June 2-5, 2019

Many people, when hiking the Camino de Santiago, are driven by their destination. Each day is an opportunity to log more miles, seeing the city of Santiago as the culmination of their journey. Early in this walk, Jay and I agreed to be mindful of the present, enjoy each day, be open to possibilities. This mindset brought us four fascinating days exploring the city of Burgos.

The Hotel Alda Entrearcos, located in the center of town, allowed us to explore in the morning, come back to our room to regroup, then head out again. A hamburger joint on the corner next to our hotel quickly became a favorite lunch spot.

The Good Burger served incredibly delicious burgers and fries.

Topping a hill near the Castillo de Burgos, the Mirador del Castillo (Castle Lookout) gave a sweeping view. A railing in bronze relief oriented tourists to the important sights in the historic town below. “How cool!” I thought as I ran my fingers across the buildings and surrounding landscape depicted in bronze. “A tactile way to get ones bearings!”

My imagination had free rein at the Castillo de Burgos. Steel catwalks linked partial ramparts with open walls. Signs obligingly identified our surroundings in both Spanish and English.

Deeper than the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, “El Pozo”, the castle well, turned my respect for medieval engineers into awe. I peered longingly through the locked grating, my inner vision tracing the spiral steps deep into the earth.

I took a picture of the sign explaining the well, as the immensity of its existence boggled my mind. I loved the diagram showing the bottom of the well reaching all the way to the water table supplying the Río Arlanzon!

Found in Wikipedia, a 1638 manuscript, Historia de Burgos, explained the staircase and well were “so artfully done that looks like work of enchantment.”

Statues, parks, and street musicians helped make Burgos a magical place for wandering.

The Catedral de Burgos easily dominates the town, and invited us to enjoy a tour. We visited this building last Saturday for Mass and the Voces del Camino concert. (Link to that blog post here.)

On our second visit, we bought tickets for an audio tour.

The “Golden Staircase”, built to impress, did a great job!
An airy confluence of light and color brought life to a chapel.

We had the privilege of hearing an organist practice his craft behind a barred gate.

About the time I started feeling overwhelmed (even slightly oppressed) with impressive works, I spied an open window.

Yes! Even a labyrinth of a cathedral has openings to a beautiful day!

The Camino skirted the Sierra de Atapuerca before coming through Burgos. This small mountainous region, riddled with limestone caves, sinkholes, ridges, and fissures, has been continuously occupied by humans for the last one million years! Since excavation began in 1978, many caves have yielded a wealth of ancient human remains.

“It’s a cornucopia of human history,” Jay commented. “Those caves are like a vertical filing cabinet.”

The Museo Evolución Humana showcases the extraordinary findings from the Sierra de Atapuerca as well as offering, to quote the museum, “a holistic vision of the human presence on Earth.”

Jay and I viewed bones, tools, and life size models. From Neanderthal remains, found a few miles away, to a model of Homo habilis, found in Africa, I was swept with a vision of the many changes in this amazing world.

Reality truly hit me when I entered a room of skulls. Walking past row after row of craniums, I was suddenly stopped by an eerily familiar sight. Jagged breaks on one jaw were in the exact places x-rays showed on my broken jaw last August! Startled, I bent to read the sign which informed me that the woman’s mandible had been broken and healed, but had developed infection and probably caused a lot of pain. My own bone throbbed in sympathy as I stared at the skull of Homo heidelbergensis. A wave of gratitude for modern medicine swept over me. I had it good compared to this ancient woman.

I turned to Jay with a smile. “History is fascinating, but I’m glad we chose to live in the present!”

Dawn to (way past) Dusk

June 1, 2019

Slanting rays of light rewarded our early start this morning, walking from San Juan de Ortega to the town of Villafría de Burgos. We had hopes of beating the heat that inevitably followed the sun.

Along the way we met a fair number of pilgrims with the same strategy. One young pilgrim’s t-shirt made me smile as I read, “Walls are meant for climbing.”

