Camino Frances 2018 – Estella to Los Arcos

September 13th, 2018 – Day 2
Estella to Los Arcos, 21km

Another crisp dark morning without a cloud in the sky as I left the Agora Hostal in Estella. Again, thanks to our hosts for making my stay as amazing as it was. I shall be back! Leaving the hostel, I started talking with Guillermo from Burgos, who was choosing to walk part of the Camino for his 60th birthday. He was much faster than me, but then again, he is nearly 7 foot tall. He hoped to walk to Sansol today, slightly further than me.

You pass the church of San Pedro de la Rua on your way out of Estella. The many lights illuminate the stairs. Guillermo was always ahead of me and he was happy to be alone. We arrive at the much talked about Monasterio de Santa Maria de Irache which has a wine fountain.  I took a sip, it proved to be too sweet and I moved on. I’m sure some pilgrims will love it, just not this pilgrim.

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Church of San Pedro in Estella

Somehow, I let the darkness take me for a walk and bring me on a wrong turn. I was off the Camino. But panic not as I turned a corner and I saw another yellow arrow, And shortly after that, I saw Doug from Canada again. All smiles.  The sun was rising over Navarra as we made our way to Villamayor de Monjardin.

After a gradual climb, we both arrived at Villamayor. There was a chap with a flying drone recording so you might be able to hear the buzzing in the video clip I took below. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the XII century. We stopped off here for a bit and had a snack from the Markiola tienda.

After leaving the town, there is a 12km stretch to Los Arcos so I was sure to have enough water and some fruit with me for the morning. Off we went.

The weather was super and once the sun came up, it started to get warm. And by warm I mean 15c in the shade and 20-25c in the sun. I quickly realised I had no sun cream so I was hoping there was a farmacia in Los Arcos or I would be the pink-skinned Irishman, from now on!

 

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We arrived at Los Arcos, which would be my stop for the day. Doug had decided to walk some more. At the entrance to the town, there was a great tienda and we bought some fruits, drinks and cakes. All waiting for the albergue to open. Looking at my watch, I had quite a while yet. The fabulous Casa de la Abuela in Los Arcos is much revered so I thought I would check it out. I wasn’t disappointed. I said goodbye to Doug, knowing that we would meet again.

I met L&R later on in the evening in the main plaza for a pilgrim menu and some non-alcoholic drinks. The plaza was a full place that night, and all three restaurants were busy with pilgrims. The albergue was full too. I met a lady from Queens in New York who was walking with a Mexican guy. I also met 2 French Canadians with the most basic English but we communicated through Spanish. Which was fun. Tomorrow, I hope to walk to Viana and it will be my last day with L&R. I will walk on then.

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Los Arcos at night

Camino Frances 2018 – Puente la Reina to Estella

September 12th, 2018 – Day 1
Puente la Reina to Estella, 22km

I was awake at 6am, which is late by my standards. I could hear the clacking of poles belonging to pilgrims passing the hostal so I decided it was as good a time to make a move. It was dark and still, save for the odd van passing through. I was ready to go! I had a good sleep. I was hoping to make it to Estella where I would meet my friends, L&R, who would start their own Camino the following day.

Underneath the arch, over the bridge and out of the town – Goodbye Puente la Reina. Such a fascinating town, rich in history. Queen Muniadona, wife of King Sancho III was the queen (Reina) who gave her name to the town and the bridge, also known as the Puente Románico. She built the six-arched Romanesque bridge over the River Arga for the use of pilgrims on their way to Santiago along the Camino de Santiago. And I was one of them.

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Leaving Puente la Reina

Leaving town, I struck up a conversation with Doug from Canada. He commented on the size of my backpack and I explained that this was not my first time on the Camino. A pack of 7kg is more than enough, in my opinion. The road out of Puente la Reina is a tricky one and needs concentration. There are many ascents also. This was my St. Jean Pied de Port unfortunately as I embarrassed myself after a minute by stopping exhausted. Doug had walked through the Pyrenees. He walked on, enjoying this moment.

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Looking back following my climb from Puente la Reina

I caught up eventually, and we passed through Maneru. Cirauqui is just another few kilometres in the distance and there was no rain forecast. Towns in Navarra have a habit of placing themselves on hills. I’m not sure if it is to make it difficult for pilgrims to walk through them. Joking aside, I have always liked Navarra. Its rolling hills seem to go on forever and the people living there are the best. A cafe con leche y una tostada later in Cirauqui, myself and Doug left this little town and marched on.

After Cirauqui, we arrived at the famed and fabled Roman bridge that have been serving pilgrims for hundreds of years. Some work was undertaken on it since I was here last but you really need to watch your step while crossing it.

