Day 5: Puente la Reina to Estella
It was as if the landscape very slowly passed us by than we it. Sometimes it seemed as if we became a part of the landscape. – Conrad Rudolph
From 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., I begin to hear my bunkmates wake, move around, and pack their belongings for their daily trek. TIP (Camino Etiquette): For those who want to get a head start and leave earlier than the masses, it’s kind to lay out your clothes and pack your backpack the night before. This allows for little disruption in the morning for the other sleeping pilgrims. Also, pilgrims should not carry plastic grocery bags, but purchase waterproof pouches at their local camping/recreational store. One does not realize how loud grocery bags are at 6:00 a.m.!
This morning I lay there utterly shattered. My heel is still tender, and the small room Marilee and I were assigned to is filled with all men from Spain. This means a couple of things… Surprisingly the Europeans do not like to sleep with the windows open. Each time I open the window for fresh air, one of the men would immediately close it. The room is hot and stuffy, thus I was extremely uncomfortable all night. Secondly, some Spanish men or I should say, large men in general, tend to be very loud snorers. Needless to say, I was lucky to catch a few hours of sleep last night. However, we must go on! Marilee and I decide tonight is worthy of a private hotel room in Estella to catch up on our z’s.
Since my heel is still sore, but I am determined to stay on schedule, I put in place my backup plan. I decide to walk with my Tevas (hiking sandals) today. Luckily, at this stage of the Camino, it is expected to be somewhat easy, and we will only cross a few minor hills.
TIP (Camino Gear): I am so grateful I brought two pairs of hiking shoes. Pilgrims usually walk in hiking boots in the non-summer months and then carry a pair of trekking sandals or tennis shoes. I chose to bring Tevas as my second pair of shoes. They also serve as a double duty in the shower; thus I didn’t have to bring additional flip-flops. Plus, the Tevas allow my feet to breathe and do not rub against my heel.
Our monastery, Padres Repardores, contains a very large main room lined with long tables and benches. This communal room hosted pilgrim gatherings, card games, and laughter last night. This morning we join the hubbub, while many eat breakfast and say goodbye.
At sunrise we cross the Puente la Reina Romanesque bridge we explored the day before. We then follow the Camino arrows and signs through the beautiful Spanish countryside. We walk by endless farmland and feel the Camino spirit from the locals. One villager installed a pilgrim weather vane on top of their house.
Marilee and I stick together but take our own time walking ahead or behind, to think and be inspired by our own music on our iPhones or by our own thoughts. We pass and are passed by many familiar pilgrims, and stop a few times to break and catch our breath or snack. Even though we may walk in silence together, or walk separately from others, I now understand we are one on the Camino.
We continue to enjoy the scenery, and about halfway in our journey, we come across a modern-day aqueduct. I stood under it in amazement, realizing the same technology to transport water thousands of years ago is still being used today. We then stop for a short break on a beautiful, medieval stone bridge arched over the Rio Saldo, while Jamie & Tom from CA pass by shouting, “Buen Camino!”
Our journey continues through a few more country villages, along Roman roads, and through a few tunnels lined with interesting graffiti crafted by locals and pilgrims. There is no rush, so I make sure to stop, look, and soak in their talent and artistry.
My Teva backup plan seems to be working out great; however, the lack of arch support quickly makes me tired. I am so thankful to see the first signs of Estella at the end of the day.
Upon entering each day’s destination town or village, our first task is to find a place to sleep. (Although, some of our friends locate a bar. LOL! :-)) During our walk, we consult our guidebook for a hotel, which is located in the center of Estella (Spanish for ‘star’).
TIP (Camino Guide Book): Anyone English-speaking on the Camino tends to use the guidebook, A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean • Roncesvalles • Santiago by John Brierley. In his book, John provides a list of the alburgues, casa rurals (rural houses), and hotels (hotels or B&Bs). He also includes a brief description of the amenities found in each location.
We determine which hotel we want to stay in and search for the main square. Unfortunately, we get completely lost. Funny how we lose all navigation skills when a Camino arrow or sign isn’t present. I eventually get the courage and approach a local, pointed out the name of the square we were searching for in my guidebook, and he kindly escorts us to the plaza.
We continue to hunt for the hotel and finally find it in the next plaza over. Thank the Lord! After we checked in, I take off my sandals – the sweetest part of the day – and continue along with my daily routine of showering and cleaning clothes.
Since we are in a hotel (by the way it’s very basic and nothing fancy), I began a search for a hairdryer. I am determined to FINALLY blow dry my hair for the first time in days. After locating the host’s private door, I quietly knock and ask for the luxury appliance. She does not speak English, and I have no idea how to translate “hairdryer” into Spanish. I have gotten pretty good at charades, so while standing in her hallway, I use all my drama skills by acting out and drying my hair. Her eyes open wide, and she smiles. YES, she gets it! She finally understands, disappears into the depths of her apartment, and brings back the most ancient hairdryer I have ever seen in my life. I don’t care; I’m thrilled to have a hairdryer in my hands and the opportunity to feel like a girl again!
Clean, rested, and hair styled with an amazing blow-out, Marilee and I head back to the main plaza to purchase food and water for tomorrow’s journey. We then hope to meet our Camino sisters (Anne from Ireland, Ki from Sweden, and Angela from the UK) and celebrate Ann’s birthday. We wait and wait in the main plaza, but the girls are not here. I began to feel panic… Did we get the wrong time? Are we in the wrong plaza? After waiting a bit longer, we spot the ladies and jump in excitement. We eventually find a restaurant and enjoy a wonderful evening of Cava, wine, and a divine Spanish meal.
Tummies full and feeling slightly buzzed from the spirits, we say our goodbyes. Unfortunately, the ladies are staying in Estella for a few days of rest. We make sure to exchange contact details and hope to meet again on the Way.
I feel a little sadness in my heart as I head back to the hotel. Each day new bonds are made, but because everyone walks their “own” Camino, we must sadly part and go our own way. In these moments, I feel a bit of …loss. I look to God and a thought comes to me – if He brought that person or those people into my life, others like them will surely cross my path tomorrow. I just need to keep the faith, keep my eyes on Him, and continue to move forward. Continue to walk “my” Camino.
Once nestled in my hotel, my heart is calm. I look forward to a full night of rest…and NO snoring!!!
Buena noche dear family & friends.