Our shadows point to the small town of Agés where breakfast awaits at an as yet undiscovered lovely café with outdoor seating, a must to begin such a gorgeous day.
Continuing on after Agés, early sun picked out concentric circles of a stone prayer labyrinth in the grass beside the trail.

Near the town of Atapuerca, we passed a field with several standing stones bearing plaques explaining that these stones had been erected in the late 1990s and early 2000s using “methodicas antiguas” in order to honor the discovery of the remains of the most ancient humans found in Europe.

Standing stones commemorating the site of Atapuerca.


Three days ago we had the privilege of walking for a short ways with some members of the singing group Voces del Camino. Tonight they were scheduled to sing in the Burgos Cathedral, just a 30 minute bus ride from our day’s destination, the small town of Villafría.

We arrived at our hotel with time to take a cooling shower and a short nap. Then, with advice from the hotel’s concierge, we easily caught the local bus (2.40 euros) to the city center of Burgos.

From the bus stop we navigated our way using the spires of the Cathedral, the map on our Guthook app, and the ubiquitous yellow arrows of the Camino.

Burgos Cathedral – we found it!

The Burgos Cathedral is an incredibly huge edifice, with only two doors open to the public. One door bore signs about buying tickets. I presumed this would be the place to ask for information concerning the Voces del Camino concert. But this door was closed and locked!

Entering the other door, an uncommunicative wrought iron fence sprawled across a huge entryway. Doors on either side were plastered with stern signs saying, “No tourists! Enter only for worship and confession!” Many confused looking tourists wandered aimlessly between firmly closed doors and mutely barred gates.

We consulted our Voces del Camino flyer. We read every sign we could see. We stood in indecision. A strange animated clock, whose face wore a grin like a court jester, struck the hour. Seven o’clock. We had 30 minutes to figure this out.

We saw a man in a suit with Voces del Camino flyers in his hand. ‘Oh, hurray!’ I thought. ‘A person of authority!’

We asked, showing our own flyer to help bridge the language barrier. The man nodded, pointed to his flyer, pointed to the closed gates, then hurried away. What should we do?

“The flyer says they’ll sing after Mass. So let’s go to Mass. It’s better than standing here aimlessly. The sign says Mass is in that chapel.” I pointed to the door on the left.

We slipped inside, sitting shyly in the back. More people followed. Three priests entered, and Mass began. I couldn’t understand a single word, but amazingly, in one of the songs sung by the cantor I recognized the tune of “Blowing in the Wind!”

At the end of the service, we left with everyone else, and followed half the congregation across the huge entryway, through a suddenly opened gate in the wrought iron fence, down a hall, and into another chapel.

As we found a seat, members of the Voces del Camino group paced up the aisle. Hurray! We had found the concert!

Approximately 40 choir members made incredible acapella music. Melodies chased one another, harmonies intertwined. Sound and beauty lofted through the air. As I listened, I felt myself lifted up, following notes and emotions far above, to the cathedral ceiling and beyond.

Voces del Camino

Regretfully, I returned to every day life as the concert came to a close at 9:30 p.m.

Jay and I walked to the bus stop, through throngs of people out for Saturday night. The schedule informed us that the next bus arrived at 10:45 p.m. Oh! I was exhausted!

We stood at the bus stop, our souls full of joy from the glorious music, but my body ready to collapse. Just then, a taxi pulled up! I asked the driver how much it would cost to get us to our hotel.

“Between 10 and 20 euros,” he told us.

I looked appealingly towards Jay. “A bird in the hand…” he muttered. “Let’s do it!”

Midnight found us safely back at our hotel for the price of 14 euros. We’d had a wonderful adventure. Soaring voices lingered in my soul as my head gratefully hit the pillow.


May 29-31, 2019

The further we walk on this pilgrimage, the more I see reasons to pause and treasure an awareness of the moment.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”


Walking through beauty!

“Feistiness might be a heck of a lot more use than beauty.”

—Ali, the Mindful Gardener

One feisty flower!

“Beauty ain’t always little, cute colored flower. Beauty is anything where people be like, ‘Damn.’ ”


Ruinas del Castillo de Belorado

Recapture the childlike feelings of wide-eyed excitement, spontaneous appreciation, cutting loose, and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe.