 

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Lorca (or Lorka) would be our next town. The trail is made of loose stone and it is very easy to lose your step and fall if you are not paying attention. That is exactly what happened to me! A fun day so far! I was a little bruised but I was on my way again. There is not much happening in Lorca, apart from the fact that it has 2 albergues and a cafe. We stopped for a rest. I had been looking for a walking pole since Puente la Reina and I picked up one here. It stayed with me until Burgos.

Doug had decided to stop in the following town, Villatuerta, for some lunch, so we said our goodbyes and I marched on to Estella. Little did I know we would meet the following day.

It wasn’t long before I was in Estella. It was before noon but the sun was out. “Where was that farmacia?” I stopped at the excellent Agora Hostel for the night. I cannot stay enough about Adrianna and Alfonso and the service they provide. If you are in Estella and are looking to stay somewhere, just go there! I also met Guilhermo from Barcelona, someone who I would meet on and off until Burgos. A gentlesoul.

I would later meet my friends, L&R, for drinks and tapas in the Plaza Mayor until it was time to prepare for the next day. All three of us agreed to meet in Los Arcos the following day.

 

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Camino 2014 – Day 6 – Ayegui to Torres del Rio

September 9th 2014 – Day 6
Ayegui to Torres del Rio, 28km

During dinner the evening before, we agreed to keep staying away from the towns recommended by Brierley to finish your day. The next end town was Los Arcos and after that was Torres del Rio, at further 10km. So the plan was to aim for Torres del Rio, which is in or around 30km if you take ascents into account. I also started to notice that the majority of people were phoning ahead an pre-booking albergues for the next day, which I avoid doing. I kinda prefer to let the Camino do it’s work and if an albergue is booked out, I move on to the next, however, I didn’t want to loose my buddies I had met and asked that I be included in the booking in Torres del Rio. That was that..the first time I booked an albergue in advance..felt kinda strange!

That morning, we (Dave, myself and Anna) started out early, as it was going to be a hot sunny day again in Navarre. It was pitch black and I believe it was close to 5am. Easily a record for earliest start in my books! Walking out of Ayegui, you need to venture to the main road and again, you need to be careful as failure to spot a sign means you are lost. And guess what!? We missed a sign! Hmm..we turned back until we saw the sign for the turn off to “Bodegas Irache”, the free flowing wine fountain. I heard about this place ages ago, almost on the same day I heard about the actual Camino. Imagine waking up, being still asleep and before having breakfast, sipping on free wine. Nice, eh? It was 5.30am, we sure were the first ones there that morning. Pity I hadn’t an extra bottle, I would have filled it up for the rest of the day.

We moved on after a while through wooded forests, plenty of trees and it wasn’t long before the climb to Villamayor de Monjardin began. We had a 150m climb ahead of us over a few kms. We have walked worse however. The sun was starting to gradually rise as we were climbing. There wasn’t a cloud in the young sky. We reached Villamayor before 7am after a nice climb, it’s large church greeted us. There was nothing open when we arrived and we looked right through the town hoping that a cafe or an albergue was serving breakfast. It wasn’t to be. Damn! Now we had a nice 10km stretch ahead of us to Los Arcos with no towns. I have walked longer without food, but it is breakfast..c’mon! 🙂 Brierley even mentions “Take food with you during this difficult section!!”

Walking from Villamayor is all downhill for 6km or so and then the terrain becomes flat. We walk through field after field of vineyards. Nothing else. We passed owners looking after their crop, with the sun looking down on us. We pass a Spanish man beside his van, who was either opening up or closing down. After a quick conversation, we found out he was closing his mobile cafe. A highlight of the day came on the stretch leading to Los Arcos. Myself and Dave were talking for quite a while and didn’t notice Anna in the background. She ran up to us with large branch each of grapes from the fields. A great though and it quenched the thirst until Los Arcos.

We arrived into Los Arcos close to 11am and we went straight for the local cafe. There were two there. I bought a roll and a cafe con leche and took my shoes off. I honestly wanted to finish up there, but purely because it was so warm. We had another 8km to go before we reached Torres del Rio. We came across our German friends, whom we hadn’t seen in a few days and I met another Irish friend that I last saw in Roncesvalles. Local men were playing cards in the main square as the bells chimed for 11am in the Church of Santa Maria. I didn’t visit the church unfortunately. I hope to stay here the next time I visit. I remember thinking to myself that we were so far ahead of anyone at this stage that there was no need to book the albergue in Torres. Ugh..I hate races!

The next 8km was mostly flat but this was broken by a steep climb into Sansol, a small town before Torres del Rio. I often wonder who gave the go ahead to build these towns so close to each other. On reaching Sansol, you turn a corner and you reach Torres del Rio. It is a fab town, it’s main attraction is the sepulcher church. It was quiet, and as it was after midday, it was reaching the start of it’s siesta. I needed one after that day. We checked in, got the clothes washed and had some lunch. Anna was super-thoughtful again and bought a melon in Los Arcos. We along with the other folks staying in Casa Mariela ate it all, with help from 2 cats. There was a good crowd staying here, alot of people we hadn’t met before, including 2 English men. They were great fun. Phillipe found us also, along with Bob and Leslie. The other two private albergues were booked solid by 3pm so it was turning out to be a busy September! We went for dinner later on that evening and I had an early night afterwards. The sun took a bit out of me but I survived. Just.

