I am sitting here propped up in bed with my headlamp on, listening to Dave softly snoring, and studying my feet. They are puffy and wider than they used to be. Thank heavens I still have arches and no blisters and my boots still fit. Great! I remember reading on the Camino forum about someone saying her feet got so much bigger that she no longer needs to use flippers when she goes snorkling. So, there are benefits to walking 800 km!
When I saw our private room at Albergue Puente in Puente La Reina, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Our single beds have sheets, pillow cases, and comforters, and we were even given a towel. These are rare things to have in an albergue. Usually we have to lay our sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner on a mattress cover or fitted bottom sheet (sometimes disposable ones) and put the blanket they give us over top. We never get towels. To top it off, we also have a wide balcony with a table and chairs here at Albergue Puente. Having all of these things is absolute luxury! Our room includes breakfast and only costs 34 Euros for both of us.
We got an earlier than usual start on our walk from Uterga this morning since breakfast was available only at 6 o’clock. It was still dark out but not so dark we had to pull out our headlamp. Once again we were accompanied by a powerful wind. It is a perfect place to take advantage of wind power, so no wonder windmills line the tops of the mountain ridges. Broken clouds made for a colourful sunrise when the sun came up.
When we reached Muruzabal 2.6 km. along the trail, we took a detour to see the Eunate church. It has been linked with the Knights Templar who long defended the pilgrim on the route to Santiago. Eunate might have been a burial place for pilgrims who had succumbed to the gruelling physical hardships experienced along the route. The church and the adjoining traditional pilgrim refuge stand alone in the simple beauty of the countryside. The small hostel has basic facilities and can accommodate eight, but it might not be the best place for anyone who is claustrophobic! There are just a few very tiny windows in the stone building.
From Eunate we headed toward Puente La Reina, our destination for the day. The trail wound through farmland where acres and acres of corn is grown. If we knew we would be staying at a place that had a kitchen available, we might have been tempted to grab a couple of cobs. It was beautiful how gusts of wind made waves through the corn fields.
When we finally arrived in Puente La Reina, we made our way directly to the Queen’s Bridge, named after Dona Mayor, wife of Sancho III. In the 11th century, she commanded the magnificent Romanesque bridge to be built to support the safe movement of the increasing number of medieval pilgrims who joined the route at this stage from both the Camino Frances and Camino Aragones. The bridge is designed to represent a lifespan. You can’t quite see where you are going until you get there. Clever engineering was involved in its construction, with extra holes designed to let high water through so that water pressure wouldn’t push it over.
We had a delicious meal at a nearby restaurant recommended by the receptionist at our albergue. Ava and Ted from Vermont and Stewart from Dundee, Scotland, shared our table. We had a lively time with interesting conversations about such things as American gun laws, politics, and health care. These might sound like heavy topics but, oddly enough, they weren’t. We had lots of laughs.
Ted had been walking for nine days, doing training walks in France before climbing in the Pyrenees, getting lost a few times, and then rejoining the Camino in Spain. Ava had just arrived today to meet Ted and tomorrow will be their first day walking together. They have no time constraints and hope to walk all the way to Santiago. Ava will set the pace.
Ava is a slow eater because she likes to talk. On the other hand, Ted is a hungry guy who’s been hiking for nine days already. Ted announced, “I’m the walker and you’re the talker” then grabbed Ava’s plate and ate what was left so we could all be served the second course.
Speaking of food, who knew thistle is a menu item in Spain!?