—Wayne Dyer

What joy to feel the wind whistling past our ears and reach for the trees with our toes! A passing pilgrim laughed as she took our picture.

Each day we walk.

Each day brings…

new sights…

new people…

new thoughts.

Two dogs in the town of Villamayor del Río have an airy perch for watching the world pass!

Our side trip to the ruined castle of Belorado brought an awareness of the ephemeral character of human buildings and the timeless essence of nature.

From sweeping vistas of verdure to the intense focus of a bumblebee harvesting pollen, opportunities for a pause in our walk abound!


One hot day we climbed a ridge, to be surprised with an Oasis del Peregrino. Trees cast needed shade across dusty ground, and many peregrinos (pilgrims) had used their rest time in creative ways!

A guitar playing totem pole wears a headband for relief from the heat!

Those hot, dusty ridges separated major watersheds. The Ebro River with its tributaries brought water to the Mediterranean Sea. The Tagus and Douro river systems flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. A few meters of land provided welcome shade and laughter to me while quietly directing the course of trillions of water droplets! With silliness on one hand and awesome forces on another, who can resist the invitation to enjoy life?

I end this post with ten seconds of wind in the grass and a mosaic of blooms.

Bells and Voices!

May 28, 2019

Every town along the Camino de Santiago, no matter how tiny, has a church with a spire thrusting into the sky and at least one bell dangling in its framework.

Iglesia de Santa María de Arlette

Each time we’ve tramped past a tapering belfry, I’ve looked up, wishing I could be in the steeple with the bell, ready to send music across the countryside.

‘Ah,’ I’ve mused. ‘If only I could perch beside the bell, or climb a spiral staircase, or even tug a bell rope, and feel the bronze weight swing, the clapper sending reverberations through the air!’

Iglesia de Crucifijo, Puente la Reina

Larger towns tend to have elaborate belfries, collecting even more daydreams around their spires.

Imagine my delight when we walked into the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and I saw the Torre Exenta (free standing tower) with eight bells!

Two euros bought a ticket giving permission to climb the tower, and I set off with irrepressible glee.

The first few steps were wide and straight, leading to a lower portion of the tower, filled with sunshine from windows. Soon the steps narrowed, curving invitingly. ‘Now I’m in the tower!’ I thought.

I noticed an occasional sconce attached to the wall, waiting with ageless patience to be filled with a burning torch. My imagination blossomed, feet treading the same stone stairs as generations of shadowy bell ringers, charged with marking the important events of the day, using eight bells!

I noticed an ancient round hole drilled through a stone step, covered with a modern plastic disk. What could it be? As I ascended, I saw more of these holes, and I pondered. Could it be for letting light from the torches filter upwards?

A tourist passed me, heading down, and I saw the red flash of his jacket on the turn below me, through yet another hole. Could the holes have been put there to keep people from sneaking up or down the tower steps? My imagination took fire yet again, nefarious assassins being foiled by heroic bell ringers, with the help of spy holes through the stairs!

Later I read in a pamphlet that the holes had been used to let ropes through, so the bells could be rung from below. Of course!

Fifty steps into my climb, I came upon the ticking mechanism of the tower clock.

This clock, installed in 1780, made by blacksmith Martín Pasco, is unique, in that it runs using the original mechanisms created by Pasco over 200 years ago!

I wonder if Martín Pasco dreamed that his work would still be used 239 years later!

A sign informed me that, inscribed upon the center of the clock, were the words, “Tempus fugit.” (Time flies.)

I continued upwards, pausing at an occasional arrow slit window to enjoy a view of miniaturized landscape.

The town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada below!

Just as my leg muscles were contemplating open rebellion, I looked up to see the top of the stairs, with a bell hanging above!

One can barely see the bottom of a large bell!

I emerged into sunshine with a gentle breeze quickly drying the sweat patches on my shirt. Bells surrounded me, large, small, each hanging silently from its framework.

Reverently I circumnavigated the top of the tower, peering closely at these bronze harbingers of happiness!