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Camino 2014 – Day 5 – Puente la Reina to Ayegui

September 8th 2014 – Day 5
Puente la Reina to Ayegui, 24km

Another early day was on the cards as we were forecast sun, and most importantly, humidity. I was beginning to get used to the heat and started to wear a scarf around my neck. It didn’t stop my bald spot on my head turning a bright shade of red however!! But we were doing a good proportion of our walking in the early morning so there was no need for panic. We left shortly after 6am today. We being Dave, Anna and myself. Bob and Leslie would follow us. Our agreed stopping point was Ayegui, which is just beyond Estella. A large municipal albergue awaits us which many people speak highly of. On the plus side, we were off the dreaded recommended stages but on the negative side, I had passed through two major Camino towns without properly investigating them.

I actually had a good sleep in Puente la Reina and we were the first to leave. The rains had stopped shortly after midnight and there was little sign of the downpours on the roads when we left. Again, we chose to wait until our first stop for some breakfast. It was pitch black, save for the stars in the sky. There were a few other peregrinos out and about and you could see them by the bobbing light of their respective flashlights. The terrain was set to be tricky today. All the towns we pass through are based on hills, so once you climb up and into the town, you need to make a big descent to leave it. The first town we pass was Maneru which was still sleeping. It was 7am and nothing was moving. The lights were on in the town and showed us the way out.

Another 45 minutes down the line after a descent and another climb, we reach Cirauqui. I had read a lot of this town and it’s Roman bridge which is actually part of the Camino. It is worn out after a thousand years of trampling on but it was great to see a piece of history. Unfortunately, this had to be the day the battery on my phone died and I was unable to take some photos but here is a link (http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/65997854.jpg). I had hoped on staying there but I will leave that for another time.

Throughout, the morning and early afternoon, we passed mile after mile of vineyards. We were not quite in La Rioja yet, but you could tell that we were in wine country in Spain. Dave, who works in the wine industry in Australia, could tell you the exact type of wine by looking at the grape. “Vino Tinto” was good enough for me! Lorca was the next town, a further 5km onwards. It was close to 9am at this stage and the sun was up a good while. Due to the tough climb into Lorca, we stopped off for a bit to relax. Luckily enough, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so there wasn’t going to be a repeat of last night’s downpour.

Villatuerta is the next town, a further 5km onward. Villatuerta has a very popular albergue “La Casa Magica” which is privately owned and while we had no plans on staying there, there were people outside already. It is close to 11am at this stage. Villatuerta is, for a change, situated in a valley, and there is a nice steady climb once you leave it. My hip started to act up on me at this point. Time for some Camino candy (ibuprofen, if you haven’t walked the Camino before!!)

The great joy of walking the Camino is being able to walk by yourself for a while, or if you want to have company, you can have it. It is your choice. I walked the final stretch into Estella by myself, over mostly flatlands. Estella has a good few suburbs to pass through but not as many as Pamplona. The Rio Ega cuts the town in half and there are many bridges you need to cross. Some are wooden, some are made of stone. The first bridge is wooden and after the previous night’s rains, it was slippy. I knew there would be an accident if I wasn’t careful and yes! I was the first to realise it when my ass hit the deck. It was painful but the only thing dented was my ego as I watched pilgrims pass me by.

We arrive into Estella (it is also called Lizarra in Navarra) and are greeted by it’s church of San Pedro. Camino tourists litter the pathways taking photos of the sights. I spot Natty from Canada, the first time I see her in 3 days. She looks lost and is behind schedule she says. I wish her a Buen Camino and move on. I wonder how she got on. We pass through Estella and on to Ayegui, 2km westwards. It’s albergue hasn’t opened yet and we are in plenty of time. When I arrive with Dave, Anna is there with a Belgian called Phillipe. Phillipe has walked from Le Puy in France. He has very little English but great Spanish and we have enough to communicate, although my Spanish has been found out big time during the 5 or so days here. Anna and Phillipe are first in the queue of 2!! Bob and Leslie arrive shortly after. We didn’t see many other familiar faces after the usual crew. It’s a large albergue and I’m just glad to have found somewhere to sit down. I automatically think of food..like I do most days! This place serves meals but we wanted to visit the town and check out San Pedro church closer.

After washing my clothes, and powering up my phone, I am ready to see Estella. The food was top class and it was very cheap. 10pm was closing time in the albergue and we were 10 minutes short from being locked out. The run back was fun!

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