Bridges

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.