In front of each bell was a sign, telling its name and sometimes telling its size and/or the donor’s name. Names of bells ranged from fanciful (Aguijón – Sting) to functional (Campana Grande del Reloj – Big Clock Bell).

One sign declared its bell, named Prima, had an inscription reading:

Una y otra mui del Caso

La Campana Fiel advierte

Sí la Ora de la Muerte

Que tan en olvido paso.

My feeble Spanish overwhelmed, I asked Google to translate.

Over and over again

The Faithful Bell warns

Yes, the Prayer of Death

So in oblivion step.

I can make no claims as to the correctness of the translation, but I did like the idea that these bells transmitted customs and beliefs of everyday life, whether they rang for joy, passing time, or the passing of a life.

It was with regret that I finally descended. I wanted to stay in the top of the tower for a whole day, watching the bells mark the hours. But I knew Jay was below, and I did want to share my discoveries.

From the Torre Exenta we progressed to the Iglesia Catedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Again paying a small entrance fee, we toured this cathedral, an excellent museum giving homage to its founder, Domingo García, who built the first church in 1106. We saw many statues and works of art, and learned of the many miracles attributed to Santo Domingo. A large diorama left the biggest impression upon both Jay and me, showing daily life in the time of Santo Domingo. The details of the miniatures were amazing, bringing my imagination to life once again!

After filling my imagination with the lives of 12th century people, it was a bit of a shock to prosaically continue walking towards the next town. The hours passed, and my energy flagged. Jay pulled ahead, promising to wait for me in town.

The small village of Grañon held the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. As I slowly approached, a stream of people exited the church. I stopped, wondering what I had missed. At the end of the crowd, Jay appeared, face alight with wonder and delight.

“Did you hear them?” He demanded eagerly.

“Umm, hear who? What happened?” I was lost.

“A singing group called Voces del Camino just practiced here. They’re good!” Jay’s voice was full of awe. “I’m glad I got to hear them! It’s too bad you missed it.”

(Jay took a short video of part of their practice, which is posted at the end of this blog. Their singing voices are truly beautiful!)

Fifteen minutes after leaving the town of Grañon, singers from Voces del Camino began to pass us, giving us an excellent opportunity to make new friends and learn more of this talented group.

Vocalists from all over the United Kingdom were invited to join a pilgrimage, walking parts of the Camino de Santiago and singing in churches and cathedrals.
One member gave us a flyer telling a bit about their journey.

We walked for an hour, to our final town of the day, Redecilla del Camino, enjoying the company of this group.

A woman stopped to pick a poppy and make a doll. “My grandmother used to make these for me and my sister.”

“How cool!” I exclaimed. “It reminds me of corn husk dolls made in the southern USA, where I grew up!”

Sharing a flower doll brought girlhood customs from two continents closer!

Regretfully Jay and I said goodbye to our new friends, but gratefully I collapsed onto my bed at the hostel. What an incredibly full day!

P.S. Here is Jay’s short video of Voces del Camino.

Finding Our Way

May 26-27, 2019

“Hola!” I called cheerfully to a woman on her balcony. Jay and I were crossing a plaza in the town of Nájera, ready to begin another day of walking the Camino de Santiago.

The woman leaned over her railing and gestured urgently. “Seguir la flecha amarilla en la piedra!”

What did she say?’ I stared blankly upwards.

The woman repeated, slightly louder. “Seguir la flecha amarilla en la piedra!”

The only word I had caught was “piedra”. Thanks to teaching a fourth grade unit on rocks and minerals two decades ago, I knew “piedra” meant stone. But which stone? What did the woman on the balcony want me to know?

As Jay and I looked, the woman’s arms waved, her face full of earnest purpose. She repeated her phrase again and again, the volume of her voice rising, as if understanding were linked in direct proportion to the amount of sound being issued.

I looked around desperately. What was she trying so assiduously to communicate?

Suddenly, my eye alighted upon a boulder behind us. A large yellow arrow, painted across its side, pointed left. Understanding dawned.

“Follow the yellow arrow on the stone!” The lady above was showing the way out of town!

