I wake up to the wonderful smell of coffee on the brew. Breakfast is bread and jam, but our host also gives us some extra snacks which we pack for the road. A truly gracious host!
Now it’s off to Puente la Reina which is only 2-3km further and we reach it in no time. This is the town where all the northern Camino routes congregate and we pass the statue of “the pilgrim”. What a beautiful medieval town it is! I had to stop after crossing the old bridge just to properly appreciate the beauty of it.
As with all days on the Camino it’s not long before we start climbing again. The road keeps snaking up and we reach the little town of Cirauqui. Still we are going upwards until we eventually fall down on some steps in front of the church to have a rest and a snack.
Up to Cirauqui I thought we were in for a marvellous day of small villages, but the rest of the way turns out to be quite tedious and boring. The route follows the main road and the sun is fiercely beating down on us. My one arm shows its discontent with the sun and bursts into a full-on heat rash. My backpack also feels no lighter than yesterday.
There is nowhere to stop for lunch and my energy levels are dropping fast. Eventually we reach this quaint little bar and stop for something to drink while catching up with some Canadian girls we’ve met a few days earlier.
Coming into Estella immediately lifts the spirits again and we are greeted by the apostles as we near the town. We immediately start searching for a place to sleep and in true Camino fashion are quickly directed to an Albergue. I walk into the Albergue and ask the price just to be told that it is free – donations welcome! It is what they call a parroquial Albergue (run by the church). The room is tiny and jam-packed with beds, but the place looks neat enough and has place outside for hanging washing and some shaded seating, so we stay. I only later discover the big hole in my mattress and hope that I can figure out a position around it. After a quick shower my stomach is groaning, loudly letting me know that it hasn’t had any food since breakfast. First matter on the agenda therefore is finding a decent meal.
Luckily, not a difficult task. Bar Alday just a few blocks down has an enormous half chicken, salad and chips for only €12. It is delicious and I cannot even manage to finish mine. After eating we head into town for a bit of sight-seeing. We once again run into Bicente and Naudia and this time we have to say good-bye. We will have to get on a bus tomorrow if we want to get closer to Santiago for the last few days of walking. It is quite emotional as we hug and wish them all the best before they head their own way. Naudia is going home two days from now and it seems that Bicente is going to finish the route all on his own for a 6th time!
We take a walk through the lively town where children are playing football in the square to the sound of the church bell clanging. I discover the biggest tomatoes I have seen in a long time and stop to marvel at all the organic vegetables! We run into other South Africans and eventually move out of the touristy part of town to where the locals are hanging out.
The shops are starting to close up for the night and the locals sit in front of the bars pealing peanuts and playing cards. The children still run around playing games of catch and mothers are strolling with babies in prams. The atmosphere is one of community and belonging. A feeling we decide to share in as we sit down to have a nightcap. As a spectator to this everyday Spanish way of living I’m feeling strangely content. Eventually we head off “home” where I’m hoping the wine will substitute for the hole in my bed!
Tomorrow we have to find that bus…
Obanos – Estella 24.1km