Sept. 19- To Puenta de la Reina: 15 miles, seven hours
On our way out of Pamplona, we walk through the beautiful park and gardens and then to the University, where they stamp our pilgrim passport.
Today, the walking is very difficult; steep inclines and descents with lots of loose, rocky terrain. We’re walking with a group from Germany and I make them laugh when I say that I will be declining a drink “on the rocks” at cocktail time.
We are so happy to have a private room at the Albergue Puenta de la Reina. We sit outside and enjoy a cold beer on their private terrace, run into our Australian friend and plan to have dinner together.
Sept. 20- To Estella: 14 miles, six hours
It’s always nice when the terrain starts out flat. As we walk, we watch a farmer plowing his fields, then stop to breathe in the wonderful smell of the rich, red earth; such a wonderful, clean smell!
We always take a rest in each small town we pass, sometimes to have a snack or just to use the facilities. In this particular place, the woman behind the counter was complaining, in Spanish, that everyone on the bathroom line should be paying something. I suggested to her, in Spanish that she put up a sign in different languages and charge a fee (marketing 101).
We are lucky to find a private room in the Capuchino Monastery tonight. No laundry service is available, so we start our laundry and then sit in the garden, enjoying a cold beer. We laugh with a German couple and agree that this isn’t a bad way to do laundry.
Sept. 21- To Los Arcos: 13 miles, six hours
I love walking through the towns early in the morning. They look like a movie set. With the old stone buildings and the town center with the church and plaza, it’s always a surprise when someone passes you in contemporary clothing or a car drives by.
First thing in the morning, we come upon the famous Fuente del Vino: a free wine spigot for pilgrims from one of the local wineries. We decline, but the Europeans make up for us!
We are in the Rioja wine country and pass through miles of vineyards. As we’re walking, we think we hear music. Around the bend, in the middle of nowhere, there is a husband and wife playing the violin and accordion for donations.
Tonight, we are staying at Pensione Los Arcos. Jose, the manager, not only welcomes us, but gives us his cell phone number in case we need anything. We enjoy discussing the day’s adventures with people from Sweden, Australia and Utah.
Sept. 22- To Logroño: 17 miles, 7 and one-half hours
The flat city pavement and the flat dirt road give us a false sense of security. While we knew to expect inclines and descents today, we are surprised to find that there were so many and that they were so steep.
I try to enjoy the beautiful vistas and keep my mind off the inevitable. The large blocks of farmland in beiges, browns and greens look like suede in the sunlight. A farmer and his dogs guide a flock of sheep on a steep parcel of land. A trail through the forest was a welcome respite from the sun.
We happen to land here on one of the biggest festival days of the year- the Harvest Festival. The plaza is teaming with people and filled with musicians and dancers. It’s so exciting to be a part of it!
Tonight, we’re staying at the Alburgue La Bilbaina. While it’s a great location and very clean, we could have done without the many old, uneven, ceramic tile steps that lead up to our room.