Laughing, I waved and nodded, pointing to the arrow.

“Gracias!” Jay called, as we turned.

The lady on the balcony smiled, “Buen Camino!” Once again, she had put wandering pilgrims upon the straight and narrow.

So, how does one follow a 1,000 year old trail? The Camino de Santiago is well marked.

A simple yellow arrow is always a welcome sight.
A yellow scallop shell tile, set into the sidewalk, gives direction.
An arrow can be paired with words.
Arrows, shells, words – this junction has it all!
One can know the trail from the people sharing the path!
Older markings are often not painted, though still plain to see.
Sometimes a sign has an unofficial addition.
No fear of misunderstanding the way here!
Bored or artistic pilgrims occasionally add their own arrows.

Not content to rely solely upon shells and arrows, we bought the guidebook by John Brierley, which has excellent maps and tells a little of the places we pass.

Halfway through our trip, the well used guidebook already looks a bit battered!

Because we’ve hiked (and been lost) often in our lives, we also bought the Guthook app for the Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances SJPP (St Jean Pied-du-Port). This app, on my phone, showed the Camino route with a blue dot signifying our location. It worked even in airplane mode with no wifi. Jay and I found it most helpful in the large cities, where old, winding streets sometimes made me wonder if my feet were headed the same direction as my face.

Finding our way has been only part of the pilgrimage. “Buen Camino,” the standard greeting between pilgrims, would become an empty phrase without a slight understanding of the sights we see. Jay has carried the following ebook.

It’s one thing to know where you are. It’s another thing entirely to know what you’re seeing. This book fills in blank spots regarding historical context and common daily life.

Oftentimes, the sights which attract my notice and imagination aren’t listed in any guidebook or map. And so I close this post with a few of the unique and beautiful sights we’ve encountered these two days.

Just past the town of Navarrete, a field of red poppies enchants.
The garden of Iglesia de San Saturnino in Ventosa invites a time of peaceful reflection.
A truly ancient olive tree graces the courtyard of Bodegas Alvia, a winery beside the Camino path.
At a park near the town of Cirueña, who can resist a lounge chair made entirely of stone?

Buen Camino!

Pilgrim Perspective

May 25, 2019

“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.”

-Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Dawn opened one eye, a crack of light barely visible across the horizon, while everyone in our bunkroom, except me, stirred industriously. Yesterday we had checked into a large hostel. Ten euros apiece had bought each of us a bed in a bunkroom with six other pilgrims.

I heard Jay’s voice, asking others if he could turn on the light, but all our roommates spoke only French. He received no answer.

“What’s ‘light’ in French?” Jay’s head appeared at the edge of my top bunk.

I actually knew that, thanks to Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast‘! “Lumíere,” I whispered.

“Great!” Jay smiled. “How do you say turn on?”

I blinked sleep-fogged eyes. “I have no idea!”

“Well, how do you say okay?” I could tell Jay’s problem-solving brain was wide awake.

“D’accord,” my answer materialized from the mists of long ago French lessons.

Jay’s head disappeared from sight, and I heard his voice below me. “Lumíere, d’accord?”

“Ah, oui, oui!” Immediately came the enthusiastic response.

Suddenly, light flared above, shining into my eyes with undiminished cheerfulness. I knew it was time to get up.

Breakfast, in the large shared dining room, was a social affair. We met a lovely family from New Mexico – father, mother, two girls ages ten and eleven. The family, now living in Devon, England, chose to hike part of the Camino during their two week spring vacation.

Later that morning, we met the family again as we left the town of Viana behind.

I had the fun of chatting with the girls while walking along a tree shaded path.

They had spent a few of their young years in France, and entertained me with amazing French idioms, such as “Je donne ma langue au chat.” (“I give my tongue to the cat.”) Giggling, the girls told me that meant, “I give up” in a guessing game! Who would have guessed I’d be learning French idioms about cats, in Spain, from two engaging, intelligent young pilgrims?

