medical supply case I brought a few Salon Paz pads for aches and Magnesium for muscle cramps.
Since I continue to compensate for my cramped toes on my left foot, a blister developed on my heal. After dinner, Ki walks me down to the basement of the Jakue Hotel, which serves as their alburgue for the night. I immediately feel the serenity of the alburgue and really wish we had chosen to stay here. We quietly sit in her quad of bunks as she places my foot in her lap and tends to my blister. I sit sobbing, thinking about how Jesus’ followers would tenderly wash and anoint His feet. I now realize what a kind and intimate gift of love this is. On the Camino, we are all in this together and are there for each other, every step of the way.
Lesson (Camino Blisters): The Europeans know exactly how to tend to blisters. I am glad to finally have someone show me how to treat them. I made sure to bring the following supplies: White thread, needle, alcohol swabs, and Compeed. I added a little antibacterial ointment to the kit as well for good measure.
Marilee and I head back to our alburgue, grateful for the beautiful evening. I walk in deep thought about what I have experienced so far. Luckily no crying or breakdowns, but I am certain it will happen. This is a physically and emotionally challenging journey; it’s a journey of change and healing. We hear stories of fellow pilgrims on the Camino: one cries herself to sleep every night, a couple met and fell in love on the Camino and are back for their anniversary, a father and daughter are on the path to work out their differences… the stories go on and on. The Camino is real, it’s human, it’s beautiful.
I too am learning my story, and cannot wait to turn and read the next page!