Wednesday 23 July 2014

Over Alto de Perdón to Estella

This was day 4 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

The ability of our bodies to recover overnight is simply remarkable. Every evening I felt tired and muscles were aching, but in the mornings I was continuously waking up pretty fresh and full of energy.

What was even more remarkable, M. did not have problems waking up before 6 AM every morning. Actually she had the alarm set for every morning and was the one usually waking me up. Miracles really do happen on the Camino!

This whole waking up to an alarm, set on a wrist watch, thing is a bit funny. Since we were using earplugs almost every night, the alarm was usually beeping for someone else - we often did not hear it. However, if not before, we did wake up ten minutes after it stopped beeping. No one seemed to mind.

A sunny but quite fresh morning was a nice change. Before we left we took the opportunity for a quick breakfast. Good supper, freshly squeezed orange juice and a large selection of tea they offered at the bar made our stay in this albergue even more enjoyable.

The first part of hike included climbing up the only hill of the day. It is called Alto de Perdón (Mountain of Forgiveness) and is one of the famous landmarks on the Camino.
Actually it is more of a small hill than a mountain. Since it was still early and we were quite fresh and full of energy, we did not have any problems with the little climb. At the top there are metal sculptures dedicated to pilgrims and a nice view over nearby wind farms.

We stopped for a while to take a few photos. Since the wind was blowing really hard we did not linger around for too long. We continued downhill.

Puente la Reina was the most interesting town we went through during the day. It was named after Doña Mayor, wife of King Sancho III. She built the famous six-arched bridge over the Río Arga for the use of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It still stands today. Puente la Reina is the first town after the Aragonese Way (Camino Aragonés) joins with the French Way (Camino Francés). This means we will be seeing even more pilgrims from here on.

Our destination for the day was Estella. We were hoping to reach it in time to still get enough free space in one of the albergues. We were still travelling as a group and getting seven beds late in the afternoon was not to be taken for granted.

Since we had 35 kilometres planned for the day, we planned to arrive around 5 PM, which is pretty late. As we learned so far, most pilgrims seem to walk shorter distances and consequently they arrive at their daily destinations a few hours before us.

We had been lucky so far, so we had hoped our lucky streak would continue. It did not look too good when we tried our luck at the first albergue. When they turned us down in the second one, we were getting a bit worried.

The third albergue had just two spaces left and we asked the hospitalero (a guy taking care of an albergue) to call the last remaining albergue in town and inquire about the situation. He said there are just 5 places left and placed a reservation for a part of our group. I had a feeling he was taking advantage of the situation and simply wanted to fill the last two of his beds. In my opinion there were still seven or more beds available in the last albergue but since we were all already very tired I did not want to take chances and insult the guy.

So we split up and agreed to meet up again in the morning. M. and I stayed in Albergue Paroquial San Miguel. It operates as an albergue donativo - you donate as much as you feel it is suitable.

After the check-in formalities we were showed to our beds - a top bunk bed and a mattress on the floor. Beds were pretty basic - old mattresses with (not very clean) plastic sheets. They were all out of blankets. This is why a sleeping bag on the Camino is a must.
Bathroom looked nice and clean and there was plenty of hot water. It was all we really needed.

Apart from another "lost in translation" moment during dinner the evening was pretty uneventful - we chose Maracaibo Restaurante in a corner of the main town's square.
After dinner M. was really tired and just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately it started raining cats and dogs just as we were finishing our meal. We decided to wait for it to pass before returning to our albergue. A very long half of an hour later we were finally off to bed.

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.


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