Homer's Travels: Camino de Santiago - Puente La Reina To Estella

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Camino de Santiago - Puente La Reina To Estella

Day five turned out to be one of my 'wall' days.  The day seemed to go on forever.  Despite this when I arrived at Estella I discovered that I had maintained my usual average speed of 2.5 MPH (4 km/h).  The slower I felt I was moving, the closer to my average, or faster, I would go.  I had a warped sense of time and distance.

After crossing the puente (bridge) of Punte La Reina the path roughly paralleled a major road though it was far enough away that it was not a bother.  The breeze swirled the cottonwood (or cottonwood-like) seeds along the path.  At places little cotton tornadoes swirled as I walked by and at others it blanketed the ground like snow.

The walk was supposed to be relatively flat today but the elevation plots I'd picked up in Saint Jean Pied de Port were, as they often were, deceptive.   Less than an hour out of Puente La Reina the Camino turned steeply up and, once again, I wondered if I was up to the task as I stopped every five to ten steps to take a brief rest.

I made it to the top and the Camino eased up a bit.  In the distance I heard the call my first wild Coo Coos.  At least I think they were Coo Coos.  It could have been the Camino telling me that I was insane to walk across Spain.  I also thought I heard whipoorwills but they aren't supposed to be native to Europe so I may have been mistaken.  The Coo Coos sounded just like the coo coo clocks I've heard back home.

To compliment the Coo Coos were the wild flowers lining the Camino including some wonderfully odoriferous Jasmine.  That stuff smells wonderful and reminded me of the jasmine in our backyard in California.

While all the bird songs and floral displays enhanced the Camino it was unfortunately countered by a developing pain in my right ankle.  The irritation that I first noticed in Puente La Reina was getting progressively worse.

I eventually stopped to rest the ankle, and the rest of my body attached to it, on a large bridge outside the town of Lorca.  It looked very hospitable with all the pilgrims sitting on the 'railing'.  I took off my pack and rested a bit, eating an apple.  Pilgrims become experts in transporting fruit.  Bananas ... forget about it.  Bananas are breakfast food that you eat before you leave as they will not survive the pack. Oranges will survive but they are heavier than apples which also will survive the pack.  For a pilgrim, pack weight is paramount.  In Spain, the apple was my main walking fruit.  I probably ate at least forty apples on the Camino ... probably more.

Leaving the bridge the Camino headed up again, went through Lorca, Villatuerta (home of the scary water spitting Clown), and delivered me to the large town of Estella.  I checked into the albergue ... after waiting an hour or so for it to open.  As we headed west it seemed the albergues were opening later and later.  I was the first in line.  This gave me a bottom bunk but also put me in a room with some noisy Spaniards who really didn't know how to tone it down.  The guy with the raspy voice was particularly irritating at times.

When you walk the Camino, it has been said, you should take care of your chores before you lay down or they will never get done.  The chores consist of cleaning yourself, cleaning your stuff, and finding something to eat.  That's what I did.  Showered, shaved, and brushed my teeth.  Hand washed some clothes in the laundry sinks (using liquid camp soap) and hung the stuff out on the clothes lines (Clothes pins were not provided but I would find safety pins, something I'd packed, worked great).  I crossed over a cool bridge across from the albergue and found a bar open where I bought a bocadillo de jamón for lunch.

Finding places open in Spain can be a little difficult at times.  Everything closes at 2:00 PM and reopens at 5:00 PM.  By the time you check into an albergue and do your chores most places would often be closed.

After eating I wandered around town being the tourist.  I stopped at a pharmacy that was about to close.  I pointed at my ankle and said pain in Spanish.  She sold me some anti-inflammatory cream that was all the rage this pilgrim season.  I'd seen several pilgrims using it and I would use nearly an entire tube of the stuff before my Camino was over.  Since everything was closing (even the churches were closed) I went back to the albergue to slather the cream on my ankle and to rest a couple hours in my bunk.

When 5:00 PM rolled around I got back up and went in search of food.  I was a bit alone even though there were people I knew in the albergue.  My aching ankle sapped some of my congeniality out of me.  After looking at a few restaurant menus and finding nothing that really grabbed me I stopped at a corner store and bought something to keep my stomach from growling and some stuff for next day's walk.

Talking with fellow pilgrims we discovered that we really weren't hungry much while walking and sometimes even after we'd stopped.  For me, food just didn't look appetizing after walking all day and I often had to force myself to eat.  This day, in Estella, I did not eat much which would become a bad habit.

I went down to the communal dining hall and sat down across from fellow American HT.  HT had introduced himself to me when I was in my bunk.  This was his second Camino and had started from Pamplona.  We were joined by GV and we all chatted for a a while.  I admired all the meals other pilgrims were cobbling together from the meager rations sold at the neighborhood stores.  HT got some free food and wine after he helped some French-Canadian girls open their wine bottle.  That was one of HT's superpowers - getting free food from everyone.  HT turned out to be a very nice guy.

Estella didn't make much of an impression on me.  It had a cool bridge, interesting architecture, and a comfortable albergue but, when I think of the towns I went through and stayed at, I often forget about Estella.  Not sure why that is.

Day five, the second wall, was behind me and I survived.  I was ready for the next leg of my adventure.

Total Distance: 13.71 Miles (22.06 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 23 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,114 ft (644.35 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,912 ft (582.78 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. So funny how different our experiences were in Estella! I was at the Parochial, and barely got a room....and had an interesting and very good communal dinner!! Estella looms large for me, and then others don't!! Guess it's all in where you are internally!

  2. Your writing is amazing, I can't wait from day to day to read the next installment, checking Homer's Travels is the first thing I do in the morning.

  3. KSam: Parochial albergues tended to be more interesting than regular municipals. The municipal in Estella felt a little cold to me. Probably just me.

    MiL: Thank you but I think you are biased, me being married to your daughter and all.

  4. Oh wow!! I hope your ankle doesn't continue to give you grief.. I must read on :)

  5. Miss McC: Oh ... It gives me more grief ... the bastard!