As Jay and I hiked with this charming family, we saw a white stork on a nest. Jay informed us that most white storks migrate between Africa and Europe. They are monogamous, and often return to the same nest each year. We’ve seen many far above on church towers, but this pair had built upon a slightly closer electric pylon. Enthralled, I stopped to take a picture.

Further along, our hiking pace slowed, and we said a cheerful good-bye to our morning’s companions.

The Camino led us around the Embalse de la Grajera. Swans slid smoothly across a sheltered nook of this reservoir.

An audacious squirrel ran down his tree, sure that I would have a snack for him. He stopped short of my feet, posed, then flicked his tail in disgust when no food was forthcoming.

In late afternoon, we entered the town of Navarrete, passing the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Noticing the church door standing ajar, we stopped, answering the implicit invitation.

Of the cathedrals and churches we have visited, many felt like museums – holding places for ages of treasures. Often sightseeing tourists filled the sanctuaries, loud talk creating the atmosphere of appreciating a show.

The strains of Bach and Gounod’s “Ave Maria” on discreet speakers greeted us as we paused on this door step. Encouraged, we entered quietly, slowly walking the perimeter inside, amazed at the 17th century Baroque altar piece.

For me, the soft music stirred a response deep in my soul. I slipped into a pew, closing my eyes, entering deeply into the meditation this music offered.

Over the last year, I’ve wrestled with questions about my life, seeking direction, wondering what, exactly, I should be doing. As I sat on the bench, tired body gratefully melting into the boards, brain sinking into the melodic line of notes, I was suddenly swept with an awareness of the many gifts I’ve received, and the conviction that I needed to use those gifts. I opened my eyes, turned to smile at Jay, and together we slipped outside.

On our way to our hostel, Winnie the Pooh and A.A. Milne’s quotation popped into my head. I reflected upon all the times today that I was in a place poetry or hums could find me, beginning with a whispered morning conversation, through the enchantment of talking with two fun-loving and knowledgeable girls, being greeted with nature and animals, and finally opening to the messages of music, quietness, and reflection. Truly, life is amazing!

Reality or Movie Set?

May 23 – May 24, 2019

Places and situations along the Camino de Santiago are so very different from my regular life, I often wonder if perhaps I’ve stumbled onto a Hollywood movie set.

The Iglesia San Miguel presides over a weekly market in the town of Estrella. This morning, we deviated from the marked route of the Camino de Santiago, hoping to encounter a tradition carried from the 12th century when the church first began to be built. Amazingly, Jay found it!

I wandered between canvas covered stalls, admiring piles of produce. It staggered my brain, thinking of the centuries of people shopping in this plaza!


An hour later, we came around a corner of the Camino, to find ourselves presented with another sample of centuries of tradition.

Bodegas Irache supplies a free wine fountain for pilgrims in the tradition of Benedictine monks.

With a sense of dislocation, I immediately recognized this wine fountain from Camino movies, books, and blogs. To actually be here seemed impossible!

Jay bravely shouldered his way through the crowd of laughing, talking pilgrims and returned with a small sample from the fountain.

Sure enough, the liquid from the spigot tasted like wine!


Nearing Villamayor de Monjardín, we spied the ruined Castillo de Monjardín on a hilltop. Originally built by the Romans, the commanding position was employed in battles between Moors and Christians in the 900s and used by King Sancho Garces of Navarre in the 12th century. Looking up, I felt transported into the pages of a novel, with looming castle above!


That evening, we walked into the small town of Los Arcos. The Iglesia de Santa María beckoned with an open door. We entered, only to once again be stunned speechless.

Another door beckoned us into a courtyard filled with roses.

Once again, I felt as if I was walking through a land of enchantment.


The next morning, from the edge of the village of Sansol, we looked across the Río Linares to an almost identical village, Torres del Río. I marveled at the need for defense which caused these two towns to be separated by a moat-like river and stoutly fortified walls.

Later that day, walking through the town of Viana, Jay suddenly remarked, “We’re on the old wall of this town!” I looked down, to see ancient stones under my feet, continuing several stories below us. Ahead, slides and seesaws invited children to play. Now, here was something not even Hollywood could have dreamed! A playground in place of battlements and ramparts!

