The group chose to forgo our formal tour of Pamplona last night and walked around with our wonderful Marly guides instead. The Camino goes through the historical city, and guide arrows are abundant. There is so much more to the city than just the running of the bulls. A history buff would be in heaven in this impressively preserved city.
We celebrated Mass at the Chapel of the Virgen del Camino in San Saturnino Church. The massive baroque altarpiece in the Chapel of the image of Virgen del Camino is surrounded by her parents, San Jaoquin and Santa Ana. Notice the four cardinal virtues strength, prudence, justice, and temperance. A picture of San José occupies the center of the upper part. The altarpiece is topped with the figure of the eternal Father between rays and seraphim. The lower part holds a carving of the Immaculate Conceptions and another of Saint Teresa of Jesus, along with numerous angels and cherubs. Just like walking the Camino, it humbles one in its beauty.
We begin the day in Cizur Menor, a suburb of Pamplona. Today is a short walk, less than 12 miles. Although noticeably more pilgrims are on the path, someone is always within view. The landscape is changing, and rolling hills are replacing the forest. The lush trees are now a memory; the landscape is harvested fields and sunflower crops. We are blessed to be walking in this calming beauty.
I arrive at Zariquiegui, about 15 minutes behind the rest of our group. Roomie is waving at me from the top of the hill; when I reach her, she hands me a juicy peach and directs me to get my credential stamped at the 12th-century Romanesque Church of Saint Andres (Church of Saint Andrew.) My son Andrew has been in my thoughts a lot as I walk. As I enter the church, the emotions of the love and pride I have for him explode, and tears stream down my face. This is not the first or last display of raw emotions I will have during my Camino.
Alto de Perdon, the hill of forgiveness, is not far away. The climb to Alto de Perdon is gradual; at the peak, a metalwork sculpture is dedicated to pilgrims past, present and future. On the other hand, the descent is steep and rocky, unkind to the knees. Zariquiegui is a checkpoint for the group, and our bus is just around the corner. The guide suggests another pilgrim, and I ride the bus to Uterga. Wanting to keep our knees healthy for the rest of our Camino, we take the 15-minute drive, bypassing the 3 miles up and down Alto de Perdon.
The bus drops us off at Restaurante Camino del Perdon where arrangements have been made for the group to have lunch. This is a special treat as most days lunch is a packed picnic consisting of fruit, juice, a bottle of water and a bocadillo; crusty bread with either ham and cheese, dry-cured Spanish jamóno or scrambled eggs. Since we were ahead of the group we lingered at the cute bar (cafe) enjoying café con leche and a thick, juicy burger with fries. After we had finished our meal the rest of the group started trickling in so we decided to move on getting a head start into Puente la Reina, the destination of the day.
The day is hot; low 90s with no shade in sight. As the sun beats down on us, it becomes a struggle to keep moving forward. Mad props to pilgrims who walk with all their belongings on their backs! We encourage each other and keep putting one foot in front of the other. There is a hill in our view as we enter Obanos. As we get closer, we see a young entrepreneur with freshly squeezed lemonade. Dropping a 2 euro donation in his cup, we guzzle the refreshing drink, then tackle the hill before us. It’s important to remember no matter how hard the struggle, God is at your side, willing to help carry the burden. You only need to have faith.
We get through this cute village quickly, and our excitement grows as we close in on the crossroad where the French Way, the route we are walking, meets the Aragonese Route near Puente la Reina. The Aragonese route crosses the Pyrenees into Spain through the Somport Pass and is the route Saint Frances of Assisi walked to Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrim. It is an honor to walk in the same footpath of all pilgrims before you but to walk through the same archway, bridge and ancient paths that Saint Francis walked in 1214 is both exhilarating and humbling.
We pass several beautiful churches as we enter Puente la Reina. Siesta time is fast approaching and taken very seriously in these small villages. We are only able to enter two Churches before they are locked up for the next several hours. We make our Way through the cobblestone streets of Puente la Reina; the English translation is Bridge of the Queen. During the 11th Century, the Queen and wife of King Sancho the Great decided to build the huge 110 meters, six arch bridge to help pilgrims cross over the Arga River. The bridge is also the symbol of the American Pilgrims of the Camino. On the other side of the bridge is our bus. We head back over the bridge and set up a greeting point in front of a cafe where our fellow pilgrims will pass. Naturally, the Sangria flows, and once again, somehow the bar runs out of this delicious drink.
Once everyone has arrived, we board the bus to visit the Church of Santa Maria de Esunate. The church stands alone outside the village of Muruzábal, slightly off the Camino path. It is a very interesting Romanesque building, built in 1170. It is octagonal, like Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There are many interesting stories concerning the church’s origin; however, they are speculative at best, with no clear documentation. Nevertheless, it was interesting that some symbols on the stones indicate the stonemasons who provided the material.
We return to Pamplona for the night. Mass will once again be celebrated at the Church of San Saturnino. After Mass, we take a last walk around the city then head to Dinner.
Tomorrow a new hotel, a new walk.