September 2, 2022
Dear Family & Friends:
Perspective after Day 6
This trip is everything I expected and more. The villages and cities are full of history, life, energy and charm and the countryside is stunningly beautiful. The long, solitary stretches on the Camino de Santiago allow for contemplation and introspection. The locals are welcoming and friendly, and other Pilgrims offer time for fellowship and shared experiences. The food and wine are par excellence.
The hardest thing for me on the Camino de Santiago is not the long distance daily walks. It is the intense heat while on the trail. When there is no shade or wind, the sun is overbearing and slowly drains the body of energy. I deal with this by moving slowly, hydrating, stopping for breaks and occasionally begging God for some wind. He always responds favorably. After all, God is good!
My schedule involves getting on the trail every morning by 8:30 am. I am averaging a distance of 15 miles per day. I usually arrives at my destination by 4:30 pm-an eight hour day, including breaks. I move slowly because that is my style, and I always take time to explore and take photos and videos. In the mountains, I was always the last one to arrive at the camps. But, I came home with the most photos and videos, which someday will serve me well as my memory fades. I like to think it also serves well my family and friends, like you.
I like the uphill sections the most. There are plenty of these sections because the Spanish like to build their villages on hilltops. I brought trekking poles, which I use for uphill and downhill. On the flat terrain, I carry them because using trekking poles, consumes precious energy. When I was younger, I never used trekking poles and always hiked and climbed with my hands in my pockets. As I have grown older, I now need the trekking poles. On the uphill and downhill sections, I pressure breathe, and this helps alot. (I explained this mountaineering technique in response to questions raised in a previous blog post) At times, on the steep sections I deploy another high altitude mountaineering technique: the “rest step.” The rest step involves coming to a complete resting standing stop between every step up the hill or mountain.
I have been surprised at how few Pilgrims I see on the Camino de Santiago. Most of the time I am walking, I am completely alone. This is fine, but I wonder: where are the other Pilgrims? I am also surprised at how few locals I see in the villages. In villages that are thriving and heavily populated, I never see anyone in the streets or in the parks, schools and business establishments. Where is everyone? I know they are present because of the cars, service trucks and the well maintained homes, businesses, schools, parks and public places. Maybe it is the heat of the day or the long siestas in the afternoon. As I start this report on September 1, young children are cavorting in the plaza square at Estella, and it is 10:30 pm.
I’m tired of dealing with the stress of booking a room every day in the next destination village. There is a serious language barrier in booking by phone. I plan to take a rest day today in Estella to sort this out and try to book rooms for the next couple of weeks. There are Apps for this, such as booking.com. The App Camino Frances has also been helpful. Well worth the $5 price. Google Maps is great for navigating in the villages and cities.
As you read this blog post, please remember I am posting photos and video on Facebook every day. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063341522316. Since I cannot post videos in my blog, so you may find a little more photo and video content on Facebook.
Pamplona to Obanos-August 31, 2022 (15.2 miles)
The move from Pamplona to Obamos, was mostly uphill, but I enjoyed the walk. Uphill is my thing. The heat was oppressive, but, as I moved to the ridgeline, the wind increased and my body cooled significantly. The windmills on the ridgeline were comforting. I finally reached the Alto del Perdon (“The Height of Forgiveness”) at 2,526 feet. At this location, I saw the famous metal sculpture “Monument to the Pilgrim” installed in 1996. This sculpture depicts the westward movement of Pilgrims, past and present, to Santiago de Compostela. From Alto del Perdon, I descended into the small village of Obamos. I arrived just in time for the Festival of the “Running of the Bulls.” This festival was fun, but is better described as “The Running of the Bull,” since only one bull is released into the square at a time. Honestly, I was rooting for the bull. Fortunately, no one was hurt, including El Toro. If more than one bull was released at a time, the kids in my video would not have been quite so brave.
Obanos to Estella -September 1, 2022 (15 miles)
Another hot day. Mr. Wind never showed up. Apparently, God took a break from my constant wind supplications. But the scenery and views distracted my attention from the difficulty of the day. I munched on the delicious wild berries along the trail. I saw my first grape vineyard. Now, I know why the Spanish wines are so good. I am told just outside of Estella there is a winery which has a fountain that flows with water and wine. I wonder if I can book a room at the winery for a week!
I arrived in Estella at 4:45 pm, tired, but happy to be done walking for the day. As I entered the village, I encountered a fabulous 14th Century Gothic Church-Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro. On the facade are the 12 Apostles-six on each side-and in the doorway is a depiction of The Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Christ. I love visiting the ancient churches in the villages and cities along the Camino de Santiago. Estella is an interesting, clean village with lots to see.
I had a hard time booking a room in the next destination village, which is Los Arcos. So, I decided to take a rest day in Estella and spend some time booking rooms for then next week, sending stuff home, purchasing Euros and sightseeing. It was a good, productive, day.
My next stop is Los Arcos.