I laughed, cheered to see something to which I could relate. I thought of the many sights from the last two days. Though I had often felt out of place, each day had also brought miles of natural beauty – plants and animals proclaiming glory. And so, once again, I leave you with pictures of nature – the earth in which we all live.


May 21-22, 2019

Walking dry shod over a river or stream is not something to be taken for granted. I’ve waded many a water course in our hikes on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Each time we come to a bridge on the Camino, and I have the pleasure of walking high above the flowing water, I feel a wave of thankfulness. Some of these bridges were created by those master engineers, the Romans. I think of pilgrims walking across 1000 years ago on stones set hundreds of years before them!

Here are bridges we encountered these two days.

Built by order of Queen Muniadona or Queen Estefanía, in the 11th century, the six arches of the Puente la Reina (Bridge of the Queen) cross the Río Arga.
A small Roman bridge crosses the Regacho de Dorrondoa, past the town of Cirauqui.
The Río Salada, about one mile before the town of Lorca, requires a slightly larger bridge!
Río Irantzu looks sleepy in the sunshine, but I’m nevertheless grateful for the bridge!

As I crossed these bridges, a bit of philosophy hit me. After all, bridges are more than a way to keep feet dry. They connect people, communities, ecological areas. Walking across a bridge is akin to walking through a door. Whether crossing above a river or through a wall, one can feel the excitement of entering a new place.

Who can resist crossing a fortified wall in the town of Obanos?
Another fortified wall guards the Puente de Reina, a.k.a the Puente de los Peregrinos.
Sometimes an arched way shouts “Welcome!”, such as here in Cirauqui.
This tunnel leads pilgrims safely under a freeway near the town of Lorca. It’s an upside down bridge!

Bridges can be made from things besides stone and iron. Jay and I often paused, while hiking, to let our eyes cross an open space, follow a line of flowers or trees, and appreciate soul lifting beauty.

Late Wednesday afternoon, as we entered the town of Estrella, I found myself a bit dazed with the hubbub of busy streets and bustling people. Spanish language battered at my uncomprehending ears. Narrow, curving streets and tall thin buildings impeded my horizon. Though we had only hiked about six miles, I was exhausted.

‘How can I keep going?’ I wondered. ‘If six miles saps my stamina this much, what am I doing, thinking I can hike for weeks and complete even part of the Camino?’

As I dodged people and fought doubts, a small white haired woman stopped me with a sweet smile. She spoke several sentences of Spanish, in a beautiful voice. I stared, wishing I knew what she was saying.

She looked at my uncomprehending face, laughed, and said pityingly, “No entiendes!” (“You don’t understand!”) Then she took my face in her hands and kissed me twice on each cheek. “Buen Camino!” She squeezed my hands, then disappeared into the crowd.

As we continued to our hostel, I mused on the nature of bridges. Sometimes, a bridge could be simply a hand and a smile from a stranger, encouraging one upon the way.


May 20, 2019

Bird melodies, sung loudly and enthusiastically, issued from nearly every bush and tree throughout the day. It was Spring, and time to mark territory! Perhaps the sunshine also influenced the celebrations of our feathered companions.

Since I did not recognize any of the numerous songs today, I reckoned the birds were making merry with Spanish birdsong!

I had expected Pamplona, as a big city, to be full of pavement and cars. Instead, Jay and I followed the Camino de Santiago markings through charming green vistas, kilometers of parks!

The tourist map helped clarify the enchanting scenery as we skirted one park, the Citadel. It explained that the 16th century fortifications, moats, and bastions had become a ‘green lung’ for the city, used for sports and cultural events. I wished each city of the world would provide itself with a massive ‘green lung’!

A couple of hours walking brought us to the Iglesia San Andrés in Zariquiegui. We stopped to see this beautiful place.

It was noon, so we had the pleasure of hearing a church bell chime the hour.
Built in the 13th century.
There’s something about a spiral staircase which makes ascent akin to adventure!

Back on the Camino, we climbed steadily until suddenly coming upon a fountain, with stone benches and a beautiful design of sunshine rays painstakingly made from small river rocks. Jay read the Legend of Fuente Reniega from his guidebook. According to legend, a pilgrim, after resisting the temptations of the devil, was rewarded with a vision of Santiago himself, who led the pilgrim to this fountain and gave him water using his own scallop shell!

It’s amazing, the eye for detail that went into what could have been a simple concrete slab!

More walking (and climbing!) brought us to the top of a ridge, identified with a sign as part of the El Perdón mountain range. In 1996, after many windmills were installed along the ridge top, a pilgrim sculpture was created, showing 14 life-sized figures crossing the ridge.

This place is known as “where the way of the wind crosses the way of the stars”. Such an imaginative name! A great many beautiful places could be described with this phrase.

After pausing to read signs, take pictures, and enjoy the view, we headed down the other side of the ridge. We walked through the small town of Uterga, then along gravel roads past fields of wheat. Pausing to look back, I could see the windmills on top of the ridge, bringing light and warmth to nearby Pamplona.

Our day ended at a beautiful hostel, El Jardine de Muruzábal.

However, I can’t leave you without sharing some of the beautiful flowers and trees we saw today.

The Rain in Spain…

May 18-19, 2019

An aria from joyous birds greeted us as we stepped out the door! Though rain had poured much of the night, morning brought clouds and sun playing an enthusiastic game of tag.

We hiked as a threesome – Jay, me, and a new friend from Slovenia, Alenka. When the owner of Pensión El-La had called ahead to Larrasoaña to make reservations, she had only found one available room, which had three beds. Alenka had been listening, and suggested that we share the room. We delightedly agreed.

I assumed that Alenka would hike her own pace and meet us in the afternoon at the Pensión Peregrino in Larrasoaña. After all, no one hikes as slowly as I do! Alenka assumed that we would hike the day together since we would be spending the night in the same room.

“We hike very slowly,” Jay warned her. “Once we were passed by a worm!”

Alenka laughed. “It will be good for me to slow down. I am trying to learn to take time for noticing things.” And so, the three of us happily dawdled along, noticing many scenes of beauty, especially flowers!

Fortunately for us, Alenka’s English was very good. Slovenian is an amazingly inscrutable language!

Alenka tried to teach me the Slovenian word for rose: vrtnica. I practiced for two days, and still mangled the pronunciation!

I’m wondering if Shakespeare also struggled with the Slovenian word before he penned his immortal quote: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Fortunately, we could enjoy the flowers whether we knew the names or not!

From domesticated rose to wild rose, the flowers shouted their glory!

We saw a good deal of Friday’s rain on Saturday and Sunday, in the form of glowering clouds, dripping branches across the trail, and rushing, roaring, rising run-off!

Around noon on Saturday, a Gothic bridge brought us across the Rio Arga and into the town of Zubiri. Our guidebook informed us that “Zubiri” is from the Basque word meaning “town of the bridge”.

Much to our delight, we were just in time to see a group in cultural costume parading down the street, making incredible rhythmic music with huge clanging bells tied to their waists!

Jay took a short video.

When I later described the costumes to the host of Pensión Peregrino, he showed me a large map of Navarre. “Those clothes are from the extreme northern part of Navarre,” he explained. “I have no idea why they were parading in Zubiri today!”

Sunday brought even more flooding as the Camino followed the course of the Río Arga. Once, the river spilled over its banks, requiring us to wade up to our knees in a quiet muddy backwater.

Crossing the Río Ulzama near Villava gave us a great appreciation of medieval bridges resisting rushing water, and providing protection to passing pedestrians. Jay took a video to show the water’s fierce force!

Coming into Pamplona, we passed a park near the Río Arga. Jay laughed, “Today the tables are for turtles!”

The medieval walls of Pamplona gave us a sense of walking through time.

A chill ran up my spine as I walked through the Portal de Francia. Who knew how many footsteps were mingling with mine!

It was a relief to reach our hostel Sunday night and hang up wet socks. The weather report promised sun for Monday. I looked forward to another